Belhaven, North Carolina
Tuesday 22nd November 2011
Distance run: 49 nautical miles
We had a very calm and peaceful night, and were on our way again by 0730 on Sunday morning. As we neared the Alligator River swing bridge we called up the bridge tender who very kindly opened it for us to pass through. We motored on down the ICW, avoiding fishing markers, tree stumps both floating and fixed and dories full of rednecks in camouflage clothing, and arrived at the dreaded Wilkerson Bridge just after 2 p.m. This is the bridge with 64’ of clearance that we twanged with our aerial on the way up the ICW, and we held our breath as we passed under it. The bridge is in a non-tidal area so we couldn’t even take advantage of low tide, we just had to go for it. The water level here is determined by the wind, and can be 2’ higher or lower than normal. In the event it was about a foot lower than normal and we didn’t touch at all. Phew!
We arrived in Pantego Creek, Belhaven just before 1600 with plenty of light left to find a good spot in the large anchorage which we shared with one other boat (and Nimue of course!) At this point we reviewed our plan to go on to Oriental the next day, as the weather forecast was now showing an unpleasant cold front coming through on Wednesday and Thursday with some high winds. We had stopped in Oriental on the way up and it is a very small anchorage where we would not want to be squeezed in with lots of boats in bad weather. We could dash on to Beaufort, but the anchorage there is on the coast and very exposed as well as having a strong current running through it. After a great deal of thought we decided the best course of action would be to stay where we are for a few days until the cold front passes. We are quite exposed to the wind, but there is plenty of swinging room here, so we will stay and ride it out.
Yesterday we took the rib ashore and went for a walk through the town which seemed to be very run-down with lots of shops closed down. We looked for the Post Office to post a birthday card and could not find it where our pilot book said it should be. By chance we asked at a shop where the Post Office was, and a very kind gentleman called Julian went to fetch his car and drove us there. It seems that a new Post Office was built three years ago (Thanks Dozier’s Waterway Guide for information that is three years out of date!) and it is two miles out of town! The birthday card successfully posted, Julian then asked us if we needed a grocery store, and drove us to the local Food Lion which was even further out of town! He then drove us back to the rib so that we wouldn’t have to carry the shopping far. This is yet another example of the kindness and helpfulness of the people we have met here, and for which we are very grateful.
This morning I took a big bag of dirty laundry ashore to the launderette we had seen yesterday, only to find a sign on the door that said it was closed until further notice. On asking at the drug store, it turns out that the town was hit rather badly by hurricane Irene, with water up to chest height along Main Street getting into many of the shops and ruining them. The launderette had suffered this fate and, like many others, has not reopened since then. The penny then dropped as to why the town itself did not match the descriptions of it we had heard or read before coming here.
I had resigned myself to no clean clothes when Anne came up with the idea of asking at one of the marinas if we could use their facilities. We all went ashore and landed at a marina on the edge of the town, Anne & I looking for washing machines, Steve & Michael looking for a bar! We found a very run-down marina with a closed-down restaurant & bar, so the boys lucked out. It did, however, have one working washing machine and one working drier, so we did manage to get the laundry done, and whilst waiting for it had a wander around the old mansion house and its grounds. The marina manager told us several times it was for sale – perhaps he thought we looked like we might be interested in buying!
We joined Anne & Michael on Nimue for drinks and dinner, and then made our way back to Scott-Free where we pulled up the rib, let out more anchor chain, put in the washboards and hunkered down for a blow which is due to start later tonight.