April 24-25, 2013
Leaving Wrightsville Beach we had a few low bridges to pass through on our way to Beaufort, NC. At one of those bridges, Surf City, our spotless record of never having run aground on the entire Loop came to an end. Everyone had told us that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Still, having covered all but about 300 miles of our 7,000 mile trip, we had hoped to make it cleanly through. Alas, it was not to be.
Craig likes to say – and in fairness, I think we have to give him this one – that he didn’t actually “run” aground, but rather “drifted” aground. While we were waiting for the bridge – which only opens once an hour on the hour – I went out to sit on the bow with the dogs while Craig chatted on the radio with the several other boats that were waiting. This was an area of frequent shoaling, and we had some winds to contend with. So while Craig was busy getting enthralled by the story of one of the waiting trawlers whose hull was built in 1943 and was in the Normandy invasion, he took his eyes off the depth finder and before we knew it, we were blown out of the channel and we were stuck.
This happened about 10 minutes before the bridge opening and I was afraid we were going to miss it and have to wait another hour – or worse! But as luck would have it, a small work boat came along just then, hitched our line to his tow bar, and got us off in time for us to make it through the bridge. Whew!
Further along, the ICW passed through Camp Lejeune, where boaters sometimes get held up while the Marines run bombing exercises. We saw evidence of some of their targets, but fortunately, all was quiet as we went through.
Much of the trip continued through pretty marshlands. We enjoyed frequent sightings of loons, most of them not yet in their beautiful breeding plumage. I imagine they are on their way back to Canada for the summer.
As we approached Beaufort, we were surprised to see more wild ponies grazing on the islands across the river from the port. One island is the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve, which is only accessible by small boat. It looks like a very pretty place, and when we return later in the summer or fall, I’d like to take our dinghy across and explore a bit.
Beaufort itself is yet another charming small town along the waterway. It is pronounced “Bo-furt,” as contrasted with Beaufort, South Carolina (another pretty town, as you may recall from an earlier blog), which is pronounced “Bew-furt.” All of this causes some confusion, as you may imagine.
Most of the activity in Beaufort is located along the waterfront, where there are numerous very nice shops and restaurants. We had an especially good dinner at the Blue Moon Bistro. The marina is right in the heart of it all.
We also visited the North Carolina Maritime Museum. It was nicely done, with the usual displays of the evolution of local watercraft, tales of shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast and an operating boat-building workshop.
In 2011, the remains of the ship believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, were found just off Beaufort. The museum has a large display of artifacts from the ship along with stories of the abundant pirate activity in North Carolina waters in colonial days. Today it seems that every pirate depiction looks amazingly like Johnny Depp.
Beaufort is an interesting and fun old town, and we look forward to our return trip.
Next: The last few stops leading up to Norfolk. We are almost finished!