Up Annapolis St Michaels Smithfield Great Dismal Swamp Elizabeth City Manteo Ocracoke Beaufort,NC South Port Georgetown





We'd always wanted to come to the Outer Banks on a boat and now that we were here, I'm sorry to say, I was a bit disappointed.  Ocracoke seemed purely a tourist stop.  I couldn't get a sense of a town nor the people that lived there.  Everything was geared towards tourists.  I don't know what I expected exactly but this wasn't it. 










I'd always been so intrigued with the idea of the place, you know, the history, characters that lived and hid out here namely Black Beard and other pirates and also the many ship wrecks, still lurking under the water just over the bank from us in the notorious Atlantic Graveyard.  My imagination had gone wild with ideas of the place but when we got here the ambience was far removed from any resemblance of a place where vagabonds and adventurers hung out.  We didn't get that warm feeling either that we have encountered in other places on this east coast on this trip down the Intracostal Waterway.  So many of the locals seemed grouchy, not all mind you, but most of them seemed so.  We did meet a few who were nice and helpful but you got the sense from them that since we were just temporary, not coming back, why go to the trouble to be friendly or to even bother with you?   



I think what got to us the most though besides the unfriendliness, was the dam mosquitoes.  The place was infested.  Maybe they came out of hiding because of the recent storm and the never ending down pour of rain or maybe that's what it's like here all the time.  We tried to walk around town but it wasn't a pleasant experience because the mosquitoes were swarming at us every where we went.  We swatted them right and left, but they persisted.  It didn't matter either if you were fully covered in clothing as they were so fierce they'd draw blood biting right through your clothing.  They were even after Ziggy.  I could see them struggling and wrestling their way through his thick coarse fur trying to get down to some sweet juicy skin.  They were hungry and fierce.


I rationalized the unfriendly attitude of the locals to being just plain sick of people (tourists) coming and going through their village.  Maybe they were grouchy because of the lousy weather, or end of the season had finally arrived with only a cold fierce winter ahead of them to look forward to.  It could be all that combined with the mosquitoes, but for sure something was making these people grouchy.  Hey maybe they are grouchy and cranky because they are all descendants of the pirates.  Just kidding but this was a hang out, a hiding out for pirates and who knows maybe there is a taint in the air and a few blood lines still hanging around.  Argh!  We thought our impressions odd because we met another boater a few years ago who said he came out here on his boat and loved it because the people were so nice and friendly.  It was his impression that gave us this desire to come here.  Oh well.











The marina had a loaner car and we decided we'd take it for a drive down the one and only road that stretches from one end of the banks to the other.  The breaks in the land mass are connected only by two ferries that shuttle the cars to and from otherwise it would be impossible to drive the length of it.   I'd always heard the shores of the banks were laden with shells and to me that's like telling me they were laden with gold coins.  I had one initiative and that was to see.    

We stopped at the park service gate and I got out of the car to ask the park ranger where would be the best place to go looking for shells.


"Shells?  I don't have time to look for shells.  How would I know where to go?"  Again another grouch. 











We quickly got to the end of the road, it wasn't longer than a few miles and that was the extent of this back.  We reached the ferry that was waiting to take cars to the next leg of the road north towards Hatteras.  The most interesting thing to us that day was this ferry at the end of this road.  It was so strange to see this ferry waiting at the end of the no where and heading out into seas that were choppy and wind swept with white caps.  We watched as the ferry carrying it's load weaved it's way through changing shoals different after each frequent and many times violent storms here.  The waters filled and crashed in from the nearby Atlantic constantly changing that safe path the ferry must take.  It didn't seem to matter to the ferry, nor deter his mission as it came and went as if nothing was unusual.  I secretly wished that we could've gone on the ferry north to the next leg and continue on but we had this loaner car and only a short time before we had to get it back.  I'm sure they didn't suspect that we were sight seeing with it rather than provisioning with it.


On the way back down the road to Ocracoke, we stopped a couple places to see the famous beach and hunt for shells, and though it is an amazingly long beach, I've seen many others that I think are more beautiful and with better shells.  We were having some fun but only for a moment as Ziggy was enjoying the freedom of running up and down the beach, galloping and splashing through the shallow waves and chasing them in and out as they crashed then retreated.  He searched for crabs, memories of times in the Bahamas I guess figuring each beach now had crabs to dig and chaise.  But the fun ended all too soon as before you knew it out of no where a park ranger came racing down the beach in his jeep warning us that "Dogs have to be on leash!"  Well, I thought, perhaps the reason is to protect migrating birds, or nesting birds, I don't have a clue why but if it's that reason I understand but geez, no one was around for miles, or a bird that I could see.  Ziggy was just enjoying himself running on the beach but now we had to walk with him tethered to our side which definitely ruined the whole outing so we left.



We spent much of the time in Ocracoke holed up in the boat as another major storm came through.  It was non stop pouring rain for two whole days.  We'd watch threw our rain soaked windows as the ferry came and went from the public dock.  It didn't seem to matter what the weather or sea conditions were, as they continued their schedule shuffling people back and forth to the mainland.  Otherwise no one was stirring, as they were all holed up like us just waiting out the storm.  We met another couple at the docks who we briefly met in Manteo days ago.  They had a trawler docked a pier down from us and they were doing the same.  They were trying to get home, back to Hilton Head.  They are the ones that thought they'd get their tank pumped and went ballistic when told it would cost $30!



We went out to dinner with them the last night and thought Larry was pretty clever to get the loaner car for the evening so we didn't get rained on.  We were all planning to leave the next day for Beaufort and they wanted to go together, leave at the same time.   The guy said prefers to always leave early in the mornings which we usually do also, but this time Larry and I wanted to leave later as the weather report was better for the afternoon.  The weather report looked better if we waited until noon when the seas had time to settle a bit.  They said that would be fine but when morning came around they were getting antsy and it rubbed off on Larry too so before you know it all our engines were started and warmed up by 8:30 AM and both boats were pushing off the dock.  What about the calmer seas predicted for the afternoon I thought?   So much for that idea.


So our new friends headed out the harbor first and we followed a bit later.  There are two channels leading in and out of Ocracoke.  One is the main channel and the other is we assumed for smaller boats, little sports fishing boats, or locals for sure.  Our friends headed out the secondary channel.  According the charts, it looks like the depths are okay, only a few questionable areas but after our experiences out here on the Outer Banks with "dredged" channels, we weren't taking chances.  We headed out the main channel.  So off to the left they went and off to the right we went. 


And lickety split, we weren't even half way out the channel and were back in rough seas again just like a few days ago but this time there was no dredger in the center of the channel.    The seas were just a tinsy bit calmer than the day we came in but still were nerve wracking.  We were tossed up and down, left and right and I still didn't like looking just outside the window out over the white caps and waves crashing over the nearby reef area outside the channel.  The glimpses of hard rock between waves were disconcerting.  Again we fought the seas on our beam trying to stay in the channel.  Things inside the boat were flying.  I hadn't buttoned down the boat thinking we'd have a calmer ride today.  Big mistake.


Geez, why didn't we wait until noon to leave?  This is ridiculous.  You really have to have respect for the seas out here.  I now understand clearly why they have the reputation that they have.  Larry says, you just don't want to mess with the NE winds around here and that's what we had. 

Once out of the channel we still couldn't make our turn towards the mainland as we had a big shoal area to go around and that meant more time suffering with the seas on our beam and uncomfortable ride.  We were going to have a few hours ahead of these messy seas crossing the Pamlico Sound.  Ziggy is a wreck.  I'm a wreck.  The water is crashing over the bow and windows, and things inside are flying.  I can't believe it.  It's going to be another day of these wretched seas, seas on our beam and suddenly it gets even worse as we surely didn't expect what else was to come.


Yep, on the horizon between torrents of water washing over the wind shield I got a glimpse of a fleet of gill-netters working the Sound.  They were all over the place, looking like Las Vegas show girls parading around, arms stretched out wide with nets cascading down their arms trailing behind in the sea like jeweled capes, trains of netting dragging behind.  We could see them in every direction.  I remember them well on that trip coming south from Mexico heading to Florida.  Captain John Rains who went with as far as Costa Rica, a hired captain to show us the ropes, said to always give them a clearance of a mile and half to be safe as the nets can be 1200 feet long stretching under the surface of the water ready to snag your props.  We didn't have enough room to give them a mile and a half because of dangerous nearby shoals and there were so many of them.  The waves were high and beating us on our beam, tilting the boat uncomfortably becoming hard stay in our seats and see what was ahead.

I'm nagging Larry to give the first fishing boat more room.  He says he can't as there's no room to turn as there was a large outstretched shoal on our left and the fishing boat on our right.  I can't judge distances well but it looked to me like we were too close as we passed behind the fishing boat but we cleared him with no problems.  Then we had to deal with another and so it went for over an hour.  They were coming in all directions.  This is awful.  Isn't it going to let up I wondered? 

Then just when you thought it couldn't get any worse an alarm goes off in the boat!


Larry's hearing isn't too good so I'm always the one to find the origin of anything we hear on the boat.  This time it wasn't too hard to find it as it was blaring!  We're both looking at every dial on the helm trying to figure out what's gone wrong.  Are we taking on water?  Are we sinking? Is the engine on fire?  What the hell kind of alarm would make that loud of a sound and not make you think the ship was going down??  Something serious must be wrong.

Larry suddenly found the source of the problem.  The digital read out on the engine monitor display said "water in the fuel".  What?  Did we pick up some bad fuel the last time we filled up?  I wondered, where did we fuel up last? Hmmm, it was Norfolk, VA.  Nah, we couldn't have gotten bad fuel there. 

Maybe the washing machine action we're getting out here in these seas has stirred up some water that might have been in the bottom of the fuel tank while the boat was stored this summer and has worked it's way into the fuel tank vent.  We didn't know how serious it was but there was not a thing we could do about it in this mess so we kept going.  That dam alarm was unnerving, loud and scary and you couldn't shut the thing up.  Not only did we have to deal with the terrible seas, the maze of gill netters and things flying, we now had to listen to this thing louder than all get out.  We felt like we were going crazy.  Larry kept punching buttons on the display trying to figure out how to turn it off.  We struggled like that for about 15 minutes I'd say, just going insane with that alarm and dealing with everything else going on. 

I couldn't move because I had to hold poor Ziggy as we sat in the other helm seat.  There was no safe place for Ziggy to sit, except in someone's arms or he'd be sliding from one side of the salon to the other along with the other loose items sliding back and forth.  Finally Larry yelled at me to take the helm.  I did my best holding a dog and hand holding onto anything so I get over to the helm. Larry scrambled to the back of the salon and lifted the seat cushion on the salon settee and switched fuel tanks thinking the other tank would be free of water.  The alarm stopped. 

Ah, thank God.  That didn't last long though as the dam thing started up again.  Larry by now back in control at the helm yells at me to get his binder full of manuals and other information that he put together for the boat.  I managed to get it to Larry from the bookcase behind the helm seat and hand it to him.  He drove the boat with one hand while he flipped through the manual with the other looking for anything that would solve this problem.  He could only brace himself in the seat with a foot on whatever wood work was nearby to keep him in place. 

Finally he found something in the manual that told him how to shut F#@!% alarm audio off.  Ah, peace and quiet finally.  I can think again!   We could talk to each other again. 


"What's the problem?  What did you do?  I said.

"I turned the audio off on the dam thing.  I know we have water in the fuel tank but I don't have to listen to it telling me that for three more hours!"

What does it mean?  What's wrong?  Are we safe?  Will we be OK? I wondered and asked too many questions.

"There's water in the fuel tank that's all."  Again we went over the same thoughts about how and why.  "There's nothing I can do out here, we'll just have to deal with it when we get to Beaufort."

"Will we be OK until then?" I asked.

"We'll have to be."

It was nerve wracking running the boat with something wrong.  We don't do that but had no other choice.  It was strange turning off an alarm that was so loudly and definitely warning you of a problem.  It must be a big problem I thought to be warning us so loudly.


Well, at least now we could concentrate on avoiding the gill netters and shoals out here.  I imagined it like one big video game, dodging them for a free run home, wracking up points each time we got safely around another without going on a shoal, being thrown off balance by the rocking of the boat, and struggling with poor visibility through the drenched windows while and all the while worrying about the engine.  Wow, wouldn't that make a great video game? So far we didn't blow up on screen yet on the screen and were wracking up some good points. 


Finally after a few hours the seas were subsiding as we headed into the protection of the mainland and into the mouth of Neuse River.  We completely forgot about our companions with all the problems we had that day.  They too had had some fuel problems that last few days, actually he thought he had a defective fuel pump but they seemed to be doing OK too.  They ran about the same speed as we but they left before us and by taking the other channel out of Ocracoke got a head start on us.  As we got into more level seas they pulled back on their throttle to save on fuel consumption and now we began to catch up to them. 

As we began to pass them in the wide stretch of Neuse River they hailed us. 

"Wow those were the roughest seas we've ever been in, how about you?  They were really bad!"  They said.

Larry wasn't in the mood for chit chatting as we were worried about the fuel tank.  He quickly answered back explaining our problem and that we were on a mission to get to a boat yard in Beaufort as soon as possible to see what the problem was. 

They said they were slowing down now to conserve fuel (at the time the fuel prices were sky high).  We said we'd catch up in Beaufort after we got things sorted out.


We passed them on our port and headed up to the opening of Adams Creek.  The waters were still choppy even up here in the protection of the land masses on each side.  We could see another gill netter but this time he was coming out of Adams Creek and I'll be a mother's monkey if he didn't have his nets out, coming out of the river!  I'm driving the boat now as we just now were able to put the medicinal eye drops in Larry eyes and he now needed to rest his eyes.  So now I've got to maneuver around this gill netter as we head back into the Intracostal waterway of marked channels and shallow areas.  What is this guy thinking I wondered?  But as I get closer it was an optical illusion as the area was much wider than I could see from a distance and there was plenty of room to get around this guy. 

Again, we got the binoculars out and tried to figure out the markers for the opening.  We had a few range markers to guide us a few legs of the journey which still required Larry to help.  It was frustrating to have to go slow again and worry about wakes when we had this issue with the boat.  We just wanted to get to a yard as soon as possible and see what the problem was.  But slow we went, always checking the wake to make sure we weren't washing some boat at a dock and slowly passing others without waking them but when the shores were clear of docks and marinas and there was no one to pass we picked up speed when ever we could. 

We finally made our way out to where Newport River joins us with Adams Creek.  It's a wide stretch and lots of markers to follow and pretty shallow in areas.  Some humongous sport fishing boat headed for Fort Lauderdale I'm sure sped by us waking the crap out of us.  Thanks a lot jerk!  They were all on their fly bridge smoking cigars as they went by giving me a funny glance as they went by. 

HEADING INTO BEAUFORT FINALLYe slowed down now as we had to find the markers heading into Town Creek to Beaufort.  It was low tide and the waters were "skinny" under us.  We entered the marked channel and slowly followed the route with not much under us.  We weren't headed to the public docks at Beaufort this time but looking for marina just before you head under the draw bridge to Beaufort. 

Ah there it is.  We hail the marina and tell them we are here.  Larry had called them by cell phone as soon as I took over the helm in Neuse River to explain the problem and that we needed a mechanic.  They were ready for us and directed us to the outside dock. 


Ah, thank God we don't have to maneuver in between those dam poles into a slip again.  A nice easy docking is just what we need after what we've been through.  And it was an easy docking.  I was so happy to be at the dock again, a nice flat level boat again with solid ground near by.  Ziggy was happy too.  It's funny how quickly you forgot those bad seas once to get back to land again. 

Larry and the marina owner quickly discussed the problem with the fuel tank.  It was late in the afternoon so he said he'd have the mechanic come by the boat first thing in the morning.  We didn't care as we were peacefully at a dock now, no worrying about the engine, no more bad seas and we had a nice view of Town's Creek and the marsh lands to boot.  Well, that is until the bugs came


It all started when we took the marina's loaner car across the bridge to the little quaint town of Beaufort to get a late lunch.  We got a nice little table over looking the public docks on an outdoor patio of a local restaurant.  I should've known something was up when I saw a guy a few tables over with his glass of ice tea covered over with a napkin, with a hole punched through the center if it so he could sip his drink.  I wondered what in the heck he was doing. 


As we waited for lunch it became clear as "they" began to arrive.  "They" were these nasty little black bugs no bigger than spots of pepper.  They arrived first by flying around your face and then subsequently landing on everything and anything.  I grabbed a menu from host's counter nearby and began fanning them away while we waited for lunch which started a fad as the woman in the next table over got up and got one too and soon others.  We all began fanning.  We fanned while we sat, fanned while we ate and fanned while we drank.  I asked the waitress about the bugs and she didn't know where they came from as apparently they just arrived. 

Wow, was I glad to leave that place and head back over the bridge back to the boat as we had noticed they were even being swatted down at the docks from the restaurant.  You could see people waving there hands every where, whether they were sitting on the back of their boats, washing their boats or just plain walking down the dock.  I've never seen anything like it. 


Back at the boat, I somehow gained some energy to hose down the salt off the boat.  It was covered with salt after that wild ride across Pamlico Sound.  Larry was still not feeling well and rested inside.  As soon as I hosed off the salt the bugs arrived.  They began to land on the boat in masses.  I tried to hose them off and the more I hosed them off the more they landed on the boat and tuck in the wet surface.  It was awful.  They didn't seem to bite though so they weren't those mean "no see ums."   So, if they don't bite, I decided it's only harmless bugs so let them stay as long as they don't bite.  I really had no choice.


Next morning bright and early the mechanic arrived.  The bugs were still here but so far still friendly and outside the boat.  Of course now though with the mechanic here we had to have the door open so he could work and go in and out so the bugs decided to invite themselves inside.  What choice did I have?  So "Come on in!"


The water in the fuel tank turned out to be not such a serious problem after all.  It turns out water was in the Ray Core filter bottom and there is a sensor that detects the water when it gets to a certain level.  This sensor is wired into the engine control panel and sets off an alarm.  We didn't know this boat had a devise to set an alarm to tell us the filter was filling up with water.  We just assumed it was telling us water was in the engine.  Now we know that we have an alarm to tell us when the water gets to a certain level in the bowl so we can then merely switch to the other Ray Core filter or drain the water off.  It was really a simple solution but in the conditions we were under it created a stressful situation.  By morning Larry had figured the problem out and could've fixed it but the mechanic was coming so might as well get the oil changed and new filters put in while he was coming.  So a couple hours later, and more bugs we had a working fuel tank that won't blast the alarm at us for the next several legs of our journey.


Larry had another appointment with the eye doctor (remember, the doctor that we drove about 400 miles round trip from the Outer Banks last week to see?). Yep, same guy, but this time he's just a couple miles away over the bridge to Moorehead City.  Someone else at the marina was using the loaner car so Larry called a cab to take him.  I stayed aboard on the boat and waited for Larry to come back. 


Larry was gone for hours it seemed and I tried my best to tolerate the bugs but just couldn't take it anymore.  I finally closed the door and began battle with the vacuum cleaner.  I must have sucked up enough to replace the population of the US in number.  It took me a full hour at least to complete the massacre. 

When I got finished sucking up all the bugs in sight, I glanced outside and the bugs outside covering the outside of the boat.  I decided to give the boat a thorough washing hoping to rid us of those varmints on the outside too.  A little embarrassed, I wondered what the guy in the big sports fishing boat in the next slip over to us thought as I went on this crazy vacuuming and cleaning spree.   


We exchanged a few social niceties as I began to scrub the outside of the boat and after awhile I noticed that he now got his hose out too.  I asked if he was going to wash his boat too and he said no but that he finally figured out a way to get in his boat without the bugs coming in.  I watched as he proceeded to hose off the door to his salon and then put the hose down quickly and run inside shutting the door quickly behind him.  We both laughed when he came back out and it just broke the ice.  So for the rest of the afternoon we talked and joked about the bugs and then another captain down the dock in another sport fisher came down and all began to chew the fat so to speak. 

By now Larry was back from the doctor's appointment.  It was late in the day and the captains decided to bring some chairs from their boats along with a couple beers and settled in on the dock by our back cockpit for some relaxed conversation. 

We had a great time with these guys.  They were locals and told us some interesting lore of the area.  The one guy, who was a bit shy at first before the ice was broken, spoke with a strange accent and hard to understand at first.  He was born and raised in Harkers Island and still had the Elizabethan accent that we have come to know during our travels in the remote areas of the Bahamas. 


We learned that the bugs come out in a NE wind.  The NE wind blows them in from the nearby marshes.  When the wind is blowing another direction they aren't a problem.  We told them about our experience in the seas the day before and they said that you don't want to go out on the sound in a NE wind.  They also showed us their crab traps hung right off the dock with some stone crabs in them.  He said it was unusual to be able to catch them there but somehow the salt water has crept up the inlet farther than ever this year and they are seeing different sea life around the docks. 


It was a great afternoon even though there was no getting rid of those dam bugs.  Even when we went back in the boat, after all that work vacuuming them up, they crawled back in through the screens in the port holes.  They were clever little stinkers too as they soon figured that vacuum nozzle and would quickly head for cover between the cracks of the moldings or upholstery, whatever, it didn't matter what it was, they just knew how to hide from it.  Some of them were starting to bite too.  I guess a few "no see ums" decided to come in too. 

Well, if you have to be covered in bugs, it was nice to have laughed about them with these sports fishing captains and hear their stories.  We enjoyed being at this marina much more than over at the Beaufort public docks in town as we had the chance to meet the locals here, not just more cruisers heading south. 


We'll be heading out in the morning.  We can't leave earlier than 8:00 as that's the first opening of the bridge that we have to go through so we'll have to deal with bugs until then I guess. 


Home Up Annapolis St Michaels Smithfield Great Dismal Swamp Elizabeth City Manteo Ocracoke Beaufort,NC South Port Georgetown