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Tumbleweed cruising 2021

Here are maps of Tumbleweed’s stops as we bob along during 2021.  Pressing one of the little red balloon-looking thingys will load up our blog posts related to that spot.

 

If you want to find out what’s going on without having to remember to track us down, you can follow us to get updates by email.  Woo Hoo!

If you want to start at the beginning of our second Loop, here’s the link: We’re back in the saddle again!

“[We] shall return” (maybe), or “Sorry Goose, but it’s time to buzz the tower”

Thursday morning was such a glorious day for a short day of cruising, it’s a shame we wasted it on a short day of cruising.

Because the ten miles up to Norfolk promised to be easy, Dana got a nice run  in, during which she discovered a small battlefield park that Doug then walked to at a much more civilized pace.

We couldn’t verify it ourselves, but one of the many informational signs claimed that The Battle of Great Bridge was the first land battle in which the colonial upstarts defeated the mighty British.  If that were true we’d expect something more prominent here.  Indeed, the first artillery piece to fire a shot in the battle now is in front of some silly county building in Ohio, which seems like an odd place if that cannon literally started the string of successes that led to us using dollars instead of euros.  However, at a minimum a band of gutsy farmers beat back the redcoats and sent Royal Governor Lord Dunmore scuttling home to Mother England.  Pretty cool little place.

Fortunately, we had no battle over either The Great Bridge—which lifted for us right on time—or The Great Bridge Lock, which likely is the last lock we’ll see until the Federal Lock in Troy, New York.

Of course, the Dismal Swamp sign mocked us yet again.  Grrrrr.

Although the distance we were traveling may have been short, the time it took not so much.  Because the @#!%ing Norfolk Railroad Bridge Number 7 lowered just before we reached it.  Both times through here we’ve been stopped, for two trains each time.  And those trains are slow.  And the bridge operator is unwilling to raise the bridge until the last train across reaches Atlanta.  We left AYB planning a thirty-minute buffer for Dana’s noon conference call, but that and more was eaten up by what now officially is our least favorite bridge in the world.

Finally, however, we busted on up the Elizabeth River through the naval shipyards.  This part we like.

Yup, this is cool stuff.  Like the USS George H.W. Bush, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Although our spot at Waterside Marina looks serene enough, we spent most of Thursday afternoon and evening wrangling electrical issues.  Not ours, but the marina’s.  According to the dockhands, shortly after our arrival the main electrical service entrance started smoking, which isn’t a good thing.  So they shut down the docks, all of which we discovered only after returning from lunch to find our boat involuntarily off the grid.  Which meant no air conditioning despite the extent to which people from Arizona rely upon it.  “The electrician will be here at 6:30,” they said at 2:30 just as the day was heating up.   A combo of the generator and some luck got us through until we got power back, however, and we did like our spot.

Interesting side note.  Remember Lord Dunmore from ten miles and a few paragraphs ago?  The marina WiFi password is dunmore1.  Can’t be a coincidence.  We’re debating whether to notify the FBI that there’s a Tory in the Waterside IT department.

Later Thursday evening, the awkwardly-named Perseus^ showed up.  Now this is a damn big sloop.  Nearly two hundred feet long.  Even bigger than her sister ship Parsifal III, which we would know all about if we watched that trashy Bravo show Below Deck where all the crew sleep with each other and then regret it, but we don’t watch trashy shows like that.  Except sometimes.

We know it’s a crappy picture, but the Captain had the temerity to leave Saturday morning without warning us to get our camera ready for a better one.

Here’s something you don’t see every day.  A battleship bow-in to a city street.  It almost looks like that time Jack Colton pulled his sailboat through Manhattan to woo Joan Wilder, except much bigger.  It’s the USS Wisconsin in case anyone wonders.

Friday one of us slept all day in his fuzzy cat-sized bed, one of us hiked around town and got a pedicure, and one of us visited the MacArther Memorial.  The former two failed to take any worthwhile notes or photos, but the museum was awesome.

For anybody interested in military history, this is a must-stop stop.  Full of memorabilia and interesting details of the great General’s career, some well-known and some obscure.  Like the fact that his mother got an apartment to be near him at West Point.  If that doesn’t get you hazed, nothing will.

According to the half-hour video, MacArthur almost single-handedly won WWII for the good guys.

Not to undermine MacArthur’s very significant contributions, but we’ve also been to the Nimitz museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, where they’re pretty sure local boy Admiral Chet deserves most of the glory.  Others might point to Fat Man and Little Boy (the atomic bombs not the Paul Newman bomb).  We think the outcome is all that matters, of course, because the outcome is all that matters.  The memorial and museum and marble coffin lids were awesome though.

But wait!  There’s more!  In addition to almost innumerable plaudits, awards, and medals, the Five-Star General has his name right there on the mall.  Fredericksburg doesn’t even have a Dillards, or Spencer Gifts, or Orange Julius, which pretty much settles any debate.

What Norfolk has in boats and heroes, unfortunately, it lacks in pickleball.  Just outside the back of the mall on what looks to be an abandoned parking lot we did find painted courts, but sadly we’re not traveling with our own nets or with opponents so no pickleball for us.

Friday night the marina filled up, which mostly was ok but we could’ve done without the dude who blocked our view of the concert stage when the somewhat decent cover band started playing.

We really like Norfolk, but somewhat ironically we might like leaving Norfolk even more.  Because heading north we get to pass the Norfolk Naval Base.  It’s not quite as jammed as Pearl Harbor, but it’s still dang awesome.

Yup, that’s USS Ramage—aka Warship 61–the guided-missile destroyer which may have frightened us into submission last time through but this time they had the good sense to stay out of our way.

Next up, USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest military vessel in the world.  Nearly five thousand sailors and pilots and whatnots live aboard when underway.  With two nuclear reactors she can cruise at thirty knots continuously until about 2050, except with a crew that size they probably need to stop for lots of pump-outs.

And then next door we have another Nimitz-class carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Her claim to fame is the involuntary record-setting 205 days at sea, when the Navy decided that at least one ship should remain Covid free.  True story.

It’s cool to see these boats lined up in their slips, but we’d really like to see one underway.  Oh well, maybe next time.  Hey wait!  That’s a Navy Security Vessel on the radio, warning that a carrier is returning from sea and that everybody should get the hell out of her way.  He didn’t use those exact terms but we took it that way, and when he later specifically asked us—and by “asked us” we mean told us—to get Tumbleweed to the other side of the green channel marker, we obliged.  Those dudes had mounted machine guns.

Dana got some good shots of USS Harry S Truman as we slid past anyway.

Doug wanted to ask for a fly-by on behalf of Ghost Rider, based on the assumptions that (1) they’ve all seen Top Gun and (2) they’ve got a sense of humor.  But again, those dudes had machine guns.  Reel Grace was following us up to Deltaville and Tim took the money shot as we approached.  Because of the distance it’s kind of hard to tell, but we’re pretty sure all those people on the flight deck are lined up trying to get good photos of Tumbleweed.

Another startling coincidence.  Reel Grace used to be George and Meg’s Viridian, which we first met in Rock Hall the same life-changing day we met Second Wave.  We last saw her as Viridian—with a for sale sign—at Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake.  Small world.

Anyway, done with Norfolk means done with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  Back out on the Chesapeake Bay for the next couple of weeks or so.  More specifically for now, back to Deltaville, like a buzzard that keeps returning to an armadillo that’s been smushed by a truck.  For anyone who isn’t up to date, until four years ago we’d never even heard of this place.  Then we were stuck here in the freezing rain for three weeks in 2018.  Then at the end of the Loop we were stuck here again for a few days, but at least we had Brent and Karen along for emotional support.  Then last year we brought Misty Pearl back down to stage for sale, although that was a business trip so no blog posts to prove it.

It’s not that there’s much too wrong with Deltaville, it’s just that there’s not much to Deltaville.  And what little there is isn’t close to the marinas.  But we arrived in time for a grocery run in the courtesy car—yes, the engine warning light was on, because that’s in the courtesy car regulations—and docktails at sunset with Tim and Jen.

Sunday brought Barry and Robin from Crossroads, which used to be our sister Selene 43 but then we broke up the family and shacked up with another family.  Barry is an electronics whiz and is helping with a few things.  Great to catch up.

Tomorrow will be our second shortest cruising day in history, behind only that time Misty Pearl and Second Wave had to move slips in Clayton and Brent still celebrated with his post-docking Shiner Bock.  Zimmerman Marine is about a hundred yards away.  We’re leaving Tumbleweed over there for minor work and heading to the mountains.

We’re waiting to cruise the Dismal Swamp like Charlie Brown waited for The Great Pumpkin

And just like that, we ditched the notion of taking the Dismal Swamp route.  Again.  Happy Ours went through it on Saturday and reported places with less than four feet of water.  Plus more stumps and such.  We generally think of hull and running gear damage the way Oscar thinks of generic kibble.  It’s all good though, because we like Coinjock.  

As for Albemarle Plantation?  Beautiful place.

Beautiful, but for us it kind of peaked with the golf cart, which we used to drive around and look at every house in the place.  Oscar may appear uncomfortable, but we swear that’s how he sits.

Of course, the twenty-five-knot gusts that drove the waves that smacked us against the fixed dock all Saturday night didn’t help.  Fixed docks are to boats as rap music is to polite society.  But we fendered up, and by Monday the wind was gone, replaced by drizzle.

On the positive side, Monday also was cool.  73°.  The first day we’ve been aboard Tumbleweed without running the air conditioners.  Dana even put on a long-sleeve shirt.

It might’ve helped if we’d eaten at The Clubhouse, but a series of miscalculations on our part cost us the opportunity.  All we saw was the outside.

It also probably would’ve helped if we were golfers who could take advantage of the beautiful courses.  But we’re not golfers.  One of us has no use for it at all.  The other one of us appreciates the game almost exclusively because it gave us Caddyshack, although negative points must be awarded for the blight on humanity that is Caddyshack II.  Jackie Mason was to comedy what Ed Kemper was to coeds.

Tuesday morning, we headed for Coinjock, which meant nearly four hours of the Albemarle Sound.

The  Sound started off rougher than expected, but turned decent fairly quickly.  A nice 75°.  However, we’ll remember it more for the tragedy than the weather.

The initial news reports suggested that a helicopter had crashed pretty close to the Alligator River Marina (where we stayed Friday night), the Coast Guard had responded, and the Coast Guard had recovered some debris but still was searching for two missing guys.  All true, but from our vantage point not completely truthful.

Apparently some time Monday night, someone called in a report that the helicopter carrying their friends had gone down at the mouth of the Alligator River.  At 8 Tuesday morning, we turned on our VHF radio to hear Coast Guard Sector North Carolina broadcast a notice that a dark blue helicopter—tail number N4529J (stock photo below)—may have crashed, and asked boaters in the Albemarle Sound to keep an eye out for anything of related interest.  No search and rescue operation.  No sense of urgency.

We pulled out at about 8:30, ten miles from the purported crash site.  An hour or so later, a crabber named Brian radioed that he had pulled a backpack out of the water.   Although this all was over the VHF channel monitored by every boater with a marine radio on the East Coast, the Coast Guard had him read and spell the name on a passport that was in the backpack.  We thought this incredibly poor form.  Dana undoubtedly wasn’t the only person to track the guy down on Google.

At least then the Coast Guard finally sent a boat and a helicopter.  However, they all were using that same channel 16, and redundantly talking over each other when communicating with the helpful boaters who actually were the ones to find debris.  In one particular galling instance of unnecessary stupidity, a dude on a sailboat fairly near ground zero reported that he had just passed a “dark blue curved piece of shiny metal, approximately one meter by two meters.” Now that sort of thing doesn’t float by every day.  We’ve been cruising some thirteen-thousand miles or so, and never have seen anything like that.  And yet before taking him seriously, the Coast Guard dispatcher literally asked “Did it look like it might have come from a helicopter?”  We wanted to scream at him.

In this blog we’ve made light of other distress situations, mostly because as far as we know they’ve all ended well.  This is the first time the radio drama has involved fatalities.  There’s nothing humorous to be mined here.  It seems likely that an earlier, more aggressive, and less confused response wouldn’t have changed the outcome in this case, but next time it might.  Very sobering stuff.

Anyway, on up to Coinjock, where a bunch of other boats lined up behind us.

Although it may have looked like a typical night during the Looper migration, we sadly had the only AGLCA burgee.  Since we obviously were docked with losers (except for the nice couple aboard Reel Grace with two dogs sharing our track to New York), we stayed at home and watched another absurd episode of Suits.  Seriously, every lawyer on that show should be seeking redemption at Shawshank.

This morning the clock struck time to leave North Carolina.  We pulled off Coinjock into a great cruising day.  Not too hot.  No wind.  No current.  No crab pots.  As smooth as Jimmy Chitwood’s set shot.

The most exciting thing about the fours hours up to Atlantic Yacht Basin was watching our blue dot creep up to the state line.  Which for the record was not at all exciting.

We hit the two swing bridges—including that weird one where not one but two sections of road rotate out of the way—without more than a few minor speed adjustments.

Then we tied up at AYB in time for a late lunch and a post-nap quick drone flight.*

Until today, we’d planned to pop over to Cape Charles, then back to Deltaville for some minor service items at ZMI.  Our plans mostly are weather dependent, however, and the weather outlook changes more frequently than Fred called Lamont “big dummy.”  So now we’re heading to Norfolk for a couple of days before Deltaville, instead of crossing the Chesapeake.

AUTHORS’ NOTE:  We understand that employing multiple ridiculous analogies pushes the limits of literary decency, and we realize that this post is littered with analogies the same way the “train station” is littered with the bodies of people foolish enough to cross John Dutton.  We needed to entertain ourselves, however, and we’ll live with the consequences.  The other point is that we’re anxious for Yellowstone to come back around.  No way everybody really died at the end of Season Three.

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*If anyone gives us an easy way to keep WordPress from degrading our photos—which are crystal clear until uploaded to the blog—we’ll bestow upon him or her the first ever Golden Tumbleweed, a completely virtual and completely worthless award that we just made up.

We’ve traveled this world over, 10,000 miles or more . . . *

Before leaving River Dunes on Thursday morning, we chatted up the nice folks aboard Mad Hatteras, a cleverly named motor yacht docked stern to stern with us.

Cool story.  The dude on the right—who lives in New Bern—bought the boat in a New York criminal restitution sale when the couple who owned her went to prison for ripping off their friends and family in a hospital-bed invention scam.**  The Hatteras shipyard also is in New Bern, and last year all the pandemic-furloughed workers were anxious for work, which worked out great for the new owner.  So some good did come of fraud and Covid, at least for one guy.

Another easy peasy day.  The Pamlico Sound was so smooth and windless we could’ve crossed it in one of those floating tiki bars on which we’ve previously commented.

Right on up into Dowry Creek, where our old buddy Jeff met us at the fuel dock.  Jeff not only is the Dockmaster, he also served as our bartender at a joint where we ate two years ago, and will be the restaurant manager next time we come through.  So basically he’s the Oscar of Belhaven.  Not Oscar the incredibly handsome senior dog, of course, but Oscar from The Proposal, whose performance by definition was Oscar-worthy and served as a springboard for his current gig as a fake State Farm agent.  Anyway, we do love this little family-run marina.

The diesel fuel with ValvTect was a great price.  An available pool and court for swimmers and tennisers.  The courtesy car not only had the obligatory check-engine warning, but also a tire warning, and a bottle of power steering fluid in the cup holder, just in case.

There’s not much to Belhaven, although we certainly enjoyed the Spoon River place noted below, which the courtesy car surprisingly reached with no difficulty.

We saw nothing in town that matched up to the mural for excitement, but the mural was pleasing anyway.

Since all of these stops are one-nighters, we took off Friday morning up the Pungo River.

The point of the photo is just that it’s the Pungo River, which gives us another chance to work in the word Pungo.  Pungo is a pleasingly odd word, particularly when said out loud.

A few miles before turning off the Pungo River and into the Pungo River-Alligator River Canal, we spotted a tow boat pushing a loaded barge ahead, close enough to catch, but not close enough to catch before the canal.  Just great.  The canal is thirty miles long, and we know from experience that passing a huge barge at a one-knot speed differential sucks, even when there’s plenty of room to avoid most of the wake.  So now we’ll be stuck going extra slow for five hours.  The anticipatory curse words that echoed around the pilothouse proved unnecessary, however, because Royal Engineer cheerfully agreed to slow down and let us around moments before the shores closed in.  Dang, that was nice of him.

Weirdly enough, thirty miles of canal can be boring and interesting at the same time.

The boring part at least allowed some poking around on Navionics and Google, however, before we lost cell service for a couple of hours.  Dana found Phelps Lake just to the north.

By itself Phelps Lake on a navigation chart isn’t very interesting.  But what the hell is a single red channel marker doing in a round lake, and why is it number 34?

A bit later, a pontoon boat named Blue Horizon zipped around us.  With a Loop burgee flapping off the bow.

Turns out the dude in fact is doing the Loop.  Solo.  In a pontoon boat.  Which basically makes Charlie a sissy, but that’s neither here nor there.  And he’s jamming, because he left Vero Beach a week ago.  In our short radio conversation, we didn’t share our presumptuous opinion that the Loop is for seeing new things and meeting new people, not speeding through.  We also are of the opinion that it’s too hot and humid to sleep outside on a pontoon boat every night, so it probably was for the best that we just wished him well.

Navionics helpfully warned that the canal sides “are foul with debris, snags, submerged stumps, and continuous bank erosion.”

Hey, no problem.  We’ll just stay right in the middle.  Actually one problem, and the problem answers to the name Island Lookout.  And it’s coming at us.  And it’s using up the middle.

No worries though, because if that sailboat has room, we’ll have room too, right?  Ok, a second problem.  The sailboat is Rock N Chair, and we heard him ask the tow captain for a big wake, with the hope that a big wake would rock him and his chair off the stump that had him trapped.  Which mostly confirmed Navionics’ warning about stumps and such, and left us wondering whether we’d need to name-drop to get the Coast Guard guys to pull us off the nose of a barge.

Somehow it all worked out.  Island Lookout left us just enough room and generated almost no wake to toss us around—or to help the stranded boat.  We were happy to crank up an extra few hundred rpms to make the wake that Rock N Chair requested of us, which freed her from the canal’s stumpy clutches.  We again demonstrated maturity by not offering our opinions.

A storm chased us almost all the way up to Alligator River Marina, and although the rain never caught us, we didn’t beat the rolling beam waves that made the last bit a touch unpleasant but which we counter-balanced with the pleasantness that came from turning on the generator and air conditioning.

As confirmed by drone, things were much smoother in the Alligator River Marina/truck stop basin.

Shortly after we tied up, an American Tug named Cenyth pulled in behind us.   We enjoyed chatting with Loopers David and Karen, although the otherwise happy conversation turned to a darker place after they reminded us about the AC-killing jellyfish in the Chesapeake.

The big concerns crossing the Albemarle Sound today were more wind and more beam waves.  But there’s nothing to do at the truck stop, so we took off for Albemarle Plantation, with collecting packages and a few days of relaxation in our immediate future.

Euclid may have concluded that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but we’re guessing the Greeks in his time didn’t lay out nearly as many crab traps as we encountered.  Although the winds were unexpectedly benign and the seas were just slightly lumpy, zero chance of anything close to a straight line across the sound.  We’re officially breaking our promise—hastily made in the midst of a zillion lobster floats in Maine—to never complain again about crab pots.

Things brightened considerably when we tied up and found a golf cart waiting on the dock for us.

Contrary to the modern view of the word “plantation,” this one has no unsavory history.  It’s a master-planned community that first broke ground in about 1990, although the master who planned it lacked the foresight to install pickleball courts and the current residents apparently haven’t yet risen in revolt.  Over the next few days we’ll still have great fun with the golf cart, however, at least during the moments when we aren’t either dithering about whether to take the Dismal Swamp route up to Norfolk or anticipating jellyfish in our strainers.

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*Yes, we had a delicious dinner at Spoon River Artworks and Market, which is why the song in Edgar Lee Master’s masterpiece surfaced from the lint trap of Doug’s dusty memory bank.  We ain’t never seen a mustache on a cabbage head either.

**The couple are Dave and Mona Wright, who—in addition to being convicted felons—presumably are big Elton John fans.

Moving right along

So the Figure Eight Bridge is five miles past the Wrightsville Beach Bridge.  They both open on the hour and half hour.  We go eight knots.  Without a strong push, that’s not helpful math for the good guys.

Fortunately, the Seapath Dockmaster said Wrightsville would open on request if we got there by 6:45.  So an early Monday departure was the plan.  The center console that came in overnight was still there at 6, however, ten feet in front of us and blocking our easy exit.

The guy who parked there might’ve been surprised to find it thirty feet further up the dock, but we took advantage of the space we created and shoved off into the wind on schedule.  Gorgeous morning.

Wrightsville Beach Bridge opened with perfect timing.  We idled up to Figure Eight and only waited a few minutes for the 7:30 opening.  Nice.

Mondays are far superior to weekends for traveling, and this one was a beaut.  Light breeze.  Periodic cloud cover.  Boating morons back in their holes.  George Strait Radio on Pandora.  Extra nice, because we had a long-ish day up to Swansboro.

Well, almost all the morons were gone.

Back through Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.  No live shelling or Mechanized Landing Craft this time, but Ospreys buzzed us again while we waited for the Onslow Beach Bridge to open.

And the shore still looked like a good place to train for war if we ever send troops back to Southeast Asia rice paddies.

We’ve certainly enjoyed the big cities along the way, but some of the quirky towns have been extra special.  Places like Havre de Grace, Clayton, Everglades City, Lunenberg, and Killarney, to name a few.  Places we’d never heard of and would never seek out but were damn glad we found.  Swansboro, North Carolina, is that kind of town.

First of all,  Tumbleweed was the only boat at the small marina, which meant peace and quiet and nobody to judge Oscar harshly for peeing on the dock when he can’t make it to the grass.

Then we found a cool little artsy pond with geese between the boat and a delicious late lunch, which is what you can get—even on a seven-hour travel day—if you leave at 6:30.

The town is tiny, but compensates with several good places to eat, friendly people, and those little shops that sell embroidered pillows and lavender candles and driftwood “Welcome to our beach” signs, but never seem to have any male customers.

Swansboro even had wildlife for Dana to sneak up on.

Oh, and a summer concert series in the town park—in this case Swanfest—that we always miss by exactly one day.  People who visited yesterday got to enjoy the “retro rock” performance by Hank Barbee and the Dust Parade.

Swansboro is famous for its Mullet Festival, held annually since 1954.  The rumor—which we’re starting right now—is that Billy Ray Cyrus once showed up but was disappointed to learn that a fish was the center of attention.  The point, quite obviously, is that we found Swansboro to be a very worthy stop.

Alas, we’re humping it up the coast to compensate for our extended stays in South Carolina.  So we scootered around town, had a nice breakfast, and watched the picnic table fly out of the city worker’s truck into the middle of the busy highway he was trying to cross.  Then we left.

Shortly after pulling out, we happened upon the aftermath of a conversation that quite likely ended with “Oh shit we’re grounded,” immediately preceded by something along the lines of “Honey, please be quiet.  I know what I’m doing.  There’s plenty of water in here.”

If those kids are like our kids, dad will be reliving this ignominious moment for quite some time.

A few minutes later Dana captured another moment involving a sand bar, this one less angry and more artsy.  If anyone knows this woman, please tell her we’ll be happy to sell her a print.

Beaufort—yesterday’s destination—is just across the channel from Morehead City, which inexplicably has a large commercial port.  The bulk cargo carrier Nordseine had just pulled in after a ten-day trip up from Brazil.  We figure it must be taking back a load of pine straw since that’s what seems most plentiful around here.

Anyway, we made it back to Homer Smith’s Docks.  Last time through Beaufort our post discussed Blackbeard and Queen Anne’s Revenge, the pirate ship he scuttled just outside the inlet.  What we didn’t hit before, however, is Hammock House, where the great pirate lived and undoubtedly planned many of his infamous exploits.  That’s a big miss for a town where we stayed a few days, so better check it out this go round.

How cool is it that Blackbeard’s house—built in 1709–is still standing?  Hey wait, what’s this little sign?  Actually it’s probably the most historically ambiguous sign we’ve seen.

So really this is just an old house that some unknown person with unknown motives and unknown sources of information once said that maybe it had something to do with the town’s most famous citizen?  The only thing that even sounds factual is that it’s the oldest house in Beaufort.  Grrrrr.

Since Beaufort basically was a pit stop, we mostly did administrative chores on the boat.  Leaving Homer Smith’s Docks like we did this morning is easy.  Unlike arriving from the south.  We’ve heard that coming in can be tricky if you correctly keep the red marker to starboard but it’s actually marking a different channel and then the Dockmaster screams into the radio “Stop!  Don’t come any further!  Reverse and go back to the bridge.”  We’re Gold Loopers, of course, so that would never happen to us.  Plus when we stopped to turn around there was at least six inches under the keel.

Before we left, Doug started worrying that someone would think to himself or herself “While I wait all day at the courthouse to see if I get picked for a jury, I’d really like to watch an eight-minute Time Warp video of an entire four-hour trip through the North Carolina hinterlands from Beaufort to River Dunes.”  Just in case, we set up the new Go Pro for the first time.

Not much to report from along the way.  We did safely pass Gum Thicket Shoal, however, which is one of the cooler names of shoals we’ve safely passed.

River Dunes without a doubt has the most picturesque approach of any place we’ve been.

We analyzed this place in the blog at some length last time through, and from the looks of things exactly nothing has changed.  It’s still pristine to the point of looking fake.

We’re not taking any days off until we get to the Albemarle Sound, so all we really have to offer is the video.  The anticipated Time Warp fell victim to Doug’s ineptitude, of course, so basically we got a full four hours of normal speed video, the watching of which might be worse than jury duty.  In case someone needs to kill just eighty-nine seconds, however, we sped up the beginning and end and cut out the middle.

It’s not who you are, it’s who you claim to know

Friday the storm was battering places well north of Myrtle Beach and we had exactly zero interest in staying any longer.   So off we went.

In fact, everybody who’s anybody was underway after being stuck in whatever place they chose for shelter.  Loopers lined the ICW as far as Nebo could see.

First up for us was passing two boats that make up what they say is “South Carolina’s only casino.”

It’s a bit odd, though, because The Big M Casino and The Big M Casino II hail from Fort Myers.  We figure they’re up here only because Rick and Mary refused dockage.

Anyway, we made it to Southport.  North Carolina Looper royalty Robert Creech hailed us as we passed C-Life just before we reached Safe Harbor.  We once spent a great evening on his front porch swapping Loop stories.  He and his huge bunch docked for lunch a bit later, but we were too busy trying to coax power out of the new pedestals to chat much.

The helpful dock guys put us outside, which was great because that way we could enjoy tremendous wakes from all the boats driven by people who were way late for very important appointments so couldn’t afford to slow down.

All things being equal, we try not to travel on Saturdays because Saturdays typically are when people who shouldn’t go boating go boating.   We’d rather have their wake hit us than their boat hit us.  But it’s okay, because that means on Saturdays we get to do other stuff that’s even more fun.  Like scooter around pretty Southport neighborhoods.

This Saturday, we also got word that the Italian place has great food but doesn’t take reservations.  Doug walked up a half-hour before they opened to check it out.  Good thing, because the line was absurd.

The food indeed was excellent, although there’s a good argument that neither of us needed pie.

After the unnecessary pie, how about a couple episodes of Suits?  Pops got us hooked on the series, which is quite entertaining but without a doubt the most preposterous show about attorneys ever contrived.  Even though they’re just actors pretending to be lawyers, after every show we almost feel obligated to report all of them for gross ethical violations.  (Not Rachel though, in part because she’s a paralegal and in part because for now at least she’s British royalty and may have some sort of immunity.)

This morning we awoke to a fifteen-knot wind pinning us to the dock.  With Coconuts still about ten feet behind us.  A cool maneuver with a dockhand holding a bow line while we swung the stern out into the wind and the current, however, did the trick nicely, although sadly it’s not memorialized in photos.

Smooth cruising up to Wrightsville Beach, past stuff we noted in the blog last time but aren’t recycling here.  Instead, here are range lights on the Cape Fear River, marking the entrance to Snow’s Cut.

Back in the day—before an odd little Intel employee named Ted Hoff invented the microprocessors which ultimately begat electronic chartplotters—range lights undoubtedly were quite useful.  You line them up visually for the safe direction of travel.  Now they’re like those old pop-out cigarette lighters in cars.  Unusual, useful to a very small set of people, and something very few people will notice missing when they’re gone.

Just past Snow’s Cut, rain started coming in through the screen and landing, among other places, on Oscar’s head.  He didn’t seem bothered.

Tonight we’re in Wrightsville Beach, home of the Carolina Yacht Club, which dates to 1887 and claims to be the oldest yacht club in the United States.  Maybe we’d have stayed there just to say we did, but we once docked for a few days at the oldest yacht club in ALL OF THE AMERICAS.  The Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron predated Wrightsville Beach’s club by about fifty years.  So we’re staying at Seapath.

Although the Heat Index today was just a few degrees short of boiling water, we took off for a four-mile hike around the beach.  It’s a pretty nice beach, and a bunch of people were out enjoying it.

We’d been told not to expect much from Wrightsville Beach, but frankly we’re wishing we could stay an extra day or two.

Hey, here’s an unexpected little something for us to file away for use on a metaphorical rainy day.  Mallory and Shannon have become good enough friends with the Andy Eriks family to get invited to the Change of Command Ceremony AND the after-party last Friday.

Captain Eriks is leaving his Hawaii post to take over as Chief of Coast Guard Aviation Forces.  So that makes him a big deal, and—although he has absolutely no idea who we are—we’re not above fraudulent name-dropping if we ever need to light a fire under a recalcitrant Coastie.  After all, what’s the point of even having kids if you can’t take advantage of their friends’ parents?