I left ahead of Dan, figuring that Valor's five foot handicap to Marian Claire would mean that Dan would catch up sooner or later. I set sail in the creek and had just enough angle on the northeast wind to get out with just one short tack before marker 8. Outside I found a heavy, confused chop and winds in the mid teens, gusting to twenty. I took a long board to the far bank of the river and saw Dan come out of the creek mouth following me. Back across the river, I still coudn't quite make the entrance to Adams Creek, so I made one more tack to near Oriental and then easily made the creek entrance. Meanwhile, Dan was following my course but getting farther behind. He may have shortened sail in anticipation of rough conditions, but Valor carrying full main and genoa was able to power through the waves and make decent time. (I talked to Dan later and he confirmed that he was running a jib and reefed main and getting set badly by the confused seas. It took him an extra tack to make Adams Creek, which is what set him so far behind).
By the time I turned into Adams Creek, I was looking forward to smooth water and following winds which would let the sun exert a warming influence. However, it was not to be, as a cloudy shield rode in from the sea and we continued under dark, threatening skies. Thankfully it never rained.
With a trailing wind and ebbing tide I decided to run through the canal under jib and motor, so I turned into Cedar Creek, fired up the Yamaha and did circles while I dropped the main and had a spot of lunch. The genoa is cut low and it is difficult to see forward with it set, so I added a short tag to the tack to lift it just enough to see underneath. Back out on the ICW, I found myself making good speed without the help of the motor, so I shut it down and proceeded south under jib and tidal power only. I tried hailing Dan but got no answer. Dan is capable and reliable and I knew he would catch up to me at day's end if he could, or deal with any problems that came up on his own. Anyway I am a big boy and can go to Town Creek by myself if I want to, so I wasn't concerned.
There was very little traffic on the ICW on this March Sunday, and it was pleasant sailing the undeveloped part of upper Adams Creek. With just the jib set and the wind dead astern, the boat developed the rhythmic rocking common to this sail and wind combination. Some people dislike it but I find it quite comfortable.
As I came out into the more developed section, the canalized length connecting Adams Creek to the Newport River, I gave Dan another hail and he came in loud and clear, just entering Adams Creek and still destined for Town Creek. I continued on past Sea Gate, the 101 high bridge, Bock Marine and Jarrett Bay, eventually reaching the split for Russell Slough which leads to Gallants Channel and, eventually, Town Creek. The navigation is a bit tricky and I had not done it before so I started the engine and motorsailed these last couple of miles. The crowded anchorage is just before the old Graydon Paul drawbridge and I squeezed in among several derelict and decommissioned boats and dropped the hook alongside was the beautiful Empressa which deserves better than its neglected condition. With the wind blowing 15 to 20 and predicted to continue all night, I took care anchoring and spent a half hour watching for dragging before going below to start supper. Dan finally arrived, made a loop through the anchorage and went off to anchor just off the channel. He didn't like the looks of all the boats and preferred to put some space between them and him. I couldn't blame him, but the spot he chose looked too deep and exposed to the winds and currents for me. Dan is far more experienced than me at working ground tackle, and also has lots of chain and a good Manson anchor, and can anchor with confidence in places where I might not get a good hookup with my little Danforth and thirty feet of chain. In truth, Town Creek is just not a very good anchorage. I will give it credit for good holding, though, as my anchor bit and dug and held very well through the night.
A few thoughts on Town Creek. Northbounders can get through the draw and then drop anchor in good position to make an early start the next day. Southbounders should coordinate getting off the hook with the half-hourly openings in the morning. There is a dinghy dock at the public boat launch so it is easy to get ashore, but it's a long hike to the attractions of waterfront Beaufort. There is a restaurant at Town Creek Marina if you are running short of groceries. The anchorage is crammed full of derelict boats which leaves limited room to anchor and is hard on the eye. Empressa has an air of faded glory about her but the rest of the old wrecks were not too pretty even in their better days and now are just plain ugly. The holding is good dense clay and once you get a hookup it ought to hold.
The wind never laid down that night, just blew steadily out of the northeast with gusts up to 25 knots. I got up several times to make sure I wasn't dragging or swinging too close to the derelict on the port or the derelict on the starboard, but all was well.
Under a threatening sky I handled the tricky job of pulling and stowing the ground tackle in a tight anchorage with gusty winds, then powered over to the channel and hailed Marian Claire. Dan and I chatted for a minute and decided to head back toward Matthews Point. Dan had a couple of chores to handle so he opted to stay on anchor and head north later in the morning, but I started back up Gallants Channel immediately. The current was not too bad, tide being slack, but the wind out of the northeast was cold and strong. At half throttle I was able to make about 3 knots as I motored up Russell Slough and into the broad Newport River. I entered the channel and passed Jarrett Bay under a heavy cloud cover, and made the first of several refuelings. My little outboard holds less than a gallon, so I made a practice of topping it off hourly. The drill would be to find a wide place in the channel, shut down, refuel and get fired up again before I drifted onto the shoals along the bank. I performed this routine four times by the time I reached the Neuse River.
Between the wind and the gray sky, I started feeling the chill. Several times I tied the tiller and raced below for additional layers. By the time I came out into Adams Creek I was wearing regular street clothes plus rain gear, a sweater, a heavy jacket, gloves and a blanket over my lap - but I was warm.
At 3 knots it would have taken 5 hours to run the canal, which seemed excessive, but I figured on the wind eventually coming to the east, plus I hoped for some help from the tide by mid-morning. I did get the tide, but the wind didn't change until later. In the meantime, I pushed the throttle open and settled in at around 4 knots at 3/4 throttle.
Not much traffic on the ICW on a Monday in mid-March, but I did see a few boats. One trawler hailing out of Morehead City gave me a nice slow pass and turned in to Jarrett Bay. Later, a Canadian flagged sloop passed heading southbound under motor and jib and gave me a big wave and smile as if to say, "good to see another sailor out on this raw day." I kept looking back expecting to see the northbound Aurora barge tow gaining on me, but never did. Nor did I see its southbound mate coming my way. I did see them later, but by then I had made the turn into the Neuse River and didn't have to deal with them.
At Cedar Creek the channel shifts to the northwest, and I was able to get just enough slant to put up the jib. Instant gratification! My speed immediately increased by half a knot. Next I put up the main and barrelled down the creek at 5 knots. I kept the motor on until I passed the dogleg at the mouth of the creek, and then shut down. I sailed to the vicinity of marker 1, hove to and had a spot of lunch. Dan appeared motor sailing under jib, and as he turned into the dogleg he momentarily dropped his jib, raised the main and then put the jib back up. We both proceeded upriver wing-and-wing under light airs. I tried to sail onto the dock but the wind pinched up just too tight at the entrance to the marina and I had to put the motor on for the few feet. Dan proceeded into Mitchell Creek and set anchor. If I get close to home I want to be on the dock, Dan would usually rather spend another night on the hook.