Apologies for lack of photos……. something is wrong with the internet connection and photos won’t upload just now :(

We left Brunswick on Thursday morning, with a little apprehension as gusts of 45 knots were predicted!

We have been out in worse, so with the wind coming off the land we knew the waves would be short, but not steep and decided we’d go for it.

Brunswick bridge left behind but visible for miles.

Brunswick bridge left behind but visible for miles.

We had a great sail for the first day, sailing on the stay sail, third of main and a scrap of genoa and making a steady 7.5 knots under a clear blue sky. At night we reduced sail and speed, so we didn’t have to go on deck in the dark to handle sails.
Friday we motor-sailed, as the winds had dropped. Thankfully the forecast rain didn’t materialise and we made enough distance north to be able to watch an all night electric storm display to the south and east of us…….lightning is our biggest worry out here. Storms build up every afternoon in the summer months and a lightning strike on a boat, if not terminal, is very costly as it tends to knock out all the electronics. At the first sign of a storm, we put the iPad, phones, kindles, laptop and the Garmin GPS into the oven, which we hope works as a faraday cage and isn’t us just being eccentric……..I hope we never have to test it!!

Our trip, needless to say, was not without a hitch…..We had to refill the oil twice en route, as the so far undetected oil leak got progressively worse. Luckily conditions were relatively calm for the pourings!
Arriving in Beaufort at eleven o’clock on Saturday night, we made fast to a long floating pontoon next to the docks and had a good night’s sleep. No one seemed to be around to take our money, so we cast off and made our way up to the historic part of town to a marina, it being my birthday and all.
Beaufort is a charming small town that makes its money mainly from tourism based around its age, the infamous pirate Blackbeard and the passion that people round here have for fishing. The town is old by US standards and there are streets of beautifully maintained clapper board houses, complete with stoops or verandas, established trees and shrubs and well manicured lawns. The one surprising trend is for ‘wild flower meadow’ strips of common ground and some front gardens, but that adds to the olde worlde charm.
Blackbeard was scourge of this coast, until he was captured and killed here. His severed head was hung from the bow of the British vessel that captured him, as a warning to others of the zero tolerance for piracy. Bad news for Blackbeard, but good news for the local pirate tripper boats!
There are very few deep draft yachts around here as the Outer Banks area around Hatteras is very shallow. The majority of boats are for fishing, either in the shelter of the barrier islands, or the bigger ones go out some 20 or so miles where the sea bed drops away and the Gulf Stream sweeps past. There are some huge fish to be had and the prize money for one competition next month is $1,000,000! Luckily we arrived well in advance or we wouldn’t have found a space at the marina!
On Sunday we took a stroll around the town and in the evening we went to the office to ask for the number of a taxi to visit Jim and Paula, who were cooking my birthday meal on board White Gold in a marina a couple of miles down the road. The guys in the office said not to bother with a taxi, but to borrow one of the marina cars overnight……now that’s real southern hospitality! The car was an iconic Buick Roadmaster station wagon which must have been at least 40 years old, but drove like dream.

On Monday we set about finding a mechanic to come and help find the oil leak that had us totally baffled.

Enter Brooks Heyland, a local heavy machinery and marine mechanic/magician! He found the source of the leak……a badly holed pipe from the turbo charger which he found by hanging upside down in the engine compartment. While there he noticed the engine needed its tappets adjusting……..off came the rocker box cover and the rattling tappets tightened for the first time in 25 years! He then took the broken mount for the 24v alternator away overnight to weld it together and then returned in the morning to refit it and rewire it, so now it is actually working and we can recharge the bow thruster batteries.

Finding Brooks was a godsend. So many mechanics are charlatans and aren’t worth their weight or wages, but when you find a good one they are like miracle healers, leaving you with a feeling of awe and well being and a grateful willingness to part with your hard earned cash.
We set off on Tuesday afternoon, as there was a good forecast for rounding Hatteras. Cape Hatteras has a reputation for throwing up very rough conditions when winds are from the north. This is the point where the warm Gulf Stream waters pass closest to the coast as it sweeps north and meets the cold currents flowing south from Canada. Get the weather wrong at your peril!
Thankfully we got it right and had a beautiful sail under clear blue skies, riding the current accompanied by several pods of Dolphins…….we never tire of watching them play on our bow wave.

Dolphins paying us a visit.

Dolphins paying us a visit.

Late on Wednesday evening, Marcus caught his first edible fish using his new rod. Previous attempts have snagged the occasional fish, but they have managed to escape with lures, or have broken hooks and lines. Normally I disappear when there’s a fish on the line, but after Marcus ‘played’ the poor thing for about half an hour, I took the rod and walked forward so the fish came alongside and Marcus could hook it on board with the gaff. I left Marcus to do ‘the deed’ by tipping rum in its gills and then he gutted and filleted it. Later we sat down to a very tasty supper and thanked our fishy for giving us five delicious meals……..(four in the freezer that has now been pressed into service) Although I don’t like the process, I can appreciate the result. What I don’t agree with is fishing for trophies rather than food.
We arrived here in Norfolk, Virginia, and are anchored for the night, before heading down to the top of the Intra coastal waterway for another birthday bash on board White Gold, this time for Jim’s 50th. It’s all go!

Our plans for Cuba are now officially shelved until the end of the year!

Marcus had an email from our leasee at the restaurant and he flew back to Blighty for a fortnight to meet up with her re the sale of the restaurant. It was very strange being alone on the boat, but it gave me uninterrupted time to get some sewing projects started. As with any job on the boat space is the thing in least abundance, so having the luxury of being able to leave things out from day to day was a definite bonus.

I started with what I thought would be the easiest task; the water and diesel jerry cans. The sun has already started to degrade the plastic, so although they weren’t on my original ‘to do’ list, I decided they would be an easy shape to ‘pattern’ first.

Fuel Jerry can cover, belted to the side gate.

Fuel Jerry can cover, belted to the side gate.

Having cut my teeth on the cans, set about designing and cutting the small outboard engine cover, which had it’s moments and the cover wasn’t the only ‘blue’ on the boat!

The sweat shop.

The sweat shop.

 

Small outboard engine covered.

Small outboard engine covered.

 

As I said, it was a luxury to be able to work through, without having to clear away every evening. After my first two efforts, I moved onto my first attempt at setting a zip!!! No problem! The bike bag replaces a completely shot piece of black nylon that was hanging in shreds from my steadily rusting bike. I made it a little larger than my bike, which looks and rides like a child’s bike, in the hope that I may get something a little bigger in the future. At the moment, when we go cycling Marcus pedals serenely ahead of what must look like a demented woman, peddling like fury chasing him!

 

Bike bag completed!

Bike bag completed!

With Marcus’ return, we were ready to stock up and head north. We had been in Fort Lauderdale for 5 months and were beginning to feel like locals……we could help anyone with directions, times of buses and where the best food stores  and bars were to be found!

The time came at last to up anchor……not the easiest or cleanest job after being anchored in the same spot for 4 months. The newly repaired deck wash pump and hose came into its own and the barnacles and thick mud of middle river were vanquished! We made our way down to the fuel dock to load up with fuel and water and then set off out into the Atlantic again bound northwards for Brunswick. Friends of ours had told us about a marina that seemed just too good to be true…..free laundry, free wifi, a friendly clubhouse and free beer every evening! Guess whose decision it was to come here!!

If only all marinas were like this…..reasonably priced, especially if you stay for a month or more, with great facilities and even free bikes to ride into town!

Barbecue and seating area at the top of each of the docks.

Barbecue and seating area at the top of each of the docks.

 

Brunswick Landing club house.

Brunswick Landing club house.

 

Book swap and computers. Free laundry around the corner.

Book swap and computers. Free laundry around the corner.

Books are a very important part of a cruisers life. We tend to get through a couple a week at anchor and maybe double that when on passage.

Meeting room in the clubhouse.

Meeting room in the clubhouse.

We are so impressed with the set up here, that we have booked in for September and October when we think the worst of the hurricane season takes place at this latitude. We could have stopped further north to avoid even more chance of hurricanes, but the weather here is warmer in the winter and the beer is certainly an incentive!

We’re planning to leave tomorrow morning and sail up to Beaufort, just below Cape Hatteras, where we will meet up with our friends, Jim and Paula on White Gold…..hopefully in time to celebrate my birthday on Sunday.