November 16, 2018

Cruising N.C.’s Ablemarle Sound to Beaufort

After transiting the Intercoastal Waterway, or ICW, along the Virginia Cut to Coinjock, N.C., we found ourselves at the first of North Carolina's sounds, the Ablemarle, which covers 50 miles east to west but only 12 miles from north to south. While large, the sound is shallow and can get nasty and choppy in winds above 20 kts.

We planned to leave at first light so we could get across before winds built in the afternoon ahead of a thunderstorm, but we woke up to dense fog, and couldn't see any of the six boats anchored within a half mile around us (without using our radar). Shortly before 8 am, the fog cleared and the wind report still looked favorable, so we decided to go.

The winds and waves built throughout the day, from 10-15 kts and 1-foot waves in the morning to 20-25 kts of wind and 2-3 foot waves, which was all on the nose. Despite getting so much splash on deck from waves crashing over the bow that it was often hard to see ahead, it was sunny and nearly 80 degrees, so it wasn't too uncomfortable of a run. After six hours, we made it to our anchorage at the southern tip of the Alligator River (no alligators spotted) with one other boat.

The next morning we had another long leg ahead of us, 55 nm down the Alligator-Pungo Canal and across the Pamlico River to the Bay River, so we got underway at first light. The sun shined, there was little wind and no other boats along the way the first few hours.

It was another long day of motoring, and as we made our way, the winds picked up to 25-30 kts and so did the chop. We eventually made it to the southern end of the Bay River, just north of the Neuse River, where we anchored for the night along with one other boat.

The following morning was another sunrise start along the last leg of the ICW for us, across the Neuse River and down Adams Creek to Beaufort, N.C. It was an overcast and misty morning, which brought fog as we made our way through some swell that often caused the boat to rock from side to side. As we neared the narrow entrance to Adam's Creek the fog got very dense, the winds picked up gusting over 20 kts, and 2-3 foot waves hit us from side-on. Sara was at the helm and it made for some nerve wracking moments for her, but the weather calmed shortly after we turned and entered the creek.

Adams Creek is a long, 15-mile narrow channel, which we moved along quickly with the help of a ebbing tide that gave us a few extra knots of boat speed. We were lucky enough to spot a few dolphins in the water as we were leaving the creek and entering Beaufort.

We decided to stay at a marina in Beaufort, something we rarely ever do, but we are still easing ourselves into the cruising lifestyle. It gave us a chance to stretch our legs on land, catch up on laundry, fill our tanks, provision, and plan the next legs of our trip south. Our friends Larry and Barbara also stayed at the marina for a night, so we enjoyed catching up with them for a few hours aboard their boat, Hoodless.

Beaufort is a cute, little maritime town with historic buildings, a handful of restaurants and shops, and even a few breweries! After running some errands and waking through the picturesque downtown, we enjoyed a sunny, relaxing afternoon with a flight of beers at Fishtowne Brewery.

Beaufort, North Carolina, sailing

On Veterans Day, we left Beaufort Inlet (and the ICW) for a short 7 nm sail to Cape Lookout National Seashore, to stage ourselves for our next jump, and our first offshore sail, to the Masonboro Inlet in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. On our way out of Beaufort Inlet, we were momentarily confused about how to navigate a few of the red and green channel marker buoys, which looked too close to shore and weren't anywhere on our charts. As we got closer we realized there were two fisherman on shore about 50-feet apart, one wearing a red jacket and the other a green jacket! 😀

Fisherman on shore wearing red and green jackets, looking a lot like channel marker buoys

We sailed on a reefed headsail in 20 kts of wind to Cape Lookout, and for the first time, anchored next to a large Coast Guard boat.

Next up, we sail offshore on Borealis for the first time!

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