Our [sad] visit to Swansboro was made up for with a beautiful day on the water to Wrightsville Beach.
Days 35 – 36, November 18 – 19
We pulled out of Swansboro on a gorgeous day, blue skies, light northerly, morning temps in the mid-40s. Crisp and refreshing made for a delightful start. We liked it. We were headed for Wrightsville Beach, which promised activity, maybe a bit of congestion and some shopping. Thanksgiving was approaching fast and we needed to get prepared.
Once again the waterway was punctuated by hurricane damage. Probably 90% of the private piers and waterfront facilities we passed were devastated. It’s going to be awhile before life on the river returns to normal.
This segment of the waterway was pretty, but the trip was made challenging by having to time arrival at three bridges with restricted openings. This meant a combination of lazy slow travel and crazy mad dashes. The lazy slow was fun. The crazy dashes, not so much. It’s not that we can’t dash fast. We can. But when there is other traffic on the waterway (and there was, this being a gorgeous Sunday) and there is intermittent infrastructure that demands no-wake, it’s constant fast-slow-fast, and the stress of knowing we had to push if we were going to make the next opening of that bridge.
In then end we made our goals, which was a relief. We also had fun entering the firing zone at Camp LeJeune, where there are sometimes exercises that involve live fire right over the waterway. There are large and threatening signs at the edge of the zones along the ICW. They declare “DO NOT PROCEED – LIVE FIRING IN PROGRESS WHEN FLASHING”. As Bruce noted, “I hope the lightbulbs are working.” Um, yes. When we approached there were no flashing lights. So we proceeded.
We have heard stories of boats cruising through when suddenly armed craft come screeching out of the marshes with no warning and race down the ICW and into a hidey-hole. We wondered aloud if we would be treated to any such display of armed forces in action. Alas, no, but contemplating the possibilities kept us entertained and alert.
As we approached Wrightsville Beach, boat traffic increased. That sunny day thing, Sunday afternoon, during a fall season that has been miserable for everyone on the east coast. Everyone and their grandma seemed to be making up for lost time. As we waited at the last bridge right at Wrightsville, a line of boats built up to wait with us. All the smaller craft zigged and zagged among us and made there way under the closed bridge. It was a festive scene.
We pulled alongside at appropriately named Bridge Tender Marina. It was a low-key and friendly facility on the Wilmington side of the river, unlike some of larger and fancier facilities on the Wrightsville Beach side. We liked it. The docks were a bit beat-up, presumably by Hurricane Flo but possibly also by some deferred maintenance. The staff was friendly and our fellow boaters chatty. Most were sport fish, and it was fun to examine the catch they had landed. Fishing was apparently good that day.
We were tired after our crawl-sprint-crawl, and couldn’t resist a relaxing FlyBridge Evening opportunity. Activity on the water provided a good show. We ended the evening with a surprisingly good dinner at the bar at The Bridge Tender restaurant. Recommend.
Our planned layday in Wrightsville Beach including three important projects.
The first: the heater. It had died — again — on our way to Wrightsville. Bruce was becoming apoplectic. He spent much of the day back in the ER and I was witness to hours of phone calls to all his heater peeps, plus occasional outbreaks of bad language. Eventually we will tell this tale, but it still unravels so you will have to wait.
The second project: a nice long walk with the dogs. Bruce was engaged in battle so I did this on my own. We crossed the bridge to Wrightsville Beach and walked across the island all the way to the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The pups were terrific and cruised along.
The community of Wrightsville Beach, where the pier and beach are, was so similar to some other beachside destinations we have visited. It reminded me of Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts.
Crammed in like sardines, tiny multi-family units, and a little ramshackle. There were also some large new condo or apartment complexes under construction or renovation (post-hurricane). Interesting. Glad I saw it. The walk was great but I don’t really need to spend time on The Beach.
The walk did underscore one big problem we had with Wrightsville. The dogs kept picking up some of the nastiest little burrs we have ever encountered. The things would become tangled in their fur and embedded in their pads. If someone could share with me what they are and how to avoid them I would be most grateful.
The third project: Thanksgiving shopping! I was pleased to learn that there was a Harris Teeter just a half a mile away. Bruce and I walked to the store during a break in his heater battles. Of course, it was a Monday. The store was cleaned out from the weekend pre-Thanksgiving shopping action. I scrounged and did the best I could. A 12.25-pound turkey. Would it fit in our oven? Well, it had to. We would find a way. There was no twine or turkey lacers to be found (the box was empty). I would improvise. Flowers: check (picked over and a little sad, but check). Fresh squash? No. Fresh pumpkin? No; had to buy canned pumpkin for the pie. *insert scowly face* Bread, butter, celery, sage. Check. We were good.
Wrightsville was a good stop and we would do it again. We also discovered an anchorage to the south that might work next time through.
In the morning before leaving we combined the morning walk with the dogs with another trip to Harris Teeter, just to fill in some blanks. They had restocked the butternut squash (score!) and fresh new flowers (score!) but there was still no sugar pumpkin and no twine/turkey lacers. How can any self respecting store run out of these three days before Thanksgiving?! To make up for the failures, we purchased some nice wine. That would fill the blank nicely.
Off we went, back to the boat, mostly stocked for Thanksgiving and happy to be moving on.