Monday, October 10th – Tuesday, October 11th, 2016: after several days of watching the weather and checking to see whether the ICW had been re-opened, we decided to start the trip towards New Bern. After refueling, we sailed out, past the Zumwalt, which was in Baltimore for Fleet Week, past Fort McHenry and into the Chesapeake. Given that the Annapolis Boat Show was just finishing, the weather was finally good, and the ICW had re-opened, we thought that there would be a lot of boats, but there were surprisingly few. We made steady progress towards Portsmouth, with only one minor detour when we passed two army vessels at around 1am, who were concerned that we were too close to them. So we changed course to pass 1 mile away from them, rather than the 0.9 mile distance we would have previously been! Other than that, it was a pleasant, easy trip down to Portsmouth. The approach was interesting, as there were several naval vessels heading out for a training exercise, and there was lots of radio communication between them and the various pleasure craft that were in the area. We saw two submarines (well, just a little bit of the submarines!), and several other naval vessels as we came into the Portsmouth/Norfolk area. Our plan was to go down as far as the free docks, where we hoped to stay, but thought we would be unlikely to find a space, so we carefully checked out the anchorages on the way. Seeing that they were mostly empty, we continued on to the free dock where we were very happy to find one free space. The people from two of the other boats came out to help us in, and while I started on dinner, Moray chatted with them. The two boats were from Canada, and were travelling down to Florida. One, Jimmy’s Junk, had started out with two sailors, but for various reasons was now being single-handed. The other was Wonona, being crewed by Beatrice and Luc. They were planning on leaving the next morning, and although we had originally planned to stay a couple of nights, we decided to go with them.
Wednesday, October 12th, 2016: At 7:30am, our little convoy set off to start the journey down the ICW. Our progress wasn’t too good, but we kept up with the other two boats, and made it to the Great Bridge Lock for the 9:30am opening. This was the first time we had seen a lot of other boats, and the lock was absolutely full to capacity. We were sent to the north side of the lock, which generally isn’t quite so good, as it is concrete, and requires a lot of fenders, but on this occasion, it turned out that this was the best side to be. Once everyone was tied off and the gates were closed, the lockkeeper came along the north side, handing out Halloween candy! The people on the south side may have got the safe bumpers, but they had to watch us eating the candy!!!!
As we departed from the lock, Moray realized there was something very wrong so after clearing the swing bridge, we stopped and tied off to the dock. Moray got in the cold, disgusting, brown water and went under the boat to look at the prop. He came back up with a piece of rope that had been wrapped tightly round it.
That taken care of, we set off again. By now, our two travelling companions were nowhere to be seen, so we just kept on going towards Broad Creek, where we planned to anchor for the night. We kept an eye open for debris, but there was relatively little, so we were able to enjoy the lovely day, and the beautiful scenery. As we approached Coinjock, we could see that this was where all the powerboats that had been with us in the lock, or passed us afterwards, were planning to spend the night. We kept on going, and saw two sailboats pulling out from the fuel dock – it was Jimmy’s Junk and Wonona! Reunited with our convoy, we travelled the last few miles down to Broad Creek, where we found a couple of other boats already anchored, one being Stephanie Dawn, who we had last seen in Cape May!
Thursday, October 13th, 2016: the plan for the day was to travel to Belhaven. This was a long passage for one day, so we set out at 6:30am, along with Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk. There was a steady stream of traffic, but nothing too bad, but the amount of debris was noticeably higher than the previous couple of days. We also saw a boat come very close to hitting the Wilkerson Bridge, because the water was higher, reducing the 65ft clearance to about 63ft! He made it through, but I’m not sure if his antenna was undamaged, judging from the scraping sounds! After a long day, we got to Belhaven anchorage at around 5:40pm. Once everyone was anchored safely, we dropped the dinghy into the water and picked up the others to go ashore for a couple of drinks. Jimmy, who was single-handing his boat, really needed a break – he has no autopilot, so had been unable to leave the cockpit for more than a few seconds at a time. Not the most comfortable day for him L . We headed to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, where the manager greeted us eagerly, stating that he had thought Richard Branson was with us J until that point we hadn’t realized how much Jimmy looked like Richard Branson, but he was right! While we were sitting with our drinks, and chatting, a lady from the Chamber of Commerce came over to our table with goodie bags for each boat, and welcomed us to Belhaven! And although we didn’t order any food, the manager came by with a pizza for us – on the house. What a great town!
Friday, October 14th, 2016: Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk left bright and early the next morning, as they wanted to continue their journey to Florida as fast as possible. We slept in a little and headed out at around 8:30am towards New Bern. On the way we passed several wrecks, where people had tried to pass through but had not paid attention to chart depths. This was not a result of Matthew.
We were planning on spending the night in an anchorage about 20 miles before New Bern, called Hancock Creek, but we made good time and found another anchorage which looked more protected and was only 8 miles from New Bern. There was a possibility that there would be some flooding issues, and we wanted to be somewhere we could have more room, with better holding, and Broad Creek definitely fit the bill. It was an inlet off the side of the River Neuse, very wide and relatively deep, and surrounded by tree lined banks. We anchored and spent a very comfortable night at anchor.
Saturday, October 15th, 2016: as we only had 8 miles to go, we got a later start, and set off around 9:30am. It was a pretty day, and we travelled slowly up the Neuse River, enjoying the sights. Once under the Alfred Cunningham Bridge, we called the bridge keeper to request an opening for the bascule bridge, and came into New Bern Grand Marina at around 11am. We settled into a slip and went to register with the marina that will be home for about the next month. I took a quick look at the Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday morning, while Moray checked out the marina. Tom and Joy on Belle Ile, which had been travelling about a day behind us, arrived today, much to Joy’s relief. She had hurt her knee back in Maine, and had a doctor’s appointment in New Bern on Monday, October 17th. With the weather and ICW closures, she had been worried that she wouldn’t make it, but Tom did a great job and they made it!
Sunday, October 16th – Tuesday, November 2nd, 2016: our slip was great but only had a 30 amp power supply. This meant we had shore power but no air conditioning. Moray checked with the dock master who found another slip, opposite ours, with 50 amp power, so we moved the boat. As we are planning to be here for a while, the additional power, and ability to run the air conditioning or heating, will be a blessing.
One of the reasons for spending a month here is to work on various repairs or improvements that we have discovered we need to make. The first was to get the windex and anemometer replaced. We had ordered the parts online and they were waiting for us when we arrived at the marina, so I winched Moray up the mast where he removed the mast cap complete with the broken parts. On our journey here, the mainsail had been furled badly and was now stuck in the mast, so he worked on getting that released on his way down the mast. He managed to release part of it, but by this time had spent a long time in the Bosun’s Chair, so it was my turn. I brought him down to the deck and we swapped roles. A combination of furling and unfurling the sail, while I pulled on it from the mast, finally released the whole sail and we were able to furl it in tidily and tightly. The next day, after the new parts had all been fitted to the mast cap, Moray went back to the top of the mast, installed the new wind instruments and we are back in business!
My main tasks while we are here involve cleaning the boat. I finished off the removal of the varnish from the teak, so that I can clean the teak and treat it rather than re-varnish. The companionway will be re-varnished, but that is a small amount to have to work on in the future! I am partway through cleaning all the stainless steel, which despite its name, starts to show rust patches after almost 6 months! I am also making slow by steady progress on cleaning the cabins and galley, which get moldy and damp after time without air conditioning. It’s a good opportunity also, to empty out the cabinets and reorganize/get rid of/repair items that have been stuffed into any available space for the last few months. I also took the opportunity to do a little baking
Moray’s tasks include replacing a fridge shelf (the original broke during a storm when the contents got thrown around and cracked it), replacing the galley faucet, fixing the drive gear on the wind generator, moving the stern light, replacing the hatch covers and compounding and waxing the boat. I think I got the easy tasks!
It’s not all work though! New Bern is a great little town, very friendly and welcoming. Bob and Clare, on Sofira, and Tom and Joy, on Belle Ile have been here many times, and have shown us around. (They both have cars here, so they have been wonderful in taking us shopping etc. – thank you, thank you!).
Another thing about New Bern – it loves Halloween! I went with Joy to a “lunch & learn” at the Tryon Palace Museum, to learn about the witch trials of North Carolina. Then, Bob & Clare took us to a Halloween party at a friend’s house. The four of us had about 30 minutes’ notice to get costumes together, but we didn’t do too badly! Bob went as a lobster fisherman, Moray as a Scot (any excuse to wear his kilt!), I went as a pirate wench – but the prize for originality goes to Clare who was a red marker buoy number 2! Bob, Clare, Moray and I also took part in the annual Ghostwalk. Each year, the town selects 18 sites of historical significance (there are a lot to choose from), and the historic society learns something about the people who were connected with that site. Many are private homes, but the owners allow the historic society to provide hosts and a ghost to guide us through the property and tell us about the people who lived there. The Cemetery is one of the most popular attractions, as it is open once it gets dark, and you never know who will come out of their grave to tell you a bit about themselves! On the second night we went to the catacombs of the Methodist Church to have dinner served by dim candlelight. The same night, I enjoyed the Headless Horseman riding down the street in front of the Tryon Palace, but I think the highlight for all of us was on the final night, with the hooded monk playing music from the Phantom of the Opera on the Church Organ upstairs in the Methodist Church. The Ghostwalk takes place over three nights and each and every one was a blast.
Well, it’s back to the cleaning for me! We will be here for a few more weeks, finishing up tasks and enjoying this lovely town. Then we will be heading to Stuart, FL to pick up our new sails. So exciting! In case I don’t write anything before then, Happy Thanksgiving!