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Marian Claire Tours the Western Pamlico

By Dan Boney

Marian Claire in Clubfoot Creek, photo by Paul Clayton.

I departed Matthews Point at 1000 Wednesday the 23rd of October just as the Small Craft Advisory ended. I exited the narrow channel from the marina into Clubfoot Creek with the genoa up and motor sailed out to marker #1. Here I was able to shut down the A-4 and begin a great sail down river to Lower Broad Creek. The entire run was a port tack broad reach with winds 10 to 15 gusting to near 20 knots. The blues were running out in the river and several made their way aboard. I keep the two largest for dinner. Mighty fine. By 1430 the anchor was down in Burton Creek in 5.5' of water. Winds WNW 10 to 15 but this little sidewater of Lower Broad Creek provided good protection due to the trees lining the banks.

The next morning I sailed off the hook in light NW wind that built as I made my way to the "NR" light off Point of Marsh that marks the exit of the Neuse River into Pamlico Sound. After sailing just S of the marker and E enough to avoid the shoals I turned S and ran with the 10 to15 NNW wind to the entrance of West Bay. I fired up the A-4 just in case and rounded # 2WB. The channel was deep but with breakers hitting the shoal to the S side and the roll due to the beam seas I was happy to pass # 5 WB and into more open waters. With N 15 to 20 gusting 25 forecast for Friday I worked my way into Long Bay, a westward branch of West Bay, and anchored about half way between # 4 and # 6 in 8' of water. The area was all low marsh and gave little protection from the wind but it did knock down the wave action.

Stayed put on Friday and did miscellaneous boat chores - they never end - and got in some reading time. Things seemed a bit calmer on Saturday morning so at 0745 I worked my way back into West Bay. As I approached # 7 WB I got the full wave and wind action and decided to tuck in off Western Point for a little protection. Dropped the hook at 0930 and went thru my options. Back to Long Bay, S and try and find a good spot or just beat my way N. After an hour of debate, and a slight drop in the wind and wave action, I motor sailed out into the Pamlico. I did a couple of tacks under sail and found my progress N was just not going to get the job done. The bigger sets of waves just slowed me down and I decided to use the A-4 to help. I still needed several long tacks moving well out into the Sound but eventually made it to Bay River. At that point the wind was dead on the nose and I motored into Gale Creek and dropped the hook across from ICW # 23 in the charted 7' area at 1615.

After a calm night I motored N on the ICW and as I entered the Pamlico River there was just enough SW wind to sail down river and into Rose Bay. At the entrance the wind died and I motored up the Bay and into Deep Bay. You have to be careful and watch the depth sounder as some of the shoals extend way out into the large bays. Dropped the hook near # 2 at 1400 and tried to get some local knowledge about the Deep Bay / Swanquarter Bay Canal. Radio and cell phone produced no info but Clayborne Young had written that the cut held plenty of water due to the swift current but the section from the exit on the SB side to the Swanquarter ferry channel was shallow. He was spot on with this info. Deep as 24' in the cut, I believe that was the deepest I saw on this trip and 6' on the east end entering the Bay. I then moved past the ferry channel and marina and anchored for the night. The sunset was beautiful. The marsh grass made a sharp line and the sun dropped as if it were falling off a table.

On past trips I have noticed that it takes me a few days to get my head in cruising mode. That sunset was the moment on this trip.

Monday the 28th was flat calm so I moved down the bay, with a escort of dolphin, thru Swanquarter Narrows and into Juniper Bay. I anchored between # 3 and # 4 to get what little breeze there was in 7' at 1100, and passed the day with cleaning and tried to figure out why my # 2 battery was not holding a charge. Fought with the bugs through the night and lost.

Awoke to light NE wind and at 0745 headed S passing over the Middle Ground and thru Brant Island Slue at 1045. Saw no less than 8' and continued motoring to Turnagain Bay. Held 15' thru the entrance and anchored in 10' near the mouth of Broad Cr at 1400. Turnagain is a wonderful spot with its undeveloped marsh areas and I enjoyed a calm and warm afternoon.

Sunrise over Turnagain Bay, photo by Dan Boney.

Wednesday brought a nice sunrise and dolphin hunting breakfast. It is neat to watch them in the distance. Sometimes they follow a very regular cycle and you can be ready and know where to look for the next one to surface. No wind so I just enjoyed another cup of "gourmet instant coffee" and gave the MC a scrub. Around 1100 S/V Mia out of New Bern slowly motored by and asked if I had any info on the Old Canal that connects Turnagain to Long Bay. I had nothing new and he stated he was going to check out the canal by dinghy. A few hours later a light N wind came in and I used it to sail deeper into the bay and near the entrance to the canal. Mia reported finding 4.5 to 5' down the middle of the canal and if things worked out he would try and go thru in the morning. I moved back to my previous anchorage so as not to crowd Mia.

Thursday was yet again dead flat and foggy. Several of the southbound boats commented, via VHF, about the luck of catching this calm weather to get them thru the NC section. That was about to change. I hung around and keep an eye on Mia to see if he headed into the canal. At 0930 I decided it was best to get myself back to Matthews Point before the predicted hard SW winds churned up the Neuse and pushed all the water out of the marina. After motoring for about an hour the wind came in quickly, going from 0 to 10-15 and gusting out of the S in about 10 minutes. Ran up the genoa and had a enjoyable, although wet, sail to just up river of Oriental. The wind was slowly clocking and the waves building as I tacked near Adams Cr # 1 and set up for another run up river. Another rain band hit and the wind continued to build. I worked my way well past Clubfoot Cr #1 then motor sailed into #3, dropped the genoa and motored dead into the wind. By 1500 I was back in the slip and as always glad for the help docking.

Click here to see a chart of the western Pamlico with Marian Claire's anchorages marked. (Big file, may take a minute to render on a slow connection.)