As the Bay River widened into Palmlico Sound, The wind and waves increased and we found ourselves pounding into heavy chop formed over the long fetch of the sound (Fetch: the distance that wind has available from shore in which to build waves). The day was cold and dreary again and Maryanne was inside trying to do work on the computer, which she kept having to hold down. It never ceases to amaze me how much influence the sun has on a sail. On a sunny day, the sky is blue and the sea is blue and pounding into 25 knot winds seems like a brisk day on the water. Without the sun, the sky is gray and the water is gray and a little chop suddenly makes it seem like an ordeal of a storm. Sometimes I have to tell myself to look at the conditions objectively and then imagine that it's sunny. Then, suddenly, I'm glad to be out on the boat again and not just waiting for doom.
The other thing that makes things better happened just four miles later when we turned downwind into the Neuse River. The wind stopped howling, the boat stopped pounding and took to gently rolling over the waves and all at once things seemed easier and less stressful.
We sailed up the Neuse and into the very picturesque Adams Creek, Which reminded me a little of northern Chesapeake Bay. As the river narrowed, the wind gradually decreased until we were just ghosting along at a couple of knots at the entrance to the Adams Creek Canal. With the wind finally gone, we started the engine for the transit of the canal. Along the way, we started to see the first signs that we were nearing the coast. The canal banks switched from mud and trees to sand and grass. Just before exiting the canal, we saw a pod of about six dolphins going the other way. They paused and looked at us for a second but otherwise seemed uninterested and went on their way. As soon as they were done, another pod came through. We haven't seen them in a while and we missed our old friends. A little while later, when the weather started getting particularly bad, Maryanne looked at my long face and asked what was the matter. "I want to see more dolphins" I said. Just then, right on cue, a pod of ten came over. Dolphins are so cool.
The weather forecast for the next day was for a downpour with over thirty knots (34.5mph) of wind. Most of the anchorages in the Morehead City/Beaufort area are reported to have poor holding so I bit the bullet and decided to stay in a marina. Ordinarily, I'd rather just set a little pile of money on fire than fork out the money for a marina, particularly at transient rates, but it seemed like a lot less stressful way to spend the storm and we'd be able to top up on everything one last time before heading out to sea so, as they say in Jersey "What're ya gonna do?"
The marina we picked, Morehead City Yacht Basin, has very nice facilities (especially the showers) that they charge an arm and a leg for. It didn't take us long to realize that there was no way that was going to make up for it being in Morehead City. Our Rough guide to the USA calls it a rather unappealing industrial-commercial stretch of US 70. Yeah. The Marina lies in the shadow of some huge plant that has giant conveyor belts running every which way making mountains of something.
Our slip is two boat lengths from Hwy 70 and under power lines that hiss and crackle disconcertingly.
We did have a couple of lovely showers, though and the next day we went into town for a little explore. We had lunch at the type of sports bar that is ubiquitous in any town in the U.S. - it was trying for some reason to be a Chili's. We did, however, find this great hardware store. They sold lots of marine supplies in addition to the usual stuff and had the biggest assortment of giant outsized tools I have ever seen. Most hardware stores have the occasional giant pipe wrench but this place had gargantuan versions of nearly every tool made AND they had several of them, like they were selling two or three a week. It may not be my kind of place but Paul Bunyan would love it.
[Maryanne]I'm still personally in shock that Kyle suggested a Marina, let alone that he seemed to pick the most expensive one in the area. For a while we were concerned we would have to consider a 3rd night here to accommodate for the opening hours of Customs and Border patrol, so we were very relieved when Steve came to the boat to help us out with our clearance papers. We asked Steve what in the area we should ensure we don't miss. He thought for a moment and said "nothing". Next time we are in the area we aim to hang out in Beaufort, much the prettier town, and with a free and acclaimed Maritime Museum.
So we can now look back on our first trip through the ICW (well, part of it at least). Uneventful for us, it seems we were lucky compared to our marina buddies on Cat's Cradle who had a swing bridge close on them and are now looking at several months worth of repairs - that is quite a dent in any cruising schedule; luckily nobody was physically hurt, but I guess they will all be a little shocked, we certainly were.