April 27-29, 2013
Leaving Beaufort, we caught the 8:30 a.m. bridge opening and traveled the Russell Slough Channel back to the main ICW. It was an easy trip until we entered the Neuse River, where the winds were up and we encountered 2 foot and some 2-3 foot waves. But after the stories we had heard from prior Loopers about the “Nasty Neuse”, we felt lucky. Anyway, we had a relatively short trip across the Neuse to our next stop, River Dunes Marina, just beyond Oriental, North Carolina.
River Dunes is a fairly new and really beautiful marina that is the centerpiece of a planned residential community of upscale homes. The harbor is man-made and well sheltered off Broad Creek and the Neuse River. It is a quiet, peaceful spot with great floating docks, beautiful clubhouse and pool and the hands-down, blue-ribbon winner of the nicest showers on the Loop! And the docking prices were lower than many places we have stayed recently.
The people on the boat next to us greeted us as we pulled in. They are originally from Cincinnati, but have built a home at River Dunes and are based there now. A relatively small percentage of the total homesites have been built upon, because the development was just getting going when the recession hit. It will be interesting to see if it ever reaches its full potential.
There were a couple of empty lots just above our dock, where we could let the dogs run. Bailey especially loved the opportunity to let loose!
We borrowed the courtesy car and drove into the nearby town of Oriental, which bills itself the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina.” We’ve been to several of these self-described “capitals” on our trip. I guess the first town to lay claim to the title can have it. We had lunch at a small local café and looked into a few shops. Nice, but all in all, Beaufort had a lot more to offer a visiting boater, we thought.
That night we had dinner in the gorgeous dining room at the River Dunes clubhouse. We were lucky to be there on a Friday, because the dining room serves meals on weekends only.
The next morning we were in no rush to leave this pretty spot, but keeping an eye on the next few days’ weather, we pulled out at about 9:30. The first part of the day was a long haul out the huge Neuse River, which had a bit of chop but nothing like the day before. Again, we felt so fortunate because we had heard horror stories from others about their experiences with the Neuse. After a few miles through another ICW “ditch,” we traveled the pretty Goose Creek, across the Pamlico River and into the Pungo River (which raised a question from one Looper, “What is a Pungo and did you see any there?”). Our destination was the Dowry Creek Marina, just past the small town of Belhaven.
Dowry Creek was worlds different from River Dunes, but equally beautiful, we thought. It is a small marina in a lovely spot on the river, and reminded us of the best of the peaceful locales we’ve encountered along our travels. We were joined by Loopers Rick ‘n Roll and Knot So Fast and several other friendly boaters. We borrowed the courtesy car and drove into Belhaven where we met SeaGlide and Bucket List for dinner at Fish Hooks, one of Belhaven’s few restaurants. It was a fun evening with a whole bunch of Loopers! But we forgot to take a picture – darn!
We woke up to a gorgeous morning, and it was tempting to stay in port and just hang out on the sundeck reading a book or taking a nap. But the weather two days out was looking like nonstop rain and thunderstorms, so we all decided to move on, skip our planned stop at Alligator River marina, and move on across Albemarle Sound while we still had good weather to do so.
Along the way we passed SeaGlide, whom we hoped to see again in Elizabeth City, and Rick ‘n Roll, who were planning to take the alternate route to Norfolk via Coinjock. Betsy has made it well known that she doesn’t like the Dismal Swamp!
Parts of the ICW on the way to the Albemarle reminded us of the Tenn-Tom in Alabama, with the many stumps and dead trees along the shore.
As it turned out, the Sound was a little bumpy, and some of it was on the beam which can be more uncomfortable. But Blue Heron just plowed on through, and we had such a good ride that I enjoyed a nice nap. It was a chilly day (cold, actually), but I found that because the wind was coming from the side, I could sit in the settee behind the captain’s chair, protected by the isinglass, and be very warm in my little “greenhouse.” So warm that I was soon sound asleep.
Around 2:00 p.m., we pulled into Elizabeth City, where they have two sets of free docks. The main docks are right downtown where the “Rose Buddies,” a group of community volunteers, bring roses and complimentary cheese and crackers every night. However, the finger piers are short and narrow and we wouldn’t have been able to get the dogs off the boat. Also, those piers were openly exposed to the winds that would be coming with the forecasted storms.
So we opted for a dock wall a bit further along where we could tie to the side beside a big sign that says, dock here for free but please patronize one of the local restaurants for each day of your stay. No problem there! But in fact there was a problem. We soon learned from the sailboat in front of us that the area next to the dock wall is locked off at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays and there is no way to get out or in. Thank goodness we found out before we left the boat to go exploring! We had a fun evening anyway, joined on board for docktails by SeaGlide and Bucket List, who also docked behind the locked gates.
This morning it rained non-stop, as predicted. It’s been a good day to get things done on board, like blogging and cutting the dogs’ nails. Joey is sad because he knows he’s next!
In the afternoon the skies cleared and we all emerged from the boats. SeaGlide and Bucket List did some boat cleaning. Jeff and Larry showed off their nifty collapsible pocket hoses, “as seen on TV.”
Craig and I took a walk to see a bit of the town and eat the requisite meal in one of the local restaurants. It’s a town that has clearly seen better days. But we ate in a little café where we had the friendliest owner and waitress. Between the two of them we heard the history of Elizabeth City, including the mysterious murder of young Nell Cropsey in 1901, which is still talked about today. They even drew us a map to Nell’s house. And they sold me a head of romaine lettuce from the kitchen, because they said the grocery was too far for us to walk.
Tonight we’re planning to eat in town again with Bucket List, SeaGlide and Help Me Rhonda. But we’ll need to be back on board by 9:00 p.m., when they lock us in again!
Next: Ending the Loop with a trip through the Dismal Swamp!
PS – Please note that after almost 12 months and just 50 miles short of our finish line, for the first time our blog is totally, up-to-the-minute current!