The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins
Skinny Dippin'

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Embracing the Solitude.....

Part of the appeal of boating is the high level of social activity around the marinas!  We have made some of our best friends at marinas in our boating adventures.  There is always something fun happening somewhere and exciting people to hang out with. 

On the other hand, an undeniably equally exciting but more beautiful side of boating is embracing the solitude of an un-crowded anchorage.  Nothing is more amazing than when the skies are clear, the winds calm and the water flat. From a warm summer’s day floating in the water, looking up at your own waterfront  home, to a cool Fall evening watching the colors change from brilliant orange to subtle pinks and purples, ending with a clear view of the Milky Way.  This unique opportunity to completely lose one’s self in the beauty of nature is the boater's own paradise. . 

Embracing the sounds. Listening to the music of nature.  Osprey screech as they swoop high above the trees.  Dolphin expel air as they break the surface of the water.  A dog barks in the distance.  The rhythm of the water finding the chines on the boat, or lapping on the nearby shore.

Embracing the light.  Starting with sunset onto the brightest and unending field of stars, to the visible satellites and international space station soaring past and yes the thousands of shooting stars, right up to the awe inspring sunrise!  And, when you are lucky, all of the colors reflect off the water as if mirror image.

Being at anchor in one of these most perfect moments, is your reward for all of the blood and sweat that goes into keeping your boat afloat.  It is these moments that make the long stretches from Monday to Friday worth it.  It is these moments that poets write sonnets about.  It is in these moments, shared with your most special someone, in which the best memories are made.

Be present in your current moments and embrace all that life has to offer at every possible opportunity!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Vacation Part Three- The Epic Finale!!

Belhaven to Manteo to Morehead City!!!

Week three of Summer Vacation will take us on an Epic Adventure into waters who have reputations to be really nasty.  We are heading further North than we have ever been!  The first leg is Oriental to Belhaven NC.  It’s about 45 miles and takes us from Oriental to the mouth of the Neuse River into the Bay River, into the Hobucken Cut, across the Pamlico River up into the Pungo River! 


First Stop is the tiny town of Belhaven.  When I say tiny, I really mean it!!  Oriental is a small town.  Belhaven is almost non-existent.  We stayed at the Belhaven Waterway Marina.  It’s a really well run, friendly and clean marina and very tiny.  The docks are really well maintained and pre-fendered for your convenience.  The bathrooms are clean and very cutely decorated. 

The town itself was a little bit of a let down.  I can’t pinpoint why really, other than a two block walk and we were done here.  We decided to try Farm Boys for some dinner or appetizers and see what the hot spot in Belhaven was like.  I ordered seared Tuna rare, that came well done and Tom ordered the porkchop which was also a bit like shoe leather.   So the dining was not anything to write home about.  The evening was looking a little disappointing.   We consoled ourselves that this really was just a stopover on our way to Manteo, it didn’t need to be awesome. 

A band was setting up while we finished what we could stomach of our dinner.  We couldn’t believe it when the band that was playing was none other than Donovan from the famous Rock N Reggae CafĂ© from the 1990’s in Raleigh NC!   Tom worked with Donovan for several years as one of his house sound engineers.  I am a HUGE fan of Reggae music and a big fan of Donovan!  It was such a treat to see him, get to listen to his current band, and reminisce over the years that have passed.   He actually still has a Jamaican restaurant over on the East side of Raleigh now, called Jerk Masters.  Visit him for some great Jamaican food!

Day two we decide to make a short run from Belhaven to the Alligator River Marina up at the top of the Alligator River.  This will be just over 5 hours for us.  We depart early and have an easy run up the Pungo Canal.  The Canal is about 27 miles long.  It’s very protected and a very easy run.  It is also about the most boring stretch of waterway that we’ve experienced! 

As we depart the Canal and turn into the Alligator River, the North winds show themselves immediately.   We have a strong head sea the entire length of the river, about two hours.  We knew what we were getting into, this wasn’t a surprise really. Although,  I was a little surprised at the sharp height of the waves.  The shallow waters of the River make for a really sloppy chop, especially with the wind blowing from the North!

The charts show submerged pilings the entire length of the river.  These must be old channel markers.  We got to see a couple of them and they could seriously ruin your day if you’re not paying attention. These should totally be  marked with navigation cans!!

We get through the Swing Bridge and turn to port to enter the Alligator River Marina.  The Marina is in fairly good shape.  The docks are sturdy.  The nails in the decking boards are sticking up far enough to trip you if you’re not watching!  The bathrooms were the dirtiest I’ve seen along the ICW so far.  Again, this is just a stopover so I’m not too upset.  We were tied up and secure for the evening and that was the most important thing!

Day Three is a short run over to Manteo!!  This is the scariest day so far.  The Albemarle Sound is notorious for nasty nasty seas.  We know the winds are again forecast from the North, and we’ll probably be fighting a big beam sea once we get out of the Alligator River.  With anxious excitement and trepidation, we get underway.  As promised, the North winds are throwing us a big head sea again this morning.  We only have a three hour cruise today so we tell ourselves everything will be okay!  It will be uncomfortable, but there is very little chance of rain or storms. Skinny Dippin’ proved on our trip to Ocracoke earlier this summer that she can totally handle the conditions!   As we get out into the Albemarle something amazing happens.  It’s about 9am now, and the wind dies.  Right when we turn to starboard, when the beams seas should be making me squeal….the wind dies.  We have an amazing flat water cruise across to Roanoke Sound!  Neither Tom or I will even speak of our good fortune in fear of ruining it!

We land at the Manteo Waterfront Marina just a little before noon on Monday!  The dockmaster Carl Jordan meets us at our slip and helps us get secured on the bulkhead dock.  What a cute waterfront!  This is a mixture of Beaufort and Ocracoke!  Tom and I get settled in and get ready for a day of sightseeing!

Roanoke Island is a little island between the Outerbanks and the Mainland of NC.  There is a lot to do here!  We didn’t get to see the Lost Colony performance, but we did stop by the theater!  The History Museum had some neat exhibits of past storms and fires that destroyed the waterfront.  There was also some life sized replicas of the Indian settlements that the colonists came upon when they arrived as well as a replica of the sailing vessel the “Elizabeth” that they came over on.  The Elizabethan Gardens were definitely worth a visit!  While typical English Gardens, it was a really nice walk through some beautiful gardens!  The butterflies and hummingbirds were quite happy!  The shaded pathways between the gardens were a welcome relief after our bike ride to get here!  The Aquarium was also a must see.  Our NC Aquariums really are amazing. 

We visited all of these spots while riding our bikes on the island’s greenway.  There is a nicely paved greenway that runs from the waterfront area all the way north to the gardens right next to the two lane highway 64.

We spent two days on Manteo and rode our bikes all over.  It was a great visit and we’re so glad we came here.  Weather permitting, we could have spent another 2 or 3 days exploring.  But two days was a worthwhile trip.  We decide to move along on Wednesday due to impending weather coming on Thursday.  We do not want to be caught out on the Albemarle in bad winds or possible storms.  Part of being a boater is watching the weather and moving on when the weather is with you.

Day 5 of our vacation, Wednesday, has us heading back into the Roanoke to Croatan and then to the Albemarle sounds into the Alligator and Pungo!!  We leave at 6am in the predawn light.  The Roanoke Sound is flat.  As we make way across the tip of the Croatan into the Albemarle, it’s flat too!!  How lucky are we???  We again don’t talk about it at all, so as to not jinx ourselves! 

Our plan this day is to make way to Belhaven, perhaps a little further.  The weather is awesome all the way to the Pungo Canal.  We have our own private Air Show put on by the Marines over the Pamlico.  We got to watch bombing runs and aerial dogfighting.  That sure took some of the boredom out of the Alligator River!  Wish we could see them while in the Pungo Canal!

The Pungo was boring as expected.  When we got to the western end of it, a South East wind was picking up. This foiled our plans of staying at Dowry Creek Marina.  They are open to the SE and neither of us were keen on rocking and rolling all night long.  We find our way back to the Belhaven Waterway Marina and were welcomed with friendly smiles.  Yes, the free docks were right there, but we had budgeted this into our trip, so stayed here.

Thursday is Day 6.  The plan is to find our way home to Oriental today.  Another 45 miles or so and we’re home with a successful trip!  The weather is building all day from the very start.  We can see the clouds building and we tip toe along side this system going in the opposite direction!  “Don’t mind us, we are not the Droids you are looking for”.  We get down the Pungo River, across the Pamlico, and into the Hobucken Cut.  The storms are still on the Western side of the rivers.  They are big and black to the eye, and red and orange on the weather apps.  As we depart the Hobucken Cut  and enter the Bay River, we are faced with a very important choice.  Do we find a safe anchorage, or push on?  The weather radar app shows a hole….the visual over the Pamlico Sound looks like just rain.  But the Pamlico can be super nasty and unpredictable.  What should we do?  If we choose find the anchorage, we’ll be working with the ground tackle “in” the storm.  If we press on we’ll definitely get wet, but what are the sea conditions out there?  We get suited up (put on our personal floatation devices or life jackets) and press on.  I can see the navigation markers in the binoculars….and FRED (Friggin’ Remarkable Electronic Device) is holding course straight and true. 

As we turn into the Neuse right at marker NR1, the rain lightens and we can see blue sky….sort of.  Our destination of Oriental has a storm cell over it and more coming.  The South side of the River does not.  The South side of the river leads us to our favorite places, Morehead City and Beaufort!!  Who wants to guess what we did?  It was Thursday!!  Wouldn’t you?  We got closer to Adam’s Creek and I called up Mike at the Yacht Basin!  It was Pirate Weekend in Beaufort, so we knew that would be packed.  Mike had room and we needed fuel! 

The rest of this story would sound just like many others.  We had a great time.  We borrowed the courtesy car and went to get some more provisions and groceries.  We got some fuel and I did some laundry.  We had a great dinner at Floyd’s and an after dinner drink on the new patio.  I can’t wait to visit the new patio in the Fall with the fire pits roaring!

This summer was full of firsts for us.  Big scary crossings of waters that have really bad reputations. We had mostly great weather and mostly great sea conditions!  We have grown so much as a couple and as a team.  Our little Skinny Dippin’ has taken us on great adventures along our coastal waterways and delivered us home safe and sound.  When we question our sanity for getting so addicted to cruising, we are able to look back on these memories and know that this adventurous lifestyle was the right thing to do.  Yes, we can’t throw off the dock lines long term just yet, but our short cruises are our adventures for now.  One day, we’ll be able to go….someday.

Life is short, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone.  Get out there and enjoy life, have an adventure and make memories that will stay with you forever! 
In the words of Mark Twain:  Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Vacation – Take two!!

Our plans were to travel with some fellow cruisers from Oriental up to Belhaven and then on to Manteo for July 4th week.  As we closed in on our holiday week, the weather became more and more unfavorable.  It was to be a two day journey up to Manteo and two days back. Leaving us with 2 to 3 days there.  We had the full week, Saturday to the following Sunday and it was going to rain until Tuesday for sure. So we cancelled that cruising plan.  We did not however cancel our vacation! 

We spent Saturday through Monday doing little projects.  Tom flushed the AC’s raw water cooling system and I did some dusting and cleaning.  We went car shopping and doodled around New Bern and Oriental.  Really if you have to be stuck in the rain, these two cute little towns are a great place to get wet.

Since Manteo was out of the question, and the weather was too unsettled for another shot at Ocracoke, we set our sights on Beaufort NC.  We hadn’t been down to Beaufort in over a year and how magical would it be to be sitting on the town docks during fireworks??  Pretty darn magical!  Beaufort is now just over a three hour cruise from Oriental.  We planned our departure so we would arrive at slack tide, as always.  This had us leaving home port about 8am on Tuesday. 
Tuesday morning I stepped off the boat, starting walking down the dock and immediately found two four leaf clovers right there near Skinny Dippin'.  This was going to be a great week!  We had a very nice comfortable crossing of the Neuse River and arrived right on time at slack tide.  As we rounded Radio Island, someone hailed the Morehead City Yacht Basin on the radio.  I asked Tom to wait until they answered and went to their working channel, and then call the Beaufort Town Docks really quick!  We don’t want Mike to know we’re cheating again!

The dock men at Beaufort Town Docks are some of the best out there.  We came in for a starboard tie – bow in.  I had all of my lines ready to go and we were tied up lickety-split!  Soon we were settled in!  We then wandered over to use a couple wooden nickels (free beer token) at the Dockhouse.

After a cool frosty beverage, we were back on the boat where I taped off my starboard rubrail with painters tape.  Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I could varnish my aftward starboard rubrail??  Well, let me tell you, it had been a while.  Two coats later we’re looking pretty spiffy again.  That is the beauty of floating docks for sure.

We spent July 2nd, 3rd and 4th at the Beaufort Town Docks.  In our cruising party was Sand Castle (36ft Marine Trader Sundeck), Stella De Mar (39ft Mainship), and Alchemy (50ft SeaRay).  We had 7 adults, 3 teens, 1 almost teen, and 5 dogs. On July 4th we had all of the human persuasion onboard Skinny Dippin’ for hotdogs and hamburgers and a full picnic buffet prior to fireworks! 

Friday July 5th brought a new adventure!  Sand Castle has been traveling over to Shackleford Banks forever.  Skinny Dippin’ has never been so we followed over this day so we could learn where the water was and where the anchorages are.  Being the holiday weekend, it was packed full of people and boats of all sizes!  After getting the anchor set, having some lunch and walking the beach, Tom and I started thinking about where to spend the night.  The anchorage was a little crowded. Sand Castle had to drop a teenager off back in Beaufort where her car was.  I proposed going over to the Morehead City Yacht Basin for Friday night.  A nice dinner at Floyd’s, check out their new patio bar, and a nice relaxing day.  I call up the guys at MHCYB and they tell me they can fit us and Sandcastle in, but come sooner rather than later before other “drop ins” show up.

You betcha!  We haul up and anchor and hit the road – um water!! The traffic on the water was amazing and exhilarating and a little overwhelming to be honest.  We scoot over to the yacht basin and save our spots on the facedock!!  I decide to throw in a load of laundry and lighten the smellies that would need to come home in the car!  We settle in for a quiet afternoon of watching Mike and Duane work!  We had to admit to cheating on them again over in Beaufort.  We replaced our burgee in Beaufort with their town flag, and it couldn’t be more obvious. I walked right up to the dockhouse and found a MHCYB tee-shirt and put it on right then and there.  Mike and Duane were much happier. 

Sand Castle showed up a couple hours later.  The teenager decided to stay after all.  We all headed over to Floyd’s for some Buffalo Flash Fried Oysters with Blue Cheese Grits!  Yum!  A perfect last vacation meal.  We hung out a little while that evening.  Sandcastle did some visiting with their own friends at the basin.  We all call it a pretty early night.

Saturday July 5th is CroakerFest in Oriental.  The parade starts at 11am.  If we leave early we can make it! The main objective is to get back for fireworks for sure!  Sand Castle and Skinny Dippin’ leave the Yacht Basin….Stell de Mar and Alchemy leave the Beaufort Town docks almost at the same time.  Stella and Alchemy both stop for fuel in Adams Creek, and us slow boats get in front of them.  These leads to great photo ops as they pass by! 

We arrive back to our home slips by noon-ish.  We missed the parade.  We were able to see a lot of it in the binoculars and the parade of sailing yachts near Oriental harbor was just as amazing. 

I settle right in to give the old girl a good bath. (not myself)  Skinny Dippin’ has taken us to and brought us home from another fantastic vacation.  She needed a little TLC and a little bit of waxing and she earned every minute of it.

The friends we’ve made over the last couple of years are priceless.  We so enjoy spending time with all of you.  It’s funny that we never have everyone together at the same time, but we enjoy all of you all of the time!  You know who you are…Lovin’ Life, Alchemy (sailing the Chesapeake), Alchemy (cruising the Neuse River Basin), Stella, Idle Time, Sand Castle, Temptation, Bubbles, DragonFly, AndanteII, Continuum, and Starship and many more!  Thank you to all of you for sharing in these fun adventures with us.  Your presence means so much, whether in person or in spirit.

Our next adventure might be to Belhaven/Manteo.  We’d like to get this trip in while stationed in Oriental. Safe Travels ya’ll!!!! 






Monday, June 17, 2013

Springtime Cruising!!

We have been in Oriental NC now for a little over three months!  We moved “down river” to be closer to our favorite weekend cruising destinations and perhaps a few new locations that we’ve been dreaming about.  It was a very chilly Spring.  I didn’t take the portable heater and electric blanket off the boat until mid May!  But, we have made two trips to Morehead City, once to the Town docks and once to the Yacht Basin!  Both were great overnight trips with fabulous dinners out on the town!    One weekend we intended to anchor out in South River, but the winds were up and the horseflies huge….so we tucked ourselves back nicely in our home slip!  It was really nice to only have been one hour away when we decided to sneak back home!

This past weekend we made it to Ocracoke Island!  This was no small accomplishment.  Getting across the Pamlico Sound is an experience that you truly can’t believe until you actually do it.  We really had great weather!!  On the cruise over we had a light 10mph WSW wind that actually felt more WNW. We had a following/quartering/beam sea that was really knocking us all over the place.  At the halfway point we even considered turning back.  When Skinny Dippin’ is getting knocked around in a beam sea, it is truly scary to me.  And the return trip was forecasting to be from the NNE at 5-10 so we’d have the same conditions on the return leg.  Tom decided we’d try “tacking” to ease the beam roll.  It worked great!  We decide to press on feeling comfortable that we’d make it okay!

Our return leg ended up being 5-10 from the WSW.  This gave us a head sea the whole way.  Head seas are much easier for me to handle than the beam, but the waves were short and steep and we “got air” several times.  Skinny Dippin’ handled the seas just fine and got us there and back safe and sound.  The spice rack however seemed to have had a tornado in the pantry. 

The trip is approximately 48 miles from Oriental across the Pamlico Sound.  The issue with the Sound is that the body of water is relatively shallow.  This means that any amount of wind really kicks up a huge choppy mess of a body of water.  Knowing the logic behind that statement did not fully prepare us for the experience itself.  Tom once asked his cousin, a lifelong sailor, “what wind direction makes the Pamlico really nasty?”  Andy replied simply, “any wind makes the Pamlico nasty”.

Tom fine-tuned his helmsmanship this trip!  By experimenting with different speed variations and tacking through the roughest seas, he was able to find happy spots where both ship and crew were more comfortable for the long haul.  And both ship and crew were happy he did!

As we came upon the entrance channel to Ocracoke Island, Tom called the marina on the cell phone to ask about any cautions to the channel, missing markers, shoaling and general conditions in Silver Lake.  When we got into Silver Lake we hailed the marina on the VHF.  The Dockmaster decided at the last minute to change our slip assignment.  I was prepared for a portside tie, and had to quickly change over to a stern tie. This is not something we usually do because our dingy is on our swim platform making disembarking from the boat challenging.  But with our usual awesome teamwork, we worked together to get backed in for a stern-to tie.  Marco the master-dock-hand jumped onboard and with the blinding swiftness of a ninja had us tied in with a six point tie. I have never seen a bowline tied and looped over a piling in under 2 seconds!  Although, I did quietly go behind him and changed all of the working ends to proper cleat hitches!  (Don’t tell him.)

There it is!  Our first Pamlico Sound crossing!  We had great weather and the seas were still rough.  Another friend said “there is no crossing the sound without getting beat up”.  I couldn’t imagine even a little what winds above 10-15-20 would cause.  I know that our little boat will not be attempting a crossing at those wind speeds!  At least not with me onboard! 

This was also our very first time to Ocracoke Island!  As with all island vacations, it was a blast.  We were with good friends who met us on their own boat from the Albemarle Sound.  We rented a golf cart and tooled around.  We visited the Lighthouse, the Civil War Cemetery, and the many many fun fun pubs and restaurants along the way.  We shopped too much and ate too much and enjoyed pirate libations with abandon.  It was a great great time and one that we will treasure always.

If you go, cross with caution.  Make sure your vessel is sound and ready to take a beating.  Even just a failed fuel filter out there would be a real challenge to get changed.  We met  three 22ft sailboats crossing as a flotilla at the Anchorage Inn and Marina.  On the return trip one had a crack in the hull and was taking on water.  The Coast Guard was called in and they got the little boat pumped out and towed back to shore safely.  A Big time THANK YOU to all of the Coast Guard that stand watch along our shores to bring us all home safely.  We were so happy to see the little Flotilla back in Oriental.  A holy shit day for them and all of us listening on the radio that day.

Next up is a trip up the Alligator River to Manteo!!  I promised more cruising tales this summer!  I hope the weather holds so I can keep that promise!  Until then, Fair Winds and Calm Seas!!  Next time you see a Coastie, tell them Thank You for keeping us all safe.