19. The Inner Banks

I write to you from Beaufort, NC, which is pronounced Beaufort. Not to be confused with Beaufort, SC, which is pronounced Beaufort.

When we left the action, I was at Great Bridge. Since then, life has been pretty good aboard Sylphide.

The easy, breezy, beautiful thirty-something miles down to Coinjock was smooth and pleasant. The weather was fine and sunny, and we arrived at Coinjock sometime around 1500. As I pulled up alongside the dock, a bunch of smiley and friendly folks were gathered around the bed of a pickup truck. They stared at me. I stared at them. I offered a wave, and they returned it. Then for some reason, one of them shouted ‘GO TRUMP!’ I’m not really sure what prompted that. I don’t have a Trump flag flying, or a Mayor Pete flag either for that matter. Slightly baffled, I shrugged it off with some non-committal gesture, and tied up the boat. As has been true at most places I’ve visited on this trip, it was largely empty. This meant that it was quiet, and there were no lines or waiting for the bathrooms or laundry machines.

The one busy part of uh… town? was the restaurant. It was nearly full when I went in. So many people had mentioned the prime rib throughout the day, that it was almost bizarre. I’ve never known a place to be so associated with a specific cut of meat before. When I first got tied up, even before the dockhand told me where the bathrooms were, he told me that I’d better go reserve my cut of prime rib now! Anyway I got the shrimp and grits, and it was delicious.

My only regret about my Coinjock experience was not buying some Toe Jam to spread on my toast. I’ll have to pick some up on the trip back up.

The next travel day would bring me across Albemarle Sound, and most of the way up the Alligator River. There had been a lot of wind lately, an it looked like it would continue. It did appear that this would be the best of the next three days however, and I decided I didn’t want to stay in C’jock that long if I didn’t have to. The wind was out of the north, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad with the weather at my back, so I went. The ride wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t particularly pleasant either. The seas got pretty big, and Sylphide was corkscrewing around like a drunken horse. I don’t often suffer from seasickness, but it does happen very occasionally. Today was one of those occasions. I just felt tired, and slightly green by the time I was halfway across.

As I stated before, I don’t have radar or AIS. Another thing I don’t have is an anemometer. If you’d asked me what the wind was doing, I would have guessed it was in the low twenties. Well, when I called the Alligator River swing bridge, I gave her an extra head’s up when I was about half an hour out. She said that the wind had been getting pretty close to her max operating speed of 37 knots 

 Thankfully she took pity on me and said she’d open for me when I got there, and she did. I’m not entirely sure where I’d have gone from there if the bridge didn’t open, but I am sure that it would have been a very miserable ride regardless.

Once I made the turn at the south end of the river, the seas died off, and my green feeling was quickly replaced with a ravenous appetite. I dropped the anchor north of Deep Point, alongside a big sailing cat, just as the sun set. It got pretty cold once the sun was gone, and my fingers were stinging by the time I got my snubber set up. To find a cure for this, I broke out my copy of ‘America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two’ that my mom got me for Christmas, and lovingly crafted a delicious pot of chili. I snuggled up for a cozy night in, and the cold north gale continued to blow through the night.


The leg down to Belhaven came next. The wind was still blowing out of the north when I picked up the hook, but not quite so hard. The trip down the Alligator Pungo canal was pleasant enough. The scenery was nice, if a bit samey. Wagner, my helmsman (read autopilot) did most of the driving.

We meandered into Belhaven just as the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy finished up, and with the help of a fella named Mike, we made fast to the Belhaven marina wall. The next day, we took advantage of the local facilities. The laundry machines were free and clean, so I took the opportunity to wash my bedding and jackets, and I cleaned myself up a bit too. They have the most decorated bathrooms I’ve encountered yet. I spent the rest of the day catching up on a few other chores, and exploring the little town. I was really hoping to be able to grab dinner at Spoon River, which I’ve heard nothing but very good things about, but they would be closed the whole time I was there. Instead I patronized a place called Jack’s Neck.

My waitress saw me fingering my Navionics app at the table, and asked if I was in town on a boat. Turns out she’d also come to the area by boat a few years earlier. She’d come from California, and over the course of six years, she and her husband had circumnavigated westward on a 31 foot sailboat. I was more than a little humbled by this, and very nearly went into Wayne and Garth mode, bowing at her feet and chanting ‘we’re not worthy!’

After a couple of pleasant nights in Belhaven, and a couple of nice chats with the gent who runs the place, I set off down the ol’ dusty trail again. The next stop would be the questionably named Oriental. By now, the scenery has all started to become a bit of a blur. The whole area looks very North Caronliney. More Houses on stilts, more long leaf pines, more cuts and canals, shrimp boats and sounds.

Oriental turned out to be a nice surprise. I tied up at the free town dock for a night, choosing the #2 dock, partly because it was closer to the bathrooms, but mostly because that’s the way the wind was blowing me. Sylphide felt a bit large in this confined little port, but I’m very pleased to say that I absolutely aced the docking. It was one of those times when you wish everyone was watching.

Due to the fact that I’d only need a few hours to get to the next port, I took the morning to wander around town. I left some dollars at The Bean, the local coffee place, and the Provision Company, which is a great shop for all sorts of miscellaneous boat stuff and even some groceries. The friendly woman at the Village Art Gallery also turned out to be a northern expat, who had come south by boat as well. I see a pattern forming here…

The lack of power and water facilities at the town dock, and the rules against running your generator, made me glad I’d had the work done at Annapolis. My big bank of AGMs barely blink at a night off the grid now, which is such a relief.

On the run down from Oriental, as I entered the Newport River, I saw my first confirmed dolphin. He/she/they was less than 10 feet away from me when I saw him/her/them, and I got about three seconds of blowhole and dorsal fin before it was all over. (Get your head out of the gutter!) I was really hoping he’d come back and play a bit, but no such luck. (S)He didn’t even stick around long enough for me to say ‘wow,’ let alone take a picture. It was still a pretty cool third of a moment.

I arrived last night in Beaufort, and signed up for a week at the Homer Smith docks. I really like it here. The docks are brand new, the folks are friendly, and the view is beautiful (pronounced beautiful.) I was even able to enjoy an excellent sunset from the comfort of my aft deck last night, since the temperature was a very civilized sixty something. Today, I wore shorts, and didn’t feel like a crazy person.

I’m looking forward to getting out and exploring a little, and maybe getting a little work done while I’m here, too. Ol’ Perkins has 250 new hours on the clock, and I believe he’s due for a spa day. I’d also like to finally get to work on the poop leak issue, which I’ve been very successfully trying to ignore for the last week 

5 Responses

  1. David thanks so much for your awesome stories. I am enjoying them a lot. Continue to have an amazing journey and please keep writing.

  2. These pictures gives our hearts a lift watching them in March in the middle of COVID craziness. May your adventures continue. Scott and Barbie

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