Monday, June 24, 2013

Hey, Boaters! Ever Hear of Engelhard, NC as a Stop? Me Neither.

First, a couple of parting shots of Ocracoke.
the view from our sundeck as I was a total lazy bum Friday afternoon

Why Knot at the National Park Service docks

Nice looking boat leaving

Our goboat day on Saturday, June 23 was finally upon us. The conditions weren't the best but they were within our rules except the winds would be a bit more. So we followed the ferry Silver Lake out of the harbor at Ocracoke at 7:30 am. Our destination for the day was a small marina at a town called Engelhard just thirty statute miles up and on the mainland side of Pamlico Bay.

As I said the conditions weren't great but they were manageable. There was a storm system coming up from South Carolina and the rain front hit us about 6:45 am, but it was short lived as a gap in the system that we saw on weather radar moved over us. So out we went. And we were able to stay put in that gap the entire way. We could see both the system that was ahead of us and behind us. But for us things were stable. We pulled into the small commercial fishing village of Engelhard almost exactly four hours out of Ocracoke. The small marina called Big Trout Marina was empty and the village was still. For a big boat Big Trout is actually quite accommodating. There is a large facing dock with 30 amp power (only!) and plenty of depth and maneuvering room. The channel coming in is a bit of a different story. There are a couple of skinny spots that you've got to pay attention to. (The channel has only green markers.)
The fishing village of Engelhard, NC

We walked on shore looking for a dockmaster to pay but everything was closed and locked down. Finally a couple of local fisherman in a runabout came in the marina. We asked them who we needed to pay and one of the guys said, "That would be Frank and right now he's probably taking a nap. He'll be around sometime." Well, as a vocal proponent of napping myself I appreciated the situation and we pretty much spent the afternoon being a couple of laze-bags. Frank did finally come around and confirmed that he was in fact, as he said, asleep in his recliner for a time. We gave him a check for $40.00. It was a peaceful night.
Gotta like a nice long dock!
looking out the inlet towards Pamlico Sound
Big Trout Marina is not a big fancy marina. Nor does it need to be.

The reviews of Big Trout Marina on ActiveCaptain.com are a mixed bag. A few people said that it was not great but Aok. One guy said it was the worst experience of his boating life, which I think is a matter of having too lofty an expectation of any marina. (Not every marina can be a 5-star resort-type experience, can it?) My take is that if a boater would think of it as an anchorage with a dock (or a free dock somewhere) their expectations should probably be calibrated correctly. Isolated, quiet and without any amenities like an anchorage but with the security of actually being tied up at a dock. Plus, on the south side of the inlet there was a very pretty wilderness area with aquatic birds all around. It was actually very nice.

Sunday morning rolled around. We left Big Trout Marina at 6:15 am. Again, the weather forecasts were not ideal but manageable. According to locals the typical summer pattern is for winds from the south at ten to fifteen miles per hour which can be very tricky as that makes for a lot of fetch as you travel further north which kicks up swells and breaking waves. And as Pamlico Sound narrows going north this could make for some very uncomfortable situations the further up you go. Our destination was Manteo, North Carolina on Roanoke Island on the north end of Pamlico Bay, a fifty-one statute mile reach. I expected it to be sloppy the entire route and it started out that way for the first ninety minutes or so. As our first leg out of the channel of Engelhard was decidedly northeastern we were getting some beamy two foot swells pretty consistently. We were getting jostled around and we had no expectation that the winds would subside. But then, almost all of a sudden they did! It went from winds in the ten to fifteen mile per hour range to zero! And the waters laid down almost immediately. So much so that the an oppressive humidity that was being blown away with the winds was able to settle in. It was hot, muggy and uncomfortable, but we weren't complaining. So the vast majority of our cruise to Manteo was downright boring. Pamlico Sound was placid. Things didn't really start kicking back up until we started our route around the northern end of the island to get to the Manteo Waterfront Marina. (There is a southern route that is a few miles shorter but it is reported to be a bit skinny to navigate.)

Captain Carl, the dockmaster at the marina met us at our t-head dock and helped us get tied up. Carl is an interesting guy. He is an outer banks guy through and through with a very thick accent, which I think he was trying to soften as he spoke to us non-natives. The reason I think this is that I heard him talking to a buddy on his VHF radio. His voice changed. He now had as thick of any accent as could be found anywhere in America. I honestly could not understand a word either of them said. But he is a very nice and friendly guy.

Manteo is a major planned stop for us, unlike Ocracoke of which the week spent there was not part of our plans. We are renting a car to provision up pretty heavily. Our next destination is Coinjock which will be the last marina that we will be seeing for a while. After Coinjock we will be anchoring out at the end of the next three or four legs. We also have to make the ritual visit to West Marine, an auto parts store and a hardware store. We are also going to do some sightseeing. Kitty Hawk is nearby and we are looking forward to exploring this interesting area.

1 comment:

Summer Wind said...

Yes we stopped in Engelhard NC a few years back. Our plans were to head to Ocracoake but mother nature said not so fast! We were there for three days waiting for a nor'easter. Cotton fields, great shrimp house and that little 'restaurant'. Our last day the owner came out running in the morning with a hot sausage and egg sandwich for our morning trip. His wife was not well so they hadn't opened shop. Can you imagine, he felt bad? Only in North Carolina..it's one of our fondest memories.