Any sailor will tell you, if sailing interferes with work, give up work, and that's what I have done. At 57 years of age, I figure I have another 12 or at most 15 years of being able to handle the lines, and then I will follow the example of a man I greatly esteem, Vic Copelan, and go to power. That might buy me a few years until the time comes to find a rocking chair at some modern-day equivalent of Sailors' Snug Harbor. But until the time comes when I have to "give up the sea and go in steam", as the fo'c'sle man in Conrad put it, I intend to sail.
On a Sunday in late May I drove down to the marina, arriving before dinner. I found a hot grill and a passel of good friends - Doster, Scott and Yvonne, Dr. Jack with his son Tim and grandson Hoyt. I enjoyed the five oclock hour aboard Spirit of Del Quay and then put dinner on the still-simmering grill. Dale and Cori were just in from the Bahamas, and we all enjoyed their stories of helping Ken and Francie bring their two boats up from islands. Dan had left for Ocrafolk early Sunday morning.
Monday was Memorial Day, and with most stores closed I stayed at the marina, stowed items and organized Valor for my upcoming trip to the Albemarle. It was a beautiful early-summer day with winds in the 10 to 12 knot range and non-threatening white clouds scudding across the blue sky. Mid-afternoon, up in the clubhouse, Scott Vickery made the obvious conclusion - we should go sailing aboard their recently acquired Catalina 30 Malida. I jumped at the chance to sample a new boat, while Yvonne decided to camp out at the clubhouse. Out on the river we had a fun sail up toward the ferry crossing. It was a good chance to put the boat through her paces and she performed well, coming through the wind nicely as we tacked and hove to. Afterward we had a meal off the clubhouse grill with Feather Jim, who had driven in from Florida the previous night, and Dale and Cori.
First order of business Tuesday was to drive to Oriental to pick up Valor's motor from the Yamaha shop. Last month, trying to force my way in to Whittaker Creek agains a foul wind, I overheated the motor and it shut down. I left it at the shop for inspection and repair, but, after running it in their tank, they found nothing wrong with it. From there, I drove on to River Dunes where I got permission to look around. The day after Memorial Day, the place was like a tomb, almost nobody there. There were lots of boats in slips but threatened bad weather seems to have frightened people away. Afterwards I visited Sea Harbor and had a nice chat with the dockmaster who gave me free rein to walk the docks. Right away I saw a Cape Dory with a familiar name - Andy Denmark's CD27 Rhiannon. Andy is a regular contributor on the Cape Dory Owners Association board and an old Oriental stalwart. Sea Harbor is a beautiful, charming and well-protected marina, what I would consider as, along with Blackbeard and Matthews Point, one of the premier sailboat marinas on the Neuse River. Then to Sailcraft, where I found John and his wife Carola and friend Mike making final preparations to John's beautiful Morris Annie Modesta to stage at Beaufort Thursday and depart first weather window for Haiti or Jamaica, en route to the San Blas Islands. Missing was Marc, but John assured me that he had just gone back to Boston to leave his dog, was due back on Wednesday, and was still planning to go with them for the first leg of the trip. Back at Matthews Point, I had a pleasant dinner at the clubhouse with Jim, Scott and Yvonne.
Wednesday June 1st didn't start well - I had lined the boat around stern to the day before, so I could drop the engine in the well, and, not used to the configuration, I took a hard fall trying to step onto the dock. I came down on a cleat which left a nasty bruise, but nothing was broken. For a few nights afterward I couldn't sleep on my right side. With the engine mounted and most of the other prep work done, I had some thoughts of casting off Thursday.
One last chore remained, though, and Thursday morning I drove in to Havelock and got a haircut at Sal's, figuring it would be easier to take care of short. Sal did a superior job in just a few minutes. That marked the first time a real pro had cut my hair in many years, since I patronize the barber's school in Winston, owned by friends. On the way back to the marina I picked up a few groceries. By mid-afternoon, we still had no wind, so I decided to delay my departure.
Friday I "awoke" after a sleepless night of pain every time I started to roll to the right. The plan was to cast off lines in early afternoon when the wind picked up, but nothing ever happened so I decided to stick around Matthews Point for another night.
9:15 the next morning, Saturday the 4th, I got off the dock and set out. As I turned out of the marina channel, here came a big motor cruiser, which resolved into Salty Turtle with Gigi at the helm and Vic preparing lines for catching the dock at Matthews Point. We waved in passing and I motor-sailed out the mouth of Clubfoot Creek. The wind direction was fine but the wind speed left something to be desired, and Valor could not muster much speed even with my big genoa set. With the help of my six-horse Yamaha, running fine even after the abuse I meted out last month, I motor-sailed past Oriental around noon, Gum Thicket Shoal at 2:00, and into Bonner Bay before dinner time. The display on my depth sounder was out of order, so I didn't try to work my way deep into the bay, contenting myself with an anchorage in ten feet of water off the southwest bank, just out of the channel in front of the red marker. With a good hookup, I didn't worry about the forecast for southwesterly winds rising overnight to the 10-15 knot range, but I did stow the genoa, planning to run with the jib the next day. Total about 25 route nautical miles, stepped off with dividers on my charts.
Sunday dawned with a nice southwesterly blowing at the predicted 10 to 15 knots, and at 6:45 I set the main, hauled the anchor and motor-sailed off toward the Hobucken cut. North of the bridge, I added the jib and continued motor-sailing out the north end of the canal. Once I was out of the wind shadow of the trees lining the canal, I shut down the motor and sailed north, past Campbell Creek which still sports a row of private markers leading far upstream to a protected anchorage, to the mouth of Goose Creek and out into the Pamlico River. With a fair wind tending toward 15 knots, I sailed all the way up to Belhaven. There is a wide marked channel into harbor and I dropped sail just before entering it. I decided that next time I would carry sail all the way in - there's plenty of room inside breakwater to hand sail. I motored all the way up to the bridge and found the free dock with one other boat there, Teasa, and crew Daniel and Angela. They gave me a hand with mooring, much-appreciated as a gusty breeze made the approach to the high dock a bit of a challenge. I tied up at 1:15, having covered 28 miles in six and a half hours.
The free dock was well out of the town center. I walked around and found a small community store where I got a cold drink. Otherwise, not much going on in Belhaven on a Sunday afternoon. There was an ice-cream store with a few sailors and local people enjoying the product, and that was about it. The streets and sidewalks were flooded from last week's rain, and the town had a dismal and abandoned aspect. The local hospital on the waterfront was closed a couple of years ago, and there was a protesters' encampment nearby - no protesters though, maybe because the encampment was absolutely sodden, even submerged, in water. The hospital closure has been a severe blow for the town, even a last nail in the coffin, but it's hard to see how it could be kept open. The rising waters of the Pungo are getting closer with each storm. And the population has been in inexorable decline since 1980.
Monday, with tropical storm Colin threatening the coast, I took a lay day. In the remnants of the town center, I found a good place for breakfast, the Gingerbread Bakery. I had a short stack of pancakes and then sat around drinking coffee until the library a couple of doors down opened at 9:30. There I was able to connect to wifi and send a few emails, in the comfort of air conditioning. The librarian was used to cruisers and completely hospitable. I'd say that the Belhaven library is one of the best features of the town. A Canadian boat came in and joined us on the dock.
Tuesday I finally figured out that if you turn left from the town dock instead of right, it is a short walk to the highway, a gas station and the Dollar General. I resupplied, picking up among other things a pound of bacon, bag of ice, and best, burrito-size flour tortillas. All set for the passage to Elizabeth City. Teasa cast off to run up the Pungo and anchor near the mouth of the canal, wanting to do some kayaking around the marshes and headwaters and perhaps tiring of the bright lights of Belhaven.
Tropical storm Colin never amounted to much, and by Wednesday the 8th there was no reason to stick around Belhaven any longer. I wasn't really looking forward to running up the Alligator-Pungo Canal, but there isn't much alternative. Going up the Pamlico Sound involves a 65 mile run from the last protected anchorage in the south, Juniper Bay, to Manteo or a Croatan Sound anchorage. This realistically is a 15 or more hour sail aboard Valor, with nowhere to bail in case of trouble. So at the early hour of 6:00 I cast off lines and motor-sailed up the Pungo River. Shortly after entering the canal, I moved slightly to starboard to allow a pair of big trawlers through and to drop the main and set up an awning. Finishing up, I tried to resume course but found myself aground. I was able to work my way off in a few minutes, and start motor-sailing under what Claiborne Young used to describe as "jib and full awning" through the canal. Once out into the Alligator River, I handed the awning, set the main and motor sailed at speed close hauled. The wind had picked up and it was just a little too close to stay in the channel, so I occasionally made a tack back to the windward side. The long fetch up the Alligator River made for some serious chop, and it was a rough, wet ride. Once through the bridge, I turned into the Alligator River Marina, where helpful staff caught my lines and checked me in.
Thursday the 9th I cast off lines and motored out into the river. The winds were northerly but not spot on the nose so I raised all plain sail and motor-sailed into the back of the line of boats heading north. As I looked toward the mouth of the river, I could see four sailboats and two power boats ahead of me, and looking aft, I saw two more sailboats coming through the bridge. The last wave of snowbirds were heading north, finding new cruising grounds as the Caribbean storm season started spinning off hurricanes to pummel the islands and southeastern coast. The two boats behind passed me and along with the others, rounded marker 1 in the distance and set course for the Albermarle & Chesapeake Canal, or, in a couple of cases, the Pasquotank. I approached marker 5 and found I couldn't quite make it on the port tack, so came about and started a board off to the west - there's plenty of water there, as opposed to the eastern side which puts you right into the shoals of the Middle Grounds. I hoped to put in enough westing to clear markers 5 and 3, and then continue on a bit east of the rhumb line course to the Pasquotank until the wind backed around more westerly later in the day.
I got well off to the west of marker 5 and started thinking about making my tack back to starboard. About this time a power cruiser raced in from the north, came directly to marker 1, turned sharply toward marker 3 and approached it. That was fine with me, he could turn inside of me and proceed directly to marker 5 since I was well off to the west. But instead, he turned off to the west and started heading toward me. I held my course as he continued, curving to the north as if he was trying to cross my bow. Eventually I realized that he thought the rules of the road required him to do a port to port pass, though I was well out of the marked channel to the west, so I instituted my tack back toward marker 3. He came around my port side, then raced off to the east to marker 5, then turned south and disappeared up the river.
Passing Marker 1 at the mouth of the Alligator River, I sailed as close to the wind as possible, but still well to the east of the proper course for the Pasquotank River. The forecast called for the wind to back around to the west later in the day, but by mid-day it had dropped to almost calm. I put on the motor and sailed northwest, crossing the course to the A&C and entering the Pasquotank just before 2:00. As is common in eastern North Carolina, the afternoon wind came on with a rush, out of the west, just as advertised, and I got in a good sail close-hauled up the river. Close to Elizabeth City, I had to take a couple of tacks to stay out of the shoals along the east bank, but even so Valor made speedy work of it, putting me on the town dock at 5:00. I got one of the last slips available, mainly because most of the boats on the dock would have had a hard time fitting its 11-foot width. With Valor's svelte beam of just over 7 feet, it was a snap.
Friday the 10th I got a visit from my good friends Marcia and Joe, who had recently bought a camper van conversion and were having some fun touring the eastern part of the state. They gave me a ride to the grocery store and I did some restocking, and then we sat aboard Valor enjoying the breeze. After a while, we went by the Chamber of Commerce, which is right next to the town docks, to ask about local camping options. Turns out there aren't many, but the helpful rep suggested we try Lamb's Marina just out of town on 158 East. We drove out there and found Mr. Lamb, who told us he didn't have an open RV site, but that Joe and Marcia could pull in next to the dock and plug in to the 30 amp pedestal for one of the slips. After that came a lot of hemming and hawing about the price, neither Joe or Mr. Lamb having an idea, and finally I suggested Joe give him $25 for the night - at which Mr. Lamb said that was way too high, $10 would be fine! So Joe and Marcia got to experience marina life from aboard their 19 foot Chrysler van conversion. The next morning they told me how much they enjoyed the marina showers and clubhouse, and how they had a great breakfast at the marina cafe in the morning. They talked some more to Mr. Lamb, who told them about how he had put in a store to try to help service that end of town, and soon after Dollar General came in and put one in right across the street. The travails of being a small businessman. Lamb's Marina is a nice place and Mr. Lamb is a most accomodating man. I'd recommend Lamb's to anyone looking for hookups, fuel and a hot shower in the Elizabeth City area. Off the Pasquotank River, to starboard a couple of miles north of the bridge.
In the evening we all attended a "Rose Buddies" party on a private dock. For many years a local retired man met all newcomers on the town dock, offered information about the town, frequently provided rides to the grocery store, and gave every woman a rose. Now the Chamber of Commerce and local boosters are trying to keep up the good work by having parties whenever there are several cruisers on the dock. I was looking forward to chatting with some of the other sailors but first we had to listen to the extremely long-winded former town mayor make the case for Elizabeth City. I tried to help him out by asking about the town hospital and he got very defensive, stated the hospital was in fine shape, and he knew that because he was on the Board of Trustees. That immediately made me think the hospital must be in some degree of financial stress. Later in his talk he let slip that the old Elizabeth City Shipyard is in foreclosure and can only take boats in an emergency. For all that, he had some grandiose plans about digging out a part of town that used to be an industrial canal and was filled decades ago in order to create a luxury marina, hotel and entertainment complex. In truth, Elizabeth City missed the boat many years ago and doesn't stand much of a chance of prospering again. A local man who I met in the park told me that back in the 1960s Ford and Weyerhauser wanted to put big industrial facilities in the area to take advantage of the excellent water transportation, but the agricultural interests that controlled local politics vetoed them. That was the last chance to build up the critical mass to be a viable city in the modern world. Don't get me wrong, Elizabeth City is a beautiful town and the people are nice, it just doesn't have much vitality.
The next morning Marcia and Joe drove back in from Lamb's and we all walked over to the Museum of the Albemarle. A shad boat built in 1904 is suspended over the lobby, visible from all angles from the first floor, stairway and second floor. Most of the galleries are on the second floor, and they are very well-done. Some of them are a bit puzzling as to their relevance. There is one room full of exquisite Tiffany glass. I asked one of the museum staff what the connection was, and she said that a member of the Museum Board knew the owner of the Tiffany glass, so they decided to exhibit it at the museum. Another exhibit concerned wedding traditions in the area. I learned from it that, until the late 1800s, most people in the area never formally married as the cost of a license was prohibitive. Even with the unusual curation, we all found the museum to be quite interesting and well-worth the time.
Touring the museum, we all worked up an apetite, so we stopped in Flour Girls Bakery for a bite. Marcia had a huge slice of carrot cake, Joe had a sandwich and I had a savory pastry with ham and garlic. The little cafe had only been open for a few days and they were still working out their modus operandi, but the food was excellent. Afterward, sitting at a shady picnic table in the park next to the dock, I spied a familiar boat sailing in from the south. A quick hail on the VHF confirmed that Dan aboard Marian Claire would soon be joining us. Joe and I caught his lines, and once he got things squared away, Joe and Marcia graciously gave us a ride to the two vital resupply outlets - the ABC and the Food Lion.
Back at the dock I caught lines from a big pilot-house schooner, then accepted an invitation to come aboard for a visit. Captain Paul and crew Kathy showed me their custom built cold molded vessel, built in Brazil. Paul bought it from the original owners when the economic downturn of 2008 forced them to give up their cruise and return to work in Brazil. The below-decks layout was optimized for maximum comfort for two, but Paul confided that at one party 10 had bunked down, making use of the spacious settees in the saloon and quarterberths in the pilot house. The open arrangement and high ceiling was much more attractive than aboard most mass-produced boats of this size, which tend to be cut up into several small cabins. Paul's Australian sheep dog, Mate, didn't think much of me coming aboard his domain, but after a while decided I was harmless.
A friend at home had given me a fifth of rum, Bacardi 8, which is their nicely aged premium label, and I had promised to open it for a special occasion. Meeting up with Dan in Elizabeth City seemed like one, so we sat down in Valor's cockpit and poured a few fingers in our coffee cups. Afterward we strolled over to the overflow dock across from the museum and had more libations with a hospitable English couple aboard a Downeaster 38. That made a nice nightcap to a long, long day. Lying in my rack waiting for sleep, I mused on the chances of docking between two wooden boat - Dan's traditional mahogany planking on sawn oak frames to my port, Paul's modern cold-molded to starboard.
My dock party finally had to come to an end, and I saw Marcia and Joe off Saturday afternoon as they headed west for a campground on the way back to home in Winston-Salem. Daniel and Angela aboard Teasa cast off line to head up the Dismal Swamp Canal with an ultimate destination of the Potomac River. Dan left Sunday the 12th early in the morning, headed for the Dismal Swamp Canal, Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake. I decided to stay on dock one more day due to the predicted extremely hot weather - heat indexes expected to reach close to 105. With my big awning, rescued from the dumpster at Matthews Point, slung over the boom, and a bit of a breeze, it was quite tolerable aboard Valor.
I still had Paul and Kathy for company, and spent a fair amount of the day under the awning on the big open foredeck of their boat. Paul took a walk around town, and on returning mentioned going in the local machine shop and talking to the guys. He asked why they were closed on Fridays and they enthusiastically told him that was the day they went to Nags Head to clean condominiums and make some good money. After the sun went down and it cooled off a bit we went to the nearby park to give Mate some exercise. While Paul ran around the park with Mate chasing, Kathy and I shot glow in the dark arrows back and forth with her Walmart special flaming arrow sets.
Paul had hoped to make it to Ocracoke but that was looking like a bit of a stretch, since Mate likes to get off the boat every six or eight hours. Paul decided to make for Manteo early the next morning and then consider future options from there. Manteo seemed like a good destination to me, so I told them I would follow. Monday morning I helped them cast off lines and then left myself a few minutes later. With a good northeasterly breeze, I set main and jib and sailed along on the port tack, beam reaching - a good point of sail for Valor - and came close to keeping up with Paul's big schooner. In fact, I kept her in sight until she made the eastward turn at the mouth of Croatan Sound, when I lost her against the background of trees on shore. An hour later I was in the mouth of the Croatan myself. The next couple of downstream markers are hard to pick out against the land , so I followed a compass course due east until I spotted the marker in front of the Fort Raleigh Historic Site. From there, I followed the heavily-marked channel to Wanchese and Oregon Inlet, eventually diverging from it into the Manteo harbor channel to starboard. Ahead, I could see the schooner on the town dock, and soon I swung in behind them and tied up. 31 nautical miles for the day.
The town dock was backed by some tourist-style development with nothing to offer in the way of provisions, and I was lucky to be able to buy a bag of ice from the dockmaster before he knocked off for the day at 5:00. Paul had thawed out some pork chops from his well-equipped freezer, and I contributed a pot of brown rice and sauteed vegetables, making for a good evening meal in the big schooner's saloon. As we ate, Paul told me about his friends who run Goat Busters, a company that leases out flocks of goats for land clearance. Currently many of the goats are working in Birmingham, AL, trying to help the town avoid being totally overwhelmed in kudzu. Then he mentioned his acquaintance with Clyde Roper, "perhaps the world’s foremost expert on squid" according to an article I had just read a few days before in the New Yorker. Six degrees of separation is real, my friends. Afterward Paul, Kathy and I took Mate for a long walk, all along the waterfront which is lined with boardwalks and empty condominiums. My take is that Manteo is seriously overbuilt, and I doubt if most of the accomodations get more than a few nights use in the course of the year.
Early the next morning I hiked to the highway and bought gas and a bag of ice from the Circle K. Back at the dock, Paul gave the bow a push off, Kathy tossed me the stern line and I waved good-bye to these wonderful people I had gotten to know over the last few days. I sincerely hope to see them again someday, on the water or shore.
The northeast winds of the last few days continued, which made for fast sailing, and by mid-afternoon I was docked at the Alligator River Marina. The dockmaster remembered me from the week before, and we laughed about my short trip - most of his repeat customers are snowbirds going south in the fall and coming back through in the spring. This visit I made use of one of Alligator River Marina's best features, the laundry - washer, $1.00 per load, dryer $1.50. Unfortunately the fuel pumps had undergone catastrophic failure and were out of service, so I couldn't make bunkers for the upcoming trip through the Alligator-Pungo Canal, but I figured I could reach Belhaven.
Wednesday the 15th I got off the dock early, motored out into the river and set sail. The bridge tender let me through without me having to wait, and then I shut down the motor and sailed on a beam reach. Gradually the wind died down and by the time I got to a few miles upstream it dropped to a whisper. Oh well, back to motor-sailing. As I approached the turn-off to the Alligator-Pungo Canal, I passed a narrow section of the channel. A big trawler was coming north and we each eased off to starboard and set up for a slow pass. About this time a huge sportfisherman came racing in from the south. When it became apparent that he was not going to slow down, the trawler turned hard a'port and cut him off, forcing him to drop to an idle. Gutsy move, trawler captain - and much appreciated by me.
I motor-sailed the canal under light to nonexistent winds, and the flat water let me spy all the snags along the edges, nay, far into the middle, of the canal. One particularly horrifying one looked like a rusty metal bracket on the end of an upended piling, rising just a few inches above the water level. After a long, slow, hot transit of the canal, I was happy to anchor just off the ICW in the upper Pungo River. Evening showers and a bit of breeze kept things cool enough for comfort.
By morning a brisk west wind had set up and I motor-sailed all the way down the river to Belhaven, tacking time after time. Fortunately the river carries water well out toward the shores so I could make long boards. I couldn't simply rely on the engine as my gasoline supplies were getting light. It was only ten route miles so even with all the tacking I made it onto the Cooperage Dock by early afternoon. As I worked my way under sail through the Belhaven harbor, a distinctive vessel swung in behind me from one of the town marinas. It carried a gaff rig, square yard and long bowsprit, and it was festooned with wooden blocks and baggy wrinkle. At first I thought it might be some sort of modern "ambience" boat on the lines of a Hans Christian, but as I looked more closely I could see that this was a true traditionally built, seaworthy wooden boat. Close to the dock I turned to port to hand sails and get out docklines, incidentally running aground momentarilly, and the stranger passed me and got onto the dock. As I turned into the dock myself, I saw the boat's captain waiting to catch my lines, and, somewhat alarmingly, a young crewmember filming my approach. I didn't have a good angle on the slip so I veered off, came around and made a second approach and this time came in square, where the captain grabbed a bowline and tied off the windward quarter, a great help as I wrestled with setting a stern line on the enormous, tall piling.
On dock, I gave an admiring look to S.V Norna and engaged the captain and crew in conversation. Turned out the crew is noted internet blogger and Youtuber Kourtney, aka "Accidental Sailor Girl", and the captain, Pete, is a St. Augustine wooden boat builder. Norna was built by one of the last Danish craftsmen in larch and Norwegian pine about 30 years ago. The boat eventually ended up in Florida where she suffered a catastrophic propane explosion. Pete bought her some time afterward, repaired the rear cabin and deck, built a new mast, and in general brought her back to snuff. She still bears the honorable scars of blackened wood in places below deck, but in all respects this boat is perfect - wooden blocks, baggy wrinkle and all.
Soon another boat approached the dock and we stood by to assist. This one was an Albin 27 power cruiser No Hurry. I've always liked the lines on an Albin, and this one was no exception. The crew, Dale and Carol, with their cat, Spooky, were on a multi-year Great Loop trip. Spooky had a favorite place to sleep up on the dashboard, and to reach it she would jump on to the wheel, occasionally hitting the horn button. Everyone on the dock would look up and Carol would call, "it's the cat," and everyone would go on about their business. We all enjoyed having Spooky on the dock and I know that personally she reminded me of Marie's cats and home.
The next morning the cruisers gathered at the library. I sent emails and updated my website while Kourtney tried to upload some big Youtube videos. Afterward we all had a pleasant chat in the air conditioning before heading back to the boats.
A low pressure system off the coast was predicted to produce gale force winds in the sounds for the next couple of days, so the Belhaven dock became a harbor of refuge. This far inland, the winds never got too severe, though one thunderstorm kicked up in the middle of the night and produced some 35 knot winds. This was mostly a clear sky storm with less rain than Colin had produced, but still, the streets and sidewalks of Belhaven flooded. The northeasterly winds raised the level of the sound by a couple of feet and the walk from the dock to the road became a wading expedition.
Sunday June 19 - The last day, and some of the best sailing, of the trip. I got off the Belhaven dock early and waved goodbye to Pete, the only one of my dockmates up at that hour, set sail and motor-sailed out of the harbor and into the Pungo River. With fair but light winds from the north and northeast, the motor and sails combined kept me moving along around 4 knots. In Goose Creek, all the sailboats, trawlers and skiffs around took a thrashing from big offshore sportfishermen coming through at speed, the losers heading home early from Big Rock. We all know that many of the owners of these boats battle their insecurities over their Trump-like small hands. So just smile, wave, and be thankful for the one in ten who will give you a slow pass.
Onward through Hobucken Cut. I considered stopping in the Bay River and swapping in the genoa, but a look out into the sound made me think twice. The winds here in the southern Pamlico were a bit stronger than I had found earlier in the day, so even under all plain sail Valor ran down to Maw Point at hull speed on a beam reach. Rounding the point, putting the wind on the port stern quarter, we maintained 5.5 to 6 knots all the way into the river, as far as Oriental, where the winds finally began to moderate. I sailed in to Clubfoot Creek, dropped sail in front of the marina and motored in to tie up at 5:30 - 11 hours after I left Belhaven, 47 route miles for an average speed of 4.2 knots, damn good time for a Cape Dory 25.
Now for a few things I picked up from this trip, by far the longest one - about 300 route miles round trip - that I have completed by boat. Bring some long dock lines and plenty of fenders. I thought I was well-equipped in this respect but I wasn't. Some of the slips at Elizabeth City are very wide, and the ones at Belhaven are huge - as if designed for commercial boats. After I got home, I made up a pair of long dock lines to supplement my existing stock, one 30 foot and the other 40 foot, plus a bag for each so they don't end up in a tangle in the locker. Dan notes that for docking at Queens Creek on the Chesapeake he used two 45' lines, two 30' lines and four lines ranging from 24' to 16, due to the wide slip and oddly spaced pilings. He adds that the 45' lines come in handy for transiting the locks in the Dismal Swamp Canal, allowing him to double them over the bollards on the lock wall and hang on to the loose ends if he has to move about on the boat.
My big awning that covers the whole boom from mast to topping lift made the boat much cooler, drier and more liveable while in port. On occasion, while motoring down canals with the wind at my back, I used a smaller awning to rig up Claiborne Youngs "jib and main awning" setup, which saved me a lot of baking in the hot June sun.
Sailing these coastal waters, you have to be careful and aware of the color of the markers port and starboard. For example, sailing from the Albemarle to Manteo, you are sailing outbound, so green to starboard, red to port. Once you diverge into the Manteo harbor channel, you are inbound and red to starboard, green to port. The ICW standard in the area is green to east, red to west, but the local water markers prevail. So as you sail upstream on the Pungo, red to starboard, green to port. When you turn off the local water and into the Alligator-Pungo Canal, it switches to green to starboard, red to port. When you sail out into the Alligator River, you are sailing downstream and the Alligator River markers prevail - green to starboard, red to port.
The ICW, traveling south is always considered "returning", so red to starboard - but the local waterway prevails, and if traveling on the local water is "returning", a southbounder on the ICW will find red to port. On the ICW, each marker has a small triangle or square below the number. Triangles to the west, squares to the east. It may seem like I'm belaboring this point, but if you don't get it, you could end up on the wrong side of a marker and on a shoal, or worse. If none of this makes sense, Google it and read some of the much better and clearer explanations on the web.
On a personal note, I found that for me the sailing is fun, but the time spent in port is just as good. I also enjoy anchoring out as part of a passage. I only anchored out two nights of the fifteen on this trip, but that was partially due to having a broken depth sounder and not wanting to run aground up some unmarked creek. And no, I don't much care for motoring down long stretches of canalized ICW (Dismal Swamp Canal excepted).
So how about my friends on Modesta? A few days after returning to Matthews Point, I got an email from Jon. "We made it to Panama safe and sound. About 2 pm this afternoon, we picked up a mooring at Panamarina, which is just west of Puerto Lindo. Despite being loaded to the gills, Modesta did great. She took everything that was thrown at her with grace, and there were no significant gear failures. I'm not too objective, but Modesta is far and away the prettiest boat in Panamarina." Jon went on to describe being becalmed off the U.S. coast, a quick stop in the Bahamas, and fresh trade winds across the Caribbean. They sailed under double-reefed main and staysail for much of the trip and even so made a couple of 145 nautical mile days. Sounds like they are off to a good start.
The time has come to pass my Cape Dory 25 on to another owner and search for a larger boat that will take me farther from home. But until the right person comes along, I will continue to sail Valor in the waters of eastern North Carolina.