We were up before dawn on the last day of the trip. The marsh grass glowed orange with the rising sun. Tall clouds hung off the bow well to the south of the Neuse River. The wind was strong out of the southeast.
We slipped past the shoals and crab pots at the mouth of Goose Creek and returned to the Neuse. A fine reach carried Spartina to the middle of the river where we fell off until the wind was over the port quarter. It was a straight run to New Bern. The wind was steady and the river was smooth, we were moving at six knots.Once again, easy sailing. I still can't get over how the winds worked in our favor throughout the trip. I never would have expected, certainly wouldn't have hoped for these winds out of the north, east and southeast and just when we needed them.
All too soon we could make out the sign on the Outback Steakhouse on the south side of the Trent River entrance. And then our hotel. I had mixed feelings. Excitement, because we were in sight of our goal. Regret, because the trip was about to end. We followed the channel markers up to the Hwy 17 bridge where I took the tiller from Bruce. He took the binoculars and went forward to locate navigation aids as we approached the bridge. We passed under the bridge and swung to the west towards the Trent River. The causeway and drawbridge were being rebuilt and it took a few minutes to pick out the channel. A power boat leaving the river showed us the entrance. We snugged up the sheets and headed on into the harbor. After a couple of tacks in the small harbor between two marinas, we headed up into the wind and dropped our sails.
At the docks we looked at the gps. Since leaving Engelhard seven days earlier we had sailed 154 nautical miles during 46 and one-half hours of sailing. Average speed for the trip was 3.3 knots. I like those numbers. We travelled a good distance and kept up a pretty good pace. But they don't begin to describe the fun we had, the beautiful marshes we had seen, the storms we sailed through, the expanses of water we crossed or the people we had met. It had been a great trip. What I've described here on the blog is only a small part of our adventure.
(Steve is being modest here. He really showed his boat handling skill as we approached the channel into the marina. The channel was very narrow and the harbor between the marinas was quite small and narrow, too. There just wasn't much space to maneuver. Steve sized up the wind, direction and speed, and took Spartina straight down the center of the channel and into the marina area. The wind was mostly steady but there were occasional gusts that propelled Spartina faster. This time I just sat there and watched as we approached the long dock with large yachts berthed on the opposite side. We came to within ten feet of the dock when Steve brought Spartina about and we sailed away from the dock and deeper into the fairway of another marina. Then as we approached a boat at berth Steve brought Spartina about and we were headed back towards our marina dock once again. Steve sighed and said, "I would love to tack like this all day". As we approached the throat of the fairway we would need to go down he brought Spartina into the wind and I lowered the main. Steve started the motor for a short run to the dock. I was all smiles as I had noticed some of the people on the motor yachts watch us sail into the matina. It was sailing perfection. I was really proud of Steve's abilities and that I was on board to share in the fun.)
We tied up at the end of a long finger pier filled with mega-yachts. Spartina probably looked like one of their dinghies. We tracked down the dockmaster who directed us to a nice slip on a small boat dock, then we checked into the hotel. Back at the boat we were once again answering questions about Spartina and the trip. Yes, she is home-built. Yes, we slept on board. No, we weren't crazy. Yes, it was a lot of fun.
Arriving by boat got us a discount at the hotel, staying in the hotel got us a discount on the dock fee. That's a good deal if you ask me. Bruce took the photo below from our hotel room window, you can see me rigging the boom tent on Spartina at the bottom right. We had a great time in New Bern. Very nice town, great sailing area. If you ever visit New Bern, make a point of having the shrimp and grits at The Chelsea. You will know then that you are in the South.
And that was the Skeeter Beater 126. I want to say thanks to everyone who has taken a moment to read about the adventure. I hope you enjoyed it. I know we did.