Sunday to Oriental, not much wind in the morning but it picked up late in the afternoon. I got on the town dock and chatted a minute with the other dock resident, Dean, on Flicka Daisy, registered Willow AK. A regular snowbird, he was headed south to Miami where his wife would fly in and they would sail over to the Exumas. I asked him to watch for Vic and Gigi and pass on my regards. Coffee and internet at the Bean, then I cooked on the boat and took a walk around the waterfront. Plenty of vacant slips at Oriental Harbor as Pecan Grove's scorched earth rate policy drained the other marinas to keep its own slips full, though probably at a loss. The Trawl Door was closed, perhaps forever, but M&Ms seemed to be doing a sprightly business.
Up Monday morning to fog and light airs. Got gas and ice at Oriental Marina, coffee at Bean, and then, as the fog lifted, proceeded out the harbor and set sail for Blackbeard.
The light airs eventually picked up a bit out of the WSW. I slowly tacked my way upriver and was off Clubfoot Creek by noon. Once around the corner at Cherry Point, the wind was more favorable and I could make long boards to the NW, then short ones back across the river.There were several other sailors out this nice January day taking advantage of the mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies. At marker 11 they all turned back and I continued upriver, eventually cutting across just north of marker 15. This proved too early and I watched as the waters shallowed over Hampton Shoal. Eventually they proved too shallow to stand, and I made a quick tack back to the NW. Lesson learned, there is no point in turning in until you reach marker 17.
With a nice breeze from abaft the beam I sailed in the mouth of Upper Broad Creek and turned up into the wind just at the mouth of Blackbeard Club, dropped anchor and took in sail. Soon afterward David motored up in his dinghy and told me I could tie off on the face dock at the marina entrance if I liked, so I upped anchor and made the move. This is a real touch of hospitality for Blackbeard Club, with a power hookup available as well. Afterward David told me that the dockmaster permits visitors to dock there on condition that the host is in attendance at the club and the visitor arrives in a sailboat - no powerboats allowed at Blackbeard Club, other than tenders or light skiffs.
I secured the boat and walked up to the club just as the sun was setting. We decided to give the restaurant at Fairfield Harbor Marina a try, since it is only a couple of miles drive. On arriving, we found that they didn't serve dinner on Monday nights, but we took the opportunity to walk the extensive docks of Fairfield Harbor and look at the boats. Afterward we drove in toward Bridgeton and had a pizza at the Big Apple almost out to the highway.
Tuesday David's mechanic came in and did routine maintenance on Spotted Dog's auxiliary. Afterward David rummaged the boat and loaded a lot of junk into his car for land storage or disposition. I spent most of the day in the clubhouse reading Best of Uffa. Later in the day we cooked out on one of the grills conveniently provided near the clubhouse.
Wednesday morning we had coffee in the clubhouse and then I went down to the boat and secured it for the sail back to Matthews Point. I raised the main and David gave the bow a push off the dock. The southwest wind caught the main and pivoted me off the dock. I ran forward and raised the jib and sailed out of the marina.
Upper Broad Creek is wide but it still took several tacks to get out into the river. Complicating things was a dock barge paralleling me at about the same speed, but eventually I was able to tack across astern of him and track along on the windward side. A last tack took me to marker 17 and then I was set for a beam reach all the way back to Matthews Point. The wind blew 10 knots or so with an occasional gust, and with a 1/2 knot tide helping me I saw a steady 5-6 knots on the GPS. That made for a quick trip down the river, and by early afternoon I was dropping the sails at the mouth of Clubfoot Creek. I motored in against a strong, gusty southwest wind and got on the dock around 2:00. I checked the weather radio and found Cherry Point reporting winds of 10-15 knots with gusts to 20, just about what I had estimated, and a temperature of around 60 degrees. Not bad conditions for mid-January.
Thursday morning I made a run into town to pick up groceries, boat parts and cookies from Alex & Brett's. David sent me an email confirming that he and Bill were sailing down from Blackbeard to anchor out in Mitchell Creek, despite deteriorating weather conditions. The wind blew hard out of the north all day and it cooled off noticeably under cloudy skies. Spotted Dog rounded into Mitchell Creek around 4:00 and dropped anchor just off the long dock. David and Bill came ashore in David's hard-shell, and I sloshed out onto the water-covered dinghy dock and grabbed a line.
We cooked dinner on the grill and enjoyed rum (Bill and I) and beer (David) as we chatted about sailing and life in the warm clubhouse. Later David and Bill dinghied back out to Spotted Dog, I walked out the dock to Valor, and we all battened down for the oncoming storm. During the night the wind gusted up to 30 knots and a cold rain poured down. By dawn the front had passed and the skies had cleared, but the wind was still blowing out of the north. At least it had backed off enough that the dinghy dock was not under water when David and Bill came in for morning coffee. Later in the morning they returned to Spotted Dog, pulled anchor and headed for what I am sure was a motor sail into the wind all the way to Blackbeard.
So ended our reciprocal visits of January 2013. Sailing up and down the Neuse River sure beats driving, any day.