Happy Nomads have Boring Blog

Warship on our tail.. might be due to our zooming to get past him

Warship on our tail.. might be due to our zooming to get past him

In the end, Matthew was a non-event for us and probably for most cruisers north of Beaufort, NC. Boring I know. And I’ll spoil things for you and say that nothing exciting has happened since then either. However; we’ve experienced the longest stretch of settled weather ever during a fall or spring trip. Summer not included. Beautiful to travel or to stay put and explore. Often we need to choose one, but ever since Matthew departed and cleared out all the bad stuff, we have been happy cruisers. Sure, a mild cold front or two has come by; short-lived and we just stayed put someplace protected and turned the air conditioner to Heat mode.

Our primary form of entertainment is reading about, listening to and hearing about all the problems that the thousands of snowbird cruisers could, might or have encountered. Maybe entertained isn’t the proper word, but it has kept us interested and given us each lots to check into. Now that we have a semi-decent over the air antenna, when we get somewhere (anchored, mooring or dock) we turn on the TV and it will scan for available stations. We kept up with national, local and hurricane news during our nine days in Hampton, VA.

Matthew dumped record-breaking inches of water inland in South Carolina and parts of North Carolina. The devastation of the after-effect flooding is heart-breaking. Low areas, primarily west of the ICW at Myrtle Beach, namely Socastee, have seen the highest level of flooding ever recorded there. Flood stage is 11ft- the water rose to 19ft!! (Oct 17) (last yr when we went thru it was 16ft) The bad part was the delayed flooding. The first flooding happened during and right after Matthew; low opening bridges remained closed, people moved their cars to higher ground, some evacuated.

The waters receded but not for long when millions of gallons arrived as all the inland rivers brought their accumulated waters closer to shore. Historic flooding took many by surprise. Footage on the local news stations showed homes with water lapping at kitchen counter tops! Many were rescued in small boats. One story told of a couple who each kayak to their workplace.  Snowbirds were pretty much, but not entirely, stuck in the area of North Myrtle and Myrtle Beach ICW thanks to the Socastee Swing Bridge refusing to swing.

Between information coming from cruisers and locals on the ActiveCaptain FB Group and Dockwa.com setting up a page for a listing of the status of marinas, bridges and waterways, it’s very easy to keep up to date on conditions. We contributed info as we headed out ahead of the Snowbird Rendezvous boats as well as the thundering herd still barreling down the Chesapeake.  Fears of debris laden waters really didn’t materialize, at least not for us. If you are a power boat making your first trip you might not have realized the water was a bit higher than usual. (as I write this we are in Carolina Beach so I am talking about north of us). Masted vessels had to worry about reduced clearance at the fixed bridges but most got through fine with 63ft since up thata way there’s little to no tide range.

We’ve been taking things kinda slow. Last year we left Tracey’s Landing, MD Oct 26!  This year our blood must have thinned out; Russ says we need to get going to keep warm and stay ahead of that herd. The other day the Socastee opened and now we will push on.

Starting in Norfolk/Portsmouth- let’s take you along.

Tug with two barges- one on each side

Tug with two barges- one on each side, a unusual sight

We thought other PDQs might be around based on what we’d heard in Hampton, and then we saw two at a marina in Portsmouth. Still, we were surprised to see this as we approached Buck Island, that being basically marsh grass allowed us to see across it to where these two sat comfortably tucked in. Yes we went up and said Hello but didn’t become a 3 boat raft-up!

PDQ anchorage south of Coinjock south side Buck Island

PDQ anchorage south of Coinjock, NC south side Buck Island

Our next multi-day stop was Belhaven, NC. Calm conditions allowed us and others to anchor in the harbor and let others shell out $ for a slip.

More motors anchored at Belhaven than sailboats

More motors anchored at Belhaven than sailboats

This active plant was within eyesight but not especially noisy nor did it spew ugly, smelly exhaust but we were curious as to just what they were up to.

Perdue Grain & Oilseed Plant

Perdue Grain & Oilseed Plant

A very short stones throw past the Perdue plant is the town’s free dock; not to be confused with the Wynne’s Gut Town Dock which you pay to use. We watched a few boats approach to check this out, but they must surely have gagged like we did. One boat claimed bravery. That night a tug and barge arrived at the plant, using a giant spotlight to get close; surprise!

Free dock at Belhaven is COVERED with bird poop. In good condition but who'd use it? Not close to town

Free dock at Belhaven is COVERED with bird poop. In good condition but who’d use it? Not close to town

Belhaven gets high marks for being boater friendly. Walking around town (about 2 blocks worth) we ran into Diana, grand poohba with Chamber of Commerce and she presented us with a welcome bag full of local info and things to know about the town.  She didn’t recognize us so that meant we must be cruisers!  In a town of 1,600, you know people. We walked to a Walgreens and on the way back met a couple of men; we chatted about current events and then one presented me with a rose. Told how it came from bushes at the home of a man who recently passed away and he thought it a shame not to share the roses.

Spoon River had only re-opened today after being closed six days thanks to Matthew. No water flooded in, but some did drip in from the roof so they painted. Theresa (owner) took care of us (and all the other patrons I’m sure) that night by not only ensuring awesome cocktails but a free glass of wine with dinner.

Creative craft libations at Spoon River

Creative craft libations at Spoon River

Diana welcomed us!!

Diana welcomed us!!

Across the street sits The Tavern at Jack’s Neck. Along with Belle Porte and Matcha Pungo, Jack’s Neck was once the name of Belhaven.  This visit we had time to dine at Jack’s and while they lacked a cocktail menu :-), the food and service was very good and next time we may order one of the yummy pizzas. The woodwork dazzled!

The Tavern at Jack's Neck

The Tavern at Jack’s Neck. Do you know the purpose of the wood covered openings in the brick?

Next stop- Oriental, NC. More lovely, good to anchor anywhere weather. Happy nomads we!

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Looking toward the Oriental Inn & Marina from the Provision Company

Since our last stop the shorter walk Town & Country Market had closed, thanks to a Wal-Mart Express that ruined business. But then the WM Express closed! Leaving the town without a local grocery store. Piggly Wiggly to the rescue!  Although we had a longer walk (no problem, we need the exercise), the store was worth it. Very well and creatively stocked.

Come evening, decisions, decisions. We chose O’Town for dinner and planned lunch the next day (Monday) at Toucan at the marina. We’ve toured the Woodchuck Cidery with Benj & Lily in Middlebury, so Russ said “why not?”. Yay, he likes it!

Hard Cider time at O'Town Cafe

Hard Cider time at O’Town Cafe

Unfortunately, Toucan is not open on Monday, a fact we overlooked when we popped in to check it out on Sunday. Next time.

We are as guilty as the next boat of stopping at the same places you know and like; one less worry. But, what about adventure and finding new favorites? This trip, mostly thanks to Matthew, we had or would make a few new stops, Homer Smith Docks being one of them. Tucked in a basin on the north side of Beaufort, NC (like bow tie, bow) this marina hasn’t quite been discovered yet but it will. Once the home of large and smaller shrimpers, it now has just the smaller ones with new docks for seasonal and guest boats. Floating docks a huge plus and what we prefer.

Tony lets you take his pickup for errands, so off we went for a quick trip to Morehead City and the Harris Teeter.

Seafood and Dockage- clean docks, office, laundry & shower

Seafood and Dockage- clean docks, office, laundry & shower

I was apprehensive when we first stepped into the building as it definitely was a seafood place with wet cement floors and that telltale aroma. But the office, laundry, bathroom, shower were all to the right behind doors and very, very clean. Free laundry BTW. New front loaders, table to fold on, chair to relax in. Works for me.

Fresh shrimp coming in!

Fresh shrimp coming in!

 

Shrimp! at Homer Smiths

Shrimp! at Homer Smith’s. If I told you the super shrimp deal they might stop doing it!

 

Could this be ice? bbrrrr

Could this be ice? bbrrrr

Just come in and shovel up what you need!

Just come in and shovel up what you need!

No worries, we tossed the ice. We had originally planned to stay a while and Traveling Soul would catch up, but a good offshore day was coming up so we only stayed one night.

Beaufort bascule- soon to be gone

Beaufort bascule- soon to be gone. Cruisers may be more inclined to come here then.

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Dredging on Beaufort channel edge on our way to Wrightsville Beach

Dredging on Beaufort channel edge on our way to Wrightsville Beach

 

Dyad stands out in the crowd

Dyad stands out in the crowd. They took our spot too- but we found a better one.

Carolina Beach is 11nm south of Wrightsville and we love it for many reasons; good moorings, protected, long beach, dining, and all that a popular seaside town has to offer… like doughnuts!! Yes, Britts is closed for the season but Wake N Bake suffices very well. Did that walk Sunday then picked up a few things at Food Lion next door where I was handed two pink carnations. 🙂

More pro every time

More pro every time. Easy in light winds, not so in 10+

 

Wave coming atcha birdie

Wave coming atcha birdie

The waves brought in more foam than we ever typically see.  Oh, did you know that if the foam is brownish you might not want it on you?  Yikes, that’d be due to waste material in the water. Another hurricane not so fun fact.

Russ gathers foamy footware

Russ gathers foamy footware… maybe not a good idea we later learned

 

While on the other side TW floats peacefully on Mooring #1

While on the other side Twins floats peacefully on Mooring #1

Matthew somehow, we couldn’t figure out how exactly, did a number on the railings of the ramp. Other than that, the docks the ramp all perfectly safe. The town spent money and materials to fence off the ramp entrance and the yellow tape thing too, but hey we need some excitement!

We walked a short ways to the Surf House for a tasty meal, crafted cocktails using amazing ingredients (read: we had no clue as to what they were) and on Wed and Thurs 1/2 price oysters and $8 burgers. Yes, there are those (we’ve met them, heard them on VHF) who are hell-bent on getting south quickly and if not for an insurance limit (i.e, Brunswick Nov 1) would be crossing to the Bahamas by now!  We still have roses to smell and places to visit.

Being bad

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Dreamin’, Sippin’, Starin’

Libations Day! Doesn’t that sound delicious? Tasted singly, or together even better. This is another one of those places on our want to stop at list and we’ve been placing check marks left and right this year.
First, we needed a vehicle and thank you Enterprise for the upgrade to a comfy Honda 4-door Civic with a very modern dashboard. Brent was our chauffeur and gave us the low-down (we are in the low country after all) on good places to eat in West Ashley (as in west of the Ashley River). We’d already made our dinner choice for Friday; California Dreamin’ on the water overlooking the Ashley River. Three years ago we couldn’t get enough of their warm, dripping with honey croissants and we needed a fix one last time. Funny how the first time with most any place is always the best; why is that Captain Ron? Same this time, but we did enjoy seeing the prom goers in their gowns and tuxes. This is not 1976 for sure! The girls’ gowns are expensive and well suited for Oscar night and the boys with their coordinated vests, make quite the statement. Not that I didn’t love my prom dress, but “his” light blue tux- oh gag me awful!

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

Saturday morning we headed out, driving from John’s Island south to Wadmalaw Island; our first stop, The Charleston Tea Plantation.tea plantation What’s that you say? Tea grown in America? Yes Ma’am even though tea is not supposed to grow here the plantation has been growing tea for over 50 years. The only tea growing/producing plantation in North America, plus you can tour the grounds, the unexpectedly small production room, taste hot and cold teas and purchase most any tea accessory.
The tea bushes grow close together and are approx. 4’x3’ wide.

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Starting very soon, the new top shoots will be harvested by a very unique machine and the tea making will begin. The shoots get harvested 6- 8 times before the end of the season in early October. My favorite tea here is the Governor Gray; easy on the bergamot and smooth sippin’.

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The tea plantation is the prefect morning stop before moving on to the “good stuff”; the wine offerings of Irvin-House and their new skyrocketing venture, Firefly Distillery, the primary reason for our visit.

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That's our rental car

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That’s our rental car

Does the name Firefly ring a bell in that I’ve mentioned it more than once? Remember the picture taken in Hope Town, Abaco at Firefly Resort? Yes, the same owners. Must be a successful business in South Carolina, not to mention that Jim and Ann retired early and started the vineyard in 2001.
The tasting rooms are situated across from each other with a patio in between for relaxing and/or listening to the live music on Sippin’Saturdays. Saving the best for last we began by joining the next wine tasting which appears to be held in their small production room.

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

Irvin-House is Charleston’s only domestic winery with working vineyards, not a fluff place but real honest-to-goodness grape growing and wine producing.
The Irvins grow muscadine grapes, a fruit native to the Southeast, and produce authentic muscadine wine (with a modern twist), creating five labels from four varieties of grapes. We knew going in that we’d find the wines too sweet for our taste and sure enough three were on the sweeter side but two were less so. Their Tara Gold is a semi-dry, similar to Pinot Grigio and the Mullet Hall Red is a dry table wine that won the 2005 Silver Medal at the Hilton Head Wine Festival. In between the five wine tastings, we munched on popcorn, watched a short “history-of” video and listened attentively to our tasting guide. Walked out with our souvenir glasses and a bottle of Mullet Hall. All wines are $12 and except for a handful of shops in South Carolina (Charleston mostly) you can only buy at the vineyard. Producing 2,500 cases a year is pretty small-scale but enough to be in business.

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

Finally, the piece de resistance, the culmination of our tasting day; Firefly Distillery and its 16 offerings! Ok, so we could only select 6 to try but that was fine. We checked off many of the same, but differed on a few. Several choices can only be purchased at the distillery ( Southern Lemonade Vodka, Mint Tea Vodka ) and they are in fact produced on site. Several others (two rums and three liqueurs) are only sold in South Carolina and are produced on Wadmalaw Island as well. The more well-known delight, Sweet Tea Vodka and the five Moonshines are widely available and are bottled in Kentucky. Doesn’t take the brightest fly in the tasting room to figure out if you love certain bottles, better get ’em here and now!

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

Here’s an interesting tidbit (although perhaps only to us). We’d recently bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and with it was a refund card expiring the next day. Phew. So now you know that Firefly’s home is on Wadmalaw Island. I’d readied the form to mail in (hey it was $7) figuring we’d find a mailbox in our Charleston travels. We did better.

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Now you know

Now you know

Our final stop for the day, and one we nearly forgot, was to gape at the spectacular Angel Oak, a live oak figured to be over 300 years old. Words and photographs cannot adequately describe this sprawling, gigantic tree; a forest unto itself. We’ve never seen anything like it; truly amazing. Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson finding this tree 🙂

A small cabin on the property houses a gift shop and on the screened-in porch we found a woman who along with her sister and mom produce an extensive collection of sweetgrass baskets; now I have one.

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Looks like two or tree trees worth of trunk

Looks like two or three trees worth of trunk

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface, others need supports