Saturday, April 28, 2007

Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia

We entered into the Portsmouth/Norfolk area and immediately were met with the largest Naval Drydock facility in the country. The drydock has been in continuous operation since the Civil War when it was the Gosford Shipyard.

We pulled into a small basin right in the heart of Olde Towne Portsmouth. This basin has room for 6 or so boats and a ferry comes in every 30 minutes to take passengers to Norfolk across the river.

Next to us is the Portsmouth Light Ship. This was a lighthouse built in 1916 and was used in areas where it was too treacherous to build a permanent lighthouse. These were manned vessels and it must have been something to spend two months on and one off in the conditions where these ships were deployed. They are no longer in use and this one is set up as a museum.

We met up with Ron and Bonnie Murphy and Drex and Joyce Bradshaw, some people we met while we were at Jacksonville in March, that live close by. Ron invited us all to dinner at their house and we had a good time visiting. Ron is a good cook and taught Stacy to make fresh Bruschetta. We had dinner using a tablecloth that had the signatures of visitors from the past 10 years or so.

We took the ferry over to Norfolk and toured the USS Wisconsin. This is the last battleship built in the U.S. It has not been completely deactivated and was used as recently as the Persian Gulf War. We were able to tour the main deck and it is an awesome feeling to be standing under the 16" guns on this ship. The guns fire a 2700 pound projectile 28 miles and each one can be fired every 30 seconds.

I complain about having to work with my anchor chain but each link in this chain weighs 160 pounds. The anchors are around 30,000 pounds each.

We also visited the Douglas MacArthur museum in Norfolk. It was very interesting to see the life history of a man so dedicated to the U.S. and his storied military career.

We toured the old part of Portsmouth. right where we are docked, and looked at all of the old houses in this town. Many of the original houses from the mid 1700's are still here. There is much to see in this area and we are finding that it is true that you can spend an entire year in the Chesapeake without seeing everything you want to.

We will leave tomorrow for Yorktown. From there we will visit, by land, Williamsburg and Jamestown.

The Dismal Swamp Canal

We arrived in Elizabeth City and tied to the city docks. This city is known as the "City of Hospitality" because of the "Rose Buddies". Two men after church one Sunday decided to meet all of the boaters in the city and give a rose from one's rose garden to all of the ladies on the boats. They started this tradition many, many years ago and one of the gentlemen, Fred Fearing continues to greet each boat on arrival even though today is his 93rd birthday.

We spent one night here and then headed up the Pasquotank river to the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Stacy had read about the Dismal Swamp 10 or 12 years ago and had always thought of traveling through. Well, we finally achieved that dream. We left early in the morning and entered a different world of solitude and stillness.

After locking through the southern lock we entered the canal and traveled to the Visitors Center about 5 miles up the canal. This is a straight cut canal originally surveyed and built by George Washington.

Stacy and I each took turns standing on the bow pulpit taking in the serenity of the setting. We saw a beaver, several snakes, a cow, and many different birds while transiting the canal.

This area is known for "deadheads" which are logs that have sunk and are either on the bottom or just floating under the surface. We keep a sharp lookout and we still bumped things on the bottom two or three times. Sometimes the logs are floating on the surface and we have to move them out of the way.

We crossed from North Carolina into Virginia while on the canal and there was a sign welcoming us to Virginia. We also noticed a house with a sign stating it was the Superintendant's house shortly afterward. We figure they must be paying them with titles.

We stopped just before the north lock of the canal and tied to a small bulwark where just across the road is a Food Lion, Advance Auto Parts, and a family run Mexican restaurant. Since we had to wait for the next locking in about two hours, we caught up on grocery shopping and had a late lunch/early dinner at the Mexican restaurant. After locking through we entered the Elizabeth river that takes us north to Norfolk, Virginia. A few miles from the Dismal Swamp Canal we left the pastoral setting of the canal for the largest Navy base and shipbuilding area in the country.

We have now entered a new part of the world and are entering the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Visit with Cousin Vic Copelan

We stayed at Carolina Beach State Park for 7 nights waiting out a strong Nor'easter that was blowing 30+ knots. It is amazing the amount of protection you can get from the small trees at the entrance to the marina.

We left Carolina Beach on Wednesday and went to Swansboro, NC where we met up with Stacy's cousing Victor Copelan. He rode with us the next day back to his marina at Matthew's Point on the Neuse River. We got on his boat and met a few of his dockmates after we arrived.

On our way to Swansboro we passed by Camp LeJeune (Marines). We noticed a few helicopters in the distance and then one came by us with a whole line full of guys hanging from the helicopter. They were just flying around like this. Another seemed to be picking up a bunch so apparently they were practicing extractions.

Vic is preparing his boat for extensive cruising since he is now "retarded" as he says. We discussed options for how to install his new autopilot ram and then cooked steaks for dinner.

On Saturday we left with Vic on board and traveled to Bath, NC in his old "cruising grounds". It is the oldest city in North Carolina and has the oldest church. Our plan was to go on the next day to Belhaven with Vic where he would depart and catch a ride back to his marina. He had some of his local friends over and ran into someone else he knew from Washington so we had a small "party" on our aft deck. Due to a death in the family, Vic left us at Bath. Stacy and I went to church at the old Episcopal church on Sunday morning and then we left for Belhaven.

After overnighting in Belhaven, we headed out first thing in the morning to go to our anchorage spot just before the Albermarle Sound. On the way Bill decided to go on to Coinjock using the Virginia Cut route to the Chesapeake. This would get him in to Yorktown a day earlier where he is leaving the boat. An hour later before he got to the Albermarle, he called to say he was not getting any output from his alternator. He checked and found the belt loose and tightened it only to have it come apart completely a few miles later. Since he was not in the Albermarle yet, we caught up with him and he decided to anchor with us so we could figure out the problem. Since we had a spare belt on board, I replaced it and then we made some adjustments to the generator to solve an additional problem with over-voltage.

We had a breezy night on the anchor and left the next morning to cross over the Albermarle sound to Elizabeth City. The winds did not die down over night and the sound was up. We had beam seas of 3 to 4 feet that rolled us a bit. We rode through this for 4 hours and tied up to the free docks at Elizabeth City to prepare for our trip through the Dismal Swamp.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Topsail Beach and Uncle Jack

Thanks for the memories Uncle Jack!

Topsail beach again. This time from our boat but about 35 years ago after a Hankins wedding the extended family spent a rainy, windy week together here. My most vivid memory is Billy McAdams saving me from a strong undertow that pulled my ankle deep feet right out from under me.

After spending another week of rain and high winds, Paul & I are leaving Carolina Beach State Park and moving past Topsail to Swansboro to pick up cousin Victor. I sure hope this cousin does not have to save me!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Beaufort, SC to Carolina Beach, NC

This post will be rather long with lots of pictures since we forgot a few in Beaufort and didn't put any in the last posting.

Heading towards Beaufort South Carolina we passed many old plantations along the waterway. Many of these were originally rice plantations along the coast before cotton became king.

Coming into town we passed one of the more prominent features in the town. Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot is located here as well as a Marine Corps Air Station. Blaine Spratlin (his wife Layne was in the prior posting) is the CO of the Air Station.

After we left Beaufort, we headed to Charleston. We anchored one night there and left the next morning. We had a great view of the "Battery" of old Charleston as we headed up the waterway.

It was Easter and Stacy was sporting the latest fashions for the day.

After anchoring in Thoroughfare Creek, we continued our move to North Carolina. The Waccamaw River area, including Thoroughfare Creek, has been Stacy's favorite area so far. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of this area.

As we proceeded northward, we headed into Myrtle Beach. When I was working with Galtronics, I would visit an injection molding plant here and stayed in this Holiday Inn right on the waterway. Stacy came with me on one of the trips and we talked about traveling through here on our boat some day. It is now some years later and interesting to see it again from the other side.

While passing through Myrtle Beach we could not help but notice that this area is covered with golf courses. Apparently space is at a premium as we ran across a rather unusual transtition to the back nine.

It seems as though this particular course is played on both sides of the ICW. Golfers load their clubs in these gondolas and transfer to the other side. Golf carts are kept on both sides. Following this, we entered the famous "rockpile". This well known part of the ICW has rock ledges on both sides of the channel. We passed through at low tide so we could actually see the rocks. Many people get out of the channel and lose a prop on the rocks.

We anchored in Calabash Creek for the night and then headed up the Cape Fear river. We had to time our departure for another unusual feature - a pontoon bridge. This bridge is actually a pontoon "boat" that moves only on the hour.

The wind was up as we entered the river inlet.

We originally planned to anchor nearby but found out about a State Park marina that we might be able to get in to. We called and found out that the water would only be about 4.5 feet deep at low tide and we draw 4 feet. Given the wind and prospects for the weather worsening, we came into the marina. This was a decision that proved to be the right thing. We have been here for 5 days in increasing winds and rain. We are protected from most of the damaging wind but we will not be going out today and will see about tomorrow.

While here we have been visiting with a friend of Stacy's family, Charles Copelan. He grew up with Stacy's mother and is somehow distantly related. He has been entertaining us with stories and taking us around town. We happen to be here during the annual Azalea Festival and went into town for the parade. Charles marches in a Drum & Bugle Corp and has been in the parade for the last 30 years or so.

We found Bill's namesake hangout along Front Street where all the street market vendors set up for the festival.

We have been passing the time bicycling around town and along "Snows Cut" where we will be going out when we leave here.

Snows Cut runs from the Cape Fear River to the ICW along the Atlantic coast. In the previous picture you can see the Atlantic ocean in the background.

We are waiting now for the weather to settle down so we can get out. Our next destination is Swansboro where we will pick up Stacy's cousin Vic. He lives and cruises in the area and will be showing us his favorite locations.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Making our way into North Carolina

We left Beaufort, SC and went to Charleston to anchor for the night. We only stayed one night there as we have been to Charleston a few times before. After Charleston, we headed for Georgetown, SC and found that the only anchorage was already too crowded so we went on for another 15 miles to an absolutely beautiful anchorage at Thoroughfare Creek. The entire Waccamaw river area is a beautiful cruise. After leaving Thoroughfare yesterday we made our way to Calabash, NC for the night. We met three other boats on our way there and they were anchoring in the same place. We were concerned about having enough space in the creek but we managed. Stacy and I took the dinghy into Calabash (famous for seafood) about a mile away and had dinner per a local's recommendation. We then were taxi service for the boats at anchor over to our boat for a get-together. All of these boats are traveling north and some knew Bill from Newburyport (so what else is new). It seems everyone on the waterway either knows or knows of Bill.

Today we are heading for Carolina Beach. It is rainy and the wind is picking up for the next few days. We may hole up at Carolina Beach if we can get into a cheap marina there we are trying for. Otherwise we will anchor there or at Wrightsville Beach and evaluate for tomorrow.

We will be meeting up with Stacy's cousin in Morehead City or Beaufort, NC while he plays tour guide and shows us his favorite cruising destinations in the area. We plan to spend a few days at his marina on the Neuse river before heading further north to the Chesapeake.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Beaufort, SC

We arrived in Beaufort, South Carolina on Wednesday and took a slip at Lady's Island Marina.

During our time in Beaufort, we met up with some good friends here. Blaine and Layne Spratlin are friends from Athens and we had dinner with them and Stacy went out with Layne on Friday to a tea house for high tea.


Stacy and I went into town to look at the old houses and look in every shop in town. We found a shop selling Segways and decided to test drive one. It is an amazing technological achievement that someone could design something that we could actually ride on.

Bill decided that his lines were too dirty and stiff so he put them all in a washing machine with fabric softener. The softener idea is ok but the washing machine unraveled all of his lines. I cut the bad ends off and melted the ends so that they would stay together for a while longer. I think I would rather have dirty lines.

We planned to leave on Saturday morning but we have had a major cold front come in with unusually cold temperatures and high winds. We decided to stay another night in Beaufort and pull out Sunday morning.