Bonnie James and Jim Miller sailed their Newfoundland-registered Victoire yacht ‘Vagrant Sea’ from the Queen City Yacht Club in Toronto via the ICW to the Bahamas and now we cover the return journey
Intracoastal Waterway – North Carolina – ICW north part 7
The section of the Intracoastal waterway coming north into Myrtle Beach, North Carolina is one of the prettiest. We spent a night in Prince Creek, and awake to find ice covering the deck. The river is mirror-calm and the brilliant sun blinds us. The water is comfortably deep as we meander through the many connected rivers and cyprus swamps. There are plenty of different species of birds to watch in this largely undeveloped area. All quickly changes at Myrtle Beach. Here, the Barefoot Landing development offers the most expensive free docks on the waterway. The docks are alongside a huge shopping and entertainment area and few can resist at least a little spending. To give you an idea of the size, the development was recently enlarged, including a new swing bridge to allow access to its golf course on the other side of the waterway. The bridge is privately owned, which means employing a twenty-four hour bridge tender operator and maintaining a hundred and fifty foot bridge. We spend a few days here in heavy rains and gales.
The weather clears lunchtime one day and we decide to move on. The anchorage we selected with the aid of our charts and guidebooks turns out to be too shallow for comfort, so we must go further. Heavy rain starts up again and we get caught with no place to anchor safely. We are relieved to reach the Pelican Beach Marina near Ocean Isle Beach, which has almost enough water to keep us afloat at the docks. When I go in to register, the owner looks at my Newfoundland Power cap and asks if I am from Newfoundland. When I reply yes, he pulls out a photograph of a sailboat with an iceberg nearby. I turn the photo over to find that Peter Cook (crew at the beginning of this trip) had left the photo when he visited the marina in the early 90’s in his boat. The marina owners had a Labrador cross breed that looked as if it had a bit of Newfoundland in him. I wonder if Peter had his Newfoundland dog on board when they visited.
We continue on our way, through Southport, a friendly fishing community, and on through the military bases to Beaufort (pronounced Bo-fort), N.C. This is the usual jumping-off point for sailors heading off shore when going to the eastern Caribbean. The inlet is south of Cape Hatteras where shoals extend far out to sea. The local Museum has free loaner vehicles for boaters, several older station wagons that you can have for a couple of hours to get groceries or just for sightseeing. We take the opportunity to visit with some old cruising friends who live in nearby Morehead City. We also meet friends of theirs who work at the local fisheries college. They are experiencing many of the same problems we have in Canada with over-fishing and marine pollution. At the anchorage in Beaufort, we meet Drew and Ursula out of Halifax. Their boat Scandia was rescued form the scrap heap. They spent six years rebuilding her, and now they are off for their sailing adventure to wherever the wind takes them. We are invited aboard to share the oysters Drew dove for earlier in the day.
Departing Beaufort, I hear an engine noise. It is the sound of diesel mist escaping out past an injector. This has happened in the past. The solution from the manufacturer, Volvo, involves expensive mechanics, marinas, and thousands of dollars. My solution is to remove the offending injector, replace an o-ring that is half way up the injector, and reinsert the injector using a gasket compound. This system takes about forty-five minutes, costs about sixty-five cents and works for about three years. Volvo’s solution lasts one year and is much more expensive. We proceed on towards Oriental.
Oriental was named after a shipwreck. Early in the town’s life, the state government told the community that it had to have a name in order to get postal service. About this time the Steamer “Oriental” was wrecked nearby, and that’s how the name came to be. It is a very boat-friendly spot, nine hundred residents with three thousand boats. Oriental is far enough inland to avoid heavy seas, but readily accessible for sailors wanting to avoid costly marina facilities on the coast. We are tied up at the end of the free town dock. The chart tells us that there is eight feet of water, we read five and a half. We drop the anchor off the stern and motor forward to tie the bow to the dock.. The locals tell us the low water is due to a wind tide in the nearby Neuse River. Several times a year when the wind blows from the west for several days in a row, the water blows out of the river. We have arranged a visit from George, KC9AC, the moderator of the Ham radio “Turkey Net” I have been talking with for five years. It is good to put a face to the name and also meet his delightful wife.
One of the requirements of using a free dock is to entertain the locals. There is a constant parade of townsfolk checking to see who has come in and from where. We celebrate our twenty- fifth wedding anniversary here. The champagne is shared with John and Angie from Port Stanley, Ontario, who turn out to be friends of friends from Newfoundland.
We are coming up to Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. These are two large bays that each requires a long day’s sail to reach a good anchorage. We wait for reasonable weather and have uneventful crossings, continuing on to Norfolk. The wait has also given us a chance to firm up a location to leave the boat for a few months.
We have settled on the Atlantic Boat Basin, just south of Norfolk, Virginia. We will leave the boat here in late March, this being a fairly convenient location from which to continue the trip home later in May. We have chosen this marina as it is very sheltered, has convenient shopping for provisioning the boat for the ocean passage, and it has been highly recommended by other sailors. Norfolk has an airport with Air Canada connections. The marina is inside a lock facility which means no tide and good protection from the wind. The boat will be in a wet storage berth at a cost of $150 US per month. The yard has a number of sheds providing undercover storage while leaving the boats in the water. Our mast will not fit under the roof, so Vagrant Sea will remain outside.
We spend our last few days on board getting the boat settled away for the two months that we would be away. We take some time to tour Norfolk and Williamsburg, a couple of hours away. The next leg of our route home involves a twenty-four hour bus ride to Ottawa, where we catch a flight to St. John’s. Cruising has developed our ability to adapt to different forms of travel. When you pick up the boat in one place and leave it a thousand miles away you cannot book return flights, and one-way tickets tend to be prohibitively expensive. We have adapted to travel by train, bus, and by delivering drive-away cars. On this occasion the bus was the most economical route.
Fair winds and snug harbours,
Jim Miller – Vagrant Sea
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