Happy Halloween!! Today we arrived in Wrightsville Beach, NC located close to Wilmington. Little kids can be heard trick-or-treating on shore. We have been lucky with a favorable breeze and sailed most of the way. Sailing along this stretch of the ICW south of Beaufort, NC we have passed many a home. That is really all there is to look at here. A few of our favorites:
It’s 40 degrees out and my house belongs in Key West. (Pink Lighthouse!)
Make note of my lawn ornament. A giraffe is the perfect match for brick and white trim.
I have a house on the beach. I have a house on the beach. So do I! Me too!
(When I hear news reports of the millions of dollars of home damage a hurricane has caused someday, my sympathy will be greatly reduced because these homes are built on a small strip of land with absolutely no protection from wind and waves.)
This is a house I once built in The Sims, but I made my window a little more symmetrical.
Cool dome house.
We are cold and overcast with slight drizzle at times. But no snow at least! Looking forward to finding the warmer weather soon.
Grilled Garlic Shrimp on Pasta with Plums
Oriental, NC had some really good produce and fresh seafood.
Breakfast Egg Omelet
Mixing egg with fresh vegetables is an easy way to make a delicious breakfast.
At a low heat, I added green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and some cheddar cheese. Fresh basil would have made it perfect, but alas none on the boat!
Vegetable Pot Pie
This took some time, but seemed like a great way to use some left over vegetables we had on the boat. I mixed in zucchini, onion, potatoes, squash and a little bit of ham in with some butter, 1/3 c. flour, 2/3 c. milk (I used soy milk), 1 3/4 c. chicken broth, 1/4 tsp. celery seed and some fennel seed. Any vegetables or meat on hand would work great!
The crust , probably the simplest on the planet, was made by stirring together 2 c. flour, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 c. oil, and 1/4 c. cold milk.
Served with plantains for some fruit, it was very good. Next time I plan to only do the bottom crust to make it healthier, because two crusts was a bit much!
Catch of the Day: Fresh Flounder
On our way to Cape Lookout, we caught a flounder and bass (we think) just outside Beaufort Inlet. They gave us some nice filets and we paired with steamed vegetables. To prepare the fish, on the light flounder I just added a little butter, and on the harder bass I spread on some of my mom’s delicious fish rub which is:
1 tbsp. each: paprika, garlic powder, ground black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme
We use it mixed together in its own spice jar. (Originally used and great for swordfish.)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Using a great pumpkin recipe book from my friend, I learned how to properly cook the seeds with a little oil (or butter) and salt at around 250 degrees for 45 mins. It went much better this year than last year (when I tried broiling them) and they were delicious!
1/4 c. butter, 4 scallions (I used some onion), 3 cups pumpkin puree (to puree the pumpkin I could only bake it and mash it with a fork, but a blender would make it smoother), 1/4 c. honey, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1 c. light cream (I used some soy milk)
It was very yummy! Plan to make again.
Cape Lookout is at the end of North Carolina’s outer banks. Once home to a remote whaling town called Diamond City, it has been a national seashore for decades. The 90’s park video we watched in a building next to the lighthouse featured lots of crashing waves and sunsets, but also told us that this coastline is known for its graveyard of ships, pushed ashore during hurricanes and storms. As we sailed out to Point Lookout we saw a research vessel coming in the channel, and were later told they brought up another cannon from Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge that day. We also caught a flounder and bass!
Surrounded by beach and the picturesque lighthouse, we appreciated the paradise and remoteness of this spot.
Ashore, we found many abandoned and rusted cars. A very nice guy, a local working at the park told us they were left by the people living here, who were displaced when it became a park. He also said things constantly wash up ashore, that the channels are shifting, and that he would spend his childhood summers here. He wanted us to know what life was like, that the people were very isolated and that the Depression did not reach this area because the people here were already “that poor”. Other than whaling, this region up to Ocracoke would have shallow draft “Sharpie” boats that would load cargo from large ships in the ocean and sail them into port because the large ships could not get through the sounds.
On our walk along the beach Grant was quickly graced by the fishing gods, who sent him many a sinker and lure. (Recompense for those we have lost.)
Sadly, what we think is a pygmy sperm whale was also washed ashore along the beach. (Sometimes nature is not all dolphins and ponies.)
The tide was really low, so we walked far out onto the sand bar, past this clam bed. We saw some of the best shells yet, a couple of sand dollars, and Grant found a deadeye (type of old rigging).
The next day we went to the lighthouse. The weather was getting very windy, so we headed out back to the intercoastal waterway before it got any worse. Here are a couple lighthouse pictures!
The weather that was forecasted had intensified and so we wanted to leave Cape Lookout to get into the ICW and start working our way South. We decided to head back to Beaufort in the Atlantic instead of the shallower more treacherous inside route. We found we could sail close hauled the 10 miles to Beaufort Inlet, but the swell was bigger than predicted and we had quite a ride with a couple of the bigger waves washing over us (yay dodger!). We made it into the inlet and anchored in Spooners Creek, south of Moorehead. Nicely protected and snug we are going to spend Friday here resting, refueling, and going to nearby grocery stores.
Onward in the ICW!
We have found every 10-year-old girl’s fantasy island in Beaufort, NC. It is inhabited by wild ponies and surrounded by dolphins. We are anchored in between this island called Bird Shoal and the town of Beaufort, NC.
Looking at the historic town on one side, the beach with ponies on the other, and the dolphins swimming in between was very magical.
To get to the fantasy island we traversed many a shallow canal, passing by those boats that had not been successful in their attempts.
Many had run aground (probably during a hurricane) to the shoreline.
The sands around this area shift constantly. Marked areas get shoaled in by the sand, and even a well marked channel has to be watched for shallow depths.
In these narrow channels sports fisherman and their wakes are also a concern. Most slowed down for us though, yay!
The bridge was our last obstacle, and Velocir was free to anchor among the dolphins and ponies.
She sat comfortably next to the dinghy dock on two anchors in the crowded anchorage. (Boats use two anchors here because A) it is really crowded and they do not swing as much this way and B) because the strong current swings the boats about twice a day)
We have two problems anchoring our boat. 1. The major issue is that we cannot wrap our heads around the concept that we are 27 feet long. After sailing tallships, our perception that we are at least 60 feet long makes finding a spot to anchor take much thought and consideration (how will we swing?, is there enough room?). Then, as we set our anchor we naturally fall back closer to those around us. In Beaufort we wanted to make sure the boat behind us was okay with where we were in front of them, so we hopped in the dinghy and went over to say hi and ask. As we approached the 40 foot sailboat we looked back at our own– a speck in front of them, not close at all. It is hard for us to fully grasp how small we are, but we are working on it. 2. We also struggle with depth denial, in 12 feet of water I start to get nervous, in 6 feet I am traveling at a snails pace into the anchorage. (we draw 3.8 feet and the one time I felt us brush the bottom in the Chesapeake the sounder was reading 3.5) I think this is a good thing though, because being overly cautious means we will have less chance of running aground, right?
Back to the land of wrecks, dolphins and ponies. We journeyed past the wrecks and dolphins to the pony island.
I was a land of pine trees, scrub brush and sandy marsh swamp.
We followed the trail and found many a crab, many a prickler bush, and many a mosquito, but no ponies.
<<<<The crab’s city friend crab pumpkin
It was a large island, so we turned back to civilization and the city where we did laundry and had beer. We also visited the NC Marine Museum that had an exhibit on Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge that they are excavating just offshore. We learned a lot, and were impressed by the painstaking detail and six-year-long restoration needed for just one cannon!
Video of the big squall today. After watching them do a bad job anchoring last night, we were ready for the sailboat in front of us!
There is a live webcam for Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor. We are the white sailboat next to the water tower.
Ocracoke is a cute beachy town on the Outer Banks. It is a touristy place in the summer, with car ferries running back and forth constantly from the mainland, a museum on Blackbeard the Pirate, huge beaches, semi-wild ponies and a lighthouse. Amelia used to spend Easter here with her family when she was little.
Our first full day we went to the beach with the surfboard. It was a good walk except for when the mosquitos attacked. We assembled the two piece surfboard we have been sleeping with in the v-berth, put on our wetsuits and Grant went out to surf for a while and I took pictures.
After a little while, Grant decided the waves were not ideal for surfing, so we body surfed near the shore. It worked a few times!
Here is the beginning of one successful body surfing attempt. It was relaxing to sit by the beach. The wind started to pick up after a while, so we trekked back to the boat.
Today (Tuesday) was a calm sunny day. We had a late morning and worked on our water catcher on the foredeck. It is a modified windsurfing sail that we’ve connected a hose to because tomorrow it may rain. In the afternoon, we went on a long walk around town through some of the back roads. This snake bit Grant’s shoe.
Walking down Lighthouse Rd, we found Ocracoke Lighthouse! It is the second oldest lighthouse still in use.
It is a very cute lighthouse. We continued our walk through town, checking out the hardware store, tackle shop, pottery stores and book store. Except for the book store no one was very friendly. The first tackle shop we went to the guy was so rude we went to another place for our 10-day fishing license. Not sure if it’s because it’s such a touristy small “local” town, because we’re young or just because Grant’s beard isn’t long enough yet : )
For dinner we went to Amelia’s favorite childhood place; The Pony Island Restaurant. She has fond memories of coloring the placemats so we got some crayons this time too. (Note: Amelia does not usually color the placemats at restaurants, usually).
After a delicious meal of fried seafood, we took a quiet row around the anchorage. Once again attacked by mosquitos, we headed back to the boat for the night. Expecting lots of rain tomorrow!! A great day for a book.
While writing this we were reminded of something else that happened. When we first got here we could hear a weird noise, like the snap crackle pop of Rice Krispies. We opened up the bilge and it was much louder. We found a bottle of vinegar had leaked and we were worried it was reacting to something in the bilge. We read online, flushed it with fresh water and called Amelia’s Dad.
He laughed and said he had heard it before and that it was just fish or something feeding off the growth on the hull. Sure enough we had seen little shrimp swimming around another boat and it seems our hull magnifies the sound. We had a good laugh at ourselves and have been listening to our little bottom scrubbers since.
To reach Ocracoke, NC we crossed the Albemarle Sound (big waves), Croatan Sound (calm) and Pamlico Sound (both). It took three days, and we’re happy to relax here now.
We left after a warm thunderstorm passed through Elizabeth City, NC and brought us this beautiful rainbow. The forecast was 10-15 kts with favorable W winds, so we planned to do a 20 hour overnight and arrive in Ocracoke the next morning.
Before leaving we made a lee cloth (a cloth that holds you into your bunk when sleeping), pre-cooked a leek quiche for dinner, re-sealed the cockpit floor and made sure everything was stowed in place.
Amelia took the first watch from 4-8 pm coming out the Pasquotank River from Elizabeth City into the Albemarle Sound. As the sun set she spotted the mark for the river entrance, but as the sky darkened it did not start flashing green as indicated on the chart. We had just passed one of the largest USCG bases in the country, so we radioed them to let them know.
The Albemarle Sound had some big swell, and as we entered it was Grant’s 8-12 pm watch. Grant sailed us through the rough swell and as we entered Croatan things started to calm down as the shore now protected us. Our course was more southerly in the Croatan, but the wind hadn’t gone W as predicted. It was still a steady S/SW, making our point of sail impossible once we entered the Pamlico.
This weather problem, combined with Amelia not being able to sleep through the rough Albemarle made us decide to anchor for the night and make it a three day journey. We slept from 2300 to 0630 at anchor and then sailed south again.
The wind still wasn’t going west! It is frustrating when you are physically sailing in the Pamlico, battling SW winds while at the same time listening to the radio weather service tell you there are W winds.
We did not find the the W wind, and after a long day of sailing to windward in 20 kts of breeze and 4 ft chop (the roughest conditions the boat has seen) we anchored in Long Shoal River, a bay off the NW area of Pamlico Sound. It was super secluded and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
We had only seen a couple of fishing boats since we’d left and were feeling very much off the beaten track. Most boats don’t come this way because A) there is a low fixed bridge of 45 ft. and B) it is more open water which people don’t like.
Finally, the next day on our last leg we spotted something in the water! Balloons! We were not the only other thing floating in the Pamlico. It was a perfect day to sail across the Pamlico and we used our Navik windvane for most of the journey very successfully.
Then, as we made it into the channel of Ocracoke, the car ferries came out. Then, bunches of dolphins swam around our boat! We had made it back to civilization.
In the midst of finishing projects and leaving on our trip, we didn’t find the time to write about all of our modifications. Here is a medley to update our blog.
The completed dodger, with an isinglass and sunbrella shield. We are very happy with how this came together and it is working well.
After building and attaching the frame (see previous post), I bolted a sail tape track to the inner forward top of the starboard (see acorn nuts every 3-4 inches).
Then, using a consigned piece of isinglass from Bacon Sails in Annapolis, I measured the pattern. To do this I ran my sail tape through the track. Then, holding the isinglass up to the top I traced the upper curve. I thought this would be a practice piece to use to form a better fit, but it ended up being just the right size. The bottom was already sewed in a straight line on the bottom with white sunbrella.
I cut my curve into the top of the isinglass and sewed on the sail tape, along with a 2-3” trim piece of sunbrella to protect the dacron sail tape that is more vulnerable to sun rot. (Later, I put brass snaps in the trim piece and sewed a cover that can snap on to prevent long-term sun damage.)
The bottom is attached using shock cord. We had seen this on another Vega we met in Bermuda on their way home to Denmark and thought it made a lot of sense given the shape of the Vega’s spray guard. I sewed the shock cord into a sunbrella pocket on the bottom. To hold it onto the boat it runs along the hatch cover lip in the middle, then extends outward on the wood spray guards. I turned the wood spray guard pieces around so that they would give more of a lip for the shock cord to grab onto.
The shock cord is clipped off to our dodger. It is very secure, but I can punch it out. This is good because if a big wave came it wouldn’t strain the dodger, just pop out.
I also sewed together a bug screen for the companionway. We used this really thick and stiff screen material. I think it is normally used under cushions for circulation? Well, it keeps the bugs out really well but was hard to sew and is mildly annoying to crawl in and out of. Apart from that, we really like the overall design and how we attached it to the boat.
On the bottom and sides (where the blue sunbrella is) Grant shaped a metal frame to go into the sliders. This gives it a good seal, secures it in place and makes it easy to put in place. I sewed the sunbrella edges around the frame so that the sides are a sleeve, and the bottom is a velcro attachment. The bottom of the screen also detaches by velcro to allow for a larger opening. On the top of the screen we did old-fashioned velcro along the sides.
Another modification we are loving is the glass window on the forward hatch my Dad put together for us. I never realized how dark the v-berth was until we had the extra light!
He started by tracing out where he was going to cut the hatch on an extra hatch we have from a parted boat. This pattern will hopefully keep the hatch strong and not have weak points. Using 1/4” smoked lexan glass he cut the window shape out. The edges of the lexan were then sanded, building up in grit, to give a smooth rounded edge.
He touched up the hatch and edges with a few coats of the white Perfection paint we had used on the topsides. Using a heavy sealer he bolted the lexan to the hatch and we let is dry for a couple of days and then installed it onto the boat.
Inside the hatch we added a screen/blackout curtain magnetic thing we had seen on another boat and liked. It’s really cool. One side is a screen rolled up, the other is a black out curtain. The magnet in the middle by the handles moves them back and forth. They are absurdly expensive but after patiently waiting one came into Bacon Sails that was in our price range.
Moving on to the galley, we made some major renovations here.
First, we wanted a stove with an oven, but given the original setup the bulkheads did not allow enough space for the typical oven to fit and allow for the oven door to open. So, we moved the bulkhead forward. We found a stainless oven insert about 21” wide to put the oven in. Beneath the oven we installed a door that gives some great storage for pans.
Behind the oven was a big chasm. We thought a long time about how to use this space effectively and came up with this creation that we really like. On the bottom is a shelf to divide the open space between the back and the bottom of the oven. This makes sure anything stowed behind the oven does not travel down. On this shelf I’ve stored dried goods in plastic containers. It is a nice secure place for them where they will not roll around very much. The best part is on the top, where we have hinged a galleyware holder onto the bulkhead. The stainless hinge to the left of the teak holder allows it to swing in and out, providing access to all the storage behind it. We put a little cleat with a string on the other side to keep it in place.
Next to the galley is the navigation panel. Grant spent a lot of time thinking about this area and designing it. It was very important for him to have a chart table and navigation area where we could look at our course and take down plots. (A plot is a mark on the chart with our position.)
On the after shelf of the dinette, Grant mounted the AIS receiver, handheld VHF chargers, SSB receiver, and computer with two 12 volt charge plugins. They are held together on the shelf by a piece of starboard Grant heated and molded to the right shape. Next to the computer is a Ryobi 12 volt charger for our Ryobi One items—a spotlight, hand vac and drill that run and charge off the same battery (would recommend).
In our dinette, we can sit and eat or do chart work. The dinette area is approx. 60 inches from the main bulkhead back. The shelves are approx. 19 1/2 inches (not including trim) and the table is 19 3/4 inches wide and 42” long.
Grant installed a white/red LED chart light above it. The seats are a comfortable 16 inches wide, 16 inches tall and 23 inches long and have latched doors for more storage outboard as well as pull-out hatches under the cushions for storage. I refurbished the table that was found at Bacon Sails. It originally had a door on the side that opened with a key. Very charming but not easy access. The bottom has wood slats across it that provides additional air ventilation.
I added hinges to allow the table to open on one side, giving great access to charts and navigation tools. A real chart table!
It is supported by the large wood dinette piece that is supported by the original lower outboard fiberglass tabbing, and is also bolted to the original upper fiberglass tabbing. On the inboard end of the table we further supported it with a stainless steel bar that attaches to the lower fiberglass tabbing along the sole.
It is one of our best upgrades. We use it all the time and like the higher storage it provides us with.
Okay, only a few more to go. Here are our propane tanks. We like the small size and portability of these tanks. The cylindrical shape fit really well on the stern, lifting them up out of the way of the cleats. Grant welded stainless steel tubing in a curve inside the top of the original stern rail. This is keeping the tanks together, with a small piece of string acting as chafe gear in between them. Then, on the bottom, to a stainless tubing support Grant welded two thinner metal holders and permanently attached them to the stern rail.
The hoses for the tanks are led to a hole in the outer cockpit combing, that is covered with a vent and led forward to the stove. (The solar panel and antenna cords also come in here).
In the aft lazarette Grant molded starboard to create a holder for our liferaft. This way it can easily be accessed by lifting open the doors and it slides out. Nothing is around it to hinder its movement. It is a Winslow in a valise (we bought it used but I think the bag is a custom shape).
We also led some of our halyards and reef lines aft to the cockpit. To make our opening in the splash guard near the cockpit we cut a chunk out and then did some touch-up paint.
We added some solar vents that work really well, except for when it is overcast like today.
The head is our last project for this post. It is still an area of concern (we are not sure if we a loving the head but plan to give it more time). It is a special Vega version of the airhead we got secondhand. It is chopped down and didn’t come with a liquids container or paddle (pee flap). We have been able to resolve these issues even though airhead wanted the unit back and wouldn’t sell us parts. We used a sun shower for the urine bottle and installed the fan and paddle pee flap ourselves. It seems to be working okay.
To mount the head, Grant once again used starboard and molded it with a heat gun. It is attached to a wooden shelf topped with formica. We also made our fire extinguisher holder out of starboard. It is a really fun material to play with!
Behind the head we had only the one upper shelf original to our boat. We were able to get the four shelf unit (common on older Vegas) from the parted Vega. I refinished it and added formica to the shelves. It was a perfect fit, and we mounted it at an angle to A) keep things in and B) because it was the only way it lined up attractively with the shelf with the shelves touching the hull in the back. Having this added storage space has made a huge difference and also added strength to the main bulkhead, which you can never have too much of.
After spending the morning in Hampton, VA (free bikes to ride!) we made our way through Norfolk, past the war ships and bridges, into the Dismal Swamp. We anchored in the Dismal Swamp Basin just before Deep Creek Lock. It was beautiful and the narrow entrance boasted 8-12 ft.
The next morning, we got up for the first lock at 0830 and started our journey through the canal.
Deep Creek Lock was a small and gentle lock. It was a slow rise of about 8 ft and no strong currents in the lock.
The lockmaster Robert played a conch for us and treated us with orange juice and cookies. He has quite a large collection of conch shells and asked us to bring him one back for him too!
The canal was like a hike through the woods. We watched the endless overhanging trees with their fall colors turning, breathed in a woodsy smell and felt a light misting of rain all day.
The fresh water looked like over-brewed tea.
There were a few homes along the way. This one was the most interesting.
After we went through the second lock, South Mills, we saw more swampy moss and trees growing up from the water.
As our day ended, this very healthy bald eagle was perched above the water just near our anchorage in Goat Island.
Determined to get off to an early start, we were sailing out from our anchorage by 0730. A miraculous feat I know! It was well worth it. The wind was N about 5 –10 kts and we were able to get around a sand bar we needed to pass before being headed (wind forcing us down) to a more southerly course by NE winds. The timing was perfect
We set the asymmetrical spinnaker again and proudly did our 2 kts all day as others motored past us. It gave us a chance to finish setting up our sun shade, listen to music, put together our whisker pole, read a book and rearrange some gear in our cockpit.
By 1630 we anchored by Old Point Comfort and the tunnel bridge just north of Norfolk. After using a sunshower for the first time (super cool) we were refreshed and ready to go ashore. We got our dinghy inflated and motored over to the Old Point Comfort fort on an evening stroll. History fact: the longest US fort in continuous use, where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned and where freed slaves came to enlist.
The fort was more like a well-manicured park amidst old military housing. Children played on the grass and Halloween decorations hung outside the historic homes the military families live in. The perfect lawns and older homes are like the Naval Academy in Annapolis, but here it is more empty, less populated, and surrounded by a fort. The homes are everywhere—inside and outside the fort.
One of the nicest parts of our walk were the old trees. They were everywhere and seemed as old as the fort itself.
Hiking up to the top of the fort, we found the pet cemetery (like in Scotland, Eva!). Mitzy was my favorite. Honorable mentions include Lassie, Skippy and Schnapps. And apparently one family in particular didn’t do very well with three of their pets in the late 30s.
After walking a loop around the side of and through the fort, we returned to our dinghy. Next to us was a sport fishing boat waiting at the ramp for his trailer. The guy wanted to give us some of his left over calamari bait, but we don’t plan on fishing until NC. He said we could just eat it, yet, still we declined.
As a beautiful sunset began to appear, Grant motored us back to the boat. (Old Comfort Marina in the background).