We’ve spent the latter part of May at our daughter’s house helping our son-in-law with some remodeling work in preparation for the arrival of our youngest grandchild. Taylor Marie was in a hurry however, and she arrived before the room was quite done. We'll have no trouble remembering her birthday, since she was born on our wedding anniversary. We took care of her big brother while Mom and Dad were at the hospital with the newborn. In the week and a half after her birth, we helped with the grandkids and finished enough of the remodeling work to allow the nursery to be turned over to Taylor. It's already been a busy summer, and we're just getting started.
We made our way north over the final miles of the ICW and pulled into Hampton on the first Friday in May. As we’ve done for the past few years, we will stay here for a few months this summer, letting it serve as our base as we make road trips to see the family and spend time with our kids and our growing number of grandkids who live nearby. With Orion tucked into a slip at Joy’s Marina, we are settling in again and mapping out our plans for the summer.
Clint and Dave confer about the route
The Last 200 Miles
After finishing our long hop outside from Charleston, we ended up in the South River, which lies west of the Neuse River opposite Oriental, NC, With Cathy’s brother-in-law Clint still on board, we headed out the next morning to make our way north to Dowry Creek, where we would stay for the next 2 days. With a fair amount of wind and a shorter distance to go, we sailed as much as we could, breezing along on the southwest winds up the Neuse until we followed the ICW’s 90 degree turn east into the Bay River. The winds now on the beam, Orion heeled over and took off for the short distance until the river narrowed for the entrance to the Hobucken Cut. We doused the sails, motoring through the cut and out Goose Creek until we reached the Pamlico River, where we unfurled them again and silenced the motor.
As seems to be our luck, the wind gradually weakened, leaving us completely as we approached the entrance to the Pungo River. After searching the horizon in vain for evidence of the 15 to 20 knots forecast, we were thinking it was time to start the engine again. But before Cathy could put the key in the ignition, a puff arrived, then another and then we were moving again. With the wind’s increase in velocity, it shifted more to the Southeast, requiring a few jibes to make our course up the Pungo. When we followed its turn to the east, we were now close hauled and making 8 knots. But this was going to be short-lived, since we were only a couple miles from our destination – Dowry Creek Marina. With the forecast over the next few days, we realized this was likely to be the last sail for several days. So we were glad for the time we got, but wishing for Clint’s sake it could have been longer.
With stormy weather forecast and not wanting to arrive in Hampton until Friday, we put in at the marina for 2 nights. It was going to be an unseasonably hot couple of days with temperatures soaring to the 90’s. We were glad for power to run the air conditioning and the ice machine. Clint had never seen Belhaven, so we took a short ride in the marina’s courtesy car to drive through the little town. It had changed little since our last visit a couple of years earlier. After grabbing an ice cream cone in town, we drove back to the marina for a short walk and a cooling dip in the pool. In the evening, we gathered with our fellow cruisers in the comfortable marina lounge, sharing stories of our winter’s adventures.
Sunset over the Alligator River
The storms were slow to arrive and had not cleared completely when we awoke the next morning. So we had planned a late start, since we were only traveling about 25 miles to the south end of the Alligator River. With little wind and most of the day’s travel on the long Alligator-Pungo Canal, it was a motoring trip. Unlike our travel day on Sunday, where we were dodging dozens of boats, we saw almost no one this day. We joined only one other boat when we set anchor in the late afternoon. As the day drew to an end, the overcast skies finally broke, giving us a spectacular sunset, before we had to scurry below to escape the bugs. To our surprise, we received a voice mail message shortly after anchoring. This is the most remote section of the ICW. Cathy was able to pull the voice mail, which was a message for Clint. To our endless surprise, Clint was able to connect with the caller and even join a conference call. So we were surrounded by wilderness, but had better reception than we had in Belhaven. Who knew?
Dave and Clint pull anchor
The next morning dawned foggy (and buggy), as we pulled anchor just after sun-up to head north to Coinjock. The fog was a result of the still air, so it was another motoring day up the Alligator and across the Albemarle. By the time we entered the North River, the winds had picked up enough to sail for about an hour, but as the river narrowed, the winds were variable, so we furled the sails and motored the rest of the way to Coinjock.
We had planned to arrive at Great Bridge on Thursday to rendezvous with Steve. He would join us there for the final leg to Hampton and get some experience going through the locks and opening bridges on the Elizabeth River. We pulled onto the free dock between the bridge and lock shortly after one – in time to walk down to get some groceries, propane and, of course, ice cream. It was another stifling hot day, and the bugs descended at sunset. We put in our screens for only the 2nd time since we’ve been on Orion. By late evening a cold front had moved through and it was finally cool enough to sleep.
Steve arrived early the next morning. With the rush hour bridge restrictions, we decided to request an 8am lock opening. We were alone in the lock. Knowing this, it would have made more sense to make this later, since we had a long wait for the Steel Bridge afterwards. It was a busy trip up the Elizabeth River, with lots of tugs, Navy Ships, Coast Guard, etc. By the time we reached mile zero, the river had opened up to allow us to sail the rest of the way to the Hampton River. Pulling into the slip around 2pm, we had a late lunch and then put the boat back in order. After a celebratory dinner at Harpoon Larry’s, we prepared to say goodbye to Clint the next morning. He would be taking a train south, while we would be driving to our son’s house for a Mother’s Day picnic. It had been a great time, and we really enjoyed his company.
We had a little time to do boat projects in between travel. Using an idea from Bette on Inspiration, Cathy made some tubes to make it easier to stow the enclosure curtains, keeping them in good shape, but taking up less space than lying flat. She cut a 3” PVC pipe to the widths of the curtains, wrapped a towel around the pipe, and sewed a sheet to it. The pipes would accommodate 2 panels each and could be stowed on the V-Berth shelves. Thanks, Bette!
After pulling into Dowry Creek, we did an oil change, our first since leaving the Bahamas.
But the biggest issue has become the problems with our Garmin 5208 chartplotter. We had already been planning to send it back it to resolve a voltage issue that was preventing us from displaying AIS signals at the helm. However, just before we left Charleston, the SD card-reader would no longer accept the SD cards, meaning Dave could no longer load routes and waypoints to the helm from his stored files. We had to load these all manually, which took several hours, although not as long as it had during that first year heading south. But trouble comes in threes and our third problem with the unit was the killer. As we were leaving Dowry Creek, the unit kept losing the GPS signal. After 15 minutes, the problem went away, but 2 days later when leaving Coinjock, it was back. And this time, it persisted. Without our position on the unit, it kept sending messages and eventually turned itself off. We already had our small Garmin 76 mounted on the helm for anchoring and timing to bridges, so we started using it as a backup, getting a sense of upcoming turns and distances. Dave managed to disconnect the GPS by removing its fuse, so we could use the 5208’s charts. The unit has now been removed and sent back to Garmin. Since this will be the fourth replacement, we are more than a little curious to see how well the next one holds up.
Family, Friends and Other Notables
We’ve managed to spend a couple of weekends in Emporia with the kids and grandkids. We took in a Roanoke River festival in Roanoke Rapids with Adam’s family and followed up with a Mother’s Day picnic at his house. The next weekend, we spent time at Bonnie and Troy’s helping finish an attic room, which will accommodate the furniture and other items still in the room which will become the next nursery in a few weeks. Then, on Sunday, we enjoyed a surprise birthday party for Adam.
We noticed The Dove on the dock at the Hampton Public Piers shortly after our arrival, and invited Larry over for dinner one night, as he waited out some weather. It was good to catch up with him once more before he headed to Deltaville to haul the boat.
Hampton was buzzing when we arrived on Friday the 7th, but it wasn’t because of our arrival, but the upcoming commencement address being given by President Obama at Hampton University on Sunday, May 9th. Our marina sits just off the campus of Hampton University, so the Coast Guard was very close that morning, even pulling into one of the slips briefly, while the helicopters patrolled overhead. We didn’t see the President, but we were close enough to hear him introduced to the graduates.
Staying Put for A While
We’ll be in and out of Hampton, working on the boat, swimming at the nearby community center and visiting family and friends. If you’re in the neighborhood, give us a call.