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.