Ship's Log

November 23rd, 2008 / Oriental, NC:

We've made our way through 196 miles of Intracoastal Waterway, and it's been a beautiful trip.  At times, the waterway was jam packed with other southbound boats and other times we didn't see another soul, on the water or on shore, for hours and hours.  We thought this part of the trip might be boring, or that the scenery would be ugly, but it's been far from either.   Click here for a little google map we made charting our progress.

Louie out for a walk in Great Bridge, VA.  That's SARABANDE behind him, tied up at the free dock.

Since, for the most part, people don't travel the ICW at night and the speed limit is supposedly about 7 mph (which powerboats do not adhere to), you start to recognize boats as you all make your way at more or less the same pace.  Pull up to a fuel dock and you might see that huge catamaran that anchored near you two nights ago, or the jerk who flew past you and kicked up a huge wake last Thursday.  In the Bay River of NC, we passed our next-door neighbor from the Cape May, NJ anchorage and chatted on the radio for a while.  Channel 16 on the VHF is full of drama, and everyone waves to each other.  It feels a bit like you're part of a big, secret club - a club of people fed up with winter - and you're all moving in a slow, unorganized parade towards warmer weather.

AMC on the lookout for floating debris in Coinjock, NC -

some places had big logs floating just under the surface.

The shore scene went from industrial Norfolk, all warships and huge shipping freighters, to beautifully desolate stretches with nothing but juniper trees and swamp grass.  We passed through one lock, under 17 bridges, wound our way through 8 rivers, two sounds and two canals.  The voices of the bridge operators on the VHF suddenly had that familiar Southern drawl.  Coastal North Carolina is lovely and wild - we've seen lots of hawks, a few eagles and at one point in the Alligator River, about eight porpoises came right up to the boat and looked at us (and completely blew Louie's mind.  OK, ours too).  

SARABANDE anchored off the Bay River in NC.

Halloween night we anchored alone in a little cove surrounded by spooky dead, silvered cypress trees.  We carved a pumpkin, made a pizza and tried out costumes, although they were mostly of the lame, "Adam Sandler on Weekend Update" style or involving the large afro wig we inexplicably took with us.  The pets did better:  Louie was a pile of smelly mashed potatoes, and Bus went as Anne Ramsey in "Throw Momma From the Train".  


No trick or treaters this year.

We made our way down to Oriental, NC originally planning just to anchor for the night and maybe check out the town for the morning before heading out, but a combination of impending bad weather, a great DIY marina, and the charm of this little town kept us around and we decided to commence with SPA WEEK 2008 here, instead of Beaufort as originally intended.  

The dishwasher's view, anchored just outside Oriental's breakwater.

Statistically, Oriental is home to about 875 people and over 2700 boats, mostly sail.  It was founded by "Uncle" Louis Midyette, a fisherman and farmer who sailed into the harbor to wait out a storm, liked what he saw and returned with his family to settle. The town was first known as Smith's Creek, until Lou's wife Rebecca found the nameplate of a sunken steam ship washed up on the beach one day.  The ORIENTAL had been lost 33 miles off Cape Hatteras in 1862, and for whatever reason, Rebecca thought "Oriental" was a much snazzier name for a town.  Apparently she was a very persuasive lady, and the village of Oriental, NC was incorporated in 1899.

This is the little health food store.  Apparently people who know the owner do call her
all the time to open up, since she lives two blocks away.

It's a great place in a bunch of little ways.  Everyone here seems to have a really relaxed, friendly dog, whom they take everywhere with them.   Louie's been not just allowed in places, he's been called in and given cookies (and free sand paper).  There's not been a single time we've walked along the road on an errand that we haven't been offered a ride by a passing car, usually a beat up station wagon with a back seat full of sailing junk.  The local hardware store has better marine supplies than any specialty boating store in NYC, and the guy ringing you up sailed around South America for ten years.  There's an excellent marine consignment store packed to the ceiling with smart, useful things.  Recycling bins are all over the place.  At night, there are stars and frogs and owls.  It's been a nice time.

Dragons are the town's mascot, and they're everywhere.

This is a restaurant called "The Silos" (formerly "The Southern Palace", which we think is better).  
They make an OK pizza, and there's the requisite friendly dog who lounges out front.

We had always intended to haul out for a week in North Carolina.  The prices for doing so are half what we would've paid in New Jersey and the weather's warmer.  We spent SPA WEEK 2008 at the Sail Craft Marina on Whittaker Creek based on some great word-of-mouth recommendations.

16 tons of nice hefty lady.

Originally, SPA WEEK 2008 was supposed to be all about painting and checking:  painting the bottom, painting the decks, and checking to see how a bunch of underwater elements were holding up.  We'd only planned on it taking a couple of days, not really a week at all.   

SARABANDE's spankin' new blue bottom paint - blue over the old red so we can see when it's wearing off.

However, on our first two little ocean forays, we discovered that two hatches and two portholes previously thought to be watertight were in actuality very un-watertight when pounded with waves.   What's worse, the buggers were in two prime areas:  over the V-berth, where we sleep when we're in port, and over the bookshelves, which hold important reference materials and our favorite stories.  Salt water really does a number on comforters and blankets (they stink to high heaven and never dry), and some of our books paid the Ultimate Price.   There was much laundering and gnashing of teeth when we got into Virginia, and the bare mattress spent two days covered in a dusting of Borax to absorb the smell while we camped out in the deckhouse.

The Grapes of Mold!  Soggy books that were doused with ocean water, left unattended for a few days and
became an impressive mildew farm.  
Sorry, George Steinbeck.  "East of Eden" survived!

So when we hauled SARABANDE out for her yearly spruce-up, we also added fixing those leaks to the top of the project list.  It turned our SPA WEEK into a fortnight, but we were glad to trade for a warm, dry bed to sleep in and turnable pages in our books.  As we've never owned a boat that was less than 35 years old, we are quite familiar with how to tackle leaks.  

He's fixing some holes where the ocean gets in, and stops his mind from wandering
where it will goooooooo-oh. 

That's one large hole in the boat!  No big deal.

After we took care of the leaks, we painted our decks, which we'd been wanting to do for almost a year.  SARABANDE's nonskid pattern was worn out, which made going forward on the wet deck akin to trying out for the Ice Capades.  Also, the deck was just really beat up looking with a million scars and patches.  We used a paint formulated with grit to restore sure footing (Interdeck by Interlux) and can't wait to test it out.  It looks great!

Painting the deckhouse.

Also exciting:  Brian installed the final elements of our desalinator, a brilliant machine that takes sea water and forces it with tremendous pressure through a powerful membrane to turn it into pure, clean drinking water.  It sounds crazy, but the water produced by this thing is actually of better quality and safer to drink than the tap water in a lot of cities.  We ran a quick test and the water is delicious!

Brian hangs a reverse osmosis membrane solo.

A close call with a happy ending:  Alicia hoisted Brian up the mast to mount some radar reflectors, and while he was up there he noticed the beginnings of a tear in the head of our jib!  But another reason why this town is great:  we took the jib off the furler, made one phone call, walked the sail three blocks away to a sail loft (Oriental Sailmakers, Wally and Laura) and they fixed it in under 4 hours.  They also inspected it and reinforced a couple of places to prevent future problems.  And delivered it back to the marina for us.  All for a price so low it made us want to offer them more!   

To top things off, we finally got the ham radio hooked up and we were shocked and thrilled to be able to recieve our beloved New York AM news station, 1010WINS, here on our boat in North Carolina.   Beyond listening to New York City traffic reports, the radio's useful for a bunch of reasons and we're glad to have it up and running.  

So, all in all, another labor-intensive SPA WEEK this year, but a dry, able and pretty boat is so much more pleasant to live in.

With the boat newly spiffed up, we're looking ahead to the Bahamas, our first stop outside the US!  It was no small task to get Louie and Sheba officially welcome there. After a flurry of calls to the Bahamian Ministry of Agriculture, a few faxes, a trip to the Oriental veterinarian, the post office, and an expensive FedEx, they are now able to legally set paw on Bahamian sand.  

Louie and Sheba getting all nervous at the Oriental Veterinary clinic.  It didn't take them long to figure out where they were.  
The doctor declared Louie "sweet", Sheba "odd" (maybe it was the sweater?),
and both of them free of communicable diseases.

Alicia making our Bahamas courtesy flag.  She hates to sew, and yet somehow always creates
situations in which she has to sew.  Discuss.

We purchased a big fancy American flag (we upgraded from a smaller crappy one after the election results were in), which we are required to fly from the stern while cruising outside US waters.  Alicia sewed a Bahamian courtesy flag, which we'll need to fly from the starboard spreader while we're there (which is the case with every country's flag that one visits as a foreigner).  We bought ourselves the best charts for the Bahamas and narrowed down that we mainly want to check out the Exumas island chain.  They sound like just the ticket for hiking, diving and rehabilitating our tans.  

The plan thus far is to depart from the marina early tomorrow morning and head to Beaufort, NC.  We're keeping a close eye on the weather and hope to jump offshore midweek.  We'll head southeast towards Bermuda for 150 miles or so in order to cross the tricky Gulf Stream current, and after that we'll turn the bow south and run to the islands as fast as she'll take us!  Of course, if the weather doesn't cooperate we might also decide to head further down the ICW to the next best jump-off point.  

Either way, we're getting antsy and we want to head south one way or the other.   Pottering down the East Coast has been fun, but we're ready to take off and warm up.  A cold snap here made it sleet the other day, which the locals swear hasn't happened in years.  There's nothing exotic and new about being cold:  time to go!  

We bought some serious fishing gear second-hand, so maybe we'll catch a big fish out there to serve as our Thanksgiving dinner.  Have a wonderful holiday!  We have a lot to be thankful for this year, and we hope you do, too.  

Alicia & Brian

PS:  we've eaten out at restaurants three times since leaving New York, which means Alicia's been cooking like a madwoman.  Lots of new recipes as a result!   



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