Pungo River Canal and Belhaven, NC – 12/17 thru 12/19

We had spent a peaceful night at anchor at the bottom of the Alligator River where it joins the Pungo River Canal.  We awoke to the gentle roll of another boat going by on the ICW.  It was not yet sunrise but we were up so decided to haul in the anchor and get going.  On night’s we anchor Mariah is not able to sleep in.  The anchor stows under her bed and when the windlass draws it in and sometimes it piles too high and gets jammed up, so unfortunately we have to get her up abruptly.  Yikes!

The canal was like all others, very calm, very quiet.  Mostly nature preserves.  There were so many different types of wildlife on this canal.  Deer grazing at the edges, ducks whose call sounded like some cowboy and Indian calls from when you were kids, we think we even saw a black bear!

About halfway down the canal James heard a noise down below and instantly yelled “Dad, a fan belt broke!”  Simultaneously, I was at the helm and heard the engine pitch change, immediately checked the gauges and saw the engine temp guage slowly rising!  We all reacted perfectly! James notified us of the noise he heard, I listened to the engine and noticed the change in pitch, and cut the engine as soon as I saw the temperature rising.

It turns out James was right! After about thirty minuites of searching the engine we discovered the alternator belt had spun off! Good call James!!!!  And thankfully Michael is the king of spare parts so we had two or three of every filter, belt and gasket we could ever need.  and MOST thankfully we were in a canal with NO tide and NO current.  We literally sat in the same spot for an hour and fifteen minute while Michael put the new belt on.  The canal was so shallow that when we did drift we were able to use the boat hook to push us off the stumpy bottom back towards the middle of the canal.

What a relief to have all the right tools, the right parts and the skills necessary to maintain your boat!!!

We were underway again, breakfast served and chugging along.  Our goal that day was Belhaven North Carolina.  A small town that had a marina, if you recall we had run out of water the night before and needed to fill our 105 gallon water tank.

It was only thirty miles or so and would be an early day if all went well.  There was also some real nasty weather forecast for the weekend as well as some pretty cold temperatures.  We rolled out of the canal about 1:00pm and into the Pungo River proper.  Once again, a real wide, shallow river so the little bit of wind was fetching up the surface.

We called on River Forest Marina to make sure they had room for transient dockage, and to confirm we could get water.  The marina had turned off their water to the docks but would put us up close to the main house and run a hose out to us! The hospitality down here is amazing. 

Brice met us at the dock at about 3:30 on that Friday afternoon, helped us tie up, fill the diesel, fill the water, took our garbage, showed us the lounge and laundry, and let us use the golf cart to go to the store to fill up our propane tank and grocery shop.  Riding in the golf cart was clearly the highlight for my children!

Our propane (cooking) was almost empty as well.  This shows us that water and propane are kind of matched up as far as our usage.  Our propane tank is an eleven pound fiberglass tank.  It fits in our propane locker perfectly! But the downside is it is only eleven pounds.  Now that we are in warmer weather I think we will be using less.  For the first part of our trip we baked bread all day just to have it on and keep the boat warm while under way.

Belhaven was a quaint southern town.  The usual empty storefronts on Main Street, except for the pharmacy.  The Food Lion had become the center of the shopping district, like all of the small towns we had been to.

That evening we went up to the restaurant to have some snacks and warm drinks and were surpised to find a roaring fire in the fireplace! Nice!

A couple of gentleman in for a weekend of bear hunting joined us.  One of them held the State record for the second largest bear, 850lbs! wow!!! I did not know there were bears that big in North Carolina! shocking.

They engaged James is a very long, respectful conversation about World War II and the Vietnam War, one was a Vet. Like I said, real gentleman.

After warming up with some hushpuppies and coffees and teas we went back to the boat for a nice relaxing sleep. 

At first glance, we assumed we would be there another night, the weather was looking terrible for the next day.  Our next day of traveling was down the Pungo River into the Neuse River.  Another wide shallow basin river in North Carolina that needs the right weather window.

Little did we know we would be ther for three days!

Just after our arrival s/v Pura Vida showed up, a boat of five young men from New York City on their way to the Dry Tortugas.  Already at the dock was s/v Okeanos, from Quebec City, spending the holidays in Belhaven, waiting for family to arrive from Canada and s/v Dulcinea from MAryland.

These dockmates would prove helpful the next day!

The weather the next morning was panning out exactly as predicted.  Winds 40-50 knots, seas off-shore of 30-50 feet! That is insane!!! Needless to say the dock quickly filled over night with more boaters sitting out the weather.

That Saturday morning we spent hours re-tying our boat and Mark and Kitty’s boat. Our boat was bow in to the dock and had been pushed so close it was starting to chew the dock away and was threatening our bow sprit! .  It took six adults and two come-alongs to pull it away from the dock and re-tie it further back.  We then went to work on Mark and Kitty’s boat, they were tied abeam and were literally pushing the dock broadsdide.  The pilings were leaning and the dock boards were all uneven.  There poor rub rail was earning it’s name!  We were not needing our fenders so took them to Mark and Kitty’s to try and wedge them between the dock and the boat.  A boat is pretty heavy when it is being pushed broadside at you.  It took almost and hour to get theirs fixed.

Saturday afternoon we packed up our laptops and iphones and spent the day in the lounge.  We got to know the Pura Vide crew a little bit.  Some indie film workers looking to enjoy an extended vacation.

James invited them to dinner that night.  These poor guys had literally been eating macaroni and cheese everyday since they left New York.  We served them a three course Italian Christmas Dinner.  Fresh salad, gnocchi and sausage and peppers, and baked polenta and country ham with sauce and parmesan cheese and homemade garlic bread – YAY Mariah.  Needless to say they enjoyed it, as did we! Great meal Michael!

They were leaving the next morning, we had decided to wait one more day.  Still a little too rough for this family.  This also meant we enjoyed the Sunday Smorgasbord served at River Forest Marina. It was decent, but no Oyster fritters as noted in the ICW cruising handbook.  The rest of the day was in preperation for our travels the next day; cleaning, laundry, engine maintenance, last minute provisioning  etc.

We were really hopeful the week’s weather would hold out so we could cover some ground and get to warmer weather.  We were getting tired of cold weather!

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