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River Forest Marina, Belhaven, NC 5/1/19
Alligator River Marina, Alligator River, NC 5/2/19
Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, NC 5/3/19
We've made it half way!
After looking at our route guides a bijillion times, we figured out that at Belhaven, NC we are half way around the Loop, that is from Grafton, IL not Wabasha, MN. We started the real Loop route in Grafton, IL after boating 550 miles down the Mississipi. Feels great to be half Looped!
Here are a few stats at the half way point:
Miles traveled: 3,331
Biggest challenge so far: Skinny water, tides & slack tide timing on the east coast
Up Next on the Loop: Chesapeake Bay, Hudson River, Erie Canal, Canada, Great Lakes, Chicago
River Forest Marina, Belhaven, NC
After crossing the Pamlico Sound, it was a few miles up the river to River Forest Marina. From the minute we pulled into River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC, we knew if was going to be a unique place. Hank, the dockmaster and Eddie his assistant were there with big smiles. Hank was missing his front tooth, but he assured me he wasn't a redneck....."I'm headed to Grinval (Greenville) tommara to git me my implant."
Hank, is Belhavens unofficial ambassador and was singing the praises of this little gem of a town, which happens to be where the Atlantic ICW originated. To say that Hank was an expert conversationalist would be an understatement. He was johnny on the spot to make dinner reservations for us at the 5 Star restaurant in town, Spoon River and wanted us to take the marina golf cart there since it "was a piece down the road and too far to walk." He kept close tabs on us and even asked me how my nap was......
So not only does Belhaven have Hank to sing it's praises, but the president of the city counsel, Miss Diana, came down on to the docks to shake hands with all the transcients and welcome them to Belhaven. She was a hoot! Southern to her roots!
After we got tied up and we got a text from our friends, John & Karen Swarthout, from Maryland. We met them way back at Legacy Marina in Fort Myers. We've stayed in touch after Legacy and were able to meet up in Belhaven. They had a long, 12 hour travel day, but were game to meet up with us after they arrived at Belhaven. We had drinks and did dinner at Spoon River, the local 5 star and had a chance to catch up. It was so fun to see them and hope that we'll see them when we get to the Chesapeake.
Alligator River Marina, Alligator River, NC
We took off from Belhaven after 8am. It was a later than usual start for us, but I had calculated Alligator River to be only 35 miles. Whoops! It was 52 miles. It was slow going and very narrow on the ICW for about 20 miles, but in that time we came up on three Looper vessels we hadn't met yet. Gammel Dansk, from Redwing, MN, Aurora from Stillwater, MN and Sigrid from Milwaukee, WI. The three had been traveling together since the river system. We conversed on the VHF and then all ended up at Alligator River Marina. It's really a truck stop with a bunch of slips, but a good place to stop before crossing the Albemarle Sound if there is bad whether.
Once we all arrived at the Alligator River Marina, Dana from Misty Pearl, another Looper boat suggested we all do docktails. It was great meeting the midwest Loopers. We all agreed it was strange that we'd hadn't cross paths yet. There were a lot of Loopers at Alligator that night: Misty Pearl, Knights Kingdom, Sigrid, Aurora, Knot Ready, Gammel Dansk and us. It was fun sharing looping stories with each other.
Decision Time - Virginia Cut or Dismal Swamp
We had decided about a month ago that we would definitely be doing the Virgina Cut instead of the Dismal Swamp. Both routes get you to Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA, but the Dismal Swamp is the more historic route, albeit very shallow. Lots of folks on the Looper forum had posted issues with depth and even prop damage. The icing on the cake for us was the kayak gathering that was to take place on the Dismal Swamp pretty much shutting it down for a full day. The Virginia Cut looked much more appealing and no issues with depth so it was a no brainer.
Wallace the Weather Bear, aka Tom, had been keeping track of the weather and knew that the Albemarle Sound would be calm and the wind would be in our favor, so we took off for Coinjock, NC and arrived early afternoon. Our Albemarle crossing was great with no issues. Coinjock Marina is a 1200 ft face dock and restaurant know for it's prime rib. In fact, it's recommended when you make your slip reservations that also make a prime rib reservation. It was a fun over night and we did eat at Coinjocks!
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.