Sunday, April 28, 2013

Belhaven to Elizabeth City, NC

We really enjoyed our stay at Belhaven but as this trip goes, it was time to get moving again.  I forgot to mention that Belhaven has a 6 million dollar breakwater to provide some protection from the open waters of the Pungo River.  Rhonda read somewhere that it really doesn't work so well, but what do you expect for 6 million? 

Once again, we hit the open waters perfectly with smooth water.

After about a 10-mile run, you enter the really narrow section of the Alligator River which continues for about 22 miles.  (There are no alligators here!)

The terrain was "wide open nothing" with huge pine forests in the distance.

Then right in the middle of all of that nothingness, there is a beautiful home on the river - probably the folks that own all of that.

A couple of weeks ago, our grandkids put in requests for animal sightings. Connor wanted closeups of alligators. Well, we thought we were pretty close to the gators in the Everglades, but I think Connor means "put your head in its mouth or something close like that." Alexis wanted elephants! She may have to be happy with the elephants at the zoo until we can get that float plan together for Africa maybe!!!  Bryce wanted to see bears. Some of the tour guides for this river predict the possibility of bear sightings so we were hopeful, but unfortunately never saw any. BUT, hopefully this will be interesting for them - a deer swimming across the river.  We had seen several running along the bank and then all of a sudden, one decided to take the plunge.

You have to be attentive to the stumps along the edges in some sections, but all in all the river is very nice.

Some states post the waterway mile markers, usually every 5 miles.  Rhonda likes these as reminders of our progress.  Portions of this trip are starting to run together, but we think Louisiana was the last one to do this.  So, kudos to North Carolina for having them available again.

There was a lot of traffic on this river and we had a little bit of a traffic jam at one point (not really but it sounds good)!  Three fast powerboats had just passed all of us slowpokes and then we had us, 3 sailboats, and the crabber if you look closely on the left bank.

The narrow stretch of the river finally runs out and there's another open area for about 10 miles just before you get to Albemarle Sound.  There's a huge swing bridge there that funnels traffic out to the Outer Banks and back. 

On the left end of this bridge is a Shell Station that doubles also as a marina.  It was surprisingly very nice to be in the middle of nowhere. There is a restaurant inside where Miss Annette cooks everything from breakfast biscuits to steaks to alligator chunks. We passed on the alligator chunks. We had our own little lighthouse by the boat but we're not sure if it's functional or not.  Either it's not or we were too tired to notice it during the night!

Rhonda got some shots of some hummingbirds while we were there.

The next leg of the trip was to cross Albemarle Sound.  It's 14 miles across and there are war stories out there of 6-foot waves on a bad day.  We were pleased with the forecast and left very early to take advantage of the light wind.  This is the way to cross!

Approaching Elizabeth City, there's a large blimp hangar on the left that is used by Fuji, Sanyo, and  It's called the TCOM blimp hangar.

This is Elizabeth City sitting in a bend of the Pasquotank River.  Don't ask me to pronounce that!

Elizabeth City is known as The Harbor of Hospitality.  It's a little hard to read on the water tank but it's there. They offer free slips for 48 hours.  There's no power or water but the WIFI is strong and free also.

Elizabeth City has always had a relationship with boaters and their vessels, especially after the Dismal Swamp Canal was completed giving them access to the deep water shipping lanes and vessels of Norfolk (more on the Dismal Swamp in a later blog).  There's a neat story to go with this, particularly relevant to pleasure boaters coming through the city.  Read it for yourselves on the monument to "The Rose Buddies."

You can see the roses in the background by the monument.  I told you it was a neat story!

The docks are right along the waterfront (duh!) near the historic downtown area.

And as usual, Rhonda got some shots of pretty flowers.

OK, confession time.  She took those at Lowes in the garden department while I was inside buying a new WetVac!  Well, they are pretty, right?  We rode our bikes to Food Lion also and then got a good shot of a Great Dane back at the marina.  (Significant because our older son has one.)

Speaking of bikes, Rhonda continues to get all kinds of comments on her pink and yellow bike.  One lady literally hollered at her from the porch to say she liked it!  There were some ladies this morning taking pictures of it while strolling the waterfront - you know, where the slips are!

Elizabeth City has a huge museum, called Museum Of The Albemarle, which gives the history of the area from the time of the native Indians to early settlements to the Civil War to now.  I could show you a hundred pictures of interesting stuff, but here are just a few that caught my attention.  First a Corvair, in great condition as you can see, representing the 60s and 70s and the beach life in this area.

Posters noting some of the beach music performers.

A restored shad boat, adopted by the state's general assembly in 1987 as the official state boat.

A Griffin and Scudder square grand piano, ca. 1850.  (Looks like a rectangle to us!) Never knew they existed.

Interesting wheelbarrow from the pre-Civil War era.

This outside shot gives you an idea of how big the museum was - huge.

There's also more park and waterfront around the corner from where we are docked.

After our long day and museum tour, we went to Quality Seafood for dinner.  It's nothing fancy but the food is great, and only about $9 for a platter. (I'd already eaten a lot before Rhonda took the picture.)

There are blocks and more blocks of beautiful homes.

We were able to attend church at First Baptist, established in 1786 and listed on the National Historic Register of Churches by the Department of the Interior.

The interior was beautiful with lots of stained glass.  Check out the ceiling also.

OK, I'm about toured out and I need to rest up for tomorrow.  We've got rain and thunderstorms forecast, so I've got a date with the engine room - that's always an all-day affair.  We hope to enter the Dismal Swamp on Tuesday and move into VA via Norfolk on Wednesday.  See you there.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Morehead City to Belhaven, NC

After six days at Morehead City, we finally got moving again.  Lots of boaters heading north from Morehead City stop at Oriental, but since we had been there by car a couple of years ago for a couple of days we decided to press on to Belhaven.  On this leg we had to cross the Neuse River and then part of Pamlico Sound two different times.  Both can be tough with the wrong wind, but we had calm conditions crossing both the Neuse and Pamlico the first time.

It was even calm enough for a small ferry to move a tractor to a home on an island at one point.

In some of the more narrow passages between "big water" crossings, the landscape was beautiful.  One significant landscape change has been the trees.  We have moved from palms and live oaks now to pines.  

Rhonda liked this combination of products for sale - fuel and seafood.

If there's anywhere that you need to be sure and honor the No Wake zones, it would be at a USCG station!

We didn't get any pictures, but by the time we crossed the Pamlico River and a portion of Pamlico Sound the second time, the wind had picked up to 15-20 mph and it got a little rough.  You then exit the river/sound via the Pungo River for about a 10-mile run to Belhaven.  The river is pretty wide also but by this time we generally had the wind on our stern so it wasn't too bad.

Belhaven is a sleepy little town but makes a serious effort to attract transient boaters by offering a free dock, including power, water, and a dinghy dock.  They also have an optional do-it-yourself pumpout for $5 which we also took advantage of.  It's a first-class operation and we shared it with 3 other boats our first night there.  We already knew the loopers on "Slow Churn" from Myrtle Beach and met two new couples, one from Wrightsville Beach and the other from Ashland, Oregon.

 The other three left the next day continuing north but we decided to stay a second day and see a little more of Belhaven.  When a city provides a free dock like this, we try and patronize the local businesses.  Those included Fish Hooks Cafe, Gingerbread Bakery, O'Neal's Drug Store, the local museum, and the hardware store.  Here are the cafe, museum, and the interior of the bakery.

The museum was a little strange, sort of like a hoarder's stash, but organized for viewing.  Here's the story.  Mary Eva Blount Way was known not as a hoarder but an "avid collector."  Her love of unique things began small with button collections and as friends and neighbors learned of her fondness for collecting things, they began to bring her their "favorite things" and soon she had a fascinating collection of artifacts numbering in excess of 10,000 items.  Here are some samples - dishes, buttons, and baby dolls.

Several cities we have visited have different versions of a particular theme around town - guitars in Muskogee, tiled benches in Ft. Pierce, jaguars in Jacksonville, etc..  In Belhaven, it's crabs.  Here are 2.

They have a nice park right in the downtown area.

We had baby geese at the marina.

The hospital was next door to the docks but we decided not to eat there (recall the Houma, LA post)!

And of course Rhonda found pretty flowers again.

Remember the post on Kilkenny, GA where I pointed out how I had screwed up big time by not buying the antebellum home that Rhonda liked?  Well, I may have a second chance on this one for sale in Belhaven.  It is beautiful, on the water, with pool, tennis court, and guest house.  Would any of you like to have the PayPal account info again for donations to the cause?

And I had two new experiences in Belhaven (always looking to learn something new).  I like to try chicken salad and clam chowder wherever we travel.  The chicken salad at the Gingerbread Bakery was made with a mustard base - different but pretty good.  And the clam chowder at Fish Hooks Cafe was "Hatteras" chowder.  Never heard of that before but it is a clear broth with potatoes, bacon, and clams rather than the typical New England style. It was OK but not as good as most New England versions. 

Tomorrow will be a 52-mile run to Columbia, NC, docking at Alligator River Marina.