We left Cape Lookout reluctantly. The 10 nm crossing to the Beaufort Inlet was calm and uneventful, dolphins around us most of the time. We fear that this may be the end of our Daily Dose of Dolphins – we will soon be too far north for these Atlantic Bottlenoses.

Passing Fort Macon

Passing Fort Macon

Inside the inlet we passed Fort Macon, built to protect Beaufort and Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina’s only deep water harbour. During the 18th and 19th centuries the region around Beaufort was highly vulnerable to attack – it was a favourite haunt of Blackbeard and other pirates and in fact Beaufort was captured and plundered by the Spanish in 1747, and again by the British in 1782. The original fort is still standing but has been expanded with modern buildings.

Yay! Only 200 miles left of the ICW

Yay! Only 200 miles left of the ICW

We split the difference between Morehead City and the Beaufort to pass under an open railroad bascule bridge through marshes to Core Creek, passing as we went the ICW 200 milestone. We came across from the Bahamas to Lake Worth Inlet at mile 1170, and have been counting down since then. As we get closer to the end of the ICW, we are noticing these milestones more!

The day (and the next two) were a series of creeks and large open rivers.  Unlike our previous weeks, we no longer needed to check tides and currents, as these are not a factor, but what is more important in these large open rivers off Pamlico Sound is wind-driven currents and chop. So we now check the weather even more frequently. Despite the wide open sounds, the channel is often very narrow due to depth, and yet there is a fair amount of commercial traffic. To give you an idea, here is some of the traffic we passed that day:

Tug and very long barge!

Tug and very long barge!

Shrimp Boat - worse when it puts its arms down to fish!

Shrimp Boat – worse when it puts its arms down to fish!

Barge

Barge

We travelled down the Neuse River without incident, with our genoa out to assist Frankie, the only really remarkable thing about it was that over two days of travel in this area, the maximum depth we say was 25 feet. We passed the town of Oriental, turning into Broad Creek which we followed a little way in (7-9 feet depth most of the way) to the marked channel and longish canal into River Dunes marina.

River Dunes channel and Harbour Club

River Dunes channel and Harbour Club

We had planned to stop at River Dunes because our friends Ken and Deanna had strongly recommended it – as the #1 marina on the ICW! We were not disappointed. It is a beautiful complex of buildings – a perhaps unfulfilled (as yet) ambitious vision of a large estate of architecturally similar pretty homes, centred around a ‘harbour club’ marina. Our only disappointment was that they had just switched to their high season rate (prematurely we think) of $1.50 a foot per night, as opposed to their $1 per foot off-season rate which is a total bargain for these beautiful facilities and great services.

Silo's restaurant

Silo’s restaurant

Dockmaster Rick was there to assist us in fueling up, pumping out, and tying up on a face dock. We registered in the stunning Harbour Club house with lounge, pool tables, library and dining facilities upstairs (dining room only open on the weekends so we missed that). Rick offered us the courtesy car to go into Oriental to get groceries, and suggested the Silo’s restaurant, a popular local place which happened to have a two-for-one pizza deal on Tuesdays. We took him up on the suggestion, and drove into Oriental at 5:00 pm, taking a look around town before stocking up at the Town-and-Country grocery store, and then stopping at the Silos – a restaurant actually built in modern galvanized steel grain silos! Indeed it was the place to be on a Tuesday  for locals – couples, families and groups of seniors all out enjoying their dinner. The pizza was great, and a bargain – we took one home for lunch the next day!

Wedding chapel and cottages for rent at River Dunes

Wedding chapel and cottages for rent at River Dunes

We spent the next day doing boat, computer and paperwork chores. The laundry was a good deal at $1 a load, and the wifi was great – they must have had repeaters on the docks because so often we are disappointed that we are not able to reach the advertised ‘free wifi’ at marinas from our boat on the dock.  My main chore was doing our tax return – groan… After a rocky start collecting together all the necessary slips, online forms and receipts, I made good progress and completed the task by early evening. Despite the chore day, we enjoyed our time – the sun was shining and the facilities were superb. The bathrooms definitely go to the top of my list for the best ‘land loos’ of the year so far! The spa-like showers had steam-bath controls, rain heads and multiple body showers.

We stayed an extra half a day, for me to make family skype calls and finish blogging. Skipper Steve meantime studied weather and routing and came up with a change in plan. With nasty weather forecast for later in the week, he wanted to make sure we crossed the Albermarle Sound (which can be nasty) while the building winds were still from the south, before they clocked to the north. This meant longer legs so that we could make Elizabeth City in 2 days rather than 3.

I Ching sailing down the Neuse - we have leap frogged each other several times since we first saw them at St. Augustine

I Ching sailing down the Neuse – we have leap frogged each other several times since we first saw them at St. Augustine

We were ready to leave at lunch-time. Thankfully favourable south winds enabled us to sail most of the way – down the wide-open Neuse River leg, and the Bay River before traversing the Hobucken Canal to the Goose River which popped us back out into the wide-open Pamlico River followed by the Pungo River.

Hobucken is a great shrimp depot - this little dock offered fuel and seafood!

Hobucken is a great shrimp depot – this little dock offered fuel and seafood!

We passed the town of Belhaven as the evening drew on and chose an anchorage just off the ICW near Scranton Creek in the Pungo River, where we felt we would have reasonable protection from the strong southerlies. We dropped the hook just before sunset, pleased with our progress, and had a peaceful night, holding straight on our trusty anchor.

View our photo journal for River Dunes.

Map:

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