Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
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Sunday, May 30...Awoke this morning to rain.  Pearce decided it was a good time to do some engine maintenance.  Not only had the engine compartment cooled off overnight, the rain had also cooled things off a bit.  Still, he came up glistening with sweat.  We watched quite a few fishermen cast their nets for their bait fish.  They would watch the water very carefully, cast the net, and pull up a bucket-full of bait fish.  Pearce pulled up the anchor and climbed to the bridge as we got underway in a light rain and mist.  Kay stayed where it was dry and the visibility was better.  We passed a tent encampment on the beach.  I hope they had enough card games to keep them busy until the sun came out at noon.  We were invited to Bobbie and Bill Crawford's home for dinner and the night.  We've known them for many years but until we started traveling the ICW, we usually just zoomed past the Wilmington area.  We alerted them as we approached their dock near marker 100 north of Wrightsville Beach on the ICW.  They came out to wave, and Pearce thought about trying to pull up to their dock.  Bobbie waved very frantically -- it was less that 2 feet and even at high tide can only be used by shallow draft boats.  We went a few miles farther to the Harbor Village Marina in Hampstead which has not increased its $1.20/foot price.  Kay did the laundry in a meticulously clean room (even the lint traps had been cleaned out) and relaxed in the beautiful lounge while the clothes were cleaning.  It was a long trip around the marina from our slip to the office, but they provided a golf cart to get around.  The Crawfords picked us up, and we had a wonderful evening visiting with many of their friends who had been invited to dinner.  Bobbie made a very large seafood paella.  It was delicious, but the great part was there was enough leftovers so we took home a doggie bag.  
Monday, May 31...After a quiet night and a nice crab quiche breakfast, Bobbie and Bill drove us back to the marina.  They helped us cast off the lines, and we were heading up the ICW when we realized that we had not filled the water tanks.  Back we went and spent a good half hour filling up.  Off again to arrive a few miles further north at the Surf City Swing Bridge 10 minutes after it closed -- we had to wait 50 minutes for the next opening.  Now if Pearce had filled the tanks yesterday while Kay was doing the laundry....  An uneventful afternoon and a short day.  We passed more osprey nests with hatched babies.  One had Mom, Pop, and a bunch of fuzzy heads.  We came through the area around the New River Inlet, giving the blue cans that marked some sunken obstruction a wide berth.  There were a few places were we had only 5 feet under the keel, but we followed the marks carefully and had no problems.  We're anchored at Mile Hammock Bay which is just south of Camp LeJeune.  This is a great anchorage used by many sailboats (and a few trawlers) who find the trip between Wrightsville Beach and Beaufort too long a day.  The shoreline used to be restricted to the military, but we see many boats being loaded on trailers parked near the ramp.  I guess the military is sharing their access to the waterway.  
Tuesday, June 1...The military reclaimed their waterfront and were doing some kind of exercise with a tug boat and dinghies.  Several fishermen came on down and launched their boats while we were getting underway.  We were the last boat in the anchorage -- five sailboats and a trawler had left.  We caught up with the last sailboat as we passed through Morehead City almost 40 miles north.  I wonder what time they had to leave to get that far before we caught up to them?  Their sailboat must have been cranking.  Last fall I was completely charmed when we saw our first dolphins in the bay north of Beaufort and Morehead City.  Today as we passed through that area we watched many dolphins frolicking through the water.  Several came along side and skimmed the wake and rolled in the side wave off of Kibon.  One dolphin rolled over so far we could see his pink tummy and hear the loud splash as he landed.

We crossed the Neuse River with the wind from the northwest which gave us a good rock as the waves hit us broadside.  Fortunately, the day was good, the wind was not too strong, and the crossing was only four miles.  We came into the harbor at Oriental and headed toward the town dock which is free.  There was a 38 foot sailboat from Canada on one side and a smaller trawler on the other side.  There was room behind the trawler, so Pearce asked if it would be OK for us to tie up behind them, and maybe they could pull ahead a few feet.  The wife said, "No."  The husband came out and said, "Sure."  Kay jumped off as Pearce turned Kibon around.  The husband helped Kay tie up the lines while the wife checked the little bit of clearance between the boats. She said, "There seems to be enough room after all!."  They also said they would be leaving early in the morning and wanted to be sure that they could get out.  When we heard that "early" meant 8 am, we said, "No problem, we'll get out of your way."

We all held an impromptu Happy Hour on the dock when we found out that the sailboat (which we had seen anchored in Carolina Beach) was owned by a Canadian couple who had bought it in Germany and had recently crossed the Atlantic by way of the Canary Islands over to the Caribbean.  They are on their way back to Canada, but their future plans include a return to the Caribbean and a trip to the Pacific Coast.  They have dreams and plans from there.  The most interesting part of them is that they are young 40 year olds who have quit their jobs to be able to do what they want to do while they are still able to do it.  They agree that they may have to go back to work at some time so that they can continue their dream.  One of the "old" guys on the dock was really jealous that they could do all that in their youth and he had to wait until he was 62 to retire.  But he is no slouch.  He and his wife have cruised the coast of New England and Nova Scotia and have just returned from a winter in the Bahamas.  We're meeting people who are doing their dreams.

I forgot to say why we came into the town dock instead of into the Smith's dock.  Typical of our planning ahead (partly because we never know how fast we are really traveling and because we can never really plan ahead), we didn't call Eulene and Bob Smith until a few days ago.  They are gone, maybe for a few days, maybe for an extended vacation.  We're sorry we won't have a chance to get together with them, but we should have planned ahead. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2004... Oriental is such a lovely little village we decided to stay another day. Many years ago we almost bought property here so we rode our bikes around revisiting, resting and shopping.   We had lunch at the newest marina in Oriental next to the Oriental Yacht Club -- really great sandwiches -- and later in the day we joined the happy hour at the at the Oriental Marina which is right next to the town dock.  Nothing like having everything right handy!  Back to the boat for dinner and an early bedtime.
              
Thursday, June 3, 2004...The captains on the big boats started their motors early, but Pearce was already up.  We were underway by 6:30 and headed down the Neuse River.  Kay wants to know why some of the rivers here in North Carolina are rivers, and some of the larger bodies of water are called sounds, but why are a few very BIG rivers that should qualify as sounds still called rivers?  Anyway, we headed down the Neuse River which is at least 9 miles wide, rounded the terrible Maw Point (just read the guide books to hear the terrible stories about dumb sailors who couldn't read their charts) and into Bay River which brought us into another ditch across another peninsula in North Carolina.  We crossed into the Pamlico River.  A Looper who lived up the river in Washington, NC had invited fellow Loopers to stop by, but since it was 33 miles up the river, and since we travel at 7/8 knots per hour, we decided that it would be quite a side trip.  I guess I would invite fellow sailors to visit us on Great South Bay, but since it is 30 some miles east of the New York waterway, I don't think we'll get too many takers.

We passed by Belhaven, NC and continued up the Pungo River into the Pungo-Alligator Canal.  A huge grass fire was refreshing an island off to starboard making a smoky haze throughout the area. Pearce took a loooong nap while Kay aimed Kibon straight down this canal.  One nap, one lunch, one more nap, and we finally got to the end of the canal.  We came into the Alligator River which is in the land mass west of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  This was where we were last year when we contacted some Looper friends and headed out to Roanoke Island for a visit along part of the Banks.  We are anchored here for the night and watched all the sailboats we had passed pass us on their way down the river.  Since there is only a marina and a questionable anchorage before the crossing of Albemarle Sound, I wonder where they are going?

Speaking of where are they going... we were flown over by many military jets heading northeast  when we first anchored about 4 pm.  Now it is 9 pm and all those jets are heading southwest.  Where are they going?  Luckily, Pearce is a sound sleeper.
Friday, June 4, 2004...Kay  was up early and had to convince Pearce that the sun was up and it was time to leave.  Those early sailboats were already heading down the river.  As we followed them, those jets kept zooming over us, either practicing maneuvers or just burning fuel to chase each other.  This area is National Forest and swamp, so the only people they were disturbing were the boat people.  It was beginning to get a bit bumpy as we approached the Alligator River Swing Bridge which carries the road from Columbia, NC across to Manteo on Roanoke Island and then on to the Outer Banks.  We went into the Alligator Marina to get some of Miss Wanda's $1.149 diesel. Wanda Pritchett owns, operates and is the maitre-d'-in-charge of everything that happens at Alligator Marina and is the main reason why many boaters keep returning. We wanted to stay over, but it was only ten-o'clock and too early to stop. After fueling we headed back toward Albemarle Sound and Elizabeth City, thirty miles further north. We weren't a half mile out when the wind kicked up, the sky blackened and the radar pictured a huge thunderstorm closing in. A quick U-Turn... back to Miss Wanda's to safely tuck in just before the storm hit. We were in a tornado warning with water spouts sighted only a mile away for the next hour, huddled inside the boat waiting for it to pass. Alligator Marina is a great place to wait out a tornado -- or just stop over for the night. The special in Miss Wanda's restaurant was Prime Rib -- eat your heart out, Steve, it was the very best with no fat and only $9.99 -- and the morning paper was delivered to each boat. 

Saturday, June 5, 2004... The storm passed, wind calmed, Albemarle Sound looked quiet from the dock so we headed out. It stayed fairly calm for about ten miles then got choppier and choppier. We pulled into Elizabeth City, The Harbor of Hospitality before lunch. We've been in Elizabeth City before -- last fall just after hurricane Isabel blew through -- and it continues to be a delight. 
We had lunch at the City Wine Sellar Bakery and then took a short walk around the corner to see what movie was playing.  It's Harry Potter's Prisoner of Azbekan.  We had two choices -- 3  or 7 o'clock, and we chose the earlier show.  This is an unique theatre.  They've set up tables in the back where one can order a meal to consume while watching the movie.  I think the evening meal starts an hour before the movie.  We enjoyed the movie and got out in time to go to the wine and cheese party that the Rose Buddies host whenever there are 5 or more boats at the dock.  Fred Fearing had been on the dock earlier issuing the invitation, but one of the ladies on another boat talked right through his invitation.  We thought he was indicating the same place we had gone several evenings last fall, but we were mistaken.  We couldn't find them, so we went back to Kibon, helped tie up another boat, and watched the lead-in to the Belmont Stakes.  Everyone was hoping Smarty Jones would make the triple, but Birdstone was faster.  We also watched with sadness the news of President Reagan's death.
Sunday, June 6, 2004...Pearce woke up early and went out for a walk.  He came back to pick up some quarters to buy the Sunday paper.  Kay was thinking about something special for Sunday breakfast when the sailboats said they were getting ready to make the 8:30 opening of the Elizabeth Bridge.  If we made that opening we should also make the 11 o'clock opening of the South Mills Lock/Bridge.  So off we went.  Pearce was accustomed to making wonderful breakfasts when we were in Florida.  Now that we take off so early in the morning, Kay has had to assume those duties.  No wonderful breakfasts, just coffee, juice, and something simple.  Somewhere down the line we'll become reacquainted with good breakfasts.  Meanwhile, we continued up the Pasquotank River as it narrowed and narrowed and eventually became Turner's Cut on the way up to the Dismal Swamp.  Last year when we came down this route, we couldn't figure out why they called it the Dismal Swamp, because this is one of the most beautiful routes we have encountered.  We still think this is much better than the Virginia Cut which we took north last year.  There are all sorts of information and history about this area, dating from George Washington's surveying of the area, his ownership of the land that later became the Dismal Swamp, and the development of this major waterway from the sounds of North Carolina to the protected harbor of Norfolk.  
We stopped just before the bridge at Deep Creek.  Pearce read the newspaper and Kay went over to the grocery store just a few steps...steps...steps away.  While she was away the bridge/lock master inquired as to our intentions.  Pearce acknowledged that the admiral was soon to be back, and we would like to pass through the bridge but would be stopping at the dock just before the lock.  We were very lucky.  What used to be a free dock is now occupied by a party boat that is here from Friday 9am to Saturday 11 am and from Sunday 11 am to Monday 11 am.  Fortunately, the boat was not able to make its trip down the canal this weekend, and we were able to occupy why used to be a "free dock" established by a former boater.  It continues to be available at all other times.  We talked to the lockmaster, Robert Peake, who had originally alerted us to the elimination of any funding for the Atlantic ICW.  Although letters and e-mails have been sent to government officials during the past months, it is still imperative that we continue to impress our Congressmen and Senators that even the recreational boaters bring money to the towns up and down the waterway.  Even though we anchor out a lot and don't use the marinas that many other boaters do, we will spend several thousand dollars on our trip from Florida to New York this year.  Multiply that by the thousands of snow-birds that travel twice a year!
Tomorrow we move on to Norfolk, gateway to the Chesapeake. We'll stay a few days in Hampton, VA, and visit some old friends before heading up the big bay. This page has grown enough, so click to the next -- as it grows -- "Chesapeake".
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