Here we are at a fine safe anchorage in Mile Hammock Bay, along with five other yachts and a little trawler. We’ve just been watching a pod of dolphins herding their evening meal – swimming in a tight circle, then slapping their tails on the surface of the water, to stun the fish presumably. We’re now at the 244 mile mark of the ICW and there has been a marked change in the water and the weather. The former is now green and getting clearer and more oceanic. We’ve had dolphins for company a lot of the time – they seem to enjoy surfing along with the bow wave or in the wake. Today we had one either side of the boat, escorting us along the canal. The one on my side kept tipping her head sideways when she came up for air, just checking us out!
The weather has been beautiful, but Captain Dave tells us that this is unseasonal and that we can’t count on warmth until we make Florida. The east coast of North Carolina really is a water world. For a start there are the Outer Banks – ribbons of sandbank that run for over a hundred miles of the Atlantic coast, cut off from the mainland by a series of sounds. Inland from these sounds are marshes threaded through with rivers, creeks and canals. It is not at all surprising that this area was the favoured territory of Edward Teach (Blackbeard), the most notorious pirate of the Americas. You can readily imagine his flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge suddenly appearing from a hidden bay or inlet, terrorising the cargo vessels and the few ships that the British Navy provided for protection of the colony. The wreck of Blackbeard’s ship was located in the Beaufort Inlet in 1996 and artefacts are on display in the Beaufort Museum. They also say that the ghost of his murdered wife haunts his old house in Front Street.
Along with the green water and the balmy weather, there is a certain southern-ness in the voices and attitudes of the local people – like the friendly folk of Swansboro where we spent a pleasant night at Casper’s Marina and had a few beers at the local pub. You can certainly tell you’re in the South by the products in the supermarket – honey buns, collard greens, black-eyed peas and pig feet.
When you think about the Intra Coastal Waterway, you imagine a big canal cut through from Norfolk Virginia down to Florida, but a great deal of it is a combination of rivers and creeks, bays and inlets and other natural features. The canals just join these up. Along the section we did today, from Swansboro to Mile Hammock Bay, spectacular houses line the waterfront. Many have three or even four storeys, with balconies, widows’ walks and private jetties and boathouses. Everywhere people are boating and fishing, mostly in the flat-bottomed Carolina skiffs that are ideal for these shallow waters. Cormorants, gulls, ducks, brown pelicans, heron and egrets are everywhere.
Tomorrow we have a long run planned to Wrightsville Beach. On the way we’ll pass by Surf City (Two girls for every boy!) another one for our song lyric tour of the USA. Along with the obvious ones (Viva Las Vegas, New York New York, LA Freeway etc) we have actually been through Winslow Arizona and the West Texas town of El Paso… and In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina …