After leaving Oriental we made steady progress north. We reluctantly decided to skip our beloved Belhaven, which is the first time we’ve missed it. Unfortunately Covid cases were increasing in North Carolina and from what we could observe on Facebook, Belhaven residents weren’t fans of masks. Sadly, if that attitude remains Belhaven will have to be a pass for us until Covid is somehow resolved.
We had a sporty ride across the Albemarle (it’s a large, shallow body of water so every time a gnat farts a nasty chop kicks up), spent several days sweating it out in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and rode out the Fourth of July weekend anchored at Hospital Point by Portsmouth, VA.
The anchorage in Calabash Creek is not a place you want to spend multiple days. Deep sea fishing charters speed by all day throwing a large wake. It’s tolerable for an evening, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next five days called for heavy rain and thunderstorms. We stuck it out for one day and then called an audible.
We were poking along the ICW as we did last fall, content in knowing that we were three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year and hoping that would be enough to keep the cold weather at bay. We had enjoyed a beautiful, leisurely trip down the Dismal Swamp, spent a few nights in our favorite small town of Belhaven, and stopped in Beaufort, NC for the first time where we waited several days for a strong weather system to pass.
As we talked to various cruisers about our plans for heading north, everyone assured us that it would take much less time than the trip south.The weather would be better, and with the additional daylight we could make more progress each day. Well, they were absolutely right.Going north is MUCH faster.
Granted, we’ve done a few passages in order to get some miles under the keel, but there’s no question that this has been a quicker trip for us.There have been very few weather delays, and the warmer temperatures leave us less fatigued so we can put in longer days.
Readers of this blog know that typically we move along very slowly.We like to take our time and poke along.So why the big hurry?Well, we would like to spend some time this summer cruising in southern New England again.But before we can do that, we have a few projects that we want to do on Pegu Club, we have some medical appointments to take care of in Connecticut, and we want to visit family in Rochester and the west coast.We also want to leave to start heading south much earlier this time – ideally by mid-August.Between all of those things, if we want to have ANY time to cruise our home waters we need to put the pedal to the metal and get north.If we went at our usual slow pace, we’d have to turn around and leave as soon as we arrive!
Honestly though, this pace is working out just fine for us.We wouldn’t want to do it both ways, but we do think that we’ll stick with this strategy in the future – take our time going south while moving quickly north.
At least once a week we ask ourselves, “Is it a cruise or is it a delivery?”We want to take our time going down the ICW, but if we stop and see everything we’re interested in, winter will overtake us before we get to Florida.As it is, weather delays have resulted in our being much farther north at this point than we had originally planned.Heck, we thought that we would be in St. Augustine, FL by the time we needed to return to Connecticut for Jeff’s doctor appointments.Where were we in reality?Hampton, VA.That’s a long way from St. Augustine!
As we left Oriental we decided we needed to start making some tracks south and switch from cruising mode to delivery mode.
We started off well, sharing an anchorage for the night by Morehead City with our friends from S/V Lone Star and S/V Duchess.The next morning we sadly waved goodbye to Lone Star as we headed off in different directions.They were going to wait for a weather window to make the seven day passage straight to the Bahamas, while we were continuing to take the slow route down the ICW.We are very much looking forward to seeing our good friends somewhere in the Bahamas!
After waving goodbye to Lone Star, we saw our first dolphins!
A weather window finally opened up so it was time to say goodbye to Belhaven until the next time. And there WILL be a next time.After doing one final load of laundry and taking our last unlimited hot showers for awhile, we set off on a nice, sunny morning to get as far as we could towards our next destination – Oriental.We were side tied and had to back out of the fairway which was entertaining, but Jeff ably fended us off from the power boat behind us that had a raised outboard partially blocking our way.
We had been looking forward to visiting Oriental for literally years.Several years ago I read about the town on one of the internet sailing forums and we had done a bit of research into it to see if we might want to retire there someday.Calling itself the “Sailing Capitol of North Carolina”, Oriental has a population of approximately 900 people and over 2,000 sailboats.An entertaining and informative website, www.towndock.net, gives a glimpse of the local flavor, so after all of this time we were primed to finally check it out.
In order to continue down the ICW from Elizabeth City, you must first cross the Albemarle Sound. With a depth of about 15 feet, this can be a nasty bit of water if the wind is over 15 knots because of the chop that builds up, and people have been known to wait for quite some time to get the right weather window.
It had been pretty windy in Elizabeth City on Saturday but the winds were supposed to die down and be 10-15 knots on Sunday. Monday was supposed to be even lighter, but a weather system was going to move in later on Monday with strong winds for several days. Given that, we decided to head out on Sunday and hope for the best. The wind direction was going to be mainly behind us, so we hoped that would help.
After enjoying a peaceful night with the dock to ourselves, we were able to sleep in a bit before untying the lines and continuing our journey down the Dismal Swamp Canal. All of the people we had entered the first lock with on the previous day had traveled farther than we did, allowing them to make the 8:30 a.m. exiting lock. With 14 statute miles to go there was no way we could be there in time, so we puttered down the waterway enjoying the feeling of having it all to ourselves.