Sunday, August 4, Idle Queen finally sailed out of Oriental’s harbor. And I do mean “sailed”. The last errand to run in Oriental was to bring the boat in to the fuel dock to top off all of our tanks before heading out. I was planning to sail off from the dock, but a power boat came in just as we were finishing with fueling up, so I elected to motor out instead of keeping him waiting. Once clear of the dock, though, we put up sail and slowly gathered speed as we left the inner harbor.
The wind was blowing from the north, and turning to the northeast. This meant that the Neuse River was smooth as we sailed along a mile from shore. Unfortunately, this also meant that the wind would be against us once we turned the corner to head into Pamlico Sound. I had wanted to head up the sound to visit Manteo on the way north, but the wind stayed northeast, which would have been on the nose, making the decision to motor north on the ICW route an easy one. I have discovered that ol’ Idle Queen is not terribly fond of going to weather. We anchored for a day to try to invent storage solutions for a few troublesome pieces of gear, and get the depthsounder working.
Although I generally dread hours of motoring, I do enjoy the canals for their close views of the landscape. Smooth waters are a bonus. We still set sail at every opportunity and didn’t transit any of the legs between Oriental and Elizabeth City entirely under power. That didn’t do much for our speed, though. We met a fellow sailor in Elizabeth City on a 20′ Pacific Seacraft “Flicka” who was amazed that, #1- we were sailing in the cuts; and, #2- he was pulling away from us. Well, the wind isn’t all that consistent when surrounded by all those trees, but a fair breeze is a fair breeze.
There was plenty of wildlife to hold our interest and take our minds off the heat as we motored and sailed north to anchor up past Belhaven. The cuts were well-populated with birds, turtles, dragonflies, and loads of butterflies. I also enjoy looking at the trees along the banks of the canals. It is amazing to look at the size of some of the stumps that are all that remain of old cypress and juniper trees from long ago–those stumps are huge. The trees growing along the cuts today are just babies in comparison with the monsters that were cut down to leave stumps of six feet and more in diameter.
We sailed past Belhaven. Even though the promise of a free city dock was slightly tempting, we had a good breeze and made 10 more miles before anchoring in the dark just outside of the channel.
The next day, we arose early to start before the day heated up. Before leaving, I checked the engine over and pulled the zinc to have a look. It was not much more than mush. Hmm… Well past time to change it. I pulled a new pencil zinc from my stock only to discover that it was much too long and had to cut it down. I thought I had bought a half-dozen zincs of the correct size, but it was obvious that I hadn’t. At least I had something that would work. A few frustrating minutes with a hacksaw and some trial-and-error fitting had a new zinc anode in the engine. I tightened the alternator belt as well and we were soon underway. We made it a very long day, as the wind turned fair while we were in the canal. We sailed up the Alligator River, through the bridge, across Albermarle Sound, and up the Pasquotank River to anchor just a mile from the downtown waterfront of Elizabeth City. It was 0200 before we had the anchor down that morning.
Arising before the wind came up the next day, we motored down to the free city docks and backed Idle Queen in to one of the slips. We received a most friendly welcome from the assistant harbormaster and a couple of interested bystanders.
Our stay in Elizabeth City was delightful. We arrived only planning to stay for a day, but ended up staying for three. How could we leave, what with invitations to drive down to Edenton and Rocky Hock; head out to a mud boggin’ competition in Currituck; and let’s not forget the awesome farmer’s market on Saturday morning… Besides the personal connections, there are great services for boaters: free city docks; strong wifi; access to water; free loaner bikes; and access to nearby toilets. All of this is right in a beautifully maintained waterfront park just a short walk from restaurants, art galleries, and more. We made wonderful friends and memories during our brief stay in Elizabeth City and look forward to visiting again soon.