Friday, April 28, 2017

Oriental to Alligator River Marina, NC

We left New Bern after lunch yesterday and traveled to River Dunes Marina near Oriental, NC. The trip covered around 33 miles, mostly on the Neuse River, in 4.3 hours. The marina is a 5-star facility, with just about every amenity imaginable.

Around the marina


Sailboats at dusk

Early morning
We untied our lines at 0600 today and headed north. We crossed Pamlico Sound with no issues- only 1-2 footers. Next up was the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal- a 21.2 mile land cut with no marinas, no fuel and no anchorages. And no scenery for 2+ hours. For the curious, "pungo" is an Indian word meaning dust.

Around here we crossed the so-called Mason-Dixon Line of the Marine world. Just across Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras sticks out into the Atlantic. The Labrador Current flows here from the north, and the Gulf Stream comes up from the south. These two currents converge at Hatteras. Cold-water fish like cod, mackerel and pollock are found to the north, and warm-water fish like Spanish mackerel, mullet, and grouper are found to the south. (From Mark and Diana Doyle's On the Water CruiseGuide for the Intracoastal Waterway.)

Commercial fish facility at R.E. Mayo in Hoboken, NC.
After traveling 90 miles in 9.8 hours, we arrived at our overnight stop, Alligator River Marina.
This 19-slip marina is located along highway 64 next to a gas station/convenience store. It is pretty isolated, near the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The gators have moved further south, but this refuge is home to black bears and the endangered red wolf. It also puts us in a good spot to cross the infamous Albermarle Sound first thing in the morning.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The AGLCA Spring Rendezvous

This year's Looper spring rendezvous (America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association)was held April 25-28 in New Bern, NC, on the Neuse River. New Bern has a lot to offer, from history to shopping to great restaurants. It also has bears- lots of bears. The bear is the official town mascot, and the statues represent historical and modern day figures. I am reminded of the sturgeons around town in Sturgeon Bay, WI.

Bearon de Graffenreid, founder of New Bern

The well-known pirate Black Bear'd

The Bear'er of Rights

The Sam Walton Bear at Walmart
I have more bear photos - many more- but you get the idea.

John and Mark are explaining the merits of navigating with the iPad to Bruce.

We girls had to prepare for the Rendezvous. Of course that involved pedicures!
Bev, (Seaquest), Becky, Pam (Short Vacation), Jan (Follow that Dream), and Judy (Let's Go) getting pretty toes.
The Rendezvous consists of various seminars, sponsor/vendor exhibits, boat tours (Looper Crawls), and food. We attended seminars describing sections of the Loop we will be traveling soon- the Chesapeake, New York and the Hudson, the Erie Canal, Lake Champlain, the Canadian canals and waterways, etc. The presenters were Gold or Platinum Loopers who have traveled those waters multiple times and have amassed  a wealth of knowledge about what to see, do, and expect along the way. After hearing the presentations we are super excited to travel the Canadian waterways this summer!

Mara Beel was on the crawl (i.e., open house) 2 afternoons, for which we had her in tip-top shape. We are glad that's over! Many of the attendees are in the initial planning stages of Looping and were there to learn about boat options, etc. We all love touring each others' boats in search of new ideas.

We had a great time meeting new friends and hanging out with old friends. We all share the same craziness! We will meet many of these Loopers again along the waterways as we continue our travels.

Patsy, Kay and Linda, Gold Looper Divas! (Photo from Facebook)

I don't know if all 250 attendees made it to the group photo here at New Bern Grand Marina- feel free to count heads.

Where's Waldo? Can you find Mark and Becky? We are near the back, in yellow shirts. (Photo by Kim Russo)

This was our third rendezvous, since we attended Fall rendezvous in 2010 and 2014 in Rogersville, Alabama. We learn more and have more fun every time!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Little River, SC and Southport, NC

We spent 3 nights at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club in Little River, SC. We enjoyed several great meals with friends Andy and Julie and Hot Tomato, Crab Catchers, and the Flying Fish restaurants. The Myrtle Beach area has sooo many restaurants- I think it's possible to eat in a different one every night of the year! We took advantage of this stopover to retrieve our van from Andy and Julie and drive it to New Bern, where we are headed.

We had a great meal here with friends Andy and Julie in Little River

Our friends have a great view of the ICW from their condo

We moved on to Southport, NC, and met up with more Looper buddies- Robert and Kay, and Patsy. We met some new friends, Harry and Karen. Good times!

Lighthouse near Southport



Early morning shrimping

The shoaling at New River Inlet was the worst that we have seen so far in our travels. We were within about 45 minutes of low tide and saw 2 boats that had just run aground. Mark radioed a boat that we knew was half an hour ahead of us for advice. We made it through the Inlet with no problem but there was some nail biting involved. 

Our next stop was the anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay near Camp LeJeune.  This was our first day of brand new territory on the Loop- from here on, it's a new path for us!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Georgetown, SC.

We spent 3 wonderful days in Charleston visiting Looper friends Glenn and Brenda and Mark's classmate Mason and wife Betsy.

With Mason and Betsy at Long Island Cafe

The Yorktown, now a museum,

We conducted a lot of boat business in Charleston- more about that in a later post. We were busy! Our timing was good, since it was way too windy to travel comfortably.

Mason joined us on our cruise to Georgetown today- an easy 45 mile ride. We visited here 2 years and remember this town fondly.

Kaminski House Museum- built in the 1700's

Along the River Walk

A skeleton crew?

The River Walk along the Sampit River

The Rice Museum and Town Clock

Along the River Walk

Monday, April 3, 2017

Red Sky in Morning- Sailor Take Warning

I will not pooh-pooh this old adage again! We left Morningstar Marina on St. Simon's Island just before sunrise yesterday. Three different weather/wind web sites promised 1-2 foot seas with light winds all day. It seemed like a perfect day to cruise on the  "outside"- in the Atlantic Ocean. Doing so  saves time and miles, and avoids the shallow, tide-challenged cuts common in Georgia. Little Mud River, Fields Cut, and Hell Gate, to name a few, are nearly impassable at low tide for our 4' draft.

So we merrily untied our lines and left the marina oohing and ahhing at the beautiful sunrise.

What a gorgeous sunrise!


Before conditions deteriorated

Just a few hours later the waves were 4-6 feet with occasional 8-10 footers. In case you were wondering, the trip was no longer enjoyable!! How could a day that started so gloriously go so wrong so quickly?? We were bouncing around like a beebee in a boxcar. No more photos- I needed both hands and both feet just to stay in my seat, as did Mark. We were bounced, pummeled, and beaten up for the next 6 hours or so. It was impossible to do another other than hang on. It seemed like the torture would never end. It was our most unpleasant day ever in 5 years of cruising.

Mara Beel performed like the champ she is- to be expected from an Ocean Alexander. (FYI- we are not going to buy another boat with "ocean" in its name.) Anyway, she handled the waves perfectly and the auto pilot held us on course with no issues. I hope we are never in waves that big again. Fortunately we were not bothered by sea sickness. The biggest casualty was the 5 bottles of beer that exploded in the cooler. In the cabin, things were scattered about, but not damaged. The outside of the boat was caked in salt- it went all the way up to the bridge. I know this is true because I got salt spray in my face through a tiny opening we had unzipped in the Isenglass.  Mark said this was the only time he wanted a bigger boat.

We were about 5 miles offshore, and came in Calibogue Sound and got back on the ICW. We spent the night at Windmill Harbor Marina on Hilton Head. Whew! We had lots to clean up but what a relief to be off the open sea!

Windmill Harbor is surrounded by beautiful homes.

The entrance to Windmill Harbor is through a lock.