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