Post #52: BEARD OIL – Day 373, May 9, 2015. On board: Jack Kelly; Tom Thurston (partial); Jessie Koningisor (partial); Naoko Yamaguchi Schneider (partial)
Beaufort was hosting a boat building contest on Saturday, so we were able to watch part of it before we cast off the lines and headed out. During the 4 hour time limit, each team built a boat that met certain required specifications; judges chose the best results to be awarded prizes:
Working hard and fast within the 4 hour time limit.
This boat came in for the festivities:
This wooden boat is steam propelled – the boiler that produces the steam is wood fired.
My friend Jack Kelly flew into North Carolina and joined us early Saturday afternoon. Soon after he arrived we cast off the lines on a somewhat windy day for a 25 mile run to Oriental, North Carolina. A small 12-block town on the edge of the wide Neuse River, Oriental has half a dozen restaurants, a few commercial establishments, and some 19th century, well-kept homes. Here are some pictures:
Dating from the 1880, more than 20 of these artesian wells/fresh water springs provided water to Oriental residents until the 1960’s. The concrete benches were added in the 1920’s, providing a place for residents to gather and socialize under this 200 year old willow oak when they came to get water.
The Joint Adventure docked at the marina in Oriental. Fresh water shrimping is a major industry in Oriental – the anchor in the foreground is on the bow of a large shrimp boat across the harbor from the Joint Adventure
We’re still in the Bible Belt….
We celebrated the 1 year anniversary of our Great Loop voyage with a toast in Oriental – left to right, Jim K, Jack Kelly, and Tom Thurston
Our next stop was Belhaven, N. C. after a 50 mile run in the wide, open waters of the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. Notorious for steep, closely-spaced waves, we wanted a relatively calm day, and we got it after several days of fairly strong winds. Belhaven is a small, sleepy town that seems to be struggling economically. The town was first settled in 1868 and grew by producing lumber products in several mills. When a rail line was built to Norfolk, the town became an important transportation artery for the distribution of goods throughout eastern North Carolina due to its location on Pamlico Sound. Belhaven calls itself “the birthplace of the ICW” because the last remaining link – the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal – was completed and opened in 1928. The celebration in Belhaven for the opening was attended by 20,000 people and included two Navy seaplanes, several Coast Guard cutters, and an Army blimp. Today, local businesses primarily serve local farming communities and local residents. There are some very attractive buildings in the small, downtown area, but there are a number of vacant storefronts,and within blocks of Main Street, vacant, derelict buildings are frequent. Here are two of the prominent historic buildings in town:
Belhaven City Hall, a beautiful, 19th century brick building
The River Street Manor overlooks the wide Pongo River. Built in 1904, it was home to a local lumber baron. A renovation is planned to convert the historic building to a venue for special events, such as weddings.
This is a tidbit of information that I picked up in Belhaven that you probably didn’t know….
The next day’s run started with a 22 mile run through the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal, followed by a 21 mile run on the open waters of the Alligator River. Fortunately, we had another day of light winds, so it was a pleasant run. We stayed at the Alligator River Marina due to its location rather than its amenities – it basically consists of a Shell gas station along a highway with docks behind it – perhaps the least attractive stop of our trip (we’ve stayed at other rural, sometimes somewhat derelict marinas, but each seemed to have some redeeming feature that provided character…). The Alligator River was our rendezvous point where, unfortunately, Tom Thurston left the trip to go back to real life; fortunately, however, my daughter Jessie and her friend Naoko from Japan joined us. Here are some pictures:
While sufficiently wide, the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal had many stumps protruding near the banks, so we paid close attention…
We cooked a great fish dinner on board while at the Alligator River Marina – I had two large filets of mahi-mahi and hogfish that I had bought right off a boat in the Bahamas and immediately put it in the freezer, which we combined with fresh salad and rice – and a healthy dose of wine. From left to right, Jessie, Naoko, and Jack.
We left the next morning for Elizabeth City, crossing the notorious Albemarle Sound – it’s shallow water, frequent winds, and geographic orientation has made it legendary for unpleasant passages. We left fairly early to try to get across before the wind picked up, which turned out to be wise – we were entering the more protected Pasquotank River as the winds began to build. A few pictures from the run:
Jessie at the helm on a still-calm Albemarle Sound….
Naoko expertly guiding us up the Pasquotank River towards Elizabeth City, despite a maze of crab pot floats to avoid –
Approaching Elizabeth City, this enormous building looms on the horizon – it is the TCOM Blimp Hanger where – yes, they store blimps…
Elizabeth City grew in colonial days due to its location on the Pasquotank River, its abundance of lumber, and the opening of the Dismal Swamp Canal in 1805. Today, the city has many historical buildings and a wonderful waterfront, which it leverages by providing free overnight dockage, restrooms, and showers available to transient boaters. It also boasts a surprisingly large and comprehensive museum in a beautiful, new building, and the historic district is significant. The City does seem to be struggling a bit economically, however, as evidenced by a number of vacant storefronts in the downtown area.
Here are a few pictures:
Historic buildings in the downtown area –
This home was built by a wealthy merchant as a wedding present to his daughter in 1914. It remains a private residence in the same family.
So two of Jessie’s Law School friends whom I count among my friends as well, Lou and Brandon, have apparently been experimenting with various concoctions, one of which is beard oil. Having seen my beard on the blog, they thought this would be a good opportunity to do some market research so they sent a bottle with Jessie for me to try. Now I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “beard oil”, so I didn’t really have much to compare to. I do know that my beard frequently (always?) looks frazzled and perhaps rather silly, so I was certainly willing to try it out. However, I didn’t know what to do with it, so I asked Jessie to inquire about some instructions. The reply came back: “(1) Rise early (2) Rub on beard (3) Seek adventure”. Not quite as detailed as I had hoped. I then inquired whether it was flammable or not. The reply came back: “Oh, we didn’t test for that – we’re not engineers…”. Not one to be deterred, with Jessie’s help, I tried it out:
Rub it in….
Does it look any different?
I think it’s a lost cause….
Leaving Elizabeth City, there is an 18 mile run up the narrowing Pasquotank River to a lock which marks the beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal. The lock only opens at specific times several hours apart, so we cast off the lines at 6:30 AM to make the 8:30 lock opening. This part of the river is one of the most scenic rivers on the Great Loop. Here are some images:
The river is perhaps two football fields wide at Elizabeth City, but rapidly narrows as it heads north. It was early in the morning so the water was like glass as we headed up the river.
Cypress trees growing out of the water along the banks of the river
Notice the near-perfect reflection of the trees on the perfectly still water of the river
An eagle presiding over its kingdom as we quietly passed through
The name “Great Dismal Swamp” is a misnomer – it is not dismal at all. The name is a carryover from the maps of early explorers, who often labeled swamps as “dismals” because they had no economic value at that time and were an impediment to exploration and transportation. For some reason, the label “dismal” stuck to this particular swamp and became its name. In 1763, none other than George Washington proposed digging a canal to connect the waters of Albemarle Sound to Chesapeake Bay. He became president of the privately-held Dismal Swamp Land Company, and directed the surveying and digging of the first 5 miles of the canal. However, by 1796, Washington became disappointed in the management of the project, and contracted to sell his share to “Lighthorse” Harry Lee – father of Robert E. Lee. Lee was unable to come up with the money, however, and Washington’s interest remained part of his estate when he died in 1799.
The canal took 12 1/2 years to build, and was dug by hand by slave labor. It opened in 1805, and is the oldest continually operated man-made canal in North America. During the Civil War, the Canal and the swamp took on two important roles in American history. First, the Union Army tried but failed to blow up the locks at South Mills in an attempt to cut off the Dismal Swamp as a route for the Confederate Army to supply Norfolk and the surrounding area. They later did take control of the canal. Second, many run-away slaves hid in the swamp, even forming small, hidden settlements, where they lived throughout the war. The swamp also became part of a route to the north for slaves seeking freedom.
Today, there is no commercial traffic on the canal – it is used only be recreational vessels, and serves as one of two optional routes of the ICW. The canal is narrow and full of “deadheads” – submerged logs – so many if not most boats transiting the ICW choose the alternate “Virginia Cut” route. We chose the Dismal Canal route due to its beauty and uniqueness. Here are some pictures:
Approaching the lock at the start of the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Dismal Swamp is higher than the Pasquotank River at the southern end and Chesapeake Bay at the northern end. Hence, a lock at each end raises and lowers boats about 8 feet to enter or leave the Canal.
An excited Penny from the vessel “Penny Pincher”, whom we had met the evening before at the docks in Elizabeth City.
The classic boat “Windrush”, which entered the lock with us. The boat was built in the 1960’s and the owner, Dave, now lives on her. His home port is on the Chesapeake.
There is a wonderful Visitors Center on the Canal. Dockage is limited, and we barely squeezed in at one end of the dock – I turned around to dock in order to keep the stern and propellers away from a submerged stump about 2 feet in front of the boat. There was no place for Windrush to tie up, so we rafted her to the Joint Adventure so Dave and his crew could go to the Visitors Center. He is facing north, the direction of our travel, while the Joint Adventure is facing south.
There is a beautiful half-mile boardwalk hike into the Dismal Swamp, originating at the Visitors Center
There are 20 miles of hiking and biking trails into the swamp – they started as old logging roads and now provide a way to explore the depths of the swamp. Bikes can be rented at the Visitors Center.
During Prohibition, the Great Dismal Swamp was an ideal hideaway for distilleries making bootleg moonshine. This is a replica of one of the many distilleries hidden in the swamp during that period. When discovered, officials would destroy the distilleries. Ruins of several actual distilleries can be seen along the trails through the swamp.
We continued northward in the afternoon after spending a few hours docked at the Visitors Center
Enormous cypress trees in the swamp as seen from the Canal
Within 5 miles of exiting the Great Dismal Swamp at the northern end of the canal, the landscape changes abruptly as one enters the southern end of Norfolk Harbor. Norfolk boasts that it has the largest natural harbor in the world. Pristine landscapes abruptly change to massive industrial uses; the massive industrial uses then abruptly change to massive military uses. There are more military personnel within 15 miles of Norfolk that at anyplace else in the world. The presence of the Navy quickly becomes obvious:
The aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, docked in Norfolk. I’m told that 5 of the 11 full-sized U. S. aircraft carriers are based in Norfolk. While the U. S. has eleven, I’m told that only eight others exist in the world, and no other country, including Russia, has more than one.
Other Navy vessels along Norfolk harbor when entering from the south
The Navy presence is weaved into the fabric of the city throughout. With its strategic location in the middle of the Atlantic coast and its large, protected harbor, Norfolk quickly became a Navy shipbuilding center after the colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. As the growing nation lurched from periods of war to periods of peace, the economy of Norfolk lurched accordingly – employment soared during periods of military build-up, and waned during periods of drawdown. The relationship between the Navy and the city has not always been easy. Between 1917 and the end of World War II, the relationship faced two basic problems. The first was entertainment for the sailors stationed in Norfolk, whose racous behavior sometimes irritated the local people – one humorist dubbed the city “the Hong Kong of the Albemarle”. The other problem involved the provision of city services such as water, electricity, and transportation, which the city could not always provide.
Today, the city, along with its sister city of Portsmouth across the Elizabeth River, is active and vibrant, and its Naval history is on display throughout. Here are some pictures from our stay in Norfolk:
This is a statue along the waterfront of a soldier returning home to his family –
The Armed Forces Memorial is perhaps the most emotional memorial we’ve seen on the entire trip – it is a series of about 20 letters printed on bronze plaques randomly placed across the plaza, as if scattered by the wind. Each was written to a loved one by a soldier who never returned home – some died within days of writing the letter. Some letters date back to the American Revolution, while the more recent ones are from World War II, Viet Nam, and the Iraqi War. They bring tears to your eyes.
The USS Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship that was launched in 1943 and served through the Iraqi War, is permanently docked for public boarding as part of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk – well worth a visit.
A photo in the Naval Museum shows the first airplane to take off from the deck of a ship. YIKES! Thus Naval aviation was born in Hampton Roads at Norfolk in 1910 when this pusher biplane flew off a “flight deck” constructed on the USS Birmingham. The flight to Willoughby Island took just five minutes, but it success signaled the advent of aircraft carriers.
A number of World War II era recruit signs displayed in the Naval Museum are quite dated and would be considered sexist today….
Stemming from its naval history and ties to the sea, the mermaid has become an icon in Norfolk – there are numerous mermaid statues at various locations throughout the city –
Here are two more –
The Historic District in Norfolk includes buildings from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Notice the cobblestone street.
An spectacular church in the historic district of Norfolk
General MacArthur lived part of his life in Norfolk, so there is an extensive memorial to his life and achievements. While celebrating his remarkable record in World War II and the Korean War, the memorial also deals with the controversy surrounding his outspoken nature and his ultimate dismissal by President Truman. While the MacArthur/Truman relationship is well know, less publicized is the enigmatic relationship between MacArthur and President Roosevelt. Roosevelt once called MacArthur “the most dangerous man in America”, while MacArthur once described Roosevelt as “a man who never told the truth if a lie would suffice.” The MacArthur Memorial is well worth a visit:
The MacArthur Memorial is a fascinating walk through history based on the brilliant yet controversial career of General Douglas MacArthur.
General MacArthur and his wife Jean, who lived to be 102, are laid to rest in the MacArthur Memorial
One last picture from our stay:
Norfolk is Mile 0 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, so our journey now heads north into the relatively open waters Chesapeake Bay. More to come!