Our Last Leg North
With his last article, on northern migration, Jim left off when we were only part way up the ICW, 750 miles from our final destination for the summer, Solomons, Maryland. As we continued north, after our stay in Savannah, we still had many sights to see, people to meet and miles yet to travel with lots of water to cover and explore.
|The charming city of Beaufort, NC has many fine old homes lining the water’s edge.|
Tom Point Creek, South Carolina, was our anchorage after we left Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah, Georgia, and it was shortly followed by a stop in Beaufort, South Carolina. The last time we were in Beaufort, in 2006, we’d attended an America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association (AGLCA) Spring Rendezvous. We have many fond memories of that event because we met some wonderful people with whom we still keep in touch on a regular basis. We were excited to return and have more time to shop and walk around the town that, because of the Rendezvous schedule, we didn’t have much time to do before. So, within minutes of tying up to the dock we descended on the small town of Beaufort with Jim in search of ice cream while I browsed the bookstore and gift shops.
|It was fun to hook up with Pam in Charleston. Thirty years is a long time to go without seeing a good friend.|
Our next stop, Charleston, was very special for me personally. Way back last fall I’d found an old friend, Pam Baugh Trudeau, on the Internet. It had been some 30 years since I had even talked to her. We made plans to reunite when we planned to stop in Charleston for three days. As it is with really good friends, even after so many years, it seemed like just yesterday that we were together laughing and having a good time. We spent Saturday together for a “girls” outing to the farmer’s market and a whole afternoon spent catching up on each other’s lives.
Georgetown, South Carolina, was next on our northern migration path. We docked at a little marina downtown along with Jim and Barbara on Golden Lily and Charlie and Jeannette on Highlander. We were in search of fried green tomatoes and hamburgers for dinner and although every place seemed to have them on their menu, we decided on the Goat Island Grill. After a long day on the water, 8.25 hours today, a good hot meal (outside of my galley) sure hit the spot.
|Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina and a nice stop for boaters migrating north or south.|
Three consecutive anchorages were our goal for the next few days before we reached Morehead City for a three-day respite to experience some southern hospitality at the beach house of some dear friends. First we anchored in Calabash Creek along with a slew of sailboats. This was a delightful anchorage, well protected and visually appealing. It was warm and not too buggy at dusk and we decided to have cocktails on the flybridge to soak up the atmosphere of this remote spot. The next night we anchored all by ourselves at Carolina Beach but this area of the water is lined with houses, condos, marinas, and of course, boats everywhere so we really didn’t feel alone. Our last anchorage was interesting; with a lot of aircraft buzzing around because of the Camp LeJeune base surrounding the water of the Mile Hammock anchorage. We saw several Osprey airplanes and helicopters doing drills and maneuvers. We heard what sounded like bombs way off in the distance most of the early evening. There was some activity by troops on shore by the boat launch as many more boats, mostly sailboats, followed us into this little harbor looking for refuge for the night.
|We shared this beautiful anchorage with a group of sailboats for a peaceful night’s anchorage.||Although a well populated area we were alone in this anchorage for one night.|
We were in the midst of preparing to take off for our second Loop. Jim was away at a boat show and I was on the boat alone cleaning and organizing, when a group of about 10 Looper boats descended on our marina. This is a lot of boats to arrive all at once and there was a lot of activity surrounding our boat for some time after. As I went to welcome Robert and Kay Creech, on C-Life, in the slip next to us I saw a dinghy with a couple coming straight for our boat. The man in the dinghy was yelling and shaking his finger at me “You guys are the reason we’re here. The reason we’re doing the Loop.” Well I was intrigued and I think even flattered as Louis went on to explain that before deciding to Loop they had religiously followed our first blog and really knew a lot about us from that practice. It turned out that we had stirred their curiosity and wetted their appetite for doing the trip themselves. It was a wonderful thought that due to sharing our experiences someone benefited from reading about it. Most of this group of Loopers were weathered-in at our marina for almost a week, and this is were I got to attend my first, for this trip, Looper Happy Hour in our own marina’s boater’s lounge.
|A lot of aircraft activity and maneuvers surrounded this popular anchorage at Mile Hammock||Diane and Louis Wade made us feel like royalty as they show us what southern hospitality is really all about during our three-day stay at their beautiful beach house in Morehead City, North Carolina|
Thereafter, every time we met up with them, or shared part of our trip with them, they implored us to come stay at their beach house in Morehead City for some R&R off the boat when going through their “neck of the woods” in the spring. They finished their Loop shortly after we got back to Florida from the Abacos and more invitations were extended and promises extracted. So, there we were, leaving Mile Hammock at Camp LeJeune headed for Morehead City looking forward to finding our land-legs and experiencing some genuine southern hospitality. For three glorious days we cooked and ate and laughed. During the day the guys did guy thing and the gals did gal things. We got caught up on laundry and provisioning. On the third day of R&R we all pitched in to help with chores needing to be done around the beach house.
|A popular haven for boaters and sail boaters alike, Oriental was a pleasant stop for us as we were heading north.|
Three days later, rested and five pounds heavier from the Wade’s southern hospitality, we left Morehead City and headed for Oriental, North Carolina. We knew it would be windy, as it has been most days on this trek north, so when we finally tied up we were glad to be in a marina, as even at dock there were big winds and rollers coming straight into the marina making us rock back and forth. Our friends Wade and Susie Ehlen drove over from their home in New Bern, North Carolina, to visit, have dinner, and share their plans for an RV trip to Alaska. We stayed an extra day here, as we didn’t want to venture out into the open waters of the Pamlico Sound under the current windy conditions.
|Our friends Wade and Susie Ehlen drove from their home in New Bern, NC to meet us for dinner and an exchange of adventures past and future.||We were fortunate to arrive on a night that a potluck had been planned by the staff and boaters already there. It was fun to meet others during their migrations north|
The winds finally calmed down Tuesday morning so we were off to Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, North Carolina. The facilities of this marina are definitely designed with the boater in mind. They have a big boater’s lounge with everything you might need during your stay along with a pool just outside. We used the loaner car to take a tour of the small town of Belhaven and make a stop at the grocery store. We were happy that the night we arrived there was a potluck planned and we got to meet all the boaters, about 30, who were staying at the marina, most of whom were also migrating north.
|Elizabeth City knows the definition of hospitality. They welcome boaters to stay at their city docks for free and celebrate their arrival with a little wine and cheese party on many nights when there are enough boats to participate.|
The next day was perfect for our cruise to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. This is the home of the Rose Buddies, a group who’ve been welcoming boaters to Elizabeth City since 1983 with wine and cheese gatherings, along with fresh cut roses for the first mates, whenever there are enough boats in the harbor. There are welcome flags flying all along the dock and a big “Harbor of Hospitality” sign facing the slips, and of course the famous rose bushes line the walkways. The city provides this dockage free of charge and there’s hardly a minute that the townspeople don’t go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Elizabeth City is also the last stop before entering the Dismal Swamp route north.
|The Dismal Swamp was fascinating and lush, with rich canopies of Red Maples lining the waterway.|
Although the name is foreboding, the Dismal Swamp isn’t really dismal at all. It’s lush with vegetation, aromatic with wild flowers lining the banks of the canal, and a visual treat with the bright green trees and tannin-rich water under bright blue skies. But then we’ve always had mostly sunny skies and warm weather when transiting this area. I guess that it would be “dismal” if it were dark, cloudy, cold, and raining. We left Elizabeth City in time to catch the morning bridge opening and timed our arrival to the first of two locks, on the canal, by adjusting our travel speed accordingly.
We decided to make the trip through the swamp a two-day adventure by stopping for the night at the free dock provided to boaters at the Visitor’s Center located mid-way through the swamp on the North Carolina side. This enabled us to really absorb the lush surroundings and peacefulness all night long.
|Arriving in Elizabeth River and the Norfolk area is in stark contrast to the remote-feeling Dismal Swamp. Rather suddenly after the last lock, you’re met with the industrial port with its abundance of freighters and ships and work yards.|
Only minutes after we exited the swamp, shortly after going through the second lock, we found ourselves rounding a bend and ever so quickly the very industrial area of Norfolk came into view. This reminded us of the last stretch of anchorages on the Tombigbee River, which is so remote and eerie. When you leave the last anchorage on the river you feel as if you’re coming out of a small, narrow, tunnel and almost instantly you find yourself at the foot of the expansive Mobile harbor with its bridges, freighters, cruise ships, and of course the city of Mobile itself. Well, this is the feeling we got here also and we savor, and feel fortunate to have had, the experience.
We docked for the night in Portsmouth, across the water from Norfolk, and left in the morning for our last stop, Dozier’s Regatta Point in the small town of Deltaville, Virginia, before reaching our final destination of Solomons, Maryland. This marina has wonderful facilities for boaters including a grand porch, with many rocking chairs for socializing, an inviting pool, and comfy boater’s lounge. You’d think you were at home here as the facilities make you feel that comfortable.
We find ourselves excited with anticipation, during our last two days in Deltaville, to be arriving at our seasonal homeport of Solomons for the summer before we again migrate back south in the fall. We’re looking forward to experiencing all that the Chesapeake Bay area has to offer with plenty of side trips and more opportunities for making new friends.