Daily Archives: April 21, 2019

Not so New Bern!

New Bern, NC (Easter Sunday, 4/21)
Who would have guessed that with the wind blowing so hard last night, we would have woken up to a much calmer marina.  It was like someone turned off a switch and the wind died. Mother Nature really is truly remarkable.

Denise got up and published the last blog while Mark got to sleep in a little longer.  She saw our friends on “Seabird” off and wished them luck in the travels back to Connecticut. We hope to catch up with them on our way through the Long Island Sound area in the fall.

Before leaving Beaufort, Mark decided we should top off our fuel and the best price around was at our marina.  This should give us enough fuel to get all the way to Top Rack Marina near Norfolk; a known spot for buying good cheap fuel.  Because of the holiday the fuel dock would not open until 9:00, so we left our slip and tied up there until owner Tony was available.  While fueling, we had a chance to learn a little bit more about him. He used to have fishing boats here in Beaufort and in St. Augustine, but the industry had changed and he got out of that business.  We also got to meet Roy, his employee who was responsible for washing the bird poop off the docks every morning, as well as other chores. Not all marinas do this and we are so grateful that this marina does. We told Tony that we really liked this place, and would be coming back to stay again in the fall.

Mark went with Tony back to the marina office to pay the fuel bill. While waiting Denise got the boat ready to go, including turning on the engine to get it warmed up.  This must have been a signal for “Ms. Darlene” to exit her slip, thinking we were leaving immediately.  But, Mark was still not back and so “Ms. Darlene” had to wait in the narrow channel by the fuel dock.  The captain was really cool about it, but had to do some fancy maneuvering when another fishing boat came up behind him and needed to go through the narrow channel. He managed to pull into the slip next to the fuel dock while waiting for the other boat to go by.

Ms. Darlene - waiting on fuel dock

Ms. Darlene – waiting on fuel dock

Meanwhile Mark showed up and in 5 minutes we were off the dock and underway. We headed out of the marina and up the ICW through Core Creek.  We passed along familiar sites of the True World Marine Boatworks, Beaufort Marine Center, and Jarrett Bay Boatworks; a fuel stop we usually use, but not so cheap anymore.  There were several derelict boats in the area and like FL, we cannot understand why these have not been salvaged or hauled out of the waterway yet.

Continuing north we went under the Core Creek Bridge and along what eventually becomes Adams Creek.  We both were amazed at how much development there had been in this area in the last two years.  It seems like where there is water, people build houses and docks; sometimes the toys are worth more than the structures on land.

Soon the houses gave way to more rustic surrounds, and the river opens up wide with little coves on either side. We anchored in one of these coves in 2017 while waiting on the wind to die down before crossing the Neuse River. There are some houses along the shore, but they are not near as close together as before.

We turned left and headed up the Neuse River (the ICW actually goes right). Even with the little bit of wind on our nose, it was a cool but spectacular day to be on the water.  We definitely made the right decision to stay the extra day in Beaufort.

Intersection with the Neuse River

Intersection with the Neuse River

It is 20 miles off the ICW up the Neuse River to reach New Bern, NC, and so for us it was a nice hour of great cruising.  We cruised past the Pine Creek Recreation Area and MCAS Cherry Point, totally enjoying the beauty of being on the water.

Great Day on the Neuse River

Great Day on the Neuse River

Having stayed in the New Bern Grand Marina in 2017, we were looking forward to coming back. We were happy to be back in this town as it is quaint, but with a rental car it give us access to conveniences and places we often miss when cruising: Publix, Walmart, etc.  This area was almost destroyed when Hurricane Florence came through in September of 2017 and you can check out a video about it here. However, we had read an update on Active Captain from December of 2018 with rave reviews and heard it was operating again.  Denise was looking forward to the pool and gym access of the nearby Doubletree hotel.

Since we had received our slip assignment in advance, we went under the New Bern (US 17) and Alfred Cunningham (US 70) Bridges and easily navigated to our slip.

Approaching New Bern Bridge

We tied up the boat with a little assistance as no one from the marina office replied to our VHF calls on the radio.  This did not concern us as the same thing happened when we were here before.

After tying up and settling the boat, we were met by a local woman who is a live-aboard. She advised us that the Doubletree was closed, the restroom and laundry facilities were not available, and the marina office was temporarily relocated to a small building about 2 blocks away.  We secured the gate access code and the WiFi password from another live-a-board boater and then walked up to check in at the relocated marina office.  We found a sign on the door that said that they were closed for Easter! Could they have not told us this in advance in the email when they confirmed our reservation and gave us the slip assignment?

We were not happy about this and Denise tried to come up with alternative plans, including leaving and going to Oriental, NC.  But every alternative we considered left us with not being able to meet certain requirements, including access to a rental car for Mark and a place to go to church next Saturday evening.  We walked back to the boat by way of the Doubletree and could see evidence of the renovations, but also some of the destruction from the hurricane.

Damage to the Doubletree

Damage to the Doubletree

Once back on the boat, we requested an Uber and took it to the New Bern airport to get Mark the rental car he would need to drive to and from his client all week.  It was like having freedom!  We stopped at Walmart to pick up some things that we were unable to get in Charleston, and went back to the boat.

When we stay at a marina more than one night, we really settle in as if we were staying forever, including connecting to cable tv (if available). We have become so used to streaming via WIFI that we almost forget to ask if it is available as few marinas are offering it as they beef up their WIFI. However, this benefit is one of the items that is still as advertised at this marina, so we hooked up our cable and watched real TV for first time in two weeks. Denise is excited about having the Hallmark Channel for the next 6 nights.

Our Easter dinner was uneventful; we ended up cooking chicken fajitas.  In the middle of dinner preparation, we were visited by a couple of Loopers. Paul and Caryn Frink (“Seeker”) saw our Gold Looper burgee and stopped to say hello.  They completed the Loop in 2017 and want to do the Down East Loop. They went to Maine in 2018, but only as far as Portland before it got too late in the season and they headed south.  They have been here in New Bern since November and will be leaving at the end of the week. They told us about “Taco Tuesdays” – an event for anyone in the marina at a local restaurant, as well as a breakfast on Thursday mornings.  We may attend the Tuesday evening event, but only if Mark gets done at the client site in time.

After they left, we ate our dinner, did some measuring for an upcoming boat project, (Denise) worked on the blog and (Mark) watched an episode of Game of Thrones before calling it a day.

Tomorrow Mark will drive to the client site and Denise will work from the boat; starting off with a 9:00 am conference call. When time permits there is the “honey-do” list, which will include retrieving a package from the marina office that was (hopefully) delivered in advance of our arrival.

We hope this Easter (or Passover) holiday was good for you, and that the coming year brings you joy and peace.

Other pictures from today:

Stay tuned for more adventures on Island Office.

Nothing Could Be Finer!

Southport, NC (Wednesday, 4/17)
Today started a bit crazy but ended on a fun note.  Denise started with a walk around the basin where there are actually three marinas: Myrtle Beach Yacht Club (MBYC), Coquina Marina, and Lightkeepers Marina.  There is a wooden boardwalk that wraps around the basin and is overlooked by several condominiums. Total distance completely around the semi-circle is 2 miles. Great way to start a day.

Sunrise over the ICW - near MBYC

Sunrise over the ICW – near MBYC

What made it so crazy is that Denise had 2 conference calls in the morning, and we had to get them done before leaving Myrtle Beach.  The second call was to start at 10:30 and we were supposed to be out of MBYC by 11:30.  While Denise was on her calls, Mark put up our new AGLCA Gold Looper Burgee, as well as the new Down East Circle Loop burgee.  Along with the MTOA burgee, we now have 3 flying on the bow.

New burgees flying in the breeze

New burgees flying in the breeze

Denise’s call only took 45 minutes, so with 15 minutes to spare we were able to get off the dock and be on our way up the ICW to Southport, NC.

The weather was really nice; a bit cool but with a light south wind. It was a perfect day to go offshore, but Mark estimated it wouldn’t save us much time and going out the Little River Inlet looked a bit treacherous. Since we only had 30+ miles to go we opted to stay on the ICW and navigated around the recently dredged areas of Little River and Shallotte Inlets, and the not-yet-dredged and shoaling Lockwood Folly.  Along the way we crossed into the state of North Carolina, but since there is no Welcome Center we hardly even noticed.

Near entrance to Little River

Near entrance to Little River

At this point we passed a lot of houses and numerous small boats with families; guessing some kids are out of school as there seemed to be lots of families. Although the River is wider here, the ICW channel is still narrow and the barrier islands to the east and small inlets make for great kayaking and other personal watercraft. Passing is tedious and the constant slowing down is frustrating.  There is also the derelict boats to watch for like this one in Holden Beach that has been there for years.

Trying to pass this sailboat near Sunset Beach

Trying to pass this sailboat near Sunset Beach

Derilect boat still - Holden Beach

Derelict boat still – Holden Beach

We passed by St. James Plantation and their marina entrance; a place we have earmarked to stay at one of these days. However, it is so close to the town of Southport and we love this town that we always seem to go right past it.

St James Plantation Homes

St James Plantation Homes

St. James Plantation Marina entrance

St. James Plantation Marina entrance

Eventually we came to Southport where we had slip reservations for the night.  There was still time left in the working day so both Denise and Mark returned a few phone calls and dealt with items for clients.  Later in the afternoon, we were sitting on the boat and watched a large sailboat crash into the pilings and nearly hit a docked boat as they attempted to get into a slip. The wind had picked up and the captain could not control the boat.  It was a scary site for us as we were two slips away. Fortunately, they got away without too much damage and ended up on the fuel dock as they were leaving early the next day. Every boater dreads the day this could happen to them

Sailboat crashing into nearby boat

Sailboat crashing into nearby boat

In the evening went to hear a presentation on what to expect when cruising north on the ICW, or Offshore, all the way to Norfolk. Hank Pomeranz is the lecturer and provides valuable information to boaters about weather, the tides for the next 24 hours, and what to expect. He does this every night in the spring and fall out of the goodness of his heart, doing all the research that day and providing the latest forecasts, bridge issues and ICW conditions. We attended the first time in 2017 and we were glad we attended again as things change.  Plus he was kind enough to give us a ride to the restaurant as we were running late. Mr. P’s Bistro is a place we have wanted to eat at, but can never seem to get in as its small and usually booked up. But luckily we were able to make reservations and had a delicious dinner.  We highly recommend this place if you are ever in Southport.

Mr. P's Bistro

Mr. P’s Bistro

From dinner we walked back to the marina and went to visit Steven and Carol on “Seabird”, another Back Cove 37 – who were also at Hank’s lecture.  They were going to head offshore in the morning in the interest of avoiding the shoals of the ICW, and the nightmare bridge at Onslow beach (with its restrictive openings) in the Camp Lejeune area. The weather and seas looked very favorable, so after spending some time getting to know a little bit about each other, we agreed to go with them. We set plans to leave at 6:30 in the morning going up the ICW to Masonboro Inlet and then out to the Atlantic Ocean.

 Beaufort, NC (Thursday, 4/18)
As planned, we left Southport at 6:30 in the morning and headed north up the ICW for about an hour.  We first had to pass a narrow and shoaling area called Snow’s Cut, but we hit it at a good time and had no issues.  From there we cruised around the Carolina Beach area and inlet where we did see some debris in the water.

Flotsam in water near Carolina Beach Inlet

Flotsam in water near Carolina Beach Inlet

Seabird following behind in the ICW

Seabird following behind in the ICW

Shortly thereafter we made our way out Shinn Creek and through Masonboro Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a beautiful calm day on the water, and we were able to cut through the Camp Lejeune restricted area buoys as there were no live fire exercises going on.

Leaving Masonboro Inlet

Leaving Masonboro Inlet

Leaving Masonboro Inlet - Wrightsville Beach shoreline

Leaving Masonboro Inlet – Wrightsville Beach shoreline

Camp Lejeune restricted area buoy

Camp Lejeune restricted area buoy

We had an uneventful passage with “Seabird” following right behind us into Beaufort Inlet.

Seabird Offshore NC coast

Seabird Offshore NC coast

As we approached the inlet it was a little choppy and we passed very close to an inbound fishing boat named “Jessica Marie” – like one of Denise’s niece.

"Jessica Marie"

“Jessica Marie”

Once inside the harbor opens up and we took the channel towards Beaufort and into our slip at Homer Smith Marina; two down from “Seabird”.  We settled the boat and checked into the marina where we met Tony Frost, the owner.  He and his son run this place; half marina and half seafood processor and market (more on this later).  We then sat down to eat lunch as it was just barely noon.  Had we taken the ICW we would still be underway.

Seabird and IO at Homer Smith Marina

Seabird and IO at Homer Smith Marina

Right after we arrived we received an invitation to join other “Loopers” for “docktails” on Herb Seaton’s boat (“Phantom”). Herb is an AGLCA member, on his third Loop, and is the Tarpon Springs Harbor Host. He knew we were in Beaufort as we all use an app called NEBO, which tracks our boat’s progress and alerts if AGLCA members are in the vicinity.  We agreed to attend and responded we would be there.

Mark had a little bit of work to do in the afternoon, and Denise went for a walk around the marina – looking for the way to the marina where we thought Herb’s boat was (Beaufort Yacht Haven). We later discovered that he was at Beaufort Town Docks in the downtown area; not next door, but a short walk away.  During her reconnaissance however, she stopped by a fishing boat and talked to two of the deck hands (Max and Aaron).  The “Alexandria Dawn” had an engine issue and came in to the marina for the repair. The deckhands were from New Jersey, so having experience boating the Jersey coast (and because she never meets a stranger) Denise spent time talking to them. They discussed their love for the outdoors, fishing for swordfish (their specialty), being offshore and the forthcoming bad weather.  The guys were headed back to New Jersey so they had chores to get done, and Denise had to get back to the boat so they said good-bye, but not before allowing a picture.

Aaron & Max on the AlexandriaDawn

Aaron & Max on the Alexandria Dawn

We walked to Front Street in downtown Beaufort and found “Phantom”. Having never met Herb, we introduced ourselves and were welcomed aboard.  Soon several Loopers followed including people from boats “Sunset Drifter”, “Dona Pacem” (whose boat we saw at MBYC), “Balahula”, and “Jealous Mistress”.  All of these people were on their first Loop and are headed up to Norfolk for the AGLCA Rendezvous in May. We were the only “Gold Loopers” so they had lots of questions and wanted to know all the cool places to go.  They were like sponges and we loved being able to share information from our experiences.  We exchanged boat cards and 2.5 hours later finally left to go get some dinner.  We were not interested in anything fancy, and ended up at the Spouter Restaurant for a quick dinner before walking back to our marina.

Dinner on 4-18 - Spouter Inn

Dinner on 4-18 – Spouter Restaurant

Beaufort, NC (Friday, 4/19)
The weather was forecasted to get really windy and thunderstorms were expected by the end of the day.  Before it got too bad Denise went for a short run downtown in the surrounding streets, taking pictures of the quaintness of this town.  It was really windy in that area, and we were grateful that we were on the northern side of town in an area that would be mostly blocked by the harsh winds. Here are some pictures of the town:

After breakfast we had the great idea to jump on the laundry before the weather got too bad.  The good news is that it is free here. The bad news is that a lot of other people had the same idea and there is only one washer and one dryer.  Since we did not want to be laundry hogs, we settled on a couple of loads of necessities and decided the rest could wait for another day. So, while Denise took care of the laundry, Mark used the marina loaner car to go to the Ace Hardware.  We had broken our shower handle and needed a replacement, and it is a standard item found in just about any store. Thank you Back Cove for making it an affordable repair item.

While attending to the laundry, Denise talked with Tony (owner) about the marina and the seafood processing business.  She learned that there really was a Homer Smith; he was Tony’s father-in-law. When he passed away he purchased the business from his mother-in-law and he (and now his son Matt run the place. He continues to expand the marina and they have plans to add a shower house and cruiser’s lounge this summer. One of the benefits of having the seafood business is that after processing, they have fresh seafood at really good prices that can be purchased before it is shipped out.  So we got 2 lbs. of very fresh jumbo shrimp and made plans to have this for our Good Friday dinner.

Fishing boat after offloading catch

Fishing boat after offloading catch

Fresh shrimp for dinner

Fresh shrimp for dinner

This is definitely our favorite place to stay in the area and we will come back here on our way home in the fall.  Here are some pictures of the surrounding area.

In the afternoon the weather continued to deteriorate as the day wore on, with winds really picking up.  Denise had wanted to go back to the downtown area to do some shopping, while Mark did some work and took a brief nap.

In the evening we got together with Steve and Carol (“Seabird”) for drinks and to get to know each other better, then we cooked up the shrimp with some rice and carrots and settled in for the night. It had started to rain and the wind was really howling.   It was going to be an interesting night and we were glad to be in a secured marina.

Carol & Steven Argosy

Carol & Steven Argosy – “Seabird”

Beaufort, NC (Saturday, 4/20)
The wind howled all night long and the rain loudly pelted our cabin top.  We both woke up several times just to make sure things were ok.  Fortunately, they had lifted all the tornado watches in our area, but it was still loud.

Finally after being unable to sleep, Denise got up and worked a bit on email and this blog. Just as the sun was coming up (and the rain had stopped) she went and put in another load of laundry, this time with no waiting line.

After breakfast Denise worked on cataloging pictures and trying to get this blog caught up.  Mark began a project to try and fix the slow leak from the hot water heater.  In the process of tightening the offending connector to the plumbing line, the plastic part cracked and now the project was a bit bigger. Luckily he had a replacement, but had to get the old one off the water heater.  With a little help of some of the fellow boaters in the marina, including Darryl (sailboat “Brigadoon” next to us) and Steve (“Seabird”), they managed to get it all fixed.  We get by with a little help from our friends!

Hot Water Heater repair

Hot Water Heater repair

Steve helping on the project

Steve helping on the project

When we saw that the weather was not going to be conducive to us leaving for New Bern on Saturday, we made sure we could stay an extra day in Beaufort.  However that now meant we had to find a church for Easter Sunday here in the Beaufort/Morehead City area.  Since we have been here before we knew that there is only one church and it is not far from the marina, but does require a car.  The challenge was that because it was Easter, they were only having one mass on Sunday at 10:00 am and it was going to be in the Civic Center. The church is just too small to hold the crowds. We considered leaving early for New Bern on Sunday and just go to mass when we get there. However, that would make it really tight and we would have to also allow time to get a cab to the airport, pick up the rental car, and get to mass before the last service.  That was not a good plan (if something will go wrong it will), so our only option was to go to the Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm.

We secured the marina loaner car early and used it to drive to City Kitchen; a restaurant we ate at the first time we visited the area.  It was nearby and gave us sufficient time to have a great meal and to still get to church. We then were able to get to St. Egbert’s with lots of time to spare.  Unlike our church at home, attendance for the vigil had the church at about 80% capacity.  The Easter Vigil at this church (which is a long service usually) was also done in parts in both English and Spanish and took 2.5 hours.  It was nearly 11:00 pm. when we got back to the boat – way into double digits and past our bedtime!

Marina Loaner Car

Marina Loaner Car

Dinner at City Kitchen

Dinner at City Kitchen

St. Egbert's

St. Egbert’s