Buggy Hell !!
We left Beaufort on the ICW motor sailing along the Newport River and immediately spotted what took first prize in our onboard 'ugliest boats seen' competition. We suspect it will remain number one choice for the foreseeable future. Looking closely it appears to have quite a nice outboard motor attached to the stern.
Would love to hear how a yacht broker would describe this boat in their sales particulars - turn-key condition perhaps?
We continued along the Neuse River where Mother Nature decided the boat would be washed once again in a massive thunderstorm with darkening skies overtaking us as we hurried to avoid the worst. The wind strength rose as if a giant fan had been switched on just as the rain arrived and our wind monitor (it was working for a change) measured a top speed of 41.9 knots at some point in the proceedings. Visibility dropped to just yards in the torrential rain so we reduced speed back to an idle to avoid hitting anything already in our path. Plenty of boats were caught out around us, some heading into Oriental, others choosing to just sit out the storm in the Sound. Either way it was unpleasant and we remembered the last time we were travelling this stretch the same thing had happened. The storm passed into the east leaving us with overcast skies and a good sailing breeze.
The first night we stopped at a pleasant anchorage just off the river in Snode Creek where we had hoped to have a barbecue but the rain storm and threatening skies put paid to that idea and in any case the fish was still in the freezer compartment. In the morning the cockpit was full of mosquitoes as Skip had stupidly rigged a bright cockpit light under the awning acting as a welcoming beacon for every mosquito for a radius of 2 miles. There were too many to count, some dead but many alive and annoyed at having their nice light taken away from them when we got underway at dawn. It took hours for them to dissipate but not before they had taken some blood samples and left some nice bite marks as a leaving present.
The second night we stopped just short of the Albemarle Sound in a large creek called South Lake. We had not been there before and we will not go again. This time we had thawed the fish so it had to be used. The local bugs were also looking for their own evening meal, choosing a sushi-style miscellany of human arms, legs and ankles. Bug repellent made no difference. It became so bad after a short while that we had to hurriedly zip on the whole cockpit canopy screen and then turn the enclosed cockpit into a killing zone for the critters that had already arrived and weren't in a hurry to leave. Down below Nikki was waging her own war of attrition against the flying masses, one of which had the audacity to bite her on the rear somehow penetrating through her shorts. It was probably dead even before she hit it with the swat. With the weather hot and humid the temperature rose under the canvas cockpit cover and outside huge winged green-eyed bugs the size of 50 pence pieces were flying into the clear plastic screens with a loud thwack! as if on kamikaze missions. So once again the barbecue had to be abandoned although skip volunteered to go outside and light the fire but didn't take much convincing when offered the option of baking the fish in the oven. So we settled down to dinner with the cabin temperature in the 100's with the oven slowly cooling down in the galley.
Despite intensive spraying around the boat some clever mosquitoes had taken refuge in various areas out of the chemical attack zone and then hunted us down in bed later in the night as we lay exhausted from the heat and swatting activities. That was enough - we needed a town stopover where the critters would be in short supply. Elizabeth City on the Great Dismal Swamp route through North Carolina into Virginia seemed a good choice so we headed there. Later on we met up with friends who had more to deal with than a few annoying bugs as a Water Moccasin snake (Cottonmouth) had taken a dislike to their choice of anchoring in its territory. After repeated attempts to throw the poisonous snake as far away from the boat as possible using a long gaff and it returning not surprisingly in an aggressive manner they finally called time and despatched it in order to be able to sleep that night without fearing its presence! Brave souls! They kindly offered the following pics for us to post........
Escaping early the next morning before too many bugs returned for seconds we crossed the lumpy Albemarle Sound and headed through the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City to enjoy a few days in what is described as one of the most hospitable stops on the ICW. We had a good sail up the river, passing the HQ of the Coastguard Search and Rescue base covering much of the East Coast USA. There is also a Blimp (non-rigid bodied airship) facility further along. Blimp is so called because of the sound made when a finger is tapped against the non rigid inflatable hull - we learn something every day here!
At the top of the river lies Elizabeth City, offering free berthing at the town dock and bulwarks. This promised to be a good stop, relatively free of the biting monsters we'd endured for the last few days. But it wasn't to be a straightforward arrival as we were to find out soon enough.
After the storms have passed.........