Fortunately there’s no IQ test for Looping

Ordinarily we wait for minimal to no wind.  For some reason, not today.  Ordinarily we check the timing and direction of whatever current we’ll face.  For some reason, not today.  Today, we cheerfully said goodbye to Bruce and Bev on one side and the Eclipse sailboat boys on the other side and sallied forth.

Within about sixty seconds we felt foolish.  And cold.  Gray skies, harsh wind, cold temperature.  Folks from, say, Minnesota, probably thought it was nice out.  But we’re from Arizona.  We hate gray and windy and cold.  Dana bundled up in sweatpants, a fleece jacket, fuzzy socks, AND a blanket.

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What’s worse than cold and wind and gray?  All those things for about twice as long as expected, which happens when you plow a heavy deep-draft boat against the current we forgot to check.  We’re morons.

After three hours or so of freezing and whining about freezing, it finally hit us.  What the @#!% are we doing on the flybridge?  We have a warm and sealed pilothouse, whose entire purpose in life is to provide comfort when the flybridge is uncomfortable.  Yup, we’re morons.  Just like we waited until we were weak from blood loss during The Great Lake Ontario Fly Invasion before we thought to retreat.  You’d think 4,000 miles later we’d be smarter.  Nope, we’re still morons.

But hey, it could be even more worse.  We could be Miss Melissa.

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The real Miss Melissa likely was touched when her man named his boat after her, like Forrest and Jenny.  Then came the ugly break-up, after which he decided to just let her rot along the shore as some sort of metaphorical revenge for the way she did him wrong.  So sad.

The tows around here are rare, but somehow they know to find the narrow channels just when we need to pass.

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Dana caught another heron.

 


Brent and Karen on
Second Wave gave glowing reports about River Dunes so we headed in.  Brent mostly judges marinas by the quality of the bathrooms, of course, but often that’s a pretty good barometer.*

There’s even a chapel staring us in the face.  We contemplated popping in and confessing to being morons, but if we start down that road we’ll not have time for much else.

The sun finally glanced through the clouds for a minute or two, but even better was confirming that Brent and Karen are going to come cruise the Chesapeake with us.

We’re staying here tomorrow.  Belhaven on Wednesday.  Unless it’s gray and cold and windy, in which case we’ll probably go—and sit out in it—anyway.

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* That’s not even a joke.  Brent just sent us a picture of the River Dunes shower he took when Second Wave stopped off here last year.

Dude’s a straight-up connoisseur.  Generally we like Misty Pearl’s shower better than what they offer us at marinas.  This one had 360° of steam, however, so absolutely was photo-worthy.

Wild, wild, horses, we’ll ride them one day*

We thought Loopers were pretty hardy folks.  During the windstorm on Friday, however, Eclipse showed up and showed us up.

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Crewed by three young dudes who left Puerto Rico eight days earlier and came straight here, they rolled in covered in salt and stink.  We think eight hours in fair weather is rough.  They asked our opinion about whether hitting the laundry or a bar was more important for their first task on land.  Ahh, the foolishness of youth.  Clearly a bar.

As expected, with the wind came rain.  And chores.  Our obligatory sunset photo came from the safety of the pilothouse.  

The highlight was cards with Baytripper.  Apparently country music isn’t a thing in Minnesota and we don’t like cold and snow, but they’re good folks nonetheless.  They even agreed to try pickleball.  We also ate some good fish.  Homer Smith runs a fishery as well as a dock.  They gave us some fresh-off-the-boat snapper.  Too windy to grill, but still delicious.

So Saturday we all played pickleball.  In the wind.  Which sucked.  But it was fun anyway.

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During our first east coast stretch we commented on the maritime museums that every small town offers up as a big attraction.  “Here’s a replica of the boat ol’ Henry crashed on the rocks back in 1938.”  But they try.  Bless their hearts, they try.  Beaufort has the North Carolina Maritime Museum, with a dolphin skeleton and a whale skeleton and some replica boats and all that.  (The skeletons were assembled as part of the “Bonehenge Project” so they get high marks for being punny.)

What makes this museum cool—apart from the fact that they don’t charge an entrance fee—was all the Blackbeard stuff recovered from where he crashed just off Beaufort Inlet.  Loot” is one of those words that would be cool to use but there aren’t many times where it doesn’t sound like something from a really bad bank-robbery movie.  “Now see here boys, we split the loot and make our getaway before the coppers arrive.”  The museum had actual pirate loot, however, which pushed its status way up the Small-Town Maritime Museum rankings.

Later Southern Cross hosted a bunch of Loopers in the area.  Texas Gold, Baytripper, About Time, and Magic, all were there.  Even a non-Looper—Firefly—showed up.  We all watched our friends on Bella Blue dock in difficult circumstances before Rex and Donna (and Gracie) joined us in a group hug.

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Today we got a free show from a stunt pilot.  It wasn’t an Osprey but he did get it straight up and straight down a bunch of times.

Then off by ferry to Shackleford Bank, one of the zillion barrier islands that make up the famed Outer Banks of North Carolina and Virginia.  Like many of them, Shackleford has a colony of feral horses.  The handful of other tourists mostly looked for shells while we trekked around looking for horses until we found some.

Okay, we know they don’t look much different than the horse on Old MacDonald’s Farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  But we still kept a bit distant since the signs said they can be aggressive if bothered.

Dana also bagged some bird photos.  Here’s a Laughing Gull, a Willet, and a Sanderling.  Cute little buggers, no?

img_7766A local in Beaufort put up bird houses with openings way too small for respectable-sized birds.  Maybe that’s why the gull was laughing.

Like many children, Mallory and Shannon were susceptible to the marketing genius of toy companies.  Hence we went through—among many other painful things—the Polly Pocket phase.  “Pa la la la Polly, playin’ in my band”  is seared into our brains as if with a branding iron.  But what ever happened to those cute doe-eyed Polly Pockets?  We now know.  They became bail-bond “chix.”

Tomorrow we head up to Oriental.  Maybe we’ll buy some rugs. 

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* Flying Burritos version > Rolling Stones version.  RIP Gram Parsons.

Military stuff is just plain cool

Friday storms threatened up and down the North Carolina coast so the plan was to get as close to Beaufort as possible on Thursday and then hunker down.  Dana was set on stopping at Wrightsville Beach.

“Don’t stop at Wrightsville Beach.  Wrightsville Beach is like Myrtle Beach but smaller.”  This wisdom straight from Robert Creech’s front porch.  Who are we to argue with the famous Robert Creech?  Ok,  let’s shoot for Topsail Beach.  Nope, marina’s full.  Ok, how about Harbour Village?  Mike has room, so let’s go.

We pulled off the dock behind Still Waters II, Avalon, and Ceci Kay.  All Loopers.  All heading north.

img_7748Years ago Doug psychologically was scarred by the movie Cape Fear, so the Cape Fear River brought flashbacks.  Since we played no role in De Niro’s imprisonment we probably were ok but you never know.  Anyway, the river was wide enough for us to slide past the container ship safely.

Also along the Cape Fear River is Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point.  This is the largest ammunition terminal in the U.S. and one of the biggest in the world.  Not surprisingly we encountered gunboats protecting all that stash.  Our distress flares are no match for vastly superior weaponry and almost literally an unlimited supply of ammo.  We stayed away.

The only tricky bit was timing the bridges.  At one point Limerick, Baytripper, and Avalon all steamed up on our tail in a hurry to catch one.

A38098C7-AC86-4FD3-9192-DF234C91F653When your boat’s on a lift do you really just let your dock fall down around it?  But hey, at least there’s a cover on the console to protect it from the elements.

Ospreys of the bird-type are a dime a dozen around here.  We passed a nest as we hooked into Harbor Village.

Noseeums also are thick as fog around here.  Ever since Harbour Village we’ve been tearing at our arms and legs like tweakers on a binge.  But at least the area was pretty.  After everyone was tied up and cleaned up, we met Baytripper and Ceci Kay at the picnic table.  Benny enjoyed the company.

We talked of drones and reminisced with Baytripper about that time we were on opposite sides of Antonia in Grafton and the entire marina smelled disgusting but nobody knew why until Baytripper discovered the gelatinous carcass of an Asian carp that was hosting a maggot party in their dinghy.  Bruce and Bev swear they got the smell off their boat but we try to stay upwind anyway.

Yesterday we had another military-related thing.  The ICW bisects Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, where marines who survive Parris Island train for amphibious assaults, among other things.  This was a week of live-firing right where we needed to go through.  Dana called the Marine Range Master, who gave her the schedule—with the dismissive caveat that since the Army was conducting the exercises we shouldn’t necessarily count on it being followed.

A few miles out the thunder of artillery reverberated on our flybridge.  Very cool, in a hopefully-they-realize-we’re-on-their-side sort of way.  We’ve seen Red Dawn so know that even a small band of renegades can defeat a superpower*, but we still were armed only with those same distress flares so if things turned ugly we’d be screwed.

Just before the bridge, a different Osprey—this one built by Boeing—circled right above us for a while.

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Just after the bridge a Navy Range Boat ordered us all to stop.  We all stopped.  Just look at the sign.  Of course we all stopped.

The second range boat we passed didn’t seem quite as scary—since the red-headed dude undoubtedly was watching baby-animal videos on his phone—but it’s best to follow instructions from beefy soldiers with guns anyway.

The army still uses Vietnam-era Mechanized Landing Craft.  We know this, because we saw them all over the place.

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Just before Beaufort we passed the inlet where Blackbeard sunk his flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.  The dread pirate obviously lacked that one aid to navigation guaranteed to prevent disaster: a wife to remind him to follow the Navionics line and watch the depth gauge instead of playing poker on his iPad.

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Phillips Island is just around the corner from Beaufort. Seventeen acres of flood-prone flatland that can be purchased for only $395,000, with the ruins of a fish-processing plant thrown in.

Despite crazy and unexpected wind, we made it into our spot at Homer Smith’s Dock next to Baytripper and Festivus.  We first met Festivus on Mackinac Island.  They’re Canadian.  Who knew Canadians watch Seinfeld?

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* The original one starring the couple from Dirty Dancing, not the cheap remake.  Wolverine!

Parting is such sweet sorrow, or We’re so over this “old tree” crap, or How much poo can we work into one blog post?

Blog posts will be a bit hit-or-miss until we get up to Beaufort (rhymes with go-fert) North Carolina for the weekend.  Another storm’s on the way so we need a few longish days, starting Monday when we left Georgetown on the Waccamaw River.

The Waccamaw is a darn cool river, although it seems to defy the physics of hydrology.  We timed things perfectly given the tides but still fought current pushing in the wrong direction.  Or maybe everything we thought we knew was just so much poo.  However, the scenery reminded us of Canada.

FFEB8B1D-ABE4-4106-B5F4-3ECC0C87A349What else reminded us of Canada and poo?  Those honk-honking poo-pooping geese.  We’ll take more pelicans and fewer geese please.

Of course, there’re more cypress trees with Spanish moss in these parts than we ever saw in Canada.  The scenery is absolutely gorgeous through here.

On such a beautiful travel day, most everyone was out sunning.  Dana had no qualms about invading their privacy with her camera.

One absolute truth about boating is that the perceived size of a wake is directly inverse depending on whether one is on the giving end or the receiving end.

50877554-970E-4E5C-BCE6-50332F618C81Doug is quite confident Misty Pearl barely causes a ripple.  The slobs along the way who yell at us seem to disagree.  Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, nobody can dispute that we need more folks with a sense of humor.

Anyway, we pulled in to The Marina at Grande Dunes.  Beautiful marina.

Excellent stop.  Mellow Mushroom is always a good choice for a meal when Mallory’s along.  The one we found happened to be one we hit up last time she was with us in Myrtle Beach.  We enjoyed one last evening of cards before Mallory followed Shannon’s lead and headed back to school.  We’re always sad to see them go.

This morning, the four remaining Belknaps turned north under the Grande Dunes bridge and headed for Southport.  This stretch looks nice, right?  Just about the same as yesterday, right?

791803BF-8AD2-42AE-9DFD-424093197F1DNope.  This is known as the “Rock Pile.”   Because there’re rock ledges all along the sides.  Underwater.  For about ten miles.  And it’s narrow even without submerged hull-popping hazards.  Well that sucks.  It’s hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re focused like a drunk walking a sobriety checkpoint line.

What else sucks?  Having the nickname “Poo” stick with you your whole life and then into eternity.  That’s what happened to the local dude who recently had this swing bridge renamed “Captain Poo” in his honor.  No joke.

CE4F8724-BDC3-4367-A01E-900D6213BD11Maybe even worse, if possible, is having a nice home in a sedate neighborhood but then Gypsy Rose moves in next door.  We know Gypsy Rose lives here, because she plastered her name all over the place.  She’s probably not even a real Gypsy, of course, since they prefer to call themselves Romani.  Either way, her house is damn ugly.  There goes the neighborhood indeed.

Just before Southport we passed the place where channel markers go to die.  RIP old friends.  Thanks for your service.

0D84FB6C-E269-40A7-99AE-8F5CFEE90C92The ICW around here runs much closer to the coast, which means periodic views of the Atlantic but without the waves.  After a second day of mostly fighting current while enjoying the weather and scenery, we docked at Southport.  Now we’ve officially seen every state we’re going to pass on the Loop.  As a prize they stuck us out on the fuel dock, unprotected from jackasses on the ICW who don’t appreciate the size of their wake.

Now about this tree nonsense.  We thought the Lovers Oak was impressive enough to walk a mile, take a picture, and then devote valuable blog space to discussing it.  After all, it was over 250 years old.  And had a commemorative plaque and everything.

Then we hit Georgetown.  The Champion Oak.  Nearly 600 years old.  It also had a commemorative plaque.  We felt foolish about once thinking Lovers Oak was special.  So we devoted valuable blog space to putting Champion Oak on its rightful pedestal.

Except Southport has Indian Trail Gnarled Oak.  The damn plaque says it’s over 800 years old.

This time we looked it up.  This isn’t even the oldest tree in North Carolina.  Some cypress some place around here supposedly sprouted in about 350 A.D.  Why do these people bother with plaques at all?  So we’re done with trees.  Unless we find one carbon-dated back to The Big Bang, we ain’t giving up any more valuable blog space.

Tomorrow off to a destination as of yet undetermined between here and Beaufort.  North Carolina.  Not South Carolina.  We’ve already been to that one.

If a tree falls in your backyard can it still be a “champion”?

A pretty quiet few days here in lovely Georgetown, South Carolina.  We’re about to start a push up to Mobjack Bay, however—where we’ll leave Misty Pearl with Zimmerman for a few small service issues—so quiet days may be hard to come by for awhile.  We’ll take ‘em when we can.

Basically Georgetown is comprised of a Mayberry-like main street and a non-Atlantic City-like boardwalk.

img_7636The charm here is the history, of course, rather than the bustle.  For example, the iconic clock tower is Georgetown’s signature building.  Been here since 1842.  Built by slave labor.  Used for about every municipal function as possible.  Very cool that it remains as a monument to all sorts of things.  Plus the clock was accurate.

South Carolina was the ringleader of secession in large part because of rice.  Rice—planted and harvested and milled by slaves—made this state—and particularly this part of this state—fabulously wealthy.  Secession provided the best path to maintaining the rice-based economic system.  Not surprisingly, therefore, Georgetown has a Rice Museum.  The museum is located in what used to be Kaminski Hardware.  Old Man Kaminski’s dusty ledger books from the plantation days still line the shelves.

In 1971, a diver stumbled upon the oldest existing commercial boat built in the U.S., or so the tour guide claimed.  The smart people think it sunk around 1730, which indeed would make it pretty old.  The boat doesn’t seem to have anything to do with rice, of course, but it’s in the museum anyway.

Speaking of boats, the girls arrived for Easter.

This made the boys and us quite happy.  We annoyed all of them by pausing Forrest Gump every time something happened at a site we’ve visited.

img_7646Remember that post in which we marveled at Lovers Oak, which has been around since the Declaration of Independence?  Boy do we feel silly.  Here in Georgetown we found the Actual Certified Oldest Tree.  Fittingly it’s called Champion Oak.  Champion Oak isn’t just a few years older either.  At some 580-years-old, it’s more than twice as old.

The weird thing is that it’s just there in someone’s backyard.  The sign is out by the sidewalk.  Does having a protected Champion on your property make that property more valuable or less valuable?  Do you lay awake at night worried that the dude who owns the second-oldest tree will sneak up and pull an “Al from Dadeville” on it?  We also find it odd that in 580 years none of the property owners needed firewood or decided a tomato patch would be preferable to an old tree that sheds leaves all over the place.

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The day it rained sucked from an exploring perspective, but we did get to play a lot of cards.

Saturday night, Georgetown hosted a Shag Festival, which would’ve been great if we were in Great Britain and we were 35 years younger.  But we weren’t either of those and it was cold and it was windy, so we stayed on the boat.

Today we took Shannon to the airport.  Time for that final end-of-the-school-year push.  Tomorrow we’ll head up to Dirty Myrtle.  Mallory leaves Tuesday morning.  It’s always great to see them, and always sad to lose them again.