Belhaven, NC – Monday, 5/3
We began the day early and got underway just before 7:00 am, after Denise got back from a short run. Our plans had changed slightly and we decided not to go to Manteo to start the Albemarle Loop (AL) from there. The weather (mostly wind) was going to be good for only a short time today, but over the next several days was not conducive to crossing large open and shallow waters. We decided to go to Belhaven instead, and then make the decision of when to leave there after the updates in the afternoon weather forecasts.
Once underway we found the Neuse River to be perfectly fine and it was a nice day to be on the water, albeit overcast. It took just over an hour to make our way east, retracing most of the same course on our way into New Bern. We saw the ferry boat crossing from the north shore to Cherry Point, and only a few other boats on the water.
Eventually the Neuse dumps into the Pamlico Sound where it acts like fingers through the low lying areas. We turned north into the Bay River, which then turns into Goose Creek and caught a familiar structure that sits on the point – letting us know we are on the correct course.
On both sides of the ICW are low-lying wildlife areas with small finger creeks. There is not much here except a few “outposts”. First is “RE Mayo” where many cruisers stop to pick up fresh seafood from the local fishing boats. Just beyond that is the Hobucken Bridge and then the Coast Guard Station Hobucken.
Shortly beyond this area the creek widens into Goose Creek Inlet and we made a right turn back into the Pamlico Sound.
This area can get really rough if the wind picks up, but today we found it to be very calm, thankfully. If we had stuck with the plan to go to Manteo we would have stayed on the Pamlico heading east, then eventually north for the next 3 hours. However, since we changed itinerary we only had to stay on the sound 5 miles until we hit the Pango River and turned left. Here the water was almost “pancake flat” and it turned out to be a very nice day.
Before long we came to the Pantego Creek and the town of Belhaven. We made a left turn off of the ICW into the channel, and once past the breakwater we docked side-tie at the Belhaven Marina (BM). It was 10:35 am and it took us just over 3.5 hours to go 62 miles.
We have been to this area in 2017, but stayed north of the town at Dowry Creek Marina (see our post about that here). The BM is steps from the small downtown and we wanted to be able to explore this a little more on this trip. Additionally, we had hoped to dine at the Spoon River restaurant in town; one that is highly spoken of in cruising circles. Unfortunately, during this time of year they are only open Thursdays through Sunday so we will once again miss the opportunity for this experience.
Once the boat was settled and we checked into the marina, we ate lunch and got on with our afternoon activities. Mark had work to do and a very long conference call planned. Meanwhile, Denise took advantage of the free laundry service and managed complete two loads. With only one washer and dryer, this simple task took some time, but fortunately only one other boater was in queue and she sandwiched her loads in between him.
Early in the afternoon, several other boats came into the marina and a few others pulled into the free city docks right next door. One of the boats in our marina was a Back Cove 29 whom Mark had a chance to talk with briefly. They hailed from Beaufort and were originally just getting fuel, but ended up staying overnight as the winds had picked up quite a bit; they were not going anywhere. Other boats started to show up including two Looper boats, who arrived right in the middle of a thunderstorm and pouring rain. We were so thankful we had left New Bern early!
While Mark was on his call and Denise was awaiting on towels to dry, she struck up a conversation with “Wally”. He owns a unit in the neighboring condominiums and also has a Back Cove ’37 on Long Island, NY where he is originally from. They compared notes about the boat and she learned he also has property in the Raleigh Durham area, and he and his wife have been married 50+ years. He is a retired marine and was last stationed at Cherry Point, NC. Denise learned he has completed the Albemarle Loop (AL) and offered suggestions of stops worth seeing and those to avoid or are not worth the time to get to.
When Mark was finally done his conference call, we looked at the updated weather and confirmed that it would not be worth leaving Belhaven before Thursday. If we had to be stuck somewhere between here and Columbia (first stop on the AL), here was the best possible place. It is about 80 miles to Columbia and we can certainly make that in one day. We confirmed with Greg the dockmaster that we would be able to stay on without issue and made plans accordingly.
By this time the rain had stopped and all the boaters were out socializing. We had a chance to meet the Looper boaters who had been buddy-boating together for some time now. Don & Joan (“Panacea”) were from Idaho, but started their loop in Fort Myers, FL. Ginger & Nick (“Ginger Gale”) are from Alabama and started their loop on the Tennessee River. Neither had been boating in these parts, so we shared some information about the immediate area with them. We also promised to get together over the next few days and share more places to visit on the Chesapeake and points north.
Since this is a small town and it is Monday, none of the restaurants are open for dinner, so it was another night of left-overs from the freezer; uneventful, but perfectly satisfying. Afterwards, we went for a walk through downtown, around the block, and by the town’s free docks. It didn’t take long and we were back in time to see a great sunset and get inside before the bugs carried us away.
A few comments about this marina and it surrounds are in order: It is by far the quirkiest of places, decorated with everything nautical. The infrastructure is very antiquated, with undulating fixed docks, poor internet (Wi-Fi) connections away from the marina office, and old (but very clean) facilities. We had a slight electrical issue when we first arrived, but eventually the dockmaster got it all worked out. However, for such a small place the amenities and the super-customer service (they have 7 “suggestion” jars) make it a stop worth visiting. In addition to lots of areas outside to socialize, there is a nice bar-b-que, volleyball & basketball courts, lawn bowling, croquet, a putting green, and a marina shop that sells all things, including beer & wine at affordable prices. There are two rest-rooms with shower facilities that are fully stocked with everything you could possibly want, including fresh towels, and they are decorated with everything nautical or US Navy themed. Near the laundry facilities is a “cruisers retreat” with chairs, a book exchange, and an Amazon “Alexa” that is available for questions, but almost always is playing music. Denise enjoyed changing the music to something that was easier on the ears than the head-banging heavy metal that was playing when we arrived. Here are some pictures: