The Nautical Adventures of Captain Kitty and Her Crew
. . . or what I did on my summer vacation


by Les Rothman, Autumn Saga, NT37-054

Part II


Having attended to business, during the week at home, we drove back to Georgetown, S.C., on June 8th and at 1713 once more boarded Autumn Saga, awaiting us at the Georgetown Landing Marina. We stowed our gear, had something to eat, and went to sleep at 2245, anticipating a morning departure.

I want to note, once more, how I continue to be amazed at Ms Kitty. She handled the automobile ride without complaint and, upon re boarding the boat, went straight to her litter box in the head, as if this were her usual home, which it would certainly be for the next four months.

I arose at 0615 with the sun mostly obscured by dark clouds, which were apparently the source of the heavy over night precipitation. With the usual multiple personal and boat preparation tasks completed, we checked out at the marina office, returned the rental car and cast off the mooring lines at 1205. A very pleasant and unremarkable journey placed us at the Barefoot Landing, the free, floating dock, in the heart of the downtown shopping area of Myrtle Beach, S.C., where we were secured, in the last available space, at 1805. We showered and had dinner aboard and then took a walk on what had become a beautiful evening, to reconnoiter our surroundings. We found this tourist mecca much less “tacky” than we had expected and enjoyed an ice cream cone, to boot. We returned to Saga and a tired Louise went to sleep. I returned some telephone calls, now that I had excellent cell phone connectivity and read for a while and then joined her in the stateroom.

Ms Kitty added to her repertoire of activities by starting to play ball, batting such around the cabin with her paws, as if it were a hockey puck. Additionally, we now found her many a morning sitting on top of one of our stateroom hanging lockers, looking out of the port hole, observing the approaching dawn. To us, this was preferable to her awakening us for entertainment purposes.

The next morning began as most all of the others had. However, by 1040 we realized we just wanted a lay day. So we each occupied ourselves with the many available diversions at hand both aboard and on land. Additionally, we planned an early, for us, next day departure, at dead low water, for the passage through the “notorious” rock pile just ahead. This strategy permitted excellent direct visual observation of the rock ledges that border this ICW section, which includes at least one channel marker placed high on a bank. At high water, it would be rather easy to run on to the rocks, since, customarily, almost all channel markers routinely are placed on the edge of the MLW channel. We also made reservations at the new St. James Plantation Marina, at South Port, S.C. The day passed rather easily for both of us, each enjoying doing our “own thing.” Evening had us with drinks on the aft deck, dinner aboard and music from our own youthful days, on the radio, until we retired to sleep.

We both were awakened by Lou’s alarm clock and I completed my breakfast before 0645. While I made final preparations for departure, Lou cleaned up from breakfast and we slipped the dock lines at 0735. Low water was predicted to be at 0730 so we were moving through the “rock pile” at slack before flood. All went without any difficulty and we encountered no vessels during this narrow passage. We were fortunate in that we only had to wait for one bridge to open, the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge, where we held station for 35 minutes. The only other location we expected to encounter difficulty, Lockwood’s Folly, had recently been dredged, so we passed with ease. Along this leg, we had been following a sailboat we had seen at the Barefoot Landing. A small U.S.C.G. vessel passed us and waived and then proceeded to hail and then board the sailboat. We waited astern until they waived us to pass. From what we heard on the radio, this was a routine and random boarding. We had never before witnessed such on the water and I found it quite interesting how it was executed, while both vessels continued under way. We made the St. James Plantation marina at 1300. We went in for fuel and a holding tank pump-out and then proceeded to our assigned slip. Rain was imminent. While I tied up, Louise went to sign in. Then we had lunch aboard. After the rain abated, Lou went walking and I washed the boat. When she returned, she ran the vacuum cleaner inside. Now we were ship shape. Dinner aboard was accompanied by Prairie Home Companion, on NPR, followed by some cool jazz. Then we both went to sleep at 2240.

I arose at 0527 to a temperature of 76*F. and a falling barometer. The air was still and the boats were mirrored on the water. I made breakfast this morning, juice, cheese grits and coffee. House keeping completed, we departed the marina and were on the Cape Fear River within 35 minutes, heading up stream and now in N. C. Our destination was Wrightsville Beach, where an excellent anchorage, protected on four sides and large enough for many boats, awaited us. We rendezvoused here with our past cruising companion Nordic Tug, at 1345. It was the first time we had seen them in many days. Louise joined the other couple swimming between our two boats while I took some pictures. Then the other vessel’s dinghy was launched and we all rode to shore where we walked around to see the sights and to perhaps find a restaurant. However, true to his previous behavior, we could find none for which he was willing to pay, so we returned to our respective vessels, with some small purchases, for dinner aboard. It was excellent as usual. We then read the Sunday N.Y. Times, Louise had procured and retired to bed.

I arose at 0530 and almost immediately retreated to bed but the sound of our companion Nordic Tug’s anchor windlass brought me to my feet once more. I spoke with the other captain who indicated that he planned to depart at 0630 bound for the vicinity of Swainsboro. Since that was my plan too, we agreed to speak later when underway and find an anchorage together. We completed our usual morning routine of breakfast, personal hygiene, boat checks and house cleaning and weighed anchor at 0825. The weather was deteriorating with the barometer falling, the wind rising and the temperature already 76*F. Using what proved to be erroneous information about a restricted bridge opening, we loafed along to minimize holding station at the bridge and lost an hour as we could have easily made its earlier opening. From now on, I’ll do my own checking. We made Mile Hammock Bay anchorage and had the hook set at 1408, joining the other already anchored Nordic Tug. We were the only civilian vessels in this bay, at that time. This is the U.S. Marine Base at Camp Lejune, N.C. The anchorage got crowded as the afternoon wore on. The barometer continued to fall and the wind to rise to a now estimated speed of 15 – 20 knots, from the S. I checked the security of all items outside. The anchor rode, now about as taught as I’d ever seen her, was holding and, as there was still good light, bearings told me we were not dragging. I was not convinced that some of the late arrivals were as secure as were we. One tried three different places before being satisfied of their security. After discussing with the other captain the next day’s plans, I called Morehead City and made reservations at the Dockside Marina. He was going to try and find an anchorage in that area. An excellent dinner aboard was followed by relaxing on the aft deck and listening to classical music, as the air cooled, with the setting sun. Near 2030, we retired inside to shower and read in the salon. I made my last anchor check before going to sleep and enjoyed the light on the clouds and water of the beautiful silver crescent moon.

We both arose at 0603 to the sound of Ms Kitty playing vigorously and a windlass hauling chain. While the other Tug was first to depart, the other vessels soon followed and we were the last in the anchorage. We had completed all of our morning routine, when some Marines came by, in a small boat, and gave us friendly encouragement to leave, as they had some under water demolition exercises to practice. It took me some 15 minutes to break out the anchor. We finally departed at 0845. It was now raining, the wind SW at 10 knots and the sky mostly cloudy with a temperature of 80*F. For the next few miles, we continued within the military reservation. Live firing is not uncommon and ordinance can cross the waterway. There is a system of lights and signs to inform vessels of such and direct them to stop and hold station. Fortunately for us, there was no interruption to our transit. We cleared the Onslow Bridge, the only one we needed to open, at 0935 and made Morehead City at 1315. We had a great deal of difficulty in reaching the marina and multiple efforts by both VHF and cell phone were to no avail. We were about to try another marina, when we were hailed by Dockside and guided into our reserved slip. A very strong beam current and wind made a bow landing advisable. The short finger piers made disembarking problematic. The dock master brought some steps which, to some degree, alleviated the problem. Some ingenuity on my part solved the problematic shore power problem as well as the mooring line placement and we were basically secured by 1415. Our sometimes companion Nordic Tug was anchored up a creek. I received a phone call from a boating friend, in Florida, who wanted an update, on our progress. I washed the boat while Louise washed the clothes. We would treat ourselves to a dinner out this evening. We cleaned up and dressed and following the recommendation of a local on the docks, we avoided the “place to go” and found ourselves in a quiet, gourmet restaurant named Key West, with live music and a sedate clientele. We enjoyed arguably one of the best dinners we had ever had. {If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it!} We then walked around town and returned to Saga for a good night’s rest.

The next morning, we ate a light breakfast, called for a slip reservation in Oriental, did some shopping and slipped our lines at 0955. We said goodbye to the other Tug, by radio. He was laying over in Beaufort to replace batteries. We did not know it at the time but it would be two months before our paths crossed again. An uneventful transit had us make landfall at the Oriental Harbor Marina at 1300 and we secured in a slip. After signing in and examining these new facilities, we walked the historic district. The temperature of 92*F had Louise “wilting.” We stopped in a marine supply store to buy Chesapeake Bay charts but they had none, so we returned to the marina. The dock master called a newly opened West Marine store and found out that they had just what I was looking for. It was a bit of a distance to walk in the heat and the dock boy offered to drive me there. Purchase completed, I returned to the marina, insisted he take an initially refused five dollar gratuity, and walked to Autumn Saga. Louise had done some food shopping in the Marina Village Store and this became the basis of our dinner. This is a very nice new facility in all respects. The only slight inconvenience was that my cell phone would not work at the boat. I took the advice of the dock master and spent ten minutes walking to the top of a nearby bridge where the phone worked perfectly. After we ate and, with the sun and consequently the temperature declining, we walked around the docks. The delightful mid-June evening soon gave way to rain. We returned to Saga to read and to sleep. Upon awakening, I noted that the barometer had continued to fall. The morning routine completed, we called for a holding tank pump out, advertised as available at each slip. The dock master soon arrived with the wheeled equipment. It was, in fact, manually operated and after I had hooked up the hose, the dock master pumped it until our tank was empty. It looked like hard work. He, too, initially refused my offer of a tip. Overall, this is a fine marina to stop at, if it fits your cruising agenda.

In leaving our slip, I forgot to free one spring line. This was quickly noted by my first mate and no harm was done. An uneventful transit was made to Belhaven, where we secured at the River Forest Marina, at 1433. There we encountered another Florida based cruising boat out of Punta Gorda, which we had seen intermittently along the ICW. He was awaiting the arrival of a replacement drive belt for his generator. We visited with the couple, for a while and then with a man interested in talking about Nordic Tugs. He was contemplating purchasing one to replace his sailing catamaran. Lou went swimming, I checked the boat and then we showered, walked the pretty, tree shaded streets and had an excellent dinner downtown. The marina office was in an historical hotel with its own attractive bar and dining room which also would have served us well. Back at the boat, we watched a movie on television and then went to bed.

When ready in the morning, we cleared our slip at 0830 and, after an unremarkable passage, made the Alligator River Marina at 1425. We took on fuel and went to our assigned slip. We visited with a number of adjacent cruisers and with a “professional” captain delivering a new, fully found, 50 foot SeaRay express. He had run hard aground just a short way to the north and had been towed back to this marina. This was the same vessel that had passed us many hours before on the Alligator River–Pungo River canal. We made special note of where he said he had met the bottom. This is the place where one has to choose whether to transit the Dismal Swamp Canal via Elizabeth City or through the Virginia Cut via Coinjock. We elected to go the Dismal Swamp route as we had read and heard of its beauty and historical significance. Additionally, Elizabeth City welcomes cruisers and offers free dockage in the heart of downtown. In spite of Louise wanting to eat, yet again, at the restaurant, dinner was consumed aboard. The barometer’s rise, noted early in the day, had been the sign for the now present beautiful, cool, breezy, starry skied, moonlit evening and, after dinner, was spent reading on the aft deck until darkness and flying biting insects, which although amusing Ms Kitty, drove me inside. I went to bed about 2130 to read and sleep.

At my 0600 arising, I was greeted by both Ms Kitty, who appeared ready to “rock” and by a perfect morning. A cloudless blue sky, a rising barometer, a wind about 5 knots and a temperature of 72*F beckoned. The morning routine completed, we left the Alligator River Marina at 0840. Entering the Albemarle Sound, at the point the SeaRay captain said he’d run aground, we determined that he had to have run out of the channel from lack of attention, as the markers here did not conform to the chart. We followed the markers and passed without difficulty. We crossed the Sound and took the ICW route up the Pasquotank River toward Elizabeth City. The Albemarle Sound has a reputation for undoing mariners. Indeed, we saw T-shirts for sale that said, “I survived the Albemarle.” This date, it was a smooth ride and I relaxed letting the auto pilot steer. Reaching Elizabeth City, at 1230, it was exactly as expected. We secured bow first, in a narrow slip next to a sailboat also heading north that we had seen, from time to time, on the passage. They helped us with lines and we deployed complementary fenders for mutual protection. We had lunch, returned a number of telephone calls and went for a walk along the attractive streets of this small southern city. Some of the homes date to the 1700s, we were so informed by a passerby, who saw us taking pictures.. We shopped for food and returned to Autumn Saga. Around 1600, a city welcoming group set up a wine and cheese buffet in front of the docks and we joined the other cruisers and visited with the welcoming party. This is a delightful tradition that has gone on for many years. We also visited with the couple on the sailboat abaft our beam. Then we showered and went out for dinner. We chose a restaurant on Water Street, Cedar Creek, just across from the marina. Excellent food and service was provided, in spite of the Saturday night crowd. The attentive owner came around more than once to inquirer if all was o.k. When we returned to Autumn Saga, we were greeted by loud rock music emanating from the Grouper restaurant next to the marina. Tomorrow required an early departure to make the first bridge at 0800 and then the first lock opening at the southern end of the Dismal Swamp canal, so we were in bed by 2200.

We were ready to go about 0800 when the cruise boat Bonnie Blue hailed us and suggested that as they were going north bound too, they would proceed to the bridge and hold for us. Thus, we passed through together and continued north on the Pasquotank River, an absolutely beautiful passage, reminding us of many sections on the St. Johns. When there was room to pass, I did so and continued on past South Mills and to the lock where a number of other vessels were already holding station. However, when Bonnie Blue arrived, the lock master waived her into the lock first and we all followed her lead. Once in the canal, there was little chance to pass. We had wanted to stop for the night midway through at the visitor’s center but there was no room at the bulkhead so we continued to follow Bonnie Blue to the north lock. The guide books indicated that there was a public tie up here where one could wait until morning, for the first lock opening. However, when we arrived, the cruise ship was already secured and discharging her passengers. We hailed them and asked how long they would be. They said that they would stay all night and had reserved the entire dock. After a few minutes and much to our surprise, the cruise ship captain suggested we come along side and raft up to them. This we did and then some minutes later, we were invited aboard to join the captain and his mate for some wine and conversation. We returned the invitation to come look at Saga, which they accepted. Then, we spent over an hour with them, learning about there operation, the five vessels that they owned and that there official home was just off the Caloosahatchee River. We returned to Autumn Saga and had dinner. We prepared, in our own venues, for tomorrow’s departure and went to sleep. Ms Kitty awakened me at 0500 but I tried not to stir and encourage her efforts. Finally, at 0600, I arose and began a leisurely breakfast preparation. It was cloudy and windy with a temperature of 66*F. The first northbound lock through was not to be until 1130 so we had plenty of time to relax before embarking. With Hampton our planned destination, we did not have far to go. However, we expected that we would be picking up considerable large ship traffic plus a number of bridges to open as we proceeded north on the Elizabeth River past Portsmouth toward Norfolk and Hampton. We made the first northbound lock opening, which we cleared into Deep Creek at 1135. As it turned out, there was little ship traffic, with which to contend. However, there were a number of bridges to open. As all of the other yachts were wind driven, no matter the bunch we passed, we always were held up by the next bridge tender so that only one opening would allow all to pass in a group. The weather got nastier as we got closer to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and when we had to cross the mouth to reach the Hampton River we were seeing six feet progressively on the nose, the starboard beam and then the starboard quarter. We reached the City Marina at Hampton, circa 1500, where we had reservations and secured without any dock hand assistance. There is little to recommend this facility as their slips are crosswise to the prevailing current and the pilings and cleats that are present, are poorly placed for an adequate tie up. We took a brief walk around the downtown area, with which we were somewhat familiar from previous land visits and then called my sister in law who resides in Yorktown, to tell her where we were; a 45 minute automobile ride from her home, but a five hour boat trip. I also called to confirm my ETA at the Wormley Creek Marina, which is on the York River at Yorktown, just below the Coleman Bridge. I was able to catch up on my e-mail, as did Louise. The marina afforded a Wi-Fi connection. After we caught up on the news, dinner aboard was followed by T.V. and sleep. We took the next day as a lay day and toured Historical Hampton by foot. We visited, briefly, with some fellow cruisers and helped one depart safely, in the afore mentioned cross current. I then pulled out the new Chesapeake Bay chart book, loaded accompanying the CD into my laptop, and observed that the morrows cruise was straight forward with no apparent difficulties. Together, we cleaned the boat inside and out. Cool dry air was a very pleasant accompaniment to dinner aboard. Tired after this day, we both went to sleep at 2130.

It was still dark when the sometimes wild thing, we call Ms Kitty, awakened me with what I feared are her sometimes destructive antics. When I finally arose at first light circa 0550, she calmed down and no damage was apparent beyond the threads her claws were continuing to free from their captivity in our furnishings. Happily anticipating a meeting with family, we cleared Hampton City Marina at 0917, headed down river, out to the Bay and swung north to the confluence with the York River. We headed up stream and made the entrance to the Wormley Creek Marina without incident. I called the marina, at 1300, for entrance directions. The party I expected to talk with was unavailable and the one who answered gave incomplete instructions. Additionally, a channel marker was missing and, as we were going at idle speed, we made a very soft grounding. However, it took a tow from the marina’s towboat to free us. We then made our way to the holding tank pump out followed by our securing in our reserved covered slip at 1400. Phone calls to my sister in law, who invited my wife to join her for dinner with some other women and a call to cruising friends who live near Baltimore to update them on our location was followed by relaxation on a grassy knoll overlooking the marina. My sister in law brought me some food that needed cooking and departed with my wife. But, I had Ms Kitty for company. Trying to plug in to shore power, the looks of which I did not like at all, produced a loud bang and a puff of smoke. The marina office was now closed, so I turned on the generator and ate supper. These were not floating docks and I had to find the correct line length for both extremes of the approximately two foot tide. I walked around in the summer evening light, found some very interesting vessels and talked to an older gentleman, working on his boat. He was the former marina owner, now retired. He told me of his cruising years, his many trips to Florida, with his wife, now severely disabled and recommended we cruise further up the York River, which apparently few ever do. I returned to Ms Kitty aboard Autumn Saga. Louise and her sister arrived circa 2200 and we discussed the plans for the next day. Then we went to sleep.

We will be leaving for home in a few days. I arranged for a rental car and to have the boat hauled and polished in our planned absence. We moved what gear we needed off Saga and to my sister in law’s home. All was fine with this except for the fact that Ms Kitty loves everyone and every other creature except for other cats. My sister in law has two of her own. Growling, hissing and arched backs were displayed as the home owner cats tried to make friends with the intruder. This was a brief affair as we left for our Florida home within 24 hours, on June 26th.


Copyright © 2008 SENTOA • Last Update October 2, 2008 • Questions? Contact the SENTOA Officers.