We had made it from Great Sale Cay in the Abacos to north of Georgetown, SC in exactly one week – and that included a two night stop in Jacksonville Beach to get rid of our dirty fuel. But now that we were back on the ICW with Oriental and Belhaven coming up, it was time to slow down a bit.
The days leading up to our arrival in Oriental were uneventful, save for one thunderstorm shortly after we left Cow House Creek. We had the anchorage in Calabash Creek to ourselves that night which was quite a change from when we stopped there in the fall!
The next day’s adventure came when we pulled up to a fuel dock at a marina in Southport, NC. The wind had been light all day until our arrival. I should have docked with the bow into the wind but I didn’t, and the wind steadily increased during the 20 minutes we were there. By the time we were ready to leave, it was honking on our stern at 20 knots. Hmm. What to do?
We talked it over with the dockhands and decided that we would drop all of the lines except the bow line, and run a second line from the other side of the bow to the dock. We would put the engine in reverse and steer away from the dock, letting the wind push us around 180 degrees, dropping one bow line and then the other, and at that point we could simply motor out. Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way. We ended up going in reverse all of the way out the fairway and back into the ICW! As we motored backwards, one of the dockhands shouted to us, “I love it when a plan works!” LOL!
Finally motoring forward again, I marveled at how much more comfortable I have become with docking. Just two years ago I was literally shaking just thinking about it. Now I’m so much more familiar with how Pegu Club maneuvers under power, and can even back her straight as an arrow in reverse for as long as needed. Who would have thought?
That night we anchored in Wrightsville Beach, and then moved on the next day to Mile Hammock on the Camp Lejeune property. Last fall all was quiet when we were there, but this time we were entertained by Ospreys doing touch and go landings for several hours.
The next day we could have gone to Oriental, but we were hoping to get one of their free docks so we decided to anchor six miles south in Cedar Creek. Oriental has two separate free docks with room for 5-6 boats, but you have to get there early – and have a bit of luck – to snag one. If you do, it’s a free 48 hour stay.
We left the anchorage early and our strategy worked. We were able to pull in to a space next to a red commercial trawler – again, another example of how much more comfortable we’ve gotten docking. Previously I wouldn’t have had the nerve to slide in between the trawler and the dock, but this time it was fine, even if it did take two tries after the wind piped up and messed up our first approach!
I have to admit that when we arrived in Oriental late last fall, we were a bit underwhelmed. Everyone had talked about how wonderful it was. We had just left Belhaven after a delightful four night stay, setting an extremely high bar, and we just weren’t feeling the love. In all fairness, Oriental WAS recovering from a hurricane that had hit six weeks ago, but Belhaven was also recovering and we still loved it. So we decided to give Oriental another try. We were very glad that we did.
Oriental ended up being a fun stop. With the nicer weather there were more people out and about, and we got a kick out of listening to residents talking sailboats at the various shops that we wandered in.
We went to the hardware store to buy a replacement nozzle for our boat shower that Jeff had made last fall using a two gallon plastic sprayer. As the months went by the nozzle was less and less effective, until by the time we had arrived in Oriental it only released a trickle of water. As we put the nozzle up on the counter, the cashier looked at us and said, “Boat shower part, huh?” It was really funny! This was obviously a place that “gets” boaters.
On our second evening in Oriental we went to M&M’s for dinner with our dock mates from S/V Windweaver, and then Jeff and I went to see a screening of “Calendar Girls” at The Old Theater (yes, we had seen it before but we figured it would be fun). For $6 each we enjoyed the movie along with two featurettes – a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon and an installment of Flash Gordon. The Flash Gordon clip was going on way too long, and people started to get restless, but then we all just reached a state of acceptance with the situation. When it ended with a cliffhanger (of course), everyone jokingly started protesting, “Awww! Come on! What happens??” It was a fun evening.
When our 48 hours were up, we agreed that we would definitely stop in Oriental again in the fall, and we’ll try to time it for one of their annual events. Maybe their classic car show or their chili cookoff.
Our beloved Belhaven could have easily been reached from Oriental in one day, but we wanted to catch the Tuesday night Main Street Landing performance so we continued to dawdle north. On our way to the Campbell Creek anchorage we exchanged hearty greetings on the VHF with the owners of S/V Surprise, another Bristol 29.9 heading south. They live near Oriental so we agreed to try to connect this fall as we pass through the area again.
Finally, it was time for our long anticipated visit to Belhaven. And fortunately, it didn’t disappoint. We stayed at Belhaven Marina again, catching up with Gregg the general manager as to the marina’s plans this summer. We ate breakfast every day at O’Neil’s/Gingerbread Bakery, where Jennifer the waitress welcomed us back like old friends. Hugs were shared when we reluctantly left, and she said to make sure we come back in the fall with some good stories for her.
We were able to eat dinner at Spoon River which has received universal acclaim, but was still closed for hurricane repairs when we were there in the fall. Spoon River was absolutely delicious, more than living up to its reputation. We will definitely be going there again. We also had a snack at the Tavern at Jack’s Neck where the owner gave us a tour of the new restaurant they are opening next door. We ran into her on the street a few times during our stay, and had lovely chats each time. Belhaven is just that kind of place.
On our final night there we went to the weekly Mainstreet Landing event. Every Tuesday from 6:30 – 8:30, musicians gather to play music and sing, with everyone welcome. When we were in Belhaven last fall the event space was still cleaning up from the hurricane, and we were sorry to have missed it. It was a classic, charming, small town event, and by the end of the evening Marian insisted that we spend “one night” with her and her husband on their farm when we come through in the fall. “And I mean it,” she emphasized.
Before arriving in Belhaven this time, Jeff and I wondered if a second visit would live up to our expectations. Were we looking back on it with rose colored glasses? We can emphatically say no, we weren’t. The people in Belhaven are truly special.
Once again, we fantasized about moving there. It’s not unheard of. The Main Street Landing event was started by a couple who arrived on their boat in the early 1980’s as they were cruising south, and they never left. They opened up a B&B and have been there ever since. Well, a decision on moving there can certainly wait, but in the meantime Belhaven will continue to be a must-stop for us going north AND south.
In the meantime, after three great nights it was time to continue moving north.