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.
*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.