Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Manteo, Roanoke Island

July 31
Manteo, NC

We are enjoying a brief stop at the small town of Manteo, anchored off the town dock in Shallowbag Bay.

We left Ocracoke Island at sunrise to head up the Pamlico Sound along the inside of the Outer Banks. We motored in calm weather on a flat blue sea surrounded by a powder blue horizon with hints of land to our east and west, hovering like a mirage just above the water. There was no wind, but the headway of the boat created a gentle breeze through the forward hatches of the salon.

We worked out the details of our journey on the salon table as the trusty Yanmar hummed, reeling off nearly six miles each hour. Outside on deck the sun was very bright, the temperature very warm, but not hot. We managed an hour of sailing downwind under the Code 0 until the width of deep-enough water became too narrow to risk the limited maneuverability of sailing.

We passed by infamous Cape Hatteras, the site of many of shipwreck on its outer ocean side but benign on its inside of shallow waters and sandbar islands. Thirty more miles north and we entered Roanoke Sound, shallow water bounded to the west by Roanoke Island and separated from the Atlantic by Bodie Island to the east. We passed by many islets fringed with green vegetation and thin white sand beaches, shrubs and small trees growing on their interiors. Pelicans dived for fish, egrets waded hunting for theirs. A very pretty, natural area. Man's encroachments consist mainly of hundreds of silent duck blinds that dot the waterscape and big, loud, fast sport fishing boats that generate tremendous wakes, artificial surf that breaks on the islands' shores and violently rocks slow-moving Intermezzo.

We passed under the Washington Baum Bridge, another tight fit for the mast and turned into aptly named Shallowbag Bay, negotiating a very narrow but well-bouyed channel into Manteo's town anchorage. We took the dinghy to shore and took a walk, the highlight being a stretch of boardwalk through a marsh in Roanoke Island Festival Park, beautiful in the low angle sunlight of evening and the mosquito's sparing us despite it being their normal dinner hour. The town itself is very pleasant, dominated by its long waterfront, made nicely walkable by well maintained wooden boardwalks.

We're going to go back into town this morning for coffee and a last look around, then head off to Elizabeth City, the gateway to the Dismal Swamp.
Islet on Roanoke Sound
Roanoke Island marsh

Manteo house and boardwalk

Best selection of ice cream cones, ever, in Manteo

Manteo waterfront

Monday, July 29, 2019

Change of Crew, Final Leg of The Voyage

Intermezzo has returned to Ocracoke Island, the first passage of the now “official” Final Leg of The Voyage with a destination of Mattituck, Long Island, NY.  We’re going to be making some miles over the next three weeks.

Intermezzo had a change of crew on Thursday. 

Lisa left the boat on Thursday to do some land traveling in NY and New England. She joined on as crew in Isla Mujeres, almost two months and over a thousand nautical miles ago. She took good care of the boat and her happy, enthusiastic, extroverted personality offset that of the brooding, tormented, introverted captain. She would have half a dozen friends after just a couple days in port and was always ready with a small gift or card for someone who did a favor, was kind or just to make their day. She is already missed.

Renee returned to Intermezzo Thursday night after a long hiatus taking care of family and properties in California. She started The Voyage with me back in October 2015 and, if all goes as planned, will finish it with me in Mattituck in a few weeks. It is good to have crew back on board who knows the boat (and me) like the back of her hand. She has been mildly frustrated to find things on the boat have been rearranged since she’s been gone, consequences of frequently changing crew, my relentless efforts to de-clutter, and me forgetting where things are “supposed” to go. I offered her the choice of a relaxing three weeks meandering our way up to Annapolis or a purposeful three weeks driving the boat to Long Island. If you know Renee, you know that isn’t really a choice for her…she’ll go for driving with purpose every time. I’ll force some relaxing into the picture, though.

We left New Bern early yesterday morning after Renee had a couple days to explore the town. On Friday we did a walking tour of the town and enjoyed a nice dinner at one of the finer restaurants. Saturday took a long dingy tour up the Neuse River, making a loop of it by exploring a pretty side channel. In the afternoon, we borrowed the marina’s “courtesy” truck to provision the boat and get a propane tank refilled. The truck is named Quirky because it has quirks, like the windshield wipers sometimes working, sometimes not, the windows opening sometimes, sometimes not. Saturday afternoon, the windows decided it was time to not, so we roasted as we drove to and from the grocery store in the late afternoon. By evening, when the temperature had cooled considerably, the windows decided to work again.

Our route for the Final Leg of The Voyage will take us up the inside of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, across the Albermarle Sound and up the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City. From there we will take the Dismal Swamp Canal (perfect for my brooding torment?) to Norfolk, Virginia. Then we have a decision to make. We will either sail up the Chesapeake Bay and then take the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal to the Atlantic via Cape May, NJ or we will go straight out onto the ocean from Norfolk. It all depends on the availability of family members in the Washington DC area to be able to visit the boat or not. Regardless of how we get back to the ocean, we’ll sail north to The Narrows of New York City and plan on finding a berth in a marina in Brooklyn. Then we’ll head up the East River and out onto the Long Island Sound. We’ll sail along the north shore of L.I. out to Mattituck, located at the beginning of the island’s North Fork.

I found dockage at Strong’s Yacht Center on Mattituck Creek for the rest of the summer.  Their Travelift is one fo the few in the region wide enough to haul Intermezzo out for storage on the hard during the winter.

After that? Who knows?
New Bern river front
Railroad bridge on the Neuse River

Still dealing with damage from 2018's hurricane Florence

Scenery from dinghy trips along the Neuse River

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ocracoke Island & New Bern

July 22
New Bern, NC

Here's an update of our travels on Intermezzo over the past few days:

We left Oriental on Friday morning for Ocracoke Island. We enjoyed sailing in strong winds on a  nice broad reach until we had to turn upwind and navigate the narrow, shallow channel to Ocracoke. At this point in the afternoon, the winds were blowing hard at 25 to 30-plus knots, but the anchorage in protected Silver Lake was calm, the breeze in fact a relief from the oppressive, humid heat.

Saturday morning we got up and took the dinghy to shore to explore town. Ocracoke has about 1,500 permanent residents and over a million visitors a year. It is very tourist oriented, but with a rustic, authentic feel, the natural beauty of the place more prominent than anything manmade. We visited the local history museum, which included a video capturing Ocracokers speaking the local old English brogue of the island. Ocracoke was the lair of the famous pirate Blackbeard, who was killed by an British navy lieutenant at Tars Hole, an anchorage not far from town.

There was a Navy base on Ocracoke during World War II, mostly involved with spotting German U-boats which prowled the coastline and rescuing survivors from merchant ships torpedoed by those submarines.  The bodies of four British sailors were recovered from one of these attacks and, since tradition dictated that they be buried on British soil, a small graveyard was permanently leased to Great Britain. The graves have been cared for ever since by the U.S. Coast Guard.

During our walk we ventured out (trespassed) onto a private dock to take a picture of Intermezzo at anchor. At the end of the dock we met Paige, one of the owners of the dock who, instead of throwing us off the pier, befriended us. Paige, her husband,Bob, and two sons, Chris and Lance, became our gracious, generous hosts for the rest of our visit. We enjoyed a day on the beach, sunset champagne on Intermezzo, nice dinners, listening to music and the view from their fourth floor condo, one of the tallest structures in town. Super-nice people.

Ocracoke was the perfect place to endure the heat wave sitting on much of the East coast. The strong breeze off the ocean and natural surroundings kept the heat index tolerable. Being at anchor meant that Intermezzo was always pointing into the breeze, keeping air to flowing through the hatches.

It was a tough decision, but we decided to leave Ocracoke early Sunday morning for New Bern, about a 60 mile sail. The forecast called for continued very hot, humid weather, so staying in cooler Ocracoke was tempting, but Monday's forecast called for higher winds with 30 knot gusts. Since it would be an upwind ride to New Bern, we opted to travel on Sunday when the winds would be less strong.

We motored through the Pamlico Sound against 15-20 knot head winds and a steep chop. Not pleasant, but we only had to endure the bashing for about half the trip, as once we entered the Neuse River, both the wind and chop subsided significantly. The trip up the Neuse was very pleasant, despite the heat.

We booked a slip in Galley Stores Marina in New Bern as a good rest stop for the upcoming changing of crew. The heat wave continues, but I confess to having broken down and purchased an air conditioner for Intermezzo while in Charleston.

I endured three-plus years in the tropics of Latin America without air conditioning, occasionally sweltering, but never too badly. The heat and humidity in Charleston was the worst I ever experienced and when I saw a small air conditioner that would fit Intermezzo's front hatch on sale for $136, I couldn't resist. I rigged it into place using a 2x6 support on the deck and a cut up foam swim noodle to seal off the top of the opening. We can only run it in marinas when connected to shore power, but it cools down the salon nicely and knocks the temperature down in the cabins quite a bit. Plus it dries the boat and its contents out, which feels really nice and is good for mold prevention.  All worth being a wuss about the heat, I think.

Today we walked around downtown New Bern, just getting a feel for the place. We had lunch at the Sting Ray Cafe,  a little hole in the wall seafood place. It was amazing. An oyster burger, a bun full of plump fried oysters garnished with just the right amount of coleslaw, and a salad heaped with lumps of local hand-picked blue claw crab meat, all for $18.  We will be back because there are shrimp burgers and soft-shell crab burgers yet to be sampled and that crab salad is worth at least one repeat.

Intermezzo will be in New Bern until Sunday. Plenty more exploring to do here.

Leaving Oriental harbor for Ocracoke Island

Arriving at Silver Lake, Ocracoke Island

An older home on Ocracoke Island

Intermezzo at anchor on Silver Lake, the Ocracoke Coast Guard Station in the background

Ocracoke pelican

Lance enjoying the view from Paige and Bob's condo overlooking Silver Lake

Ocracoke's lighthouse

Shrimp boats on Pamlico Sound

New Bern, NC, birthplace of Pepsi Cola 
My secret weapon for beating the heat on Intermezzo

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Oriental, One Story Sums It Up

We’re leaving Oriental this morning, bound for Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks.

Oriental is a fine little town. One story sums up our experience here.

We set out on Tuesday evening to have cocktails and appetizers in air conditioning before cooking dinner on sweltering Intermezzo. Two of the nearby bars were closed on Tuesdays, so we set out for Schooners Bar and Grill, about three quarters of a mile from the dock. Schooners turned out to be out of business, so we went into nearby Bartley’s Village Restaurant which had lots of cars in its parking lot.

We walked in to the busy restaurant and asked if they had a bar. The owner, Bartley Jr., said, sorry, the didn’t and we let him know we were looking to have cocktails and appetizers and asked where we might get some in town. He told us to wait for minute while he took care of a customer. We did, figuring he would give us directions to another place. Instead, he came back and said, “OK. Come with me, I’ll give you a ride to M&M’s, they have a nice bar.” We were incredulous. Bartley’s restaurant was busy serving dinners and here he was, leaving to give us a ride to his competitor’s place. We protested, telling him it was fine, we could walk. He retorted that it was no problem, it was too hot to walk. We felt uncomfortable with his generosity at such a busy time of day.

We were rescued by one of Bartley’s customers who had ordered a  takeout chicken dinner. She offered to drive us instead, while her dinner was being prepared. This generosity felt less uncomfortable than Bartley’s, so we accepted her offer. Turns out, she and her family moved here from West Islip, Long Island NY, near where I grew up, after her husband retired from the NYPD. We enjoyed the ride to M&M’s and our appetizers, cocktails and friendly conversation there.

We were extended many more small acts of kindness and friendliness here, clearly there is a spirit of hospitality and community alive in Oriental.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Oriental, Sailing Capitol of North Carolina

July 16
Oriental, NC

Intermezzo is resting at the free town dock in the small town of Oriental. We arrived around 1400 and it is really hot out, so not much exploring done yet. I'm writing this from the Inland Waterway Provision Company, where they have a small "Cruisers' Corner" with free WiFi...and air conditioning.  The town calls itself the Sailing Capitol of North Carolina and judging by the number of sailboats in the marinas and the size of the town, I can understand why. It looks like a very nice, quaint little town. When it cools down, we'll venture further and discover more.

We spent last night on the hook in a small cove called Royal Thurman on Adams Creek, the route of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between Beaufort and the Neuse River. We anchored in about 10 feet of water, about 300 yards off the main ICW channel in front of a neighborhood of nice waterfront homes. Three small local shrimp boats worked the water, trawling back and forth in and adjacent to the main channel. We were surprised when a tug pushing a huge barge appeared, headed back towards Beaufort, seemingly much too big for the narrow stretch of the creek.

The water in our anchorage was calm, there was a nice breeze and we had an almost full moon. I pulled out my guitar, which I haven't played for over a year and quietly plucked a few chords while sitting out on the trampoline, apparently not playing horribly enough to drive Lisa inside. I had the good sense to not press my luck further by singing.  It was very peaceful place to spend the night.

Getting to Adams Creek was an easy motor along a mostly narrow channel, the first half looks like more of a manmade canal than a creek, the second half opening to a pretty creek, more like a river, with tree lined banks. After a lazy morning at anchor, we continued from our anchorage along Adams Creek to its mouth at the Neuse River, which we crossed to get to Oriental. Many of the day marks along the channel are topped by osprey nests and we were treated with the sighting two fuzzy chicks sitting on either side of its parent. Interestingly, only the red triangular day marks have nests; must be something to do with access to the pole for nest building, I guess.

The Neuse is a big river, more like a bay in appearance. It looks like great sailing water, though the wind was too light for our short crossing today. I'll be doing quite a bit of sailing upon it, ultimately heading inland to New Bern to drop off Lisa and pick up Renee to continue heading northward.

Once in Oriental's harbor we had to choose between anchoring or tying up to one of the town's two free docks. We chose the dock to give us easier access for strolling around...when it's cooler out. The docks are in good shape and come complete with air conditioned restrooms. Lisa suggested that we just bring chairs and sit in the bathrooms but I had read about the Cruisers' Corner here and raised our game considerably.

Adams Creek

Will we make it under the bridge?


Local shrimpers in the evening, Royal Thurman, Adams Creek

Sunset at anchort on Adams Creek

Looks better than it sounds

Moonlight at anchor, Adams Creek

Intermezzo resting at Oriental Town Dock

Monday, July 15, 2019

Finally, Pictures! From Isla Mujeres, MX to Beaufort, NC

Finally I have enough bandwidth and the time to post pictures from The Voyage, covering our passages from Isla Mujeres to our current location, Beaufort NC.  Enjoy!

The Gulf Stream was pushing us along so fast we stopped to take a swim in 9,000 ft deep water on the way

At first we anchored off of Fort Jefferson, but it was too crowded with tourists and too close to the NPS authorities

So we moved to anchor at the edge of the Dry Tortugas reef, much more secluded and private

This lighthouse keepers' residence on Loggerhead Key is now housing for a research team studying turtles

This structure on Loggerhead Key hasn't fared so well.

Forrest napping on the dinghy

Lisa emerging from the sea, Christine still in it

Intermezzo's crew, Isla Mujeres to Miami, from L to R, Lisa, Christine, Steve and Forrest

View from one of Fort Jefferson's gun portals

View of Dry Tortugas from the ramparts of Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

Sunset on the sail to Key West

Sunrise on the sail to Biscayne Bay

Houses in aptly named "Stiltsville", along the channel into Biscayne Bay

Miami skyline from Intermezzo's stern

Sunrise at the entrance buoy to Charleston Harbor

Now that's a dredge

Lisa standing watch on the foredeck

Fort Sumpter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired

Rainbow Row in historic Charleston

Charleston churches

Fountain in the garden of a Charleston mansion

Charleston sunset

The Mega Dock at Charleston City Marina, Intermezzo's home for two weeks

Southport, North Carolina
Amy and Lisa goofin' in Southport
Lisa and Steve not goofin' as much in Southport
Snow's Cut bridge, Intermezzo's test for adequate clearance along the Intracoastal Wateway
Looking over Masonboro Inlet

Wetland at Cape Lookout Bight

Old Coast Guard Station, Cape Lookout Bight

Coast Guard Station Lookout on Cape Lookout

Pygmy forest on Cape Lookout

Lighthouse at Cape Lookout

Lisa beach walking along Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout

Steve walking the shoreline of Cape Lookout Bight