Saturday, May 8, 2021

Let Loose From the Neuse That's Kept us Hangin' About

Then Thursday night the bike sold. And that was it. The last thing holding us on land.

Goodbye Oriental NC

Stuff sold: check. Covid shots: check. Friends hugged goodbye: check. Boat as safe as we can make her: check.

Two sailors, one dog, one big sailboat, ALL IN on this new adventure together.

On Friday morning the winds started early. With our coffee cups in hand, we watched in horror as the water levels started free-falling and threatened to strand Minerva in the mud again. We abandoned our coffee, Lance fired up the motor and started removing lines. There were a few stubborn lines. Jen, a friend and fellow sailor, got a splinter in her finger while helping us free one of them, and donated a little blood to the boat. Last superstition handled: with the sea gods appeased (thanks Jen) we were on our way, off into the Neuse River...

Where we were met with strong headwinds and a nasty little 2' chop. Oh well. No sailing for us today. Good thing Lance and our favorite mechanics have been dishing up all the lovin' on Minerva, the new transmission and well-serviced engine hummed along happily. We fought our way up the angry Neuse River and into the protected waters of the ICW then onto the the Bay River, Goose Creek, the Pamlico River, and up the Pungo River to Belhaven NC. Altogether we covered 42 miles of rivers and ICW.

As we were leaving the Neuse River behind Lance sang a line from AC/DC's song Back in Black: let loose from the noose that's kept me hangin' about. And I sang it all the way to Belhaven.

Goose Creek, the ICW, leaving the Neuse River

For those of you that aren't from the East Coast of the USA, ICW stands for Intra Coastal Waterway. It's a series of barrier islands, lakes, and rivers that were connected by canals long ago to make one long navigable waterway connecting small villages to the sea and thus to profitable business ventures. It goes from Florida to the Chesapeake and is a great way to make relatively safe short hops without committing to the open ocean weather conditions. The government dredges it to 10' regularly but it shoals up quickly, so a sailor isn't guaranteed to find 10' even if remaining meticulously in the channel. There are several bridges and each has its own set of rules about opening. All of this requires constant research and attention. Minerva needs 6'2" of water not to scrape her belly in the mud and 55' of air not to bump her mast. We have scurfed our fair share of ICW mud, and although the bridges we have encountered thus far are all clearly marked at 65' it looks like we will crash into every one. From the deck it's absolutely terrifying to look up at the mast and the underside of bridges - one sailor told me he just doesn't look; can't look up, his heart stops every time. I laughed when he said it, now it happens to me.

Belhaven NC as seen from our anchorage just outside the G11 marker

We landed in Belhaven NC just ahead of a parade of thunderstorms. We dropped the new Mantus anchor in 11' of water, set it well and paid out plenty of scope. We were expecting big winds the next day it was time for it to prove its trustworthiness. I set the anchor drag alarm at 100', and mirrored the chartplotter to the ipad so I can take the anchor watch screen to bed and monitor it obsessively throughout the night.

As soon as we were anchored the first rainstorm washed over us. And rinsed our deck clean. What timely and friendly service!

The green circle represents the anchor drag alarm, if we move outside of the circle alarms go off. As you can see the Mantus is holding us well, and as the wind shifts Minerva makes a half circle around the anchor.

Chloe hasn't embraced her lawn pee patch yet so for now we need to run her ashore for breaks. I can do this from the stand-up paddleboard on peaceful waters but I can't make headway with the dog on the board if the winds are high.

At the moment we still have two dinghies aboard, our porta-bote with an electric Torqeedo motor and the rubber inflatable that came with Minerva and a big outboard. Eventually there will likely be only one, we're not sure which setup we'll keep yet. For now we wanted to take the rubber dinghy out, since we haven't played with it much, and since it's a short ride to the town's dinghy dock the Torqeedo could use a test run too. It has been 3 years after all since it last got any real exercise, now is as good as anytime. Best to bring the oars, too, just in case.

Hiding out from rainstorm #2 on borrowed chairs

Although the wind had already started kicking the second storm hadn't released rain yet. We landed at the dinghy dock just ahead of the second storm, and hid out from the driving rain, thunder and lightning under a storefront awning with some Adirondack chairs we snagged from the patio. The storms on the East Coast this time of year are fierce and frequent, but usually short-lived. We had time to run hurry back to Minerva before the third storm hit, and settled into our floating home to enjoy a home-cooked meal and a spectacular sunset.

Sunset over Pantego Creek, from our anchorage just outside Belhaven NC

As we approached Minerva floating peacefully on her anchor in the between-rain light, the river splashing onto my back as the inflatable beat into the choppy waves, it hit me hard. This is our life now. This life that we have dreamed and struggled and sacrificed so much to pursue, and this is our first night on the hook, we're really on our way to... somewhere.

We finally did it.

The new Andersen winch shines in the post-rain light


  1. Glad you are finally on your way. And I understand Chloe's predicament. You trained her when she was a puppy not to pee in the house. Now you tell her it's o.k. to pee on this one part of the house. Yes, a much different house, but the rules are now different? Poor dog. So confusing.

    1. Good point. She's a smart dog. She'll figure it out.

  2. I still remember that first day we started full timing in Opus. That yes we did it and it is wonderful moment.

    1. Did you experience it as your first day as returning homeowners too? On our first fulltimer day on Loretta there was a breakdown, a tow to the garage, and 3 days in an expensive hotel with two cats and a dog. But it's all part of the adventure.