It’s About Time

After waking up before sunrise for the last two days so we could put some miles under our belt keel, we have FINALLY reached South Carolina.   

Yesterday we left Swansboro and made it to Wrightsville Beach, NC (map).   As we left Swansboro with the rising sun, I noticed that our sail bag was covered with icicles…  Happy Thanksgiving! Gooble Gooble!  

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This morning was a bit warmer.  By midday we even ventured out on deck to sit in the sun while Captain Morgan (our autopilot! Honorable mention to Ray Charles.) steered Sea Major.   It ended up being a wonderful day…the first since November 9th that we have made it out into the ocean.  After spending the first two hours of the day in the ICW, we headed out to sea via Cape Fear making a respectable 9 knots.  We set the sails, plotted our course, and turned off the engine.   The remainder of the day was spent in peace and quiet while doing about 6 kts (7 mph = aka good time for a sailboat).  By 4:00 p.m. we had the anchor set inside Little River Inlet, SC (map).  Mitchell launched the dinghy and we picked up Wally and Sandra for a short walk on the beach. 

Our sailing friends, Wally and Sandra, on their boat, Amber Sea, this morning.

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Chasing sandpiper birds for Jim Schmidt.

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Gobble, Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today Mitchell and I celebrated Thanksgiving with our sailing friends, Sandra and Wally, with whom we have been jumping from port to port.  Image

We stuffed ourselves full with… a mini turkey, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, yams, pumpkin muffins, oyster stuffing, butternut squash and square pumpkin pie.

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Tomorrow we are headed out again- armed with good (but freezing cold) weather and Thanksgiving leftovers!

And The Winner Is…

YOU must decide!

Who should be the winner of The Mast Climbing Contest?

Natalie

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or Mitchell

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We are currently stuck in Swansboro, NC (map) waiting out some more bad weather. Getting to the Bahamas by boat is taking FOREVER.  Anyone want to sail the boat down there with Mitchell?  I’ll fly down once you arrive!

Duck Dynasty

As it turns out, it’s not super fun being the duck.  This morning we were woken up at 6:30 by gun fire.  Apparently, we had anchored in an area where duck hunting is extremely popular.  By 7:00, we were well on our way (much earlier than we have set out in a long time).  The 5 other boats in the anchorage weren’t far behind us!

Peaceful anchorage by night; shooting range by day…Image

The remainder of the day was spent motor-sailing through the Pamlico River Canal, up the Bay River and down the Neuse River.  Around noon, we pulled into a dock at Oriental, NC to wait out the bad weather that is headed our way (tonight and tomorrow).

We passed some shrimp boats along the way…very impressive!

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Double Rainbow

Really written on 11/21/13- We didn’t have an internet connection!

We spent the whole day in Elizabeth City (NC) yesterday; ending it with wine and cheese offered to all the boaters by the mayor!  This morning we woke up early and Mitchell was graciously given a ride to the gas station to get diesel by Gus (the dockmaster).

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The remainder of the day was spent motoring across the Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River with 8 other sailboats and 2 trawlers (map).

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Around one we hit some fog, but were then guided into the anchorage by a double (maybe triple) rainbow.   The rest of the evening was spent below deck, hiding from the mosquitoes.

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Nailed It!

As of this afternoon, Mitchell and I made it through the remainder of the Dismal Swamp Canal.  It has been an experience that will remain with us for a long time.  The sheer beauty of the trees and water, along with the friendships we have formed have made this portion of the trip a true joy.

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Mitchell and I decided to call it a day once we made it to Elizabeth City, NC around one.  We pulled into one of the free town docks that were nothing like what we were used to.  The wind was blowing as we approached the dock but Mitchell nailed it on the first try.  The dock consists of 4 pilings (wooden poles)- 2 on each side- and a mini triangle on which you jump onto from the bow of your boat to get to land.

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After tying up the bow lines, I looked across the street…

when, what to my wondering eyes did appear,

but a Singer sewing machine shop that specialized in repair.

Back to Mitchell I yelled,

“finish tying up the boat,

throw out the fenders,

I’m off to see if these ladies can fix my machine.”

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As some of you know, I brought my sewing machine along with me in case I found time to sew or quilt in between working on the boat and exploring the land.  Thus far I haven’t been about to use it much, but did get it out the night before Halloween to help my sister-in-law make a costume for her daughter.  As I was putting the finishing stitches on the white snow princess shawl, my machine started acting crazy and jammed up.  Mitch, Michelle and I tried to fix it but weren’t able to figure it out.

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Since the machine was a Christmas gift less than two years ago, I was hoping that it might still be able to be fixed under warranty.  The only problem was finding a store along the way that I could get to without a car.  So, as you might have guessed, I was in shock when I saw the Singer store in front of me.  Jumping off the boat, I ran across the street, sewing machine in hand, and explained the problem to the lady.  Within five minutes, she had it fixed and refused to take even a dime.  As she was putting the screws back in, I noticed the embroidery machine next to the counter.  I asked if it was possible to embroider the name and date in the corner of the quilt I had made last May.  The other lady who was working said ‘sure’ and spent the next hour helping me do just that (she also refused to take any money).   I thanked them and assured them that I would be calling them once I moved back to land to buy a quilting machine.  The kindness that they showed me seems to be something we have seen almost everywhere on this journey.  It warms your heart and renews your belief in the goodness of people.

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Dismal Swamp Caravan

After the sailboat that was stuck on the other side of the lock last night made it through this morning, we all headed out.  All five boats were in line to go through the draw bridge immediately after leaving the docks.  The first three sailboats made it through and then the bridge operator came over the radio saying he had to close the bridge immediately because there was an ambulance that needed across.  So we threw Sea Major into reverse and hoped that the boat behind us was doing the same.  After a few minutes the bridge opened back up and we were on our way.

The part of the Dismal Swamp Canal that we did today was absolutely beautiful.  The canal was about 80 feet across with only about 40 feet that didn’t have trees or roots hanging over it.  We did our best to stay in the middle (even though our chartplotter showed us to be motoring over the land).  We made it through about 20 miles of the canal, finally entering into North Carolina, before stopping at the Visitor Center.  Once there, we tied up to the dock, ate lunch and went for a nice little fall hike at the state park across the water.   It was a beautiful day and will be remembered forever.

Boat Caravan

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Dismal Swamp Canal

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North Carolina Welcomes Us

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Pay phone on the state park trail- Mitchell ran out of dimes!

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We found an additional 3 boats tied up to the dock when we returned from our hike.  At least we’re not the last ones to head south.

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The Great Dismal Swamp

We know what you are thinking … BUT we don’t think R.O.U.S.’s really exist and besides there is a popping sound proceeding each flame spurt and we can avoid that.

 Due to a casualty at the Great Bridge Lock (coast guard speak for a broken valve) on the Virginia Cut, we have been forced to take the Great Dismal Swamp Canal (map).  Thus far it has proven to be anything but dismal. 

 We started the morning in the fog, trying to avoid being run over by HUGE barges/tankers or impaled by submarine periscopes on the Elizabeth River near Norfolk, VA.  Along the way we also passed a ton of mammoth Navy ships in Newport News, VA.  

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After passing under 5 bridges, we first missed, then did a U-turn, and finally entered the Dismal Swamp Canal Route at such a bad angle that we nearly ran aground.  This route runs parallel to the Virginia Cut Route and both are part of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).   The Dismal Swamp Canal was finished being built in 1804 and is the oldest operating artificial waterway in the United States.  It was dug completely by hand; mostly by slaves.  It is said that since the slaves became so familiar with the area, the swamp became a haven for runaways. 

 The Dismal Swamp route is a canal that is only about 200 feet wide (of which about 10 feet is deep enough for us travel through) which is by far the narrowest waterway we have ever been in.   It is also very shallow, with a depth of 6 feet in the VERY center of the canal.  That being said, navigating it is a bit nerve racking.  While trying to stay in the middle of the canal, we were very amazed at the beautiful trees, cute houses, parks and people that we motored passed.  It has been one of our favorite experiences thus far. 

 About 3 miles into the canal we had to go through a lock.  This is the first time we have ever done so and it was quite a learning experience.  We called the lock master to get instructions and told him that we thought we would make the 3:30 locking.  Arriving just in time, I handed him our bow line, Mitchell handed him our stern line and the man closed the gates behind us.  Over the course of the next 15 minutes the level water rose about 12 feet and we were sent on our way. 

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 Immediately after leaving the lock, we pulled into a free dock called Elizabeth Dock.  After a quick walk through the park, we walked to the grocery store with another sailor (who got stuck on the other side of the lock).  For the remainder of the evening, we enjoyed the company of 3 other couples [Cathy and Derek from Canada; Steve and Judy from Cincinnati, OH; and Wally and Sandra from New Hampshire] who are all also making the journey south.  It was wonderful talking with them and we look forward to many more shared nights along the way. 

Thank Goodness I Remembered To Pack The Googly Eyes

After spending the morning beating directly into the wind and waves, without making very much progress, Mitchell and I decided to call it a day around 1 pm.  We pulled into Little Bay (VA), set the anchor, and jumped into Sea Minor.

Mitchell was determined to find the Tiki Bar that was mentioned when looking up this anchorage so we set out for a walk along the beach.  After about a mile or so, we came to the hand-built Tiki Bar only to find it disassembled for the season.  Once the disappointment subsided, we continued along the beach for another few miles.

Being as far north as it is, the beach had a number of pine trees on it- which left many a pine cone near the water’s edge.  Knowing that the holiday season was drawing near, I asked Mitchell if we should pick up some to decorate for Christmas.  After Mitchell shot that idea down, I made the executive decision to instead use the pine cones to make TURKEYS!!!!  For the remainder of our walk, I was busy collecting feathers, eyes and beaks.  (Luckily I also happened to remember that I had a pair of googly eyes in my sewing supplies.)  Once we returned to the boat, I plugged in the hot glue gun and got right to work.

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Mitchell is a little jealous that his turkey didn’t turn out as cute as mine! He should have remembered to pack some googly eyes.

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Since it was such a pleasant night out, we then headed back to the beach to make a fire and cook dinner.  In the picture, you can see our sailboat in the distance (to the left of the fire).  It has the anchor light on at the top of the mast and a flood light on the deck.

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As we were about to head back to Sea Major for the night, to our surprise, a trimaran pulled right up to the beach (pictured below).  Off jumped a middle aged man to explain that he was dropping off his daughter and her friends to have a campfire and celebrate her 16th birthday.   After shooting the shit with him for a little while, we made our way back to our boat; leaving the teenagers to enjoy the beach and fire without us.

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New Discoveries

After leaving Annapolis yesterday morning, we made it to Fairhaven, MD (map), setting the anchor right before sunset.  Knowing how much I hate being cold, my lovely husband pulled the Honda Generator out of the lazarette, took it to the bow of the boat (so we couldn’t hear it in the back), filled it with gasoline and started it up.  After running an extension cord in through the bathroom window, we were able to plug our little space heater into it and enjoyed dinner and a movie in the aft cabin on our bed.  We fell asleep warm and happy.  However, we woke up to 28 degree weather since the generator only holds enough gas for half a night.  😦

Today as we made our way to the mouth of the Potomac River (map), I discovered that life is more enjoyable with little those heat packs in your shoes, on your back and in your gloves.  They worked wonders and almost made us completely forget about the frost that covered our windows when we woke up and the fact that we could still see our breath.  

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Luckily, by the afternoon, it was warm enough to take one of our many layers of clothing off while we played cards in the cockpit with the full enclosure up (thanks to our autopilot).  Never fear … the next few days are supposed to warm up, with highs in the 60s/70s and lows in the 50s/40s.  We are really looking forward to that.