47 Oxford, MD to Oriental, NC

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The lure of the Chesapeake went on hold while we did maintenance and upgrades to Tranquility. We had our fuel filtered to eliminate microbes that had been clogging fuel filters. We added dinghy davits to carry our new larger dinghy. Stainless steel fittings tarnished by constant exposure to salt spray got cleaned. Salt and dirt were cleaned from the decks. Leaky chain plates were resealed. The “ICW moustache” a brown stain on the bow at the waterline from all the tannin in the water was removed. An impressive growth of grass along the waterline was scrubbed off. After 3 days of work, both at the dock and at an anchorage, we were ready to relax.

Latrappe Creek welcomed us back to the cruising life with a spectacular sunset Off in the distance we could hear Canadian Geese calling. Their honking seemed to be saying: South! South! We were eager to join them. The next morning; however, we looked around and decided we had not yet fully enjoyed all the beauty the anchorage had to offer and stayed a second day for a rerun of the scenery, sunset and calling of the geese who seemed to be staying to enjoy the fine summer like weather. For us, it was one of those magical days that are hard to describe, but wonderful to live.

For us, Solomons is a convenient and fun stop on our way down the Bay. We pulled in for now our third visit and found a new place to anchor. The next morning we were up at first light and quietly raised our anchor attempting to leave without waking other boats anchored around us. I was just washing anchor mud from the deck while Ruth moved us quietly through the anchorage when there was a soft bump telling us that Tranquility’s keel was having an intimate relationship with the mud bottom of Back Creek. Hard reverse, then hard forward with the engine wide open did nothing. So much for leaving quietly. We put the dinghy in the water and with the outboard roaring, we pushed Tranquility’s bow off. By this time we were the center of attention of fellow boaters who we managed to wake up. At least we’d been successful in getting ourselves free without help on our first official grounding heading south.

Poking slowly up Mill Creek we found a spot close to shore where houses snuggled back in the trees were invisible to us. It made a great place to anchor. The closeness of shore and the tall trees sheltered us from the wind we could hear in the tree tops above. The mirror smooth water was disturbed only by fish feeding at the surface. Their small distortions to the smooth watery mirror reflecting the trees with their patches of fall colors provided an abstract feeling of the scene. We stayed for two days, reading, enjoying the beauty of our surroundings and taking an occasional dinghy ride to explore up into the back waters of the creek.

During our stay in Hampton in the spring we ordered new main cabin cushions and a mattress for our berth. After a summer of anticipation, we pulled back into Hampton and took delivery. We are very pleased, splurged and got ultra suede fabric. Very elegant looking. Our new mattress and custom fitted sheets are also a treat.

Hampton was also the start of major expenses to begin converting our stove over from CNG (compressed natural gas) to propane. CNG is the safer fuel, but not very available in the USA and not available at all outside of the USA. For twenty-five cents we rode the trolley out to the malls and more importantly to West Marine. We filled up the back pack and tote bag with the first round of stuff needed to make a safe conversion to propane. Installation will be done while we travel.

We met our first boat from last year in Hampton. Windswept IV, a Canadian boat we last saw in Vero Beach was at anchor. At happy hour we had a grand time swapping notes about adventures and places visited. Later on we heard other boats we knew on the radio and swapped notes with them. Friends of Eriskay, a boat we traveled with last year, stopped to introduce themselves. They’d learned about us from Eriskay this winter. We’ve stopped being amazed at for a cruising community spread out over thousands of miles, at any given time, you seem to find someone you know, or knows you. This is a very close, friendly small town that seems to materialize anywhere there are cruisers.

We loved the Dismal Swamp portion of the ICW when we came back up in the spring. Now familiar with what to expect we relaxed and enjoyed it even more. In places the canal is only 70 feet wide, however branches overhang the water making the canal much narrower. In places, it’s difficult for two boats to pass. For much of the canal we felt like we were traveling down a narrow, flooded woodland path.

Elizabeth City treated us more kindly this visit. In the spring, we’d been bounced around pretty badly by high winds and waves from the wrong direction. This time we had calm conditions. Ruth was honored when Fred, leader of the Rose Buddies, asked her to assist in hosting the wine and cheese party that’s held for the boaters each night. She was asked when Fred learned we were back for our second visit. We feel we are the sophomores in a population of freshmen cruisers.

At Elizabeth City we met the different drummer that some people march to. Phil, a former drummer in the Navy band, came down and introduced himself and asked for a tour of Tranquility. He has the 30 foot version of our boat. He then sat down and explained that he and his wife have 4 kids and 55 feet of boats. Three of his kids live and travel on a 25 foot sailboat. Theirs is a the 30 foot version of Tranquility. Phil thought we were traveling with way too much stuff. He went on about how they’ve removed refrigeration, 110 volt shore power and even the alternator from the engine. Batteries are charged with solar power. He’s also removed most of the windows and fiberglassed over the openings to make the boat safer at sea. We decided his lifestyle was a little too basic for us.

A thick ground fog greeted us the morning we were set to leave Elizabeth City. The freshman class was lamenting having to wait for the fog to burn off. Our radar screen indicated we could clearly see the shore outline and would have little difficulty finding our way in the fog. We casually mentioned to the boat next to us that we were leaving in the fog. He asked if he could follow us and we said yes. Suddenly up and down the dock we hear people calling: “Tranquility, is it ok if we follow you?” As we headed out, 5 boats fell in behind, and we felt somewhat uncomfortable leading the parade.

After the fog lifted, we discovered we’d been adopted by some of the boats. They followed our every move, asked on the radio for advise and wanted to know where we planned on anchoring. That evening we led a parade into the anchorage at Deep Point. The next day engine hesitations prompted us to stop early at a Dowry Creek Marina so I could again check and replace fuel filters. Dowry Creek is 6 miles from the nearest town, Belhaven. To our amazement, 3 of the boats followed us in. They even followed our lead when we indicated we planned on using our bikes to ride the 6 miles to town instead of taking the courtesy car.

For us, the ride was frustrating. On the way back one bike got a flat 6 miles from town. I stayed with the bike, walking slowly toward the marina. Ruth rode ahead to get the courtesy car. Did luck out and got a ride from a good ole boy in a pickup. Ruth saw us coming in and didn’t go on a needless search for me. For our friends on the bikes, the ride was too much. Ruth ended up letting one of the ladies take the car back, while she rode her bike back to the marina. We’re always amazed that we don’t think we are in very good shape, but seem to be in better shape than many of our cruising friends when it comes to walking and bike riding.

We liked Dowry Creek and stayed a second day. Our friends moved on. For me it was a chance to install the first propane fume sensor and the start of the remote shut off. Threading wires through the confined difficult to reach spaces on a boat is a slow process. The work took most of the day. Once complete, we went off poking in the dinghy. Explored a couple of miles up wilderness creeks, stopping only when the creek became so narrow that we could only turn around in a wide spot in the stream.

We joined the long line boats heading south. At times, 20 boats were visible. However at Pamlico Sound we hung a right and headed for bath Bath, NC. We met up with Tom and Judee on Cheshire Cat. We explored historic Bath touted as being the home of Blackbeard the pirate. Turned out he’d only lived there 5 months before being killed. The historic section was a tad on the small side consisting of 4 houses and a visitors center. At least they had a movie explaining the town history. The town was quiet and it was enjoyable walking around, but not someplace we’ll add to our list of places to go back again.

We joined the 10 boats anchored out in Oriental’s harbor. It was Halloween eve and even boaters were trick or treating. In this case, people in a dinghy handed out candy to the boats they visited.

We joined Tom and Judee exploring the deep water creeks all around Oriental by dinghy. It made for an enjoyable afternoon of exploring. We found all kinds of places where it would be fun to have a dock for Tranquility. However, since we enjoy the cruising life, we’ll file those thoughts away for future reference.

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