August 30, 2016

Carolina On My Mind

You could get hit by the boom and die.
You could fall overboard and die.
You could capsize and die.
Or you could stay at home and fall off the couch and die.

I am in love with North Carolina.  From her graceful green mountains to her rich crooked coastline, you will find scenes unparalleled in beauty and friendly people everywhere. Thanks for visiting my blog as I recollect memories and photos from a few weeks past. More updates coming soon. I am so thankful to be able to do this.  Onward!

With my home sale in Georgia finally behind me, and no more real estate ties to bind me, I flew into Wilmington and returned to Glory Days on July 25, 2016.  I'm ecstatic to resume this north bound saga that began last May, over 700 miles ago. 

In Southport, it was hotter than a tin roof the day i arrived.  I wasted no time opening hatches and airing her out for the next leg ahead. Several parcels of new boat goodies were waiting at the marina and it felt like Christmas morning.


Ah, solo and single handling once again.  Some folks say, "oh but it must be so lonely out there ..."  Not so.  
I love the time to myself and the accountability I joyfully embrace.  I know I'm responsible for every decision and there's no one to blame but myself for mistakes or to commend for small victories.   If I ever did get lonely, people are never  very far away to engage in some boat banter or just friendly chats about most anything under the sun.  I have found people are pretty friendly wherever you go, even if I have to make the first move sometimes. 

The North Carolina coast is loaded with picturesque towns, each with their own unique personalities. I was delighted to discover four of them: Southport, Beaufort/Cape Lookout, Oriental, and Belhaven. Each has their own charm and magic which makes them distinct individualized pearls of the sea.

Let us continue now!


I lingered in Southport a couple days to prepare the boat, repair the propane stove, install two new low voltage fans, rig some fishing gear, and set up the new registration for two brand new Personal Locator Beacons (PLB's).  Hopefully, the PLB's will never have to be activated but it's comforting to know that I could possibly be found if disaster ever occurred at sea.
Here's my favorite trolling lure that I rigged.  It's a very dependable lure because it always never works. Despite it's lack of success, I keep dragging it on a trolling rod whenever I get the chance. There's a saying that insanity is defined as trying the same approach again and again and expecting different results.  I'm not a very smart man. But I do like my new fans!

This sign in a seafood eatery reminded me just how far I've come since this time last year.  Fond memories of Key West tickled my fancy as I chowed down on steamed shrimp and grouper for my final night in Southport.  It's a great little town near Wilmington, and hosts lots of good live music right on the shore.  I heard some good music, plus I was able to sit in and play some blues harp with a local band which is always a hoot.

The bucolic nature of Southport, NC has made it the setting of several major films and tv shows through the years.  Older homes and waterfront restaurants facing the Cape Fear River make it a destination spot for visitors.

Here's a link to info on tv and movies filmed in the Southport area:

For my first day I covered 30 miles on the ICW and  dropped my anchor in a perfect spot at the Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach as seen below. This would be the perfect staging area to clear the inlet before dawn and make the 72 mile outside leap over to Beaufort, NC.

Thankfully, I arrived early and had enough time to make a practice run out the inlet during daylight.  My departure in a few hours would be at night.  I love night sailing, but it's comforting to know the boundaries of the jetties and specific markers ahead of time.  I was ready, and savored a few fleeting hours on the beach there before turning in early.  Hyped.

You gotta love night sailing.  You're just passing the time until God grants you a great sunrise and the promise of a new day.

I was underway at 0300 hours.  A thunderstorm threatened from the west as I was pulling in the anchor.  After some hesitation, I decided the storm would miss me, so I continued onward as planned.  My hunch was correct.  I dodged another one.  I won't always be this lucky.
Good morning God!

It turned out to be a rather docile passage with ample time to read until the winds increased for the final 25 miles.
 I rode the incoming tide into the coastal town  of Beaufort, NC.  Here I bought a new cap that kind of sums it up.


In North Carolina, the city of Beaufort is pronounced "BOfort" unlike "Buufort" as in South Carolina's town of the same spelling. (Beaufort, SC was featured in a previous post!)

In "BOfort", I landed the perfect anchorage in a tight spot between several boats in the downtown district, directly in front of the National Park Service office.   I found Beaufort to be a bit more touristy that I prefer.  I was expecting another quiet coastal village atmosphere. Instead, there were Iots of folks with fair skin and ice cream cones crowding the streets with cameras and raucous kids in tow.  

Despite the tourists, there is a really great maritime museum where all the rage is about the legendary pirate, Black Beard. It was around this area where he plundered and thrived and eventually met his demise back in 1718.  

The Black Beard history was of interest, but I was much more enthralled by the perfectly assembled skeleton of a whale on display from the ceiling. 
Interestingly, this skeleton is from a beached whale that appeared near Beaufort in January, 2004.  In order to preserve the skeleton, authorities decided to dig a huge pit and bury the whale for 4 long years and allow it to decay.  In 2008 the 200+ whale bones were exhumed from the beach "grave" and were shipped to N.C. State for "degreasing" to eliminate odor. A team set up an off site work facility and spent 4 more years cleaning and reassembling the skeleton as you see here. It is beautiful.  
It looks like some prehistoric dinosaur which is why I had to ask what it was.  They have done a marvelous job preserving this fellow who met his ill fate on the beach.  It's a puzzling phenomenon. Here's a link that addresses the question of why whales beach themselves: Why do whales beach themselves?

Here's a link to the Maritime Museum for more info about the local history of pirates, commerce and whales:


No trip to the Beaufort, NC area is complete without a side trip to the historic and the breathtakingly beautiful Cape Lookout National Seashore, as seen below.  Although the chart showed it to only be an 8 mile detour to the east, it would turn out to be quite a wild ride at sea to get there.  It would involve exiting the inlet back into the open sea in order to tack east to the Cape.  Notice what a thin spit of land protects this bay and its lighthouse surroundings.  The blue dot is my boat anchorage where I stayed for two lovely nights.


Although only 8 miles, it turned out to be a rollicking trip to the east just to get to the Cape.  After a couple hours of this, I arrived and eased my dependable Rocna anchor into the mud of this perfectly protected area where I would explore the dunes and lighthouse the following day.

Ruins from years gone by littered the shore with secret tales in their wombs of distant times gone by.  I found the waters here to be exceptionally clear.  Some sailors had posted this location as a "mini-Bahamas feel" due to the clear water captured here, unlike the more common grey waters of the surrounding Atlantic areas.

If you ever get the chance it's worth the trip out to Cape Lookout.  The only way there is by boat, but they have a ferry service if you don't have your own Glory Days to get you there.  Read all about the features and the colorful maritime history of this cool spot at this link:

The wind blew a constant 20 knots from the south during my stay here at Cape Lookout.  But the anchor held steady and the surrounding dunes kept the waters calm for a good nights sleep under a panorama of infinite stars reporting from a faraway galaxy.  

The circulating beam of the lighthouse splayed light onto my sleeping berth every 10 seconds like clockwork through the night. I planned to leave Cape Lookout the following day with the proper tide to re-enter Beaufort and continue north toward the next little coastal town, Oriental, NC.

It was another sleigh ride at sea between Cape Lookout and the inlet at Beaufort. With a feisty beam reach I was there in no time at all. 

Upon entering the inlet at Beaufort River, I opted to skip the town this time in order to have a side peek at neighboring Morehead City.  It was getting late in the day so I did not linger here but passed some interesting industrial areas as a big black storm brewed in the exact direction I needed to go.
I entered the coordinates suggested by a previous sailor into my chart plotter for the only charted anchorage nearby and dropped the hook just as this big storm  clobbered me.  I got drenched securing the side curtains and made sure everything was stowed below. I just laughed through the whole event.  It was a warm rain and rather ticklish.

The torrential downpour continued with lots of thunder and electricity in the sky.  All in all it was quite fun, and before long I had a hot shower and was enjoying the comfort of dry  clothes and a good book down below as the rain pounded the deck for another two hours.
Yep.  It's here!
This anchorage during the storm was a bit exposed and barely off the main channel of the waterway as seen above.  Just to be safe, I left both the anchor light and running lights on during the storm until things had cleared.


Morning came softly and I was soon on my way up Adams Creek toward a place that has lingered a long time on my bucket list, Oriental, NC.  However, one must first cross the widest river in the U.S., the Neuse River, before you can actually enter Oriental.  The Neuse River can be quite a challenge as it was today. Swales, spray, opposing wind, and a tall fetch made for a rough but invigorating crossing.  No pics here, as my hands were glued to the helm. 

I could have motored directly there.  But it was still early in the day, so with the wind on my nose, I chose to grit my teeth and make multiple zig zag tacks in order to cross the Neuse under sail.  Once I got close, I actually considered turning around going back out just to sail some more. It's an addiction I have.  Sometimes I arrive at places sooner than I prefer.

What a pleasure to enter this remote little town with its well protected harbor. Shrimp boats and pleasure boats lined the entrance as I crept in like a mouse, stealthy, curious, and thirsty.

Common fishing fleets in Oriental.

One of the cool things about these smaller coastal towns is that many of them provide a free City dock where cruisers like me can tie up to for up to 48 hours.  As was the case in Oriental where I docked next to a friendly young cruising couple, Kaine and Savannah.  

Since they were headed south and I was headed north we both had information and stories to share about the miles ahead for the other party.  Clean bathrooms are provided and even a picnic table! A perfect sunset as I dinghyed around the harbor set the tone for the next two days exploring the magic of this little gem of a town, Oriental, North Carolina. 

I was so taken with Oriental and I just couldn't get over the home town vibe and consciousness that was evident here.  It was not at all touristy and bustling like Beaufort had been.  Soon I was pedaling around on a free bicycle from the local marine provision store where I later ooowed and awwwed at all the boat goodies through the window that night.

Some folks lust over fancy new cars.  Me, I'm all about getting my hands on a sporty new dinghy like this baby one day.  She boasts a stainless steel transom, a sealed bow storage compartment, V- shaped hull, solid flooring, deep gunnels, heavy duty grab handles, and welded davit grips for easy lifting.  This sweet baby was priced at $3900. Oh to dream.
I was so smitten with Oriental, I even looked at some real estate while there.  My mind was racing with the possibilities of becoming a transplant Orientalite working on some great music or writing project between sailing expeditions on the Neuse River.  

This little bungalow is just 2 blocks from the shore and was simply "eat up" with funky atmosphere and charm. I met this fellow, David below who, like me, had taken a fancy to the quiet slow life of Oriental and moved here from afar.  He keeps his sailboat nearby.  

Here he is standing in front of the old fire house station that he bought and converted into a rather lofty new home for himself.  The fire truck originally parked in what is now his living room. He was an afficionato of the area and soon toured me around the town in his car and showed me several properties that had recently sold or were coming onto the market.

I soon grounded myself with these wild real estate flirtations and savored a big salad at the picnic table with Lady Deborah.  I need to leave this place before I do something crazy I thought. Oh to be retired and free, it is such a blessed (and sometimes dangerous) thing.  Somebody pinch me please. 

After another great sunset in Oriental, I said goodbye to my feathered dock mates and made plans to depart for the next lovely town ahead, Belhaven, NC.

Here's some scenes along the way from Oriental to the next little sea town Belhaven.

It's not everyday you see 3 beautiful women out sailing a 40' boat all by themselves.  So much for Captain Manhood here.

Kayaking is big in these parts.


I almost got myself into a bit of a pickle on this day.   It happened as I was leaving the waters of the wide open sound and reentering a narrow section of the ICW. 

The best friend a single handler has is his auto pilot as it allows you the freedom to take your hands off the helm and do critical jobs like make a sandwich, reading the chart, tinkering with the sails or just go use the bathroom.

Well, long story short, my auto pilot had been making some funny grinding sounds so I figured this would be a good time to drop anchor, disassemble the auto pilot and trouble shoot the problem.  That means I would have to remove the power supply from the auto pilot and remove the entire helm (steering wheel) in order to dismantle the belt assembly and see what's up with it. 

Since the channel here was so narrow there was very little room for me to anchor outside of it, so I edged over as close as I could, but I was still partially in the channel. I hadn't seen another vessel all day long, so no problem I thought to myself. It's just me out here after all. What could possibly go wrong?

So far-so good as I sauntered through the repair process making double sure not to misplace any vital parts like screws, washers, bushings, etc.  Next, I cleaned all the innards of the working mechanisms and I was even gloating a little over my new found confidence that I can really repair anything when I set my mind to it.  

But before I had all the parts back in place I noticed a huge barge with tug boat approaching from the sound. 
Uh oh I thought.  I hadn't seen another vessel all day long and NOW this big barge is approaching when I have no steering?
Barge approaching
It is not uncommon for barges to travel at speeds of 10-12 knots, so I knew he could be on me before I knew it.  With this in mind, Skipper Joe hails the tug on channel 16 of the VHF radio. It went something like this:

"Hi this is sailing vessel Glory Days. I have a mechanical problem but I will be out of the channel very shortly as soon as I correct the problem Captain, over."
Reply:  "You don't need to be anchored in the channel son.  I'm headed your way and I'm gona need every inch of it to get through there, over."

Barge passing in narrow channel.  Well hello.
Luckily, the assembly project was almost completed, but I knew it was going to be impossible to get out of his way if I had no steering wheel! I scallie wallied myself into double time (yes, I make up words sometimes) and did a quick and clumsy connection of the helm onto the drive shaft, fired the engine, and rushed to the bow to hoist the anchor as he was showing no signs of politely slowing down for this tinker boy with his tools strewn all over. 

I edged my vessel to the shelf of the channel and allowed him to pass his big ass right by me with little time to spare. That's a close one I thought to myself.  

realize t's difficult to slow down a huge barge, and I WAS anchored in the channel, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. But he was showing no signs of compromising his speed or course to accommodate my little mechanical wizardry that I was so marveled with at the time.   

After he passed, I took a deep breath, reconnected the wiring, bolts and whatnots, and was soon on my way with a perfectly tuned auto pilot.

So long Mr. Barge.


After my encounter with the barge I was relieved to find some sailable water while on the ICW, and raised the sails again for some fine travel through some remote areas as I approached the community of Belhaven.

 Passing forested areas like this above was a teaser of what I'd soon discover on the Alligator River after leaving Belhaven.  But first things first, it was time for a time out in yet another quaint little town by the sea, Belhaven, North Carolina.

And yet another public City dock allowed me to keep the anchor dry and enjoy the privilege of simply walking downtown for dinner or a drink.  I needed a drink actually.
"large please."

As you can see the night streets of Belhaven were bustling with energy as 9 pm crept in on a Friday night.  This was a quaint little town, but I did not linger long.  My sights were set on the Alligator River and my entry into the Great Dismal Swamp ahead.   

I tried to break some rules in Belhaven, 
but no one would arrest me.
All I could find that night was some not-so-good live music and a smoky bar where the owners immediately greeted me with "So how's your boat?"  Is it that obvious I thought to myself?  

It must be the ever-present backpack, hair, and flip flops that gives me away to locals.  It happens more than you know.  Anyway 25 cents per game at pin ball and I was  soon racking up points I never knew I could.  

In a matter of hours, I would untie the dock lines from Belhaven and begin a most interesting journey for the final leg of the Intracoastal Waterway before entering the Chesapeake Bay.  It would be a long day ahead and I'd better get her started, mattie.

When you travel north after crossing the 14 mile  wide Albemarle Sound, you have two choices, either via the North River or via the Great Dismal Swamp.

I am choosing to go the Great Dismal Swamp route.
Can't wait to share it!  Stay tuned! 

Life On The Waterway -  Joe Green - Aug. 7. 2016 - open tuning, capo 2

Brunswick to Savannah with Sapelo in between.
We ran aground n Ossabaw, with the wind on the beam.
A thunderstorm near Beaufort lingered to the west,
Cannonball hail was coming down, this would be a test.

That’s the life on the waterway, 
Some days you're gonna get wet.
The Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Key West

Entering Charleston Harbor at night was not my plan.
We cleared the bridge just in time, then kissed the land.
A city rich in history, much of it untold.
We sailed past Fort Sumpter to Georgetown in the cold.

That’s the life on the waterway, 
Some days you're gonna get wet.
The Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Key West

We cleared the inlet at Masonbqoro, and had the canvas up by dawn.
82 miles to Southport.  Carolina here I come.
Wilmington was inland. So she got a pass.
I set my sights on Cape Lookout. Where Black Beard met his death.

That’s the life on the waterway, 
Some days you're gonna get wet.
The Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Key West

On to Oriental.  A little town by the sea.
Where 700 people and 3000 boats.  Live in harmony.
Moving up the waterway. Mile marker 135.
Made some friends in Belhaven and then said goodbye.

The Alligator river continues north.  To Albemarle Sound
A right of passage is the Dismal Swamp
Or you ain’t been around.

I love this highway on the water.
One thousand two hundred and seventy miles.
She’s so wild and she’s so rich.
And she takes me home for a while.

That’s the life on the waterway, 
Some days you're gonna get wet.
The Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Key West