Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Blazing Home

Our Loop Stats
About Us and Starsong
Where Are We Now?
Where Were We Recently?
Archives: Where Have We Been?
Photo Gallery
Great Loop Map
Contact Us
The combined temperature and humidity are at sauna levels now, and predicted to get worse.  When we did our laundry in the tiny non-air-conditioned laundry room yesterday, we kept the door closed while folding our clothes fresh from the dryer, because it was cooler in front of the dryer than it was outside. 
This is not good cruising weather.  We are heading home as fast as we can get there.  We aren't bothering to try to visit historic places, since it's too hot to do walking tours or biking tours.  Besides, we are trying to pile on the miles, so we are planning long days.   The most we hope to do at the end of a day of cruising is to jump into a swimming pool.
It's that bad.
But, misery loves company, so grab a cool drink and come on along.

This section has two sizzling pages.  If you have already read to the end of the first page (a poetic tribute to menhaden), click the link below to go straight to Page 2.

Click here to go straight to Page 2.

Tuesday, August 7  Salt Ponds to Coinjock
68 miles
We shoved off the dock at Salt Ponds at 6:40, and Kerry got up that early to help us with our lines and send us on our way!
The weather prediction for today included a heat advisory -- the heat index is projected to rise to 105-109 degrees, so everyone is advised to stay in an air conditioned place, and to avoid the sun.  Staying inside Starsong's cabin with the noise of the engine plus the generator and the air conditioner, with all the doors and windows closed, so we don't have a hint of the sounds of nature and approaching boats is an even more unattractive option than sitting out in the heat.  So, our compromise is to sit on the flybridge with a fan and a little spritzer bottle of water to cool us.
Not long after we left Salt Ponds, we sighted a submarine coming in from the ocean.  It was far away, but we could see its tower and a large distinctive wake rising like a hill from its bow.  An hour later, we caught up to it as it was docking at the Norfolk Naval Base.  It was a most impressive sight, as the crew in their uniforms and green flotation vests stood in a line at parade rest on top of the hull, facing the dock as tugs gently maneuvered the sub into place.  Meanwhile, a naval vessel shadowed us like a dog at heel until we were well past the submarine. 
We didn't get a picture for two reasons -- first, the humid haze was so thick a picture would appear to have been taken through a steamy shower door, and second, we were a little intimidated by our naval escort.
Within a few hours we were out of the hustle and bustle of the Chesapeake port area and into vast swaths of uninhabited swamps.  A bald eagle soared above us and landed in a tall pine beside us as we passed.  It was 97 degrees, but we were happy to be there.
We tied up at Midway Marina in Coinjock at 3:55, bought ice cream bars when we checked in at 4:10, and were in the swimming pool before 4:30.  When we stopped here in June on our way north, we bemoaned the fact that one of their hot tubs was hot enough to boil lobsters and the other was too cold -- we didn't even dip our toes in the pool.  This time, the hot tubs were irrelevant -- we had been fantasizing about the pool for hours. 
After soaking for a couple hours, we were ready to face the prospect of an even longer and even hotter day on the water tomorrow -- with another pool at the end of the cruise.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007  Coinjock to Belhaven
84 miles
When we left the dock at 6:40, it was already 82 degrees, and before the day was over, the temperature would hit 98 degrees. 
We crossed the Albemarle Sound in waves that reached about three feet in height, which normally wouldn't be too bad, except the Albemarle Sound is so shallow that the waves pile up close to each other. The result is that riding three foot waves feels like riding a big rocking horse for an hour.  With the aid of my pressure point wrist bands and a little of my herbal motion sickness balm behind my ears, I weathered the waves. Dick said he didn't need any motion sickness remedies, since the aromatherapy from my herbal balm was so strong that he could get a second-hand benefit just by sitting across the cockpit from me.
About eight hours into the day, Dick commented on how few pleasure boats we had seen all day -- just two.  At the time, it was 98 degrees out, and it seemed pretty obvious to me that the reason there were few pleasure boats was because boating today was not pleasurable.
We got to Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven at 4:15, after over nine long hours of cruising. 
We stayed at Dowry Creek when we did the Loop in 2005, and enjoyed taking down our kayaks to explore the creek.  We are sorry it is too hot to enjoy a paddle today -- this is one of the prettiest marinas along the ICW.  Instead, we followed the recovery formula that worked well for us yesterday -- ice cream bars purchased at check-in, followed by a long soak in the pool.
Thursday, August 9, 2007 Dowry Creek to Morehead City, NC
72 miles
Today the heat index was 110-120 degrees.  No need to say more about how "recreational" our eight and a half hour boating experience was.
And, there was no swimming pool at the end of the voyage.
We had two choices for where to stay tonight -- the so-called "twin cities" of Morehead City and Beaufort, lying on opposite shores of the Newport River.  Since we had visited charming historic Beaufort during our Great Loop trip, we decided to sample Morehead City this time.
No twins could be more different.  Beaufort is a feminine Southern belle -- concerned with her pretty appearance and cultivating her charm, fond of resort wear and trendy gift shopping, and of cafes with fancy coffee and pastries.  Like all Southern ladies, she is proud of her heritage, and has preserved her fine old homes and businesses to show off her illustrious forebearers.
Morehead City is the oblivious insensitive male of the pair -- greeting visitors who come by water with a smelly ugly port, followed by a waterfront lined with generic blocky low rise condos.  A long line of sport fishing boats for hire are tied up along a waterfront pier, interspersed with bars and beachy casual restaurants specializing in fried fish and burgers.  A four-lane highway with a railroad track running down the median is the main street in town, separating the waterfront from the rest of the business district in a most unfriendly manner.
We ventured out in the late afternoon heat to search the town for a spot to enjoy breakfast tomorrow.  (Beaufort had two espresso cafes.)  The dockmaster directed us to the only place in town he knew of that served breakfast, and it looked like a good local dive, but when we stopped into the quilt shop next door and asked the woman there about it, she responded by asking us, "Do you smoke?"  It seems that the place is very popular with the smoking crowd, and North Carolina has no laws protecting our lungs from them.  We're thinking (1)tobacco must be a big cash crop with a strong lobby here, and (2)no need to waste time walking there tomorrow.
Despite its lack of charm, historic character, a decent breakfast spot, a bakery, or a grocery or quick mart within walking distance, Morehead City did have that nice little quilt shop, an irresistable independent book store/gift shop, and a general store that served up the biggest single scoop waffle cones we have ever eaten -- at a cost of less than five dollars for two! 
After almost cool showers (our water tanks have warmed up so much now that refreshingly cool showers are no longer possible), we headed to dinner at Floyd's 1921, the best restaurant in town, and one of our best fine dining experiences of this trip.
Morehead City turned out to be better than it looked. (But, next time we will stop at Beaufort.)
Friday, August 10, 2007  Morehead City to Harbour Village Marina (5 miles south of Surf City, NC)
63 miles
Our day began early -- at 3:30 am, when a deafening crash of thunder with a simultaneous strobe of lightning rudely awakened us.  Soon rain pelted the deck above our bed with a fury, the waves rocked us wildly, and the cracking and strobing effects of the lightning made it impossible to go back to sleep.  Eventually that storm left, but just as we were returning to our restful REM sleep state, another storm rolled in.  So went the rest of what should have been our best sleeping hours.
When the alarm went off at 6:45 (we were sleeping late, because our destination marina today couldn't accomodate us before 4 pm), we couldn't believe it was time to get up -- not only because we had slept hardly more than four hours all night, but also because the sky was still so dark.  With lightning on the horizon, and dark skies threatening, we held tight until a little after 8, when the skies were a bit clearer, and there seemed to be a chance of avoiding a direct lightning strike.
If things didn't work out, we could always turn back and dock at Beaufort for a blissful day of espressos and pastries and recreational shopping.
Sadly, the storms cleared, leaving us with the same weather we have been having over the past few days, except with a bit more wind.  Fortunately, most of our way was through narrow rivers and canals, so the wind didn't cause much water turbulence, and it helped to offset the heat. 
We are afraid that now we might be getting used to heat indexes over 100 degrees, and when the temperature drops below 85, we will be pulling out our parkas.
Our course took us for ten miles or so through Camp Lejeune, the 246 mile Marine Corps Base which is home to 50,000 marines and naval personnel. Our favorite cruising guide helped us visualize just how big the Base is by quantifying its mess hall output -- 858 gallons of milk and 1,577 dozen eggs daily.
Four miles of our journey were through part of a firing range, but we didn't hear or see any signs of activity there.  Maybe they called off practice due to the heat.
We also passed the remains of a full-scale mock-up of a troop transport ship built on a bay off the ICW during World War II.  Because German U-boats terrorized our coast, the fake ship was built inland so that our troops in training could safely practice climbing up and down the netting with a full pack and a rifle. 
We arrived at Harbour Village Marina shortly before 5 pm.  The picture of the osprey on the WELCOME sign on the first page of our website was taken at the entrance to this marina.  Although the sign has been changed since we took the picture in 2005, we were happy to see two ospreys sitting on the nest on the signpost this year.
With no pool to cool us, we plugged in and retreated in our air-conditioned cabin.  By 6 pm, the first of several evening storms blew in. We were happy to be tied up tight in a sheltered basin tonight, as we listened to all the severe thunderstorm warning announcements on the radio, and felt the storms blow up.


Saturday, August 11, 2007  Harbour Village Marina to Southport, NC
42 miles
It was refreshing to have a short cruising day -- with just 42 miles to travel, we were docked in Southport shortly after 1 pm, giving us a whole afternoon to stroll the town. And with temperatures below 90 degrees and some of the humidity rained out of the air, strolling the town was a tolerable experience.  Many of the stores had coolers full of ice and bottled water out front, with honor system $1 payments requested (one even offered the water free).
Our first stop was the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which was closed for repairs when we visited Southport during our Loop voyage.  The museum was so interesting that we stayed for hours.  This area of North Carolina has a rich maritime history, with stories of pirates; shipwrecks; commercial fishermen; and river pilots that have guided merchant ships through the 21 turns of the Cape Fear River between the inlet here and the the port of Wilmington since the 1700s.
Bonnet's Creek near Southport is named for pirate Stede Bonnet (pronounced Bon-nay, accent on the second syllable), who entertained his friends and hid his ship, Royal James, there.  The museum had stories of him, Blackbeard (who tied fuses to his beard and lit them at night to add to the horror his victimes felt when they saw him approach), and woman pirates Mary Anne Blythe, Mary Read, and Anne Bonney.  A ship believed to be Blackbeard's sunken Queen Anne's Revenge has recently been found outside the Beaufort (NC) Inlet, and the museum had an exhibit of some of the items that divers have retrieved during the archeaological excavation of the ship, which is expected to last for at least ten years.
There were also lots and lots of artifacts that local resident fishermen and divers have found during their own explorations (and sometimes even looting) of the numerous beached and sunken wrecks along the coast.  We saw lots of crockery and bottles, a silver tea service, mechanical equipment and tools, and other treasures. 
The most fascinating story for us was the story of the Liberty Ships.  In 1941, the US Maritime Commission wanted to mass produce merchant cargo ships faster than the enemy U-Boats could sink them. 
After their loony 1917 bureaucratic nightmare effort that resulted in all those flawed and flimsy wooden boats scrapped in Mallow Bay on the Potomac, the Maritime Commission recognized that they needed help this time around, and they hired the guy who brought the Boulder Dam and Grand Coulee Dam in ahead of schedule to come up with a plan.  He developed a process that involved prefabricating components of the ships in locations all across the country, then transporting them to shipyards, stacking the components in the order they would be added to the hulls, and assembling them systematically.
A massive shipyard was built in Wilmington, NC in 1941 just to construct the wartime ships.  It only operated for five years, but it completed 243 ships in that time.
The first Liberty Ship was launched in September of 1942, and by the end of that year, 597 had been built at shipyards across the country.  At the peak of construction, workers could complete a ship in 80 hours 30 minutes! 
By the end of the war 5,777 cargo ships had been built, including 2,770 Liberty Ships.  But, the Commission had not achieved its objective of replacing ships as fast as they were sunk -- the Navy lost 19,034 ships and 36,950 seamen to the War.
A particularly vivid newspaper account in the exhibit described how eleven "oil-stained and flame seared survivors" were picked up by rescuers and brought to Southport after their tanker was hit and sunk by a German torpedo.  A book in the museum library titled The Atlantic Turkey Shoot told a veteran's story of how German U-boats destroyed over 200 ships on the Eastern seaboard -- sixty of them off the North Carolina Coast -- between January and April of 1942.
We could have stayed for hours more, exploring  the museum library and watching its interesting video presentations, but we decided we ought to see a bit more of the town.
We walked the waterfront road, reading historic markers along the way, and searching for a couple geocaches.  We felt like we were finally back in the south.  Live oaks stretched their branches wide to canopy the streets, and people sat on their front porch rockers catching the breeze and chatting with us as we passed by.  Low country marshes edged the water.
We noticed many houses for sale, and played our favorite version of "The Price is Right," guessing the price of each house before looking at the house description paper in the little boxes attached to the FOR SALE signs. We invariably guessed too low.  There doesn't seem to be any real estate bust going on here, where a 2,000 square foot waterfront house goes for $2 million, and an unassuming (albeit charming and historic) little house inland is priced close to $800,000. 
We did a little recreational shopping, then walked a long mile or so out to the edge of town in search of a half gallon of milk (non-recreational shopping).  As we walked about, we read menus in the windows of the many varied local restaurants.  With all those choices, we finally decided to eat at a restaurant on a fishing dock near our marina -- we were too pooped and hot to walk any further.  Although 86 degrees is cool compared to the temperatures over the past week or so, it is still pretty balmy for long walks beneath a blazing sun. 
Menhaden in Southport
During our visit to the North Carolina Maritime Musuem, we learned that menhaden were fished heavily here from the 1920s until the 1960s.  At one time, the menhaden industry was the largest employer in town.
A local woman, Dorothy Bell Kauffman (1915-1963) published a book of poetry which included two poems about menhaden fishing.  The poems were quoted in a museum display.  Here's an excerpt from one that I particularly enjoyed (and could appreciate after our odoriferous entry to Reedville):
The Smell of Southport Money
Don't you dare turn up your noses
When you come to Southport town,
If the wind's from a direction
That'll bring the fish-stink down --
For you don't belong among us
If you sniff and snort and sneeze
When the smell of Southport money
Comes driftin' down the breeze!
For the oil from our menhaden
Is our biggest "money crap,"  [not a typo]
And the "fertilize" that's made from
Dryin' out the pogy scrap.  (pogy is a nick-name for menhaden)
. . .

Click here to continue to Page 2.