As Hurricane Noel roared through, the wind and waves kicked up on the sounds and rivers that make up the waterway in northeastern NC. Therefore, we pulled into the Alligator River Marina, which is actually a truckstop on route 64 as it crosses the Alligator River on the way to the Outer Banks. The proprietess, Miss Wanda, is a gracious hostess, and the marina was packed with boats that decided to wait out the storm in a safe harbor.
While we were there, the Raleigh ABC news affiliate sent a reporter to get “local boater” reaction to the storm. With a marina full of northerners headed south, he was hard pressed to get someone “local”. He found a true local guy on his boat headed north to Elizabeth City, but then he had to settle for Cathy, who could claim her NC roots (and she was wearing her Duke sweatshirt for effect.) After the intense interview was over, we scrambled back to our cell phones to raise anyone we could in NC that might be able to capture Cathy’s breakout performance on tape. Every relative in NC was sent on a mission to watch ABC news that evening.
In the meantime, we went on about our business, preparing for a “hurricane party” later that afternoon. What else would a bunch of cruisers with time on their hands do while waiting out a storm? Although there was TV in the lounge, the local stations that were playing didn’t include the one that did the interview. So, we left it playing the weather channel, which is the second favorite thing for cruisers to do – watch the weather – as we socialized with our neighbors on the dock.
To our surprise, in the middle of a conversation, we noticed the interview playing on the The Weather Channel. That meant we’d gone national. Cathy was famous! We got calls from Dave’s sister in PA and e-mails from a co-worker in DC who had seen the stellar event.
Who knows what will be next? Maybe one of those reality shows, then a movie deal. It’s hard to say, but Cathy is not letting it go to her head.
Having never visited Belhaven, we were curious about this little town, which is very far off the beaten path when traveling by car. The downtown has some bright spots – O’Neal’s Drug Store, a well-stocked Ace Hardware store, Foxy Flamingo’s excellent hot chocolate -- but it also shows signs of hard times, with many store fronts still vacant from the ravages of hurricane-driven flooding in the past few years. Many houses are also being rebuilt higher off the ground to withstand the next storm that will visit this small town.
Staying at River Forest Marina, we made sure to take the tour that our hosts offered us of the River Forest Manor. The house was built by Mr. Wilkinson at the turn of the last century for his new bride, using a Sears mail order “kit”. However, there was nothing about it that looked “pre-fabricated”. It was a beautiful place, with interesting details in its chandeliers, stained glass, fireplaces and antiques. There was even a bar on the 3rd floor. Perhaps the most interesting story we were told concerned the mysterious death of Mr. Wilkinson in one of the bedrooms after his wife found him with another woman. However, Pat later found a much more mundane description of his cause of death in the manor’s brochure that caused us to wonder where the truth might really lie. We chose to believe the one that made for a better story.
We were surprised to receive a response to our October website update that was an invitation to visit a couple who lived in Oriental and had been following our travels via our web log. Tom and Ellie were members of the Waterway Net, which was where we had made the initial contact. Dave and Fred routinely check in to this net with our position and travel plans for the day, The ne t runs from 7:45 to 8:30am on Ham frequency 7.268. (Position reports are given at 8:15am.)
Unfortunately, our timing was going to be bad to see them, since Tom would be busy the day we came through. However, he did invite us to join the mid-week raft-up being held by the Sailing Club of Oriental in the South River, where we were planning to anchor. Sure enough, as we set our anchor, we were hailed by Take Five, the host boat of the raft up. We were given a “water taxi” ride over to Penelope, the cat that was the gathering point. It was a great group of people, although I’m not sure one more person could have been wedged aboard before the evening was done. We were graciously received and enjoyed our time together. You just never know what will happen next.
After traveling over 200 miles on the ICW, we were looking forward to getting back outside on the ocean for a couple of daytime hops down the coast. This took away the stress of watching depths and waiting for opening bridges.
For the first hop, we took a tip from Lunasea’s trip south last year and decided to anchor in Cape Lookout Bight to line up for a run south outside from there to Wrightsville Beach. The anchorage had water that was a little deep for anchoring, but plenty of room. There were only 2 other boats in the huge space and we made an easy run the next day to Wrightsville Beach. We wanted to be sure to arrive in daylight, so we left before sunrise to ensure we made it. We got a boost from the 20 knots of wind behind us so we could average almost 7 knots over the trip, ensuring our trip in the inlet before sunset.
Although we had stayed near Southport at South Harbor Village 3 times, we had never actually visited the town of Southport until this visit. We decided to get some exercise and headed out for the long (8-mile) walk from the marina to town. (It’s only 2-3 miles by water.) Since Marianna was docked in town, we made it to their slip and collapsed for a bit before heading out again to explore the little town. Its history is associated with the river pilots and, during the Civil War, blockade runners, which guided ships into the Cape Fear River from the ocean. Many of its historic homes are preserved and a picturesque waterfront park invites a lazy afternoon walk. We sampled a few of the stores which reminded us that Christmas is on its way and managed to find an ice cream store that wasn’t closed for the season.
On our outside run from Cape Lookout to Wrightsville Beach, Fred on Marianna discovered a problem with a couple of his batteries overheating. This problem was persisting as we traveled a couple more days, so we spent a few days at Barefoot Landing to give him time to isolate the problem. We took the same time to equalize our batteries and change the oil, just to stay busy.
Dave also made a breakthrough in using the ham radio to get more weather information. He found the right software to receive weather faxes of the NOAA forecast GRIB charts. This allows us to get detailed weather when an internet connection is not available and/or NOAA marine forecasts are out of reach or not sufficient. He’s initially using the WeatherFax software, which may not be the final choice for these faxes long term, but it was the first he was able to make work.
Georgetown, SC and then . . .
We headed out from Barefoot Landing on November 15th for Georgetown, SC and a plan to head out to Fernandina the next day. We were dismayed to read the depth sounding when we pulled into our slip, which made us conclude we would be firmly aground when we wanted to pull out early the next morning. In a more unusual move, we decided to raft to Marianna to ensure we could pull out the next morning. As we planned to pull out Friday morning, Marianna found herself aground, but we decided to try to get out anyway. We were both successful, and headed for the Winyah Bay and the ocean.
Unfortunately, a problem with the refrigeration on Marianna early in the trip caused us to turn around and instead take an inside route to Isle of Palms, which is where this entry finds us. We’re still looking to travel south to Florida outside, but we’re watching the weather.