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May 9, 2016 – Monday – Sunset Boating Center to Horn Harbor Marina – 32.1 statute miles traveled

We waited till 0900 to leave as the wind was continuing to settle and the current was against us was lessening. It seems that every point in Chesapeake Bay has shallows way beyond the point so it is necessary to go far off shore to get around the point. Leaving the Hampton River and getting through Hampton Roads into Chesapeake Bay proper was no exception. It was necessary to clear Old Point and Grunland Point by about 1.5 miles before heading down the bay.

It was nice to have a large bay full of navigable water so we could stay out of the shipping channel and so constant maneuvering to stay in the channel wasn’t necessary. There were one to two foot waves but they were on our stern beam so the ride wasn’t rolling that bad.

The approach to Horn Harbor is through a very large shallow with a narrow twisting channel so we took care and never had less than two feet under our keel. The marina in Horn Harbor is at the far end of the bay so the entire distance we traveled after getting into the approach channel was over 3.5 miles. This was done at slow bells so it took at least 45 minutes to get in.

The Horn Harbor owners were very nice and the marina itself was great! We met a local boater who spent quite a bit of time with Vicki outlining various places we should cruise too and then he and I had a discussion about Ford Lehman engines as he had the same engine as ours in an Albin boat. The discussion included changing the oil in the injector pump and changing out the pencil zinc in the heat exchanger, both of which were overdue to be done on Sea To See.

Vicki and I took advantage of their boaters lounge to watch the news on TV, something we had rarely done on this trip. As we were the only transient boaters there we had the place to ourselves.

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May 8, 2016 – Sunday – Sunset Boating Center – No travel

Over night it poured, again. We woke to find dripping water on our beds as the rain had made its way through some seams in the dog house above us. This usually does not happen but when it rains buckets for hours it somehow manages to occur. I have looked and tried remedies but cannot find where the cracks are.

The result isn’t catastrophic but there are wet spots that needed drying so we lifted mattresses and opened the hatch so drying ventilation was available. The weather forecast was for strong winds with small craft warnings so we decided to stay in port for another day.   This was a good opportunity to catch up on the blog and do ongoing chores.

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May 6/7, 2016 – Friday/Saturday – Scheevel Shack and Back to Sunset Boating Center – No Travel

Friday

It rained all night along with thunder and lightning. We couldn’t hear much inside the house and that is certainly different than being on the boat. Everyone spent a leisurely morning visiting before we headed out to do some sightseeing in the rain.

The first stop was Jamestown, sight of the first successful settlement on North American soil by the British. We visited the interpretive center and watched an introductory movie before walking, in the rain, to the actual site of the town. There are not many actual artifacts in place at the sight but several archeological digs and reconstructed buildings. It was interesting to read the placards regarding these folks including John Smith and Pocahontas. History does come alive when you are able to visit actual locations and living conditions. It was imperative that I buy a book on the history of this place.

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Jamestown Fort model on the grounds of the original site.

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John was an amazing individual not only heading up the Jamestown settlement but later surveying and exploring all of Chesapeake Bay.

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Ron and Vicki in front of the rebuilt Jamestown Church on the original site.  Inside are placards recounting many people from the historical account of Jamestown.  Of course church and state were one and the same at this time and King James had sanctioned the Virginia Charter and settlement

We drove a road in the area of Jamestown to get a better feel for the territory and then it was time for lunch at the Chickahominy House. There we experienced Miss Melinda’s Special which included Brunswick Stew, Old Virginia Hambiscuits, canned pear on lettuce, sweet iced tea and Coconut Pie.

Then it was off to Yorktown where we first visited a huge monument to the French in appreciation for their assistance during the Revolutionary War and particularly the battle of Yorktown.

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iPhone picture that wouldn’t expand.  Monument to the French in appreciation for their assistance with the Revolutionary War

The story of the Yorktown battle is certainly enhanced by a visit to the battlefield where we saw the Redoubt #9 and #10 with the gun placements and the abatis ( buried logs like pencils aligned side by side with the points sticking out to repel the enemy). Dave drove us through the area where the march from Williamsburg to Yorktown took place.

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Gun emplacements behind the #9 Redoubt.

While going along the waterfront we looked to the shore and there was Hokulani? This is a Hawaiian sailing catamaran canoe that was on a goodwill trip around the world and it had been just ahead of us on the AICW when we left Charleston, SC. We heard people talking on the radio with them as they were being towed. They have no independent propulsion other than sails. We went down to check it out and talk to a couple of members of the crew.

The sight seeing tour was completed with a visit to the park headquarters to see another movie explaining the history of the Battle of Yorktown. We had to stop in the gift shop to pick up a couple of books detailing the Yorktown setting.

We drove home in the rain to spend another enjoyable evening eating more of Maxine’s delicious meals, visiting and then watching some PBS serials we had never seen. All in all this was a very enjoyable day.

Saturday

After a lazy start we headed out to see Colonial Williamsburg. This is quite an attraction. In the old town there are many restored buildings with activities approximating the original taking place.   The town “citizens” are dressed in period costumes and talk and behave as if they were living in the colonial period of the 1700’s. Three main attractions we visited were the Wythe House, Governors Palace and the Capitol Building. Each of these included guides who told us of the daily lives and the history in the making. We also toured the Duke of Gloucester Street where we saw a fife and drum corp and visited the Shoemaker, Weaver, Magazine, Powder Room and the Print Shop.

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Bruton Parish Church – still operational today.

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Ron and Vicki in George Washingtons pew within the Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Willamsburg.  George wasn’t here all of the time but when he was he had an assigned seat.

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Docent at the Wythe House.  Wythe was a teacher of Thomas Jefferson among many other important roles.

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Kitchen in the Wythe compound.  The kitchen was not in the house.

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George Washington slept here – not sure if these were the bed covers.

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Fascinating Cartography display.  Even though the maps were not accurate by todays standards they were amazingly well done considering the size of the territory.

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Dave and map docent discussing cartography in the 1700’s

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Governors Palace Entryway.  Very impressive

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The Palace docent was very good and brought history alive.

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Brings greater meaning to “Powder Room”

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17th century warming oven.

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Fife and drum corp performing on the Palace Green

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Cobbler – he was really knowledgable about how shoe fitting took place when shoes were ordered from England.  Locally they could fit directly.

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Williamsburg citizens

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Amazing display of weaving/cloth making.

Lunch was found at the Chowning’s Tavern with Shepherds Pie and a roving violinist. This was followed by a stop at the “Craft” store, a stop at Dairy Queen and then we returned to the Scheevel Shack to pack for our return to the boat. On the way to Hampton we stopped at Harris Teeter for supplies and then it was to the boat and farewells to Dave and Maxine. Their warm hospitality and generosity will be long remembered.

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Shepherds Pie  was enjoyed at this period tavern.

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Maxine and Vicki waiting for the tour of the Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

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Replica of the Capital Building.

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And the day ended with Hot Fudge Sundays at Dairy Queen.  There is a story behind this as this is something Dave and Vicki enjoyed doing together way back in the 70’s and 80’s.

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May 5, 2016 – Thursday – Atlantic Yacht Basin to Sunset Boating Center – 27.5 statute miles traveled

At mile marker 5.7 is the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge with a seven foot vertical clearance. This bridge needs to be opened but we found out that it was under repair so was closed between 0900 and 1300 hrs. We needed to get there before 0900 or wait until the afternoon. We were at mile marker 12.4 so we needed to make the 0700 opening of the Great Bridge Bridge as it opens only on the hour. Following this we needed to get through the Great Bridge Lock which was timed with the Great Bridge Bridge openings. We left the dock at 0625 in order to make sure we got all of this done without fail.

The waterfront of this entire estuary, beginning before we arrived in Norfolk and extending for miles afterward, is lined with Naval ship services. What a huge operation. Part of it is a security zone in which we were supposed to stay on the red side of the channel and were likely to be contacted by vhf radio and questioned. We stayed on the red (western) side and no contact was made.

When we reached the more open water of Hampton Roads and nearing the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay the wind was blowing 15-20 mph from the NE and we had rough seas. We were glad it was only going to be about five miles across the bay till we reached the channel leading into Hampton River and Sunset Creek where we were going to moor at Sunset Boating Center.

Once we were tied up we called Dave and Maxine Scheevel to let them know we had arrived. Dave and Maxine are long term friends who had lived in Washington and with whom we had been part of a male trio for several years in the late 70’s. We were going to leave the boat for a couple of nights and go visit them in their home in Williamsburg, VA.

Upon their arrival they toured the boat and then we were off on a land adventure. We stopped at a mall and did a little shopping before heading to PF Changs for lunch. After a little more shopping we headed to Williamsburg and Fords Colony where our friends lived.

We toured their beautiful house (Scheevel Shack!)and then spent the evening catching up and enjoying their company and hospitality.

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Dave and Maxine Scheevel’s new abode in Williamsburg.  Nearly all architecture is colonial style.  This ones is a beauty built with a lot of forethought.  

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May 4, 2016 – Wednesday – Atlantic Yacht Basin – No travel

There was more thunder, lightning and rain most of the night. We had a leisure morning as we were waiting for the raw water pump to arrive by UPS from American Diesel in Kilmarnock, VA.

As the covered storage sheds we were in have very long bays and boats are moored end to end it is designed for long range storage. Dockhands came along to inform us that they needed to get the second boat in front of us out so we moved out and around the float and stayed there for a few hours. We were able to move back in just after our part arrived. While we were waiting around Vicki did the laundry.

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This is the storage shed in front of us after the  other two boats were pulled out.  This is the place we will store Sea To See when we come back to Orcas.  Not necessarily this bay.

The mechanic came to the boat to tell us he had some good news and perhaps some bad news. The part had arrived but he thought it wasn’t the right one. After looking at it carefully it seemed that it might work though it clearly was different from the one on the engine. He called American Diesel to see what the deal was and it turned out that it was the right part but that the design had been changed, perhaps for the better.

The pump was soon installed, the new impeller rescued from the old part and all was well. No leaks and plenty of cooling water pumped out the stern. Now to clean out the gallons of water that had dripped into the drip pan under the engine even though the sea cock had been turned off. This still had a sheen of oil floating on the top but under that it was all water. I used oil absorbtion blankets to clean the film of oil off of the surface and then pumped the water out of the pan, wiped it dry and replaced the oil absorption blankets in the bottom of the pan. Tada! We are ready to rock and roll.

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May 3, 2016 – Tuesday – Atlantic Yacht Basin – No Travel

There was serious thunder and lighting all night long so we were glad to be undercover. Still, the pounding rain on the metal roof above our heads was very loud. It continued to rain throughout the day.

The mechanic showed up to replace the impeller and put new gaskets in it to stop the leak. This he did in short order and then we ran the engine to make sure all was well. It wasn’t. The leak was still there. Examining the area more completely it became obvious that the leak was from the raw water pump shaft so a seal must have been shot. We would have to replace the raw water pump.

The parts department called American Diesel right away and it turned out they did have the part and could send it out by UPS for arrival tomorrow. We were going to be at AYB for another day.

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Sea To See was parked inside of this storage shed.  Beautious isn’t it?

Vicki got the opportunity to go to Walmart with Tom and Jane from Elizabear so she was able to pick up some more engine oil and a few other things. Engine oil at Walmart is much cheaper than purchasing the same thing at marinas.

The rest of the day was relaxing, reading and listening to the rain fall until later afternoon when the sun did come out for a short time.

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May 2, 2016 – Monday – Atlantic Yacht Basin – No travel

This being a working day I checked first thing in the morning to see if it was possible to schedule an oil change through the yard. They were booked up for the day so that was put back on my list of things to do. I did the paperwork for the long term storage and then found that the nights I am staying now could be part of that monthly rate. Wow! I like $12 per day much better than $35 or $70 – much more the norm along the way. We will finish our Great Loop trip and then bring the boat back to store it from June 18 until some time in mid to late October.

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Atlantic Yacht Basin on the canal.  The storage sheds are in a lagoon to the right.

We walked out of the marina to find that all kinds of stores were within easy walking distance. I walked to a hardware store to purchase the makings for a “trouble light” and some flashlight batteries while Vicki went to the grocery store. On my phone I found a place were we could get some placards made to place over the Shediac I sign with our MMSI number on it at both helm stations. I called them and they could do what needed to be done. I have only been looking for a place within walking distance of marinas since early in the trip. They were right across the street from the marina.

We returned to the boat where I measured the signs I needed made and then walked to the American Awards and Graphics place to place my order. He said he could get them made by this afternoon.

Now on to the job I am not fond of, changing the oil and filter. This job wouldn’t be such a pain but getting the oil out of this Ford Lehman engine is time consuming. Then, since the engine weeps a little oil and this oil ends up in the drip pan under the engine this has to be cleaned out so new oil absorption blankets can be installed.

The oil came out fairly easy this time though it is a slow process. Unfortunately I found that the drip pan was nearly full and it wasn’t all oil. It looked like a lot of oils since oil floats on water but under the layer of oil was several gallons of water. I looked around and found that water was dripping from the impeller housing so assumed that the cover over the impeller was leaking. After taking the soaked oil absorption blankets out of the drip pan we taped a wire hanger to the end of the oil sump pump hose to hold it under the engine into the drip pan and pumped out about three gallons of water and a gallon of oil. So now I had a leak from the raw water pump that needed attention. Instead of leaving tomorrow morning we will have to delay our departure by another day.

I finished the oil and filter change and all was well. Now a trip to the AYB office scheduled a mechanic to check out my leak problem and then I was able to run to the American Awards and Graphics place to pick up the placards that were finished. Thus drew to a close a day of celebration and frustration. Celebration because the oil change had been completed but frustration because we had a raw water leak to resolve.

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May 1, 2016 – Sunday – Dismal Swamp Visitors Center to Atlantic Yacht Basin – 26.3 statute miles traveled

Since we were rafted alongside Distraction we needed to get off earlier than all of the other boats to head for the Deep Creek Bridge and Lock about 18 miles away. I tried to match the boat speed with the time and distance allotted so we would arrive just before the 1100 opening of the bridge and lock. When about a mile out I called ahead to find that they were locking a boat coming from the north and would be about a half hour behind schedule. There was room for two boats to tie up on a bulkhead so we pulled in and tied up. The next boat moored behind us and then the third boat rafted on them. The remaining three boats elected to hover in the channel.

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Dismal Swamp in the morning.  Sea To See was in the lead of five boats today so we got all of the glassy water.  

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Dismal Swamp

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More Dismal Swamp as we passed from North Carolina into Virginia

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Dismal Swamp on a cloudy day

When we got through we hurried to try to make the 1300 opening of the Great Bridge Bridge but knew it would be difficult as we had been so late getting through the Deep Creek system. Distraction was ahead of us and going to the Atlantic Yacht Basin as well. They called ahead and were told we would have to wait for the 1400 hours opening.

We were heading back south on another channel in order to go to the Atlantic Yacht Basin to check it out. This is where we had decided to leave the boat over the summer while we returned to Orcas so we wanted to complete the arrangements. It is a full service yard with a lot of covered in the water storage with enough height under the roof to accommodate our 20’ 2” mast. I also needed to change the oil while there so it was out intent to stay for two nights and then head north again.

When we finally arrived after getting through the Great Bridge Lock and the Great Bridge Bridge we were back in fresh water again. When we left the Deep Creek lock we had entered the salt water of Chesapeake Bay but Atlantic Yacht Basin is on fresh water side of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal.

Just as we pulled under the covered moorage it began to rain and continued throughout the evening and into the night. We took care of all of our moorage arrangements; both short and long term, and then spent the evening relaxing aboard the Sea To See while parked in the “garage”.

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April 30, 2016 – Saturday – Jennette Brothers Free Dock to Dismal Swamp Visitor Center – 23.4 statute miles traveled

It was a quiet night at the free dock other than the birds. Jeannette Brothers is a seafood distribution company and the parking lot we were next to is where they park the trucks. It was lit so bright that we think the birds didn’t realize it was the middle of the night and kept chirping and calling all night long. It was quite pleasant though.

We headed up the Pasquotank River toward the Dismal Swamp. To get into the Dismal Swamp it is necessary to pass from salt water into fresh water by going through the South Mills Lock. This open at set times and we had planned on making the 1100 opening. We left Elizabeth City at 0735 in order to give ourselves plenty of time to travel the 18 miles. We arrived nearly an hour early to find there was no place to tie up while waiting for the lock to open. Two boats were ahead of us and three boats were behind us. We all anchored in the river to wait for the lock.

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Heading up the Pasquotank River

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Portions of the Pasquotank River are very straight and other parts very crooked. The composition of the water with tannin, etc. created quite a bit of foam.

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Perhaps the smallest boat doing the Loop that we have met on the entire trip.  This couple was from Maine so were heading for home.  They  did cheat a little though as they trailered the boat  in a few spots.

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Dismal Swamp “parade”.  All boats going the same speed as this portion was a no wake zone.

Once through the lock the speed limit is “no wake” so all of the boats spread out and then ran in line for the five miles to the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center. Arriving at the visitors center we found one boat already docked on the bulkhead where there was room for three boats. The two boats ahead of us took the remaining spots and then we rafted on Distraction. This is a 49’ DeFever owned by a couple from the Gold Coast of Australia who are doing the loop as well. We had parked behind them at Elizabeth City but had not met until today.

Not wanting to traipse across the Distraction deck often we planned our trip ashore such that we could do everything we wanted to do at one time. We toured the visitors center and then walked across a pedestrian bridge to the very nice interpretive center at the Dismal Swamp State Park. We then went on a walk through the Dismal Swam on a very nice boardwalk trail with interpretive signs along the way. We stopped at the Welcome Center gift shop and purchased matching Dismal Swamp T-shirts then returned to the boat for the evening.

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Boats rafted at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center as taken from the foot bridge to the Dismal Swamp State Park.

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Vicki Dawn hiking the Dismal Swamp on boardwalks.  It was a cool day and thus the down vest.

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Yup – Ron was there too.  Lots of critters out here!

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April 29, 2016 – Friday – Alligator Marina to Jennette Brothers Free Dock, Elizabeth City – 36.2 miles traveled

We woke at dawn and looked at weather forecasts once again. Nothing had changed so we continued with the plan to go. We were off the dock at 0705 and left the harbor to find 1-2 foot waves just outside. The sailboat Alani had pulled out of the harbor just in front of us but they were going slow so we passed them and headed toward the mouth of the Alligator River and the very shallow bank there called “Middle Ground”

Just as we hit Middle Ground and were trying to weave through the narrow channels into Albemarle Sound proper we began to hit very rough seas. Average wave height may have been only three to four feet but the additive superposition was probably often as much as six feet. As the entire Albemarle Sound is only 18 feet deep or less the wavelength is very short so the boat was pitching like crazy. This would be the first time on the trip we were shooting off of one wave and dropping down in the trough ahead such that we buried the bow clear to the gunnels and on occasion had green water coming over the bow and running down the side decks to the scuppers.

Alani had called on vhf to ask if they could follow along behind as they would feel more comfortable crossing with a buddy boat. Of course we liked that idea too so were happy to have the company. We considered returning to port but the sea conditions were such that turning around would not have been a prudent thing to do so we continued to slog on. The waves were knocking our normal speed of about 7.5 mph, through the water, down to 3 mph at times so we knew it would be a long battle. I am sure glad I had recently put another coating of Rainex on the windshield as the continual spray on the front windows ran off easily so I could still see well. There was no point in running the windshield wipers as the water spray was heavy enough that they couldn’t make much progress.

Crash had left the dock shortly after we did and passed us at Middle Ground. We called ahead to Crash, when we thought they would be about in the middle of the nearly 20 mile crossing, and asked them how it was out there. They indicated that it wasn’t any better where they were.

THERE ARE NO PICTURES HERE.  IT SEEMS THAT WHENEVER THINGS GET MORE EXCITING, TAKING PICTURES IS NOT MUCH OF A PRIORITY!

About 12 miles across the sound we began to notice the waves moderating and felt we had endured the worst. This continued to be the case and we were very thankful for the improving conditions.

The Pasquotank River is another one of those “arms” of the Albemarle Sound. By the time we were a third of the way up the Pasquotank we were in moderate chop and feeling ready to celebrate our not so pleasant crossing of Albemarle Sound. We reached the town of Elizabeth City at about 1230 and opened the bridge to dock at Jeannette Brothers Free Dock.

After settling in and registering with Jeannette Brothers we walked downtown Elizabeth City. We found it to be one of those towns that may be healthy as a whole but which has a downtown/historic district that is fairly run down. There were signs that work was being done to bring it back to life but if so it is still a long ways from being healthy.

We did find a restaurant that had Shrimp and Grits on the menu so we decided to return to it later in the evening as this may be our last chance to find this mostly southern dish on the menu.

The rest of the evening was spend reading and researching our upcoming cruising grounds.

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