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Monday, October 31, 2016

A brief stop in Wilmington, NC......

Halloween greetings from Wilmington, NC!  Somewhat appropriate that we are on the Cape Fear River today, isn't it?  There was another type of scare awaiting us here that I'll tell you about shortly....

As you can tell, we made it safely past the ICW shoaling areas we've encountered so far.  Mark's evasive maneuvers, sharp eye for odd patterns in the water (which can indicate depth changes), resourceful use of online navigation information, and inherently salty intuition were collectively invaluable in keeping Quality Time afloat and moving southward.

Typical ICW view looking forward:

Typical ICW view looking aft:

We stopped for lunch last Sunday with some fellow Virginians in Wrightsville, then anchored that night in Carolina Beach.  A dinghy ride, a walk on the beach, and yet another beautiful sunset.

At dawn, we decided to take a short diversion north up the Cape Fear River to visit Wilmington, as other boaters had recommended this charming city to us.  The Cape Fear River is renowned for its strong currents, but we arrived around noon to our marina on the north end of town.  Armed with Google Maps/smart phones and bikes, we decided to head out to explore the downtown area and find a grocery store to restock on our perishables.

Mark is apparently significantly less aware of neighborhood "vibes" than I am, and it was quite clear we were very, very out of place as we headed towards town.  And the fact that I could not determine who was dressed up for Halloween and who was not did not help put me at ease.  After at least 6 very uncomfortable miles on the bikes, we made it to a local Food Lion.  Despite Mark's protests, I put my foot down and insisted we use Uber to get back to the marina.

While driving us back to the marina, the driver wondered aloud and unprompted "I wonder why my GPS is taking us through the worst part of Wilmington?" - turns out it was because that was the only way back to the marina.  These were the same streets we had travelled earlier on our folding nerd bikes, made even nerdier by the addition of a milk crate (held on by numerous bungee cords) to the back of each bike for our intended groceries.  Let's just say I was quite motivated to keep my bike moving, and it was a wonderful feeling to be Uber-ed back to the safety of Quality Time.

Since we now don't feel comfortable leaving the marina on our own, we are in the process of planning our next move.  We will likely move to a different marina closer to downtown Wilmington, to spend one more night exploring the city and enjoying one of the nice restaurants there.  Then it will be southward again, as we get ever closer to the South Carolina border.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure - hope everyone is doing well on the home front.  We love hearing from you, so please feel free to call/text or leave a comment or question on the blog.  Happy Halloween and once again, GO TRIBE!!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cape Lookout and Beaufort, NC

Hello, folks - and greetings from North Carolina (still)!  I’m not sure if I mentioned it in previous posts or if you have intuited it from what I’ve said, but I’m definitely what you’d call a “fair weather sailor”.  I have been steadfast in my insistence that Quality Time remain in the protected waters of the ICW (and my perception of greater safety there).  However, Mark convinced me to take a short journey “off shore” to visit a place called Cape Lookout (an uninhabited National Seashore); I agreed due to the potential for awesome sea-shelling and projected calm seas.  The trip there was uneventful and even pleasant; despite technically being off shore, it was in full view of land the entire way.  And the visit there was idyllic!

The journey back the next day, however, was far from idyllic - it was downright organ-jarring.  Poor Quality Time just isn’t built for large swells, and of course, neither am I; thankfully it only took about 2 hours to get back into sheltered water.  Despite our previous experiences with bad weather on the Chesapeake Bay and thus learning how to stow things securely on board, this time things went flying that have never moved before.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper for those two hours and have renewed my vow to remain in the ICW.

We spent the next night anchored in Beaufort (pronounced BO-fort, NC - there is a different city pronounced BE-YOU-fort in SC).  Busy but peaceful anchorage on Taylor Creek; on one side is the small town, and on the other side of the river/creek are small rustic islands inhabited by 400 wild horses.  It was a little strange to hear horses neighing about 50 yards away while at anchor!

Today we are making our way south on the ICW, and we just passed Mile Marker 220.  There are a couple areas ahead where there is significant shoaling in the ICW - usually in areas where a river empties into the ICW.  Coast Guard reports on the radio indicate there are spots where depths have been reduced by shoaling to 2 feet (not good when our draft is 3.5 feet).  Mark remains undeterred and is timing our journey past these areas with the tide to decrease our chances of being stuck.  Time will tell if his strategy was adequate - stay tuned!

And I just have to say “Go Tribe!!!!”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ocracoke, NC - Outer Banks

After a relatively short jog due east from New Bern (60 miles or so), we spent the next two nights anchored in Silver Lake on the south side of Ocracoke Island not far from the ferry docks.  The ferries bring cars and visitors to the island several times a day, and it seems they are the primary way to get extra trash off the island (we saw lots of piles of debris waiting to be removed, presumably from storm damage).  Lots of fisherman on the island, and many of the businesses (stores and restaurants) are either already closed for the season or getting ready to close until spring.

Mark convinced me to ride our bikes to see the Pony Pen, where the once wild ponies are now housed, stating “it’s only about 5 miles”.  It was indeed only that far, but neither of us realized we would be riding into a 15 mph headwind the entire five miles back.  And whenever I/we stopped to rest, the mosquitoes quickly found us.  It was mutually agreed that upgrades to our bike seats will be a priority in the near future! (ouch!)  Here are some pics from that journey:

After two whole weeks on the high seas, Still so far so good between me and Mark, knock on wood - no major (or even minor) disagreements to speak of.  To his enjoyment, Mark has had a few minor maintenance/repair issues to sleuth, such as determining why the electric motor battery was not charging properly (needs new charger cable) and trying to figure out why the handheld radio was getting significantly better reception that the boat radio.  Turns out the problem seems to be related to using the same antenna for both the AIS and VHF systems (even though you are supposed to be able to do this).  The solution apparently is to buy another 8-foot antenna, which has already been ordered and is hopefully being delivered to Myrtle Beach ahead of us.

We left Ocracoke today and will resume our generally southward trek.  Hoping to make it to Beaufort, NC tonight where we will likely anchor.  The weather forecast will determine when and where we go from there.  Take care, y’all - we’ll talk again soon!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Trawler Rendezvous - New Bern, NC

Our first MTOA (Marine Trawler Owners’ Association) Rendezvous in New Bern, NC this weekend was a success!  About 25 boats attended from all over the East Coast and Canada - many are in the process of making their way south like we are.  It was a good combination of planned events and free time to explore the city, and we met lots of other fun and interesting couples. 

If you have never been, New Bern is a wonderful place to visit.  The residents are extremely welcoming and friendly, and the city has quite an interesting history extending back to colonial days.  Apparently the author Nicholas Sparks has a home there, and many local landmarks are mentioned in his novels; great restaurants and quaint shops added to our enjoyment.  The original settlers of the area came from Switzerland and thus named the city after Bern, Switzerland (although almost all of these settlers were later killed by the Native Americans).  As “Bern” is the old Germanic word for bear, bears are the symbol for both of these cities, and New Bern definitely has fun with this.  There are carved and decorated bears all over the city - similar to the mermaids of Norfolk and the guitars of Cleveland.  New Bern is also the birthplace of Pepsi, and it is definitely a faux pas to request Diet Coke, as I learned the hard way.

A big highlight for both of us was the opportunities we had to tour other boats/yachts during the weekend.  Wow - there are some beautiful boats out there, and we really appreciate the gracious hosts who allowed us to gawk and drool for a while.  I have to say I’ve warmed a little to the idea of someday upgrading - mostly to improve our sleeping accommodations.  If you’re not familiar with Quality Time, our only “stateroom” is a small V-berth in the bow.  The beds on each side are roughly two-thirds the width of a twin bed at their widest points and narrow down from there.  Many of the boats we saw had true queen or full-size beds that you could actually walk around (what a luxury!).  And all of the bigger boats had at least two staterooms, which would allow us to accommodate guests!!!

We decided to make our next stop at Ocracoke, NC on the southern end of the Outer Banks - an island which can only be reached by ferry or personal boat.  We’ll likely stay a couple days then make our way south once again.  Thanks for tagging along!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Day 8 - Oriental, NC

It is officially Day 8 of our Big Adventure and still so far, so good.  The weather has remained gorgeous - it can’t last much longer, so we are trying to enjoy every minute of the sunshine, mild temperatures, and calm waters.  I’ve decided that my theme song so far has been “Quiet Your Mind” by the awesome Zac Brown Band (and video created by someone for You Tube) - it does a great job of summing up how I’ve been feeling on the trip so far.

Sunset at anchor:

Picture of the full moon rising while at anchor:

After anchoring for the first five nights, we pulled into a marina Sunday night, and it was heavenly.  River Dunes is a somewhat new community/marina a few miles north of Oriental, NC - very luxurious compared to most marinas we’ve experienced.  We had a delicious dinner at the restaurant there (prime rib and lobster macaroni and cheese - yum), and using all the power we wanted felt almost as decadent : )

Yesterday (Monday) we made the short transit to Oriental, NC - a quaint little sailing/boating town.  We found a spot at the free city dock, but there is no power provided and the city has a policy stating you can’t run generators while here (so we’re back to conservation mode).  We’ll stay here tonight again, then chug on south toward New Bern, where the trawler meet-up will be.

The biggest surprise to us so far has definitely been the friendliness of the boating community.  We have already met many couples, some of whom have been doing this Southern migration for a decade or more.  Everyone has been so willing to offer their knowledge and advice, which has been very helpful.  Mark has been busy sizing up all the other boats and making plans for what he wants in our next boat (i.e. - when we decide to sell the house, pull up our roots, and do this full time - LOL - don’t think he should hold his breath for this to happen, but it its nice for him to be able to dream!)

We realized quickly that we had not thought to make “calling cards” with our boat name and contact information - it is apparently how the boating people greet and remember each other.  Our official cards have been ordered online and will be delivered to my parents’ house in Myrtle Beach, along with a banner with the boat’s name to hang on the bottom of our dingy mounted on the back of the boat  (which blocks the view of the boat’s name).  I suggested we add the comment to the banner “Permission granted for a slow pass” - since we get this request numerous times over the radio every day - but Mark vetoed my suggestion.  It’s been interesting to see how boats hail us without knowing the name (“Small light green trawler” seems to be the most popular so far).

Quality Time is definitely on the small end of the spectrum for boats making this type of journey.  We’ve had a lot of compliments of the condition of the boat, but we are definitely dwarfed by most of the others.  There has been plenty of room for us onboard during this great weather - the true test will come when we get boat-bound by bad weather and the walls start to close in on us.  I’m sure you will hear all about it when that happens!

The plans for today are to investigate the town of Oriental by bike - we hear there’s a park down the road and several cute-looking shops to check out.  Still doing well equipment-wise (more knocking on wood), and Mark continues to monitor all systems for any signs of malfunction or need for tweaking/adjusting.  I’ve had quite the leisurely time so far, making a point to maintain my status as non-essential personnel.  

Mark and I remain extremely grateful we are able to take this journey together.  We definitely miss everyone back home and hope that things are going well back in the real world.  Be well, and we’ll talk to you again soon!!!!

Friday, October 14, 2016

4 days into the journey - Belhaven, NC

Our Big Adventure has begun!  

We finally left at 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 11 (my Mom’s birthday), a day later than we had been originally planning.  Hurricane Matthew gave the Hampton Roads area quite a soaking, but we were certainly lucky compared to a lot of other places south of us.  This ICW sign was in the Great Bridge Lock our first day, reminding us of how far we have to go:

After four days of traveling and near perfect weather, we have made it the city of Belhaven, NC near Mile Marker 135 of the ICS (NERD ALERT:  Mile Marker 0 - the official start of the intracoastal waterway - is in Portsmouth, VA).  Lots of other boats around us heading South - most much bigger and faster than ours, so we get passed often (which makes for fun gawking at all the huge, beautiful yachts as they slowly pass us).  Much of North Carolina where we’ve been is very remote - only passed one “town” since leaving Great Bridge and until now - called Coinjock, NC (it’s really a stretch to call it a town).  Have had very intermittent and poor cell phone coverage, thus the delay in making this first underway post.

Our first night was spent, ironically enough, at the base of the Great Bridge draw bridge after a 30-mile journey from our marina in Norfolk’s East Beach.  We were close enough to home that Mark rode his bike there to pick up a few things we’d forgotten.  The storm apparently had disabled two of the drawbridges south of Great Bridge on the intracoastal (Centerville Turnpike and North Landing bridges), so quite a few boats had been “stuck” in Great Bridge for about a week, unable to keep moving South.  Luckily for us, both bridges were again operational the next morning (Mark’s luck is amazing sometimes).

Our second night was spent anchoring on the south side of Buck Island, along with about 20 other boats, as Coinjock marina was completely full.  For those we’ve told the story to, this was the exact location of last year’s Great Midge Swarm attack (midges are non-biting flying bugs that look like mosquitoes that emerge/hatch from the water in giant swarms) - and we had been lucky enough to anchor right next to one of these thrilling events last year.  Needless to say, we took extreme precautions this year by keeping all doors and windows closed and having no lights on (which we didn’t realize last year had attracted them - arghh).  Thankfully, there are no new swarm episodes to report (and here’s hoping we can continue to report that!!!!).

Last night (our third) we anchored by Tuckahoe Point, just on the north side of the Alligator-Pungo Canal (which is a narrow 22-mile man-made canal connecting the Alligator and Pungo rivers), which we passed through this morning.  Some very nice “neighbors” invited us to dinner aboard their boat - we had a good time trading life/boating stories, and we’ll likely see them periodically as we journey southward.  I took this picture of Quality Time from their boat - it was definitely a beautiful sunset!  The second picture is of the canal we went through today.

Our “Boredom Meter” has been low so far, mostly because the weather has been so amazing.  Mark has already finished one book and is onto his second.  I am about halfway through my first book, having learned that I need to take frequent breaks from reading in order to stave off motion sickness (I can’t read in the car either without feeling sick).  And knock on wood - there have been no known equipment failures or malfunctions to date (I’m hesitant to even type those words in case it curses me).  Mark has developed a daily system for checking things like the fuel filter, oil levels, battery charging rates and levels, etc.; so far so good on all those things as well.  

And I just have to give a shout-out to my awesome friends, whom I already miss much more than I hoped I would - I’m so lucky to have y’all as friends and look forward to staying in touch during our journey.  And hopefully even meeting up with some of you along the way!!!!!

We’re headed off now to explore the town of Belhaven by bike - it’ll be great to stretch our legs a bit.  Thanks for checking in, and we hope all is well with you - we’ll be in touch down the "road"   : )

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ready, set, .....

Our departure date is fast approaching (Monday October 10!), and we've been busy getting the boat loaded and getting mentally prepared for the big change coming for both of us.  I've been trying to enjoy the simple things, like using my dishwasher, lounging on the couch, and driving my car - it will be quite a while before those will happen again.  I have also accepted the fact that I'm simply going to have bad hair for the next several months.

My plan was to write a blog about the preparations, but they don't seem very interesting at this point.  Lots of food, lots of drinks, and extra everything.  I have no idea if we have enough, but since all available cabinets on the boat are full, I guess it's time to stop loading stuff.  The truth is, it is unlikely we will ever be completely unable to get to a store (even if it's via Uber), so I am sure we have much more stuff on board than we'll need or use.

One of my biggest worries (besides rogue waves) is being bored to tears during the times we are stuck on board in bad weather - the boat will likely feel even smaller when we're stuck in our 8 x 8 foot enclosed living space for days on end.  Thanks to our very patient and resourceful daughter (you rock, Melanie!), we now have the ability to play movies on the TV from our phones.  Satellite radio will enable us to hear all of the college and NFL football games - plus all the other cool stuff on there (music, comedy, talk radio, etc.).  Our kindles are fully loaded and ready to go - if I make it through even half of the books I loaded, I'll be amazed.  We even bought folding bikes so we can tool around our various ports of call (albeit in somewhat nerdy style).

And of course, I'm sure Mark will find plenty of tinkering, monitoring, maintaining, and repairing to do to the boat, which is his favorite form of entertainment anyway.

I have to admit I've been alternating between feeling excited and feeling extremely apprehensive about the trip.  Mark and I have always gotten along well - we are very compatible and have similar interests; however, we've also both been pretty independent people.  Spending every waking minute together for months on end is something we have never done - it will be interesting to see what affect this has on both of us (here's hoping that it doesn't drive either/both of us crazy!).

This will be my last "land-based" blog, so we'll touch base again as we start our Big Adventure - hopefully I will have some fun and/or interesting stories to share.  Thanks for tagging along!!!