Almost There….

Dropped the hook in Calabash Creek today, which is right by the little River Inlet. This is the last stop before Myrtle Beach and as you might imagine, we’re a little antsy and more then a little excited. Yesterday was a pretty cool day in that our daughter, Genne, surprised us with a quick drive down from Myrtle Beach to meet us at Southport. She said she just couldn’t wait any longer to see us! We hadn’t seen our granddaughter, Eliana, or Genne for six months, so the surprise was very welcome.

So, backtracking a little bit, after we left Oriental, the next stop was Mile Hammock Bay. MHB is a part of Camp Lejeune and you never know what you might see coming and going from the anchorage. One night it was blackhawks flying over us at what seemed like mast height. Heading south there’s a six mile stretch of the ICW that goes though part of their live fire range. At times when they are shooting across the ICW, they will close that section.

From MHB, it was on to Wrightsville Beach. The only thing we needed there was more bottled water. We found it and paid the tourist price of 7 bucks a case. Later that night the wind shifted and picked up quite a bit. When that happens I will venture outside and take a look around to get our bearing and generally check things out. As I looked over to our port side here comes this monohull dragging his anchor at a pretty good clip. He’s about to drag into this 60 foot powerboat and at that point no one was aware of what was happening. I blew our horn trying to attract attention and then got out the spotlight. When both of those failed, I broke out the green laser and starting bouncing the beam off the boats. That worked. They managed to not hit one another or get their anchors tangled up, so all was good. I was a little surprised though when the power boat re-anchored right back behind the monohull. No lesson learned there..

Wrightsville Beach to Southport was just a slog all the way there. Wind and current conspired against us. With the wind blowing 25-30 knots and the current in the Cape Fear River flowing at 2-1/2 knots, we could only manage 3.8 knots of headway. Our plan was to anchor at Pipeline Canal but the dingy ride back to Southport to see Genne would have been way too rough. We ended up tying up at the Southport Marina. While there we took advantage of the laundry and filled our water tanks.

With the wind down from yesterday, the run to here at Calabash Creek was fairly easy and pretty quick. The powerboaters however, were merciless in the wakes they produced, even failing to slow down for kayakers and canoeists’.

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Shrimpers working the Sound and the only dolphin picture I managed to get..

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You never get used to seeing the shallows so close to the channel…

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Part of the live fire range at Camp Lejeune..

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One day I’d like to visit this place. Looks cool from the water..

Until then…

R.E. Mayo and Oriental

One of the places we always look forward to stopping at is the R.E. Mayo Co. shrimp dock at mile marker 157. It’s a working commercial dock with at least one or two shrimpers docked at any given time. Don’t let the rugged look fool ya, the folks who work there are very friendly and helpful. This time they had fresh, medium size shrimp, head on, for the outstanding price of 2.50 a pound! How can you beat that? For larger head off flash frozen shrimp, the price was $9.50 a pound. The same size shrimp at the market would be 15-16 bucks a pound. We bought four croaker fish and they were 2 bucks a pound. Awesome. To make it even better, James who always helps us, scaled and cut up the fish for us as well as de-heading the shrimp.

Next stop was Oriental, a place we had never been before and now realize what we had missed. The population is only 700 and everyone we met there was extremely nice and welcoming. The town has four free docks for transients and a nice anchorage. It took us a while to get in because of two thunderstorms that rolled through the area. With a reduced speed we waited outside the harbor and let the rains wash off the boat. Next morning at The Bean, a local coffee shop right across the street from where we were docked, we had coffee with the locals. Once again, they were very kind and welcoming. After everyone finished their drinks it was off to do whatever you do in Oriental in the summer. For us it was on to Mile Hammock Bay, home of Camp Lejeune…

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It’s always nice to see another Lagoon on the water..

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Sunset over Pungo River..

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The RE Mayo Co shrimp docks…

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Ya never know what you might run across out here..

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Beautiful Oriental, down by the city docks…

 

Until then…

Robert Peek…Lockmaster

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the most interesting part of our trip down the Dismal Swamp. And that was meeting Robert Peek, the lockmaster. When we entered the lock he welcomed us with a hardy hello and motioned us into position. Once lines were secured he asked if we had any questions and we really hadn’t thought of any. Well, that didn’t deter Robert from giving us a pretty complete history lesson on the Swamp. At one point George Washington was involved in the Swamp, since he had owned a bunch of land around it. For those interested, Google the Swamp’ it’s surprising the history there. Anyway, back to Robert. Once the history lesson was over, he again asked if we had any questions. We didn’t, but once again that didn’t stop Robert. He related how he was the newest employee having been there twenty some years. And not only does he work the lock, but when the lock opens, he jumps in his car and runs ahead to open the bridge. When he’s not on lock duty, he controls the dams on the feeder ditches.

I was surprised to find out that his main duty wasn’t to get boats though the lock, but to control the Swamp water level using the dam and lock system. Cool huh?

By this time we felt like we had a great education on the Swamp, courtesy of Robert. Then one last time he asked if we had any questions. We did. Michele asked him where he got all the conch shells which must have numbered a hundred or so. He said he got them from cruisers bringing them back from the Bahamas and asked if we had one to give to him. Unfortunately, we only had one and told him we were sorry. Then he asked if it was a horn conch and if we knew how to blow it. I told him yes, that I had made it so that you could blow it and that yes, I knew how. At that he asked to see it. I tossed it to him and from there we received a lesson in conch blowing! Turns out he used to blow the conch in Key West competitions. Robert showed us how to change the note and tone using one or more fingers placed in the opening of the conch. Incredible, and all this while waiting for the lock to fill.

So, I believe that will be our lasting memory from the Swamp. Thank you Robert for all the great stories and kindness you showed us…

Elizabeth City..Dismal Swamp

Very easy run today to Elizabeth City. We left the visitors center dock at 7:30 in order to make the 8:30 Mills Creek lock opening and arrive early at EC. They also have free courtesy docks, but alas, when we arrived they were all to small for us. That was ok though, we just dropped the hook and dinghied (sp?) in by the welcome center. The hospitality here to cruisers is supposed to be renowned, unfortunately on Monday the whole downtown pretty much closes for the day. Bummer. Tomorrow, however, there’s a farmers market and we’ll make another run over before we leave here.

After leaving Mills Creek lock the Dismal Swamp changes in that it grows wider and deeper with more twists and turns. I likened it to the Jungle Boat Ride at Disney. Very scenic and very “Deliverance” like. The biting flies we were warned about never really got that bad. We lathered up with bug spray and they pretty much left us alone. There were quite a few on the boat, but few landed on us.

Tomorrow, out of the swamp and into Virginia..

As a side note, I have gotten a lot of comments on Facebook about the name, Dismal Swamp. If you google the history, which is quite fascinating, you’ll find that the first portion of the swamp was dug by hand. I too, would find that very “Dismal”….

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The southern half of the Swamp can get very narrow..

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Floating logs are not the only thing you have to be aware of..

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The lock and bridge at Mills Creek. The town reminds me of Mayberry. If you look into the lock you can see that we have to drop 8 feet of water level to be even with the other side..

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Beautiful downtown Elizabeth City…