New Bern, NC

October 16-22, 2020

We departed the anchorage this morning headed to New Bern.  We kept the boat in New Bern for almost a year after we purchased it, and became very familiar with the area.  Our son lives about an hour away, and we made many friends here.  Stopping here was an easy decision.

Along the way we had some good views of the Neuse River banks and the ferry that runs between Minnesott Beach and Cherry Branch.  These are shown below.

We plan to stay in New Bern for a week.  Mary Jo departs from Raleigh on Saturday and we will have a little break.  As we pulled in to the marina we were met by a former coworker and friend, Steve Taylor and his wife Suzette, plus two dockhands from the marina.  I knew one of them quite well, so it felt like a homecoming.  This is a great place.

Oriental and South River

October 15, 2020

This morning we departed the dock at RE Mayo and continued on the Bay and Neuse Rivers.  After a brief stop in Oriental, NC to take on a little fuel and buy some fresh vegetables we moved into the South River for the night. 

Our stop in Oriental was brief.  It is a really neat town whose primary industry is offloading shrimp boats and shipping the product to other places.  The town is on low ground, and frequently floods during hurricane storm surges.  Some really friendly people too.

We have anchored several times in South River, directly across the Neuse from Oriental.  This area is largely undeveloped, though a few houses are present along the western shore.  The east side of the river was once the home of a town called Lukens.  This place was founded in the late 1800’s, and in the early 20th century logging was the main industry.  In 1933 half of the homes in the town were destroyed in a hurricane, and in 1944 another hurricane finished the job.  Now all the houses are gone and the only thing left is a cemetery.  Anyway, a few views of the river are shown below.  It was a great place to anchor for the night.

RE Mayo Seafood Dock

October 14, 2020

This morning we were able to get a better view of our anchorage with the morning sunlight.  This area is remote with no houses in sight, and no cell phone signal.  I loved it.  The photos below show some of the surrounding scenery.  The trees here are ravaged by hurricanes on a regular basis, and the soil is not very good, so they are generally stunted.  They still make for very pretty views.

We next entered the Alligator-Pungo canal.  As you might guess this is a 22 mile manmade canal linking the Alligator and Pungo Rivers.  This canal is the primary ICW channel for shipping along the east coast so it is wide, deep and very well maintained.  As we proceeded down the canal we first saw a snake swimming in the water.  I didn’t get a photo of him (or her).  Next we saw a bear swimming across the canal.  The bear was still quite a distance from us, but we could see clearly that’s what he was.  Finally we saw a small buck deer swimming across the canal very close to us.  I almost ran him over before I saw him.  Photos of these are shown below.

As we proceeded along the canal we came to the Wilkerson Bridge, shown in the photo below.  This bridge is famous among sailboaters.  The standard height for fixed bridges (those that don’t open) is 65 feet, and sailboats accordingly set up their masts to be just under that height.  Unfortunately there was a mistake when this bridge was built, and it is only 64 feet.  This causes a big problem for sailboats who push the 65 foot limit, and many of them devise ways to add weight to their boat so it rides lower in the water, or hire another boat to pull their mast to the side to tip the boat enough to get under the bridge.  It isn’t a problem for us as we need just under 23 feet.

After passing down the Pungo River and crossing the Pamlico River we arrived in Hobucken, NC to the RE Mayo Seafood docks.  These are working docks for shrimp boats, and they also rent a few spots to cruising boats like us.  The docks are pretty primitive, there are no usable bathrooms, and power isn’t really available, but fresh shrimp straight off the boat is $5.99 a pound.  That’s the real reason for stopping here.  We also stocked up on spotted trout and flounder to keep the freezer full.  A view of the working docks and one of the shrimpers is shown below.

After yesterday’s late arrival it was good to have a shorter day.  As you can see below the ladies (and Sinbad) were enjoying some down time.

Albemarle Sound and Alligator River

October 13, 2020

This morning we departed the free dock in Elizabeth City, continued to the mouth of the Pasquotank River, crossed Albemarle Sound, and cruised up the Alligator River.  Much of this cruising is open water so there aren’t many sights to see.

As we departed Elizabeth City we had a good view of the downtown area which was not possible the previous evening.  A photo of this view is shown below.  This is a really nice small town.

Also along the banks of the Pasquotank there is a major Coast Guard base.  This is the primary base for large search and rescue aircraft, and I came here many times for work before I retired.  There is also a large airship hangar built nearly 100 years ago for large dirigibles or blimps.  These are really impressive buildings.  Views of the base and the airship hangar are shown below.

As we followed the Intracoastal Waterway out into Albemarle Sound we saw a strange sight right in the middle of the channel.  A sunken sailboat that is sitting upright on the bottom.  We couldn’t see the boat of course, but the mast and remnants of the sails were visible.  Quite an unusual sight.  We reported it to the Coast Guard, but from the condition of the sails this wasn’t a recent wreck.

After crossing Albemarle Sound, and dodging the thousands of crab pots lying in wait to catch our propellers, we proceeded up the Alligator River.  Mary Jo seemed to enjoy the trip.

We are anchored tonight near where the river meets the Alligator-Pungo canal.  We had a really great sunset.

Elizabeth City, NC

October 12, 2020

This morning we departed the dock at Douglas Landing and continued south through the Dismal Swamp Canal.  It was foggy this morning as shown in the first photo below.  This made the normally quiet experience even more so than usual, and sometimes made it difficult to see very far ahead. 
There were only two or three other boats in the 22 miles of the canal on this day, so there was very little activity.

After passing into North Carolina the air began to clear and we got good views up and down the canal.  With the unusually still air the water had no waves at all, and it became a mirror reflecting the trees ahead of us.  The optical illusion was sometimes hard to resolve as one was looking at it.

Finally we arrived at the South Mills lock in time for the normal 11:30 opening.  After passing through it we continued down the Pasquotank River towards Elizabeth City.  Along the way we saw an animal swimming in the river, shown below, but we couldn’t see exactly what it was.  After blowing up the photo I could see it was a racoon as shown in the second photo.

We are tied tonight at a free dock in Elizabeth City.  Marilou and Mary Jo went to see the downtown and the Museum of the Albemarle.  If the winds are moderate, as they are today, this is always a fun stop.

Dismal Swamp Canal

October 11, 2020

This morning we departed the marina in downtown Norfolk, and continued south.  The southern part of Norfolk harbor is really the Elizabeth River, and is surrounded by Navy and commercial shipyards.  There are also aggregate and petroleum terminals in this part of the river.

Before we departed the marina we were able to see a couple Navy ships undergoing maintenance.  The first photo below is a ship that carries helicopters on it’s top deck, and deploys boats and landing craft from a well deck in their stern.  These are used for moving troops ashore during amphibious operations.  The second photo shows two Arleigh Burke class destroyers undergoing maintenance.  The barge in the foreground with the white building on it is interesting.  The ship’s crew normally lives aboard the ship even when in port, but in some cases they can’t stay aboard while maintenance is in process.  The Naval shipyard has several of these barge-building affairs that provide barracks for the sailors when this is happening. 

As we departed the marina we discovered a liquified propane carrier, shown below, was passing our location.  Because of speed limits in this part of the river we were unable to get in front of him, so we had a slow transit up the Elizabeth River.  We planned to make a locking at Deep Creek at the entrance to the Dismal Swamp Canal at 11:30, but the slow passage and railroad bridge that closed just before we got to it prevented that from happening.

When we arrived at the Deep Creek lock, shown below, we had missed the opening by about 15 minutes, meaning we had to wait until 1:30 for the next opening.  We anchored and held the boat in position in the narrow channel until then.  While waiting we watched a couple local boys and their dogs playing along the shoreline close to us.  At least it was some entertainment.

After locking up into the canal it started raining.  We have to go very slow in this stretch, barely above idle, and can only make about 3 knots.  The canal is deep enough but there are many sunken logs that can damage a propeller.  As we transited the canal we kept pushing a Great Blue Heron, shown in the photo below.  He would fly a couple hundred yards to a new spot on the shoreline, or a handy tree.  As we got closer he would fly again.  He was with us for several miles until he changed his plan and went elsewhere.

Tonight we are tied to a free dock at Douglas Landing.  We have stayed here before, and have befriended locals that walk on the bike/walking path.  It’s kind of like a once per year reunion with people we have met previously.

Norfolk, VA

October 10, 2020

This morning we departed the anchorage in Deltaville and continued down the Chesapeake until we reached the Thimble Shoal Channel, the main channel leading into Norfolk.  This area was recognized by the early European settlers as being an excellent harbor, and it remains so today.  There is a great deal of shipping, a major operational Navy base, and the primary Naval shipyard on the east coast.  It’s an interesting area.

As we entered Norfolk harbor we were being followed by a commercial ship, shown below.  We determined from his data transponder that he was bound for the James River, a waterway that goes west from the main harbor.  Using that information we were able to get out of his way and continue south to the downtown area.

The northern part of Norfolk harbor is dominated by the operational Navy base.  The main channel is fairly close to the ships that are in port, so cruising down this channel is a good opportunity to get closeup views of them.  We saw several aircraft carriers (USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS John C Stennis), numerous cruisers and destroyers, and several US Naval Service (USNS) ships.  These USNS ships are support vessels for the front line warfighting ships and provide things like supplies and hospital support.  Some ships even carry all the armored vehicles for an entire USMC division and are forward deployed and remain at sea—in case of an international need the troops are flown overseas and meet the ship in a harbor to offload their equipment and begin operations.

The photos below show the aircraft carriers and a view of the USS Monterey docked next to the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that was sent to New York City to help with the virus crisis.

We are docked tonight at Waterside Marina in downtown Norfolk.  There are few anchorages in this area, and this is a good place to stop and walk around downtown.  We will continue south into the Dismal Swamp Canal tomorrow.

Deltaville, VA

October 9, 2020

After our friends departed for Atlanta we were joined by Marilou’s friend Mary Jo from Indianapolis.  They worked together when we lived there in the mid-1990’s, and have remained close ever since. 

We departed Solomons this morning to begin our trek south.  Today’s plan is to go to Deltaville, a protected harbor near the mouth of the Rappahannock River.  We have stayed at a marina just off the river several times in the past, but this is our first visit to Deltaville proper.

As we departed Solomons we had a good view of some of the local sights, shown below.  It was a clear day with moderate winds, and waves that built to about 2 feet.  Not uncomfortable for a boat our size.

Along the way we passed a couple container ships bound for Baltimore, and saw the usual sights along this part of the Chesapeake.

We anchored tonight in the Deltaville harbor.  The entry channel is narrow and winding, and I wouldn’t want to follow it during rough weather.  I didn’t get a photo, but the waves just outside the harbor are tamed by the shoals at the mouth of the harbor, effectively giving us a very quiet anchorage in spite of larger waves just 100 feet from us.  This is a great anchorage, and we will stay here again.

Summer 2020, Part 3

While we were in the Chesapeake this summer we were directly in the path of Tropical Storm Isaias.  That storm came ashore in Southport, NC and turned to go up the coast from there.  Peak winds were down around 50-55 knots when it passed us, and we saw winds only around 45 knots.  We elected to leave the marina and anchor up a side creek to avoid being pounded against the docks.  This proved to be a good plan for us, and our new anchor performed better than expected.

The first two photos below show the view up the creek during the storm, and when the eye passed over us.  It was pretty eerie to have strong winds that then died to calm, and subsequently became strong again from the opposite direction. 

The next two photos were the view in the opposite direction, both during the strong winds and while the eye was over us. 

Finally the winds began to die down and blue sky appeared.  The whole experience lasted about 5 hours from start to finish.

After the winds had died down for an hour or so we raised our anchor and returned to the marina dock.  After tying up we discovered the power had gone out during the storm.  The next morning we walked up the road past the marina entrance and discovered a tree had fallen on a power pole, breaking it, and pulling the transformer and lines down to the ground.  The power company had already replaced the pole, and were just preparing to hang a new transformer.  I thought that was pretty quick service.