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