The next day we went through a long cut called the Alligator-Pungo
canal and anchored for the night in the Alligator River.  The following day we actually thought we might be able to sail.  No way.  As we entered Albemarle Sound winds came on the nose at about 20 knots, and with the shallow waters of the sound we were practically stopped.  It reminded us of going up the Red Sea, where often we went out, found conditions unpleasant, and turned around.  We have learned something in all these years, so we turned right around, found a calm and secure anchorage near the mouth of the Alligator, and rested up to try again the next morning.  All was calm, seas were quiet, and we put the mainsail up for the first time since April 2012.  This photo is proof.

A boat parade to make the 11 am lock
Rafting up for overnight at the Visitor's Center in the Dismal Swamp Canal

While we were rafted in the canal we met lots of other cruisers, and as cruisers do we shared information.  One boater had tied up the night before in a nice little harbor-park in the historic part of Portsmouth, right in front of the Lightship Museum.  It is right off the busy Elizabeth River, which is lined with naval shipyards and crisscrossed by ferries and tugs.  A stern wheel paddle ferry docks here, but the rest of the area is available, FOR FREE.  We tied up at 2 pm, went to find ice cream, toured the Lightship Museum, and are now enjoying "sundowners" in the cockpit.  We hear the city lights at night are beautiful. 

We'll stop in Hampton, VA, just on the north side of the harbor, for a few days while we check out possible places to leave CORMORANT for the winter--if that's what we decide to do.
Close to halfway to Maine
At the last post, we were leaving Oriental, NC, after a wonderful visit with cruising friends Dick and Donna.  It was a beautiful, calm morning, but cold.  Slowly, the winds came up and the temperature rose as we wended our way up the Neuse River and then through the narrow cuts in the waterway.  Our night's anchorage was in Pungo Creek, with 33 knot gusts just as the anchor went down.

Our goal was to stay for 2 nights in Elizabeth City, which has a wonderful reputation with  cruisers.  They offer 14 free docks, often greet boats with roses and a wine and cheese party,.  The largest Coast Guard Air Station in the US is here, and the blimp hanger was an amazing sight from the river.  For us, the biggest reason for going this was was that we wanted to go through the Great Dismal Swamp.  When we came down the waterway in 1997 the swamp route was closed because of low water.  Right now it is open, but the controlling depth is only 6 feet.  It is narrow and there are half sunken logs to watch out for as well as overhanging branches to snag your mast, but it was wonderful.  Parts made us think of the "forest primeval", as we puttered along to the sounds of birds and frogs.
Ospreys with chicks nesting on the waterway markers
The canal was dug in the late 1700's and operational by 1805, in order to connect what is now North Carolina with the large seaport and markets of Norfolk and connect those areas by water and road.  George Washington evidently had over 50,000 acres of land which his company logged, and one of the connecting canals is called the Washington Canal.  Because the swamp route of the ICW is shallow and entirely a no wake zone, the fast cruisers who proceed at what we call "swamping speed" all go the other way.  Two full days without constant passing traffic.

CORMORANT at the free dock in Historic Portsmouth, VA
The ICW mustache
I'm sorry about all the typos in the last post (and probably in this one as well). Good Internet is rare so we are using the phone as modem. That means doing the blog updates on the iPhone with the small keyboard and with limited format options. Oh we'll, that's cruising

We did make it into North Carolina and back into Beaufort, our home port, after 15 1/2 years. It has changed, but it is still a wonderful town, friendly to cruisers, with lots of history. When we were here in 1997, it was November and we had ice on the decks so we stayed at the town docks. This time, we looked for space to anchor off the town but found it crowded and so contined up Taylor Creek--and found paradise! Our spot was along Carrot Island, all alone, with wild horses coming to the shore and dolphins playing and feeding alongside the boat. Yet we were just a mile from town which was a easy dinghy ride. As a bonus, we had water which was greenish-blue instead of the strong tea color of marsh creeks. CORMORANT in the photo is wearing what is called the "ICW mustache". We cleaned it off in Beaufort, but since we plan to transit the Great Dismal Swamp, it will be back.
In Beaufort, we played tourist for two days. We spent all of the first day (with. Break for a soft shelled crab sandwich for lunch) at the maritime museum. Surprisingly, it is free. Lots of wonderful boat exhibits, a special section on the discovery and recovery of Blackbeard's ship the Queen Ann's Revenge, and even a working wooden boat building shed kept us fascinated. The next day we rode the red London double decker bus for an overview of the historic buildings of the town, and then we dinghied over to the Rachel Carson reserve for a hike. Like Cumberland Island in Georgia, wild horses roam here. These however are descendants of Spanish horses probably here because of early shipwrecks. The well known children's book, Misty of Chincoteague, is about these wild horses of the outer banks. We are really enjoying the juxtaposition of wild and pristine nature close by fabulous coastal homes and quaint small towns.

Today we are in Oriental, NC, which calls itself the "sailing capital". Everyone here is either a current or past sailor, as are the friends we stopped here to see again. We cruised with them in the Bahamas in 1999 and last saw them in 2001, but we knew our paths would cross again. In true ex-cruiser fashion, they have already driven me to the grocery store. This afternoon they are having us to their house for dinner--and we will take our laundry along!

Next comes the Great Dismal Swamp, so more soon.
April was cold and wet, and since we don't like either kind of weather, we waited. We moved back aboard on Sunday, April 21 and left the dock Tuesday morning for our first stop, Cumberland island GA. I can't even beginto describe the beauty of the place in words. The photo of Harry on one of our hikes will give you an idea. On this morning, we walked for 3 miles along the beach and never saw a single other human being. Because of more rain and cold, and a cracked tooth needing a crown for Jane, we stayed 2 weeks between Cumberland, St Mary's, and Fernandina.
The winds were consistently wrong for making our passage north on the outside, so we stayed in the intracoastal and are glad we did. Much of it is shallow because government budget cuts mean little to no dredging, but the scenery can't be beat. Marsh, cypress swamps, isolated anchorages--and then towns, mega-mansions, and history. In Savannah we walked a couple of miles for "down home" barbecue (photo above). Then the next night we reconnected with good friends for a waterfront dinner. In Georgetown, SC, we toured the Rice Museum and motored by plantations from the 18th and 19th centuries. Then, on a very sharp curve in the ICW we came bow to bow with the huge tug and tow in the photo. At least 4 tugs, five barges, a sharp curve, and low tide in an already shallow spot. Our nerves we stretched, but somehow we got by.

Finally though, it happened. Yesterday we ran aground on a falling tide and couldn't get off. We could have just waited bout 4 hours, but fortunately we decided to add towing insurance to our Boat US membership. We are happy to say that it DOES work. No harms one, and tomorrow we will cross into North Carolina.