Friday, June 15, 2018

Marina Review – Seapath Yacht Club Wrightsville Beach (NC) 2018 New

This is another marina review on the On Board Life. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.

If you're a cruising boater and cruised along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, you've had to wait for the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. They only open at the top of the hour during the day. You pull up, make your request, then do the bridge dance with your boat until the bridge tender blares their siren and opens her up. We all know that part.

What about the town of Wrightsville Beach? What's it like? We pulled into Seapath Yacht Club (a private club with a public transient dock) for two nights so we could get into this beachside tourist trap and see what was what.
N: Navigability – On Motts Channel which you turn onto off of the ICW 1,500 feet from the bridge. You can also get to it by turning off the ICW at the Mansboro Inlet channel a little further south, then navigate around to the marina.

D: Dockage – Long, transient facing dock. Plenty of depth. The current is noticeable but not terrible at all. Quite a few day-boaters and transients pull in for fuel.

S: Services – Gasoline, diesel, and pump-out on the fuel dock. I don't know what their policies about technicians is. They are a very amiable bunch of folks there.

A: Amenities – The marina's office is right there on the docks. The bathrooms and showers are clean but odd. The toilet stall in the men's room is very short. To be frank, there's barely enough room to sit down with the door closed if the door was flat. They get around this by having a door that is curved outward, but you still have to work at finishing the job, so to speak. (I ran into this same thing at Colonial Beach Marina on the Potomac River on the way to Washington D.C., but they didn't have the curved doors. It sucked.) (I don't know about the women's stalls.) There is a laundry. Pull the drier away from the wall a couple of inches to get it to dry well.

A: Accessibility – Seapath has a loaner van available. Bikes are also a real option. (There are bike trails. Be mindful of the heavy vehicle traffic.) Uber and Lyft are available. There is a public transit system called Wave. We did not explore that.

P: Provisioning – There's a Harris Teeter 1.3 miles on the other side of the bridge, so provisioning is possible with the loaner van. There's also a West Marine in the same plaza, but they told me they're moving soon to a location not as convenient. ("We sell boat stuff, so let's move further away from where the boats are." Nice thinking.) There is a hardware store near the Harris Teeter too. Check out Redix (pr: ready), a large sundries store a block or two down the causeway from the marina. (Old timers from St. Louis may remember Grandpa Pidgeons stores; Redix reminded me of them. Remember their catch phrase? "We're open every night.")

Wrightsville Beach is part of the Wilmington statistical area, and we were surprised how bustling, busy, and hectic the entire area is. If you're on a bike be very alert in the heavy traffic. It's a 25 mile journey from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach by water but only 9 miles by road from the docks in downtown Wilmington to the marina. They are part and parcel together as a community.

The ICW directly before the bridge on the south side
Wrightsville Beach is a popular tourist area with rental houses and condos and a small beach strip with gift stores and pizza parlors. Nice beach. And it's all piled onto the small island area. But that's cool. It was fun. It doesn't come off as being glitzy at all.

As I said in Wrightsville's review, it's a vibrant and happening city. If you dig a happening downtown, go to Wilmington and enjoy what they have to offer. It's Americana with all the stores and amenities you need or want. But, if you are into sand and surf, Wrightsville Beach is the place to be.

Seapath Yacht Club is a terrific marina with all the accouterments you need to enjoy your stay there … even if the men's toilet stalls are weird.

P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.50 per foot. That included electricity.

Verdict – We really liked both Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. We wished we had more time to explore it. The next time you are on the ICW there, dock at Seapath Yacht Club, grab their loaner car, and dig into the fun.
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Wilmington, NC City Dock – SURPRISE!

Because of where we stayed in Wilmington is technically not a marina but a waterfront dock, I'm giving it a different review treatment. Make sure you check out the full-blown review of Seapath Yacht Club in Wrightsville Beach. The two go together. They're 25 miles apart by water, but they're both part of the same metro area.

First, the technical marina review-ish stuff.

The city docks in Wilmington, NC are floating docks along the boardwalk shoreline in downtown Wilmington. The depths are fine, the docks float, there's 30 and 50 amp juice, and there isn't any wifi other than what you can get using your phone as a hotspot. The docks are not secured, and you should pay close attention to tie your boat up in a manner that would deter troublemakers. There's no shower or toilets. (We were at the H dock, and I confess I snuck into the Hotel Ballast [aka “The Hilton”] to use their bathrooms.) Our total coast was $122.00 for two nights for our forty-five foot boat. There is a pump-out apparatus on the south end of the H dock. There is also an employee who monitors the dock, collects the money, and helps with the pump-out, but don't count on him to assist you with docking or other things like that. It was surprisingly rocky and rolly.

Clever marketing is like magic. It can take an otherwise humdrum, boring, dying (or at least sick) waterfront town and, presto-chango, turn it into a shinning star, a destination with near magical qualities, at least in their brochures and websites. But more often or not it's an illusion. They look great on paper but are big, fat nothings in reality. (I'm looking at you, Crisfield and Cape Charles.) With this as a background we went up from Bald Head Island to Wilmington with our eyes as wide open as we could have them. We were in store for just about anything, good or bad, but what would we actually find.?

I'm very happy to report that Wilmington was delightful.

The downtown area was energetic and engaging. There were actual things to do there. And there were people, yes, real people on the streets coming in and out of stores and doing things! There were several very nice restaurants along the riverfront. (We ate at the Pilot House restaurant. Very good food.) Lisa actually got some shopping in. Everyone was pleasant. It was a place that was actually worth the effort to get to.

There are museums and tours and lots of history to discover. And for you war buffs, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is just on the other side of the river from downtown: The USS North Carolina battleship is there.

So, by all means, if you're cruising up or down the ICW, make the time to go up the Cape Fear River to the city docks at Wilmington. It's a pleasant cruise with a town at the end itching to help you make it worth the effort.

Stay tuned for the review of Seapath Yacht Club at Wrightsville Beach to lean how the whole thing ticks. Hint: They're neighbors with less distance between them by land than by water.