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!


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.


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

Calm Days Before the “Storm”: 9/24 – 10/7

Confident paddler- and yes the board needs more air

Confident paddler- and yes the board needs more air

Oh give me a home where the paddle boards roam and the waters are calm all day; Where seldom is heard, “Oh crap I fell in”, and the SeaDoos don’t come out and play.

Yes, we know a place like that; Harness Creek off the South River next to Quiet Waters Park. We’d anchored there for nearly a week 5 years ago for weather and to get Ms. Ortolan’s screecher repaired after Russ lost the race with s/v Pride of Baltimore off New Jersey. 🙂

And first off a few good boat pics as we headed down the Bay.

Time to clean

Time to clean. Too messy and LOUD to do at the dock.

We keep out of the channel, which is for the big ships, but at one point just before I took this shot, it sure looked like we’d be meeting up head on. The day was overcast and not very pleasant so we were surprised to find lots of local boats anchored in Harness Creek.

Perspective- 600ft vs 27ft

Perspective- 600ft vs 27ft. Prometheus Leader – probably a car carrier, left a negligible wake. Good boy

Sunday was sorta warm and quiet pleasant so why not practice? In the top part of the photo you can see the yellow rental kayaks, (SUPs too) at the floating dock. It’s where you can leave your dinghy to walk through the park.

Looking good!!

Looking good!!

The resident blue heron kept me busy but I missed a good in-flight shot.dsc04099-800x584

Monday brought breezy and a chance of showers but we bravely walked through the park headed for lunch at Main Ingredient, another great dining spot only one mile away.

Deer show no fear as we walk through Quiet Waters Park

Deer show no fear as we walk through Quiet Waters Park

Because Main Ingredient also caters, the dessert offerings are extensive and from our booth I could hear them calling out to us. The Andes (Mint) chocolate multi-layer cake served us for two dinner desserts.  We share. 🙂

Lunch at Main Ingredient. Tempting desserts taunted us from our booth

Lunch at Main Ingredient. Tempting desserts taunted us from our booth

Next stop Solomons, where we’d re-connect with our friends Mike & Ann of Traveling Soul, now also owners of a beautiful condo unit. Spot was more active than we usually have seen her, as she’s got more leg room (even though Traveling Soul is a large Defever motoryacht) and an attentive audience.

Spot is mezmerized by the garbage disposal

Spot is fascinated by the garbage disposal, but you should have seen her with the Soda Stream!

Do you know you can grow more romaine lettuce from the ends?  Ann told me you just do like in the photo below and soon you will have more for your money. Nice uh?

The lettuce whisperer

The lettuce whisperer: growing more from the bottom hearts

We were invited not only for dinner and Vodka & Tonics made with Ann’s magical formula homemade tonic, but to do a load of laundry. I know some of you can’t imagine how great that was, but it was pretty special.

My best new laundry helper

My best new laundry helper

We got to spend three nights at Calvert Marina (same place as this past June), but they were booked for the weekend due to the upcoming Krogen Rendezvous and a Defever Rendezvous after that. Rain was the word, especially Wednesday which of course was errand day. Ann took me to shop and we both got some things off our lists.

After leaving the dock we moved less than 1/8 mile up Back Creek to anchor. The wind was still honkin’ in the Bay although we felt little all tucked in, and rain came and went through Saturday evening. During our Solomons stay the wind display function on our wireless weather station crapped out. I don’t think you will be surprised to learn that the one year warranty recently passed.

The last hurrah of a line of scattered heavy rain. Was so narrow you could see brightness beyond.


Behind the trees and tall flag pole is Mike & Ann's Solomons Landing condo

Behind the trees and tall flag pole is Mike & Ann’s Solomons Landing condo complex.

Early on during our Solomons stay we began reading about Tropical Storm / Hurricane Matthew. The models disagreed, the spaghetti strands fanned out like octopus tentacles and we devised several plans, each based on severity and guestimate location of the storm as it headed up this way.

Top Rack was a planned stop for diesel and dining but they’d kick us out if a hurricane warning was in effect, so we had to cancel. I mean did we want to just assume we could find room at a protected marina close by? Not many choices for those.

One option was to head way up the Potomac as far in as possible; either find an acceptable anchorage or protected marina with floating docks.

One suggested marina could only offer us the outside of a T head, so even though it was a floating dock we declined and kept calling.

Then I came across Sunset Boating Center in Hampton, VA. Up the Hampton River and down a dead end canal, it met all our criteria.

We arrived on Monday Oct 3, well ahead of the very slow moving hurricane. The NE Bay winds were forecast to pick up mid week so why endure a rough trip when we can avoid it?

Never visited Hampton before, so a few days of settled weather allowed us to explore by dinghy and by land.

Sunset Boating Center- no frills lots of protection. Before removing cushions and closing bimini top

Sunset Boating Center- no frills lots of protection. Before removing cushions and closing bimini top

Over by the side street entrance sits the Barking Dog where we ate dinner. Casual atmosphere as you can see. Hot dogs, several types of sausage grinders are menu’s focus but they also make a fantastic crab cake-super thick and virtually all crab. Hush puppies were great too.

Fantastic friendly service at The Barking Dog

Fantastic friendly service at The Barking Dog. Our waitress was an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10!

Tuesday morning we walked approximately 1/2 mile to a nearby Food Lion. At the checkout the woman ahead of us pegged us for boaters (lugging a cooler bag) and offered us a ride back. She told us of a great dining spot downtown, “next to Goodys” with pizza, tapas and more. She even gave us her name and phone number should we need anything.

After stashing the groceries we head for downtown and well what do you know? we stumble (ya right) upon a doughnut place. If you dinghy up the Hampton River to Hampton Public Piers there’s a place to tie up and walk one block to downtown Hampton. The area is small but has many restaurants, a few gift shops, the Air & Space Museum Hampton History Museum, water access, tour boats and a restored carousel.

We easily scout out the dounut shop, but alas closed Tuesdays

We easily scout out the donut shop, but alas closed Tuesdays

Intersection of Queen & King

Intersection of Queen & King

We find Goodys and next door is Venture. (hidden behind the trees)  The posted cocktail menu was all we needed to lure us in. Priced to entice with Classic and Crafted Cocktails averaging $7, you can see below these were not eensy teensy drinks.

One size crafted pizzas made with their own dough, sandwiches, salads and seafood; tapas items served starting at 4pm. But what are Tots? Our waitress- phenomenal- plopped down this free sample. Cook potatoes and skins, add just the right amount of seasoning, spread in a jelly roll pan, chill, cut into small squares and fry em up fresh!!  Served with a side of spicy mayo, they were out of this world delicious. Some entrees are served with a side of Tots but you can also order them as an appetizer.

Venture's signature Tots- to die for

Venture’s signature Tots- to die for

Another great spot with a view! Excellent menu and cocktails too!!

Another great spot with a view!


This gorgeous restored carousel has a Connecticut connection

This gorgeous restored carousel has a Connecticut connection


Reminds me of the carousels at Quassy, Watch Hill and Greenport (especially)

Reminds me of the carousels at Quassy (CT), Watch Hill (RI) and Greenport (NY) (especially)

Each day small boats arrived to be hauled out and placed into rack storage. We had a front row view. The only other transient boat here was the blue sailboat you can see a bit of in the below photo.

Lifting up and into storage building

Lifting up and into storage building

Matthew was due to be at its closest to us sometime Saturday night-ish, and Friday’s weather was pleasant so why not one more trip into town? This time we walked and before ending up at Venture for an early dinner, we popped into the Hampton History Museum for a side of culture.

At this point any of our considered options would have been fine, even Top Rack but we were happy with Sunset as many days in a slip can add up those $$$$ and this place was “B2G1F” and only $1/night for 30amp power (only had 30amp). It’s a smaller boat place lacking nice scenery; even across the water is a huge barge. But the power was great; many places cause our ground fault warning to sound, the wi-fi worked well and we could easily get to downtown,groceries, pharmacies and yes, ok doughnuts!

Thank you to all who checked on us. 🙂   Next up; fun times during and after Matthew.