Aborted Plans: a bad Marina reception; And an unexpected bad diner

NYC Marathon Sunday. Looking for an easy day, we decided to try the Alligator River Marina for something new. It did not work out. And although we love Belhaven, Dinner at Spoon River was a terrible disappointment.
November 3 – 4, 2019
Coinjock, NC to Belhaven, NC
Days 21 – 22

Sunday, November 3. Marathon Sunday, NYC. We planned an easy trip for the day. We are trying to run shorter distances so we can run a little slower, and enjoy the day more. So our plan was Coinjock to Alligator River Marina, which we had never been to before. We weren’t expecting anything more than a secure slip for the night, as we know there is nothing there.

Since we weren’t going far, we had a leisurely morning. I watched the start of the marathon, always an impressive sight as the runners cross the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, then head into the Burroughs. After the elite runners were off, we got ready to cast of our lines.

The radio squawked: Tim and Diane on the Kadey Krogen Acadia were just coming into view around the bend. Hi to friends!

We got a friendly Hallooooo! from Tim and Diane aboard Their Kadey Krogen ACADIA as they steamed by s in Coinjock.

We let Acadia and their fellow travelers pass by, then we cast off and fell in behind them to meander down the North River. Lovely ride. We hung in at Krogen trawler pace of 6-ish knots. I watched the marathon and the scenery. Bruce drove, and ate pickled eggs. It was all very slow by Esmeralde standards, but very civilized and very pleasant. For a while…

I was happy to be able to watch the NYC Marathon while under way.

By the time we entered Albemarle Sound Bruce had had enough of Krogen-speed. Showing off just a teensy-weensy bit, Bruce nudged the throttles so we passed our buddies at 9-ish knots, then he threw it down and raced out at, oh, maybe 18 or 19 knots. Just for funsies! Esmeralde loves to do her thing!

We scooted off across the Albemarle at speed for a bit, then pulled back to a more sophisticated pace as we entered the Alligator River. When we approached the bridge, we turned off the channel to approach the Alligator River Marina.

Bad idea.

Once we got into the basin we called multiple times on the VHF, and got no response so we called by phone. A pleasant woman asked if we would prefer the face dock or a slip. Having looked around at the mostly empty marina, we felt the face dock would be easier with the dogs. She directed us to a spot.

Once we got into the basin we called multiple times on the VHF, and got no response so we called by phone. A pleasant woman asked if we would prefer the face dock or a slip. Having looked around at the mostly empty marina, we felt the face dock would be easier with the dogs. She directed us to a spot.

As we set our lines and approached, a man came running towards us, arms waving, shouting unintelligible things. I pulled up short, and he is screaming it at us, No, you have to go Over There (the slips). Bruce explained that we had been directed to the face pier. The guy yelled some more, basically telling us HE was the one to decide where we were going to go, and we were going to go OVER THERE.

Not exactly a warm and fuzzy reception. Bruce stepped back into the pilot house and said “we’re leaving.” And that was that. Note to marina staff: it’s sort of nice to be greeted in a friendly tone, not yelled at.

Plan B…

It was about 2:45. Plan B was to run fast, beat the 5:10 sunset (remember that daylight savings thing?) and get to Belhaven before it got too dark. So much for a short and easy day. We had 45 nautical miles to go. It would be a race.

We were slowed up by quite a lot of sailboats that needed a slow pass. Then we had the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. This is a long, lonely stretch, no cell coverage, and pretty much no VHF coverage except from nearby boats. It is narrow, and the banks are littered with deadheads. We were fine as long as we were alone and in the center. The dwindling daylight was beautiful and there was scenery to enjoy.

There were also barges and tugs. The first one that approached us happened to arrive at a relatively narrow spot in the canal. We nudged to the side at dead slow, and he passed. And we bumped. Twice. And a third time. The boat actually rose and sank back down. It was nerve wracking. Getting damaged in that canal with no ability to contact anyone by VHF or phone, with darkness racing in, was not a happy prospect.

One of the two tugs pushing barges that we passed in the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal.

We were fine, and our nerves settled as we got back up to speed. And then another tug and barge approached. Same drill, but this time we didn’t bump anything. Phew.

Just after sunset and we were still in the Canal.

Back into high gear, racing the sunset. We were about four miles from the exit of the canal when the sun actually set, and darkness came on quickly. A gentle red glow in the western sky And a sliver of a moon gave us just a hint of light. We raced over flat water the final eight miles into Belhaven, where Gregg was waiting for us on the pier at Belhaven Marina in the pitch black.

Chasing the last bit of twilight down the Pungo River into Belhaven.

It’s not something you want to do every day, but it worked out fine. We got the poor pups off the boat for relief, then had a quiet, relaxing dinner on board, grilled tenderloin that I had marinated early in the day while watching the NYC marathon. All’s well that ends well.

We stayed two nights in Belhaven, just because we like it there. It’s a lovely little town to walk around with the pups. The stores were all closed because it was Monday, but we were able to get a reservation for dinner at Spoon River, which we had tried to do last year but they were closed because of the hurricane and flooding. We looked forward to it.

Belhaven has seen its share of hurricanes. This marker post at Belhaven Marina shows the water levels for the different storms.

What a disappointment. We can’t understand all the great reviews and enthusiasm we hear over and over. First, the large room was lit up like a hospital operating room. I kept waiting for someone to dime the lights. Not. The menus were on tattered, stained paper stapled together. Worst of all, our dinners were terrible.

The wine steward/sommelier (or whatever she was) was bizarre and incomprehensible. She talked at length in non-sensical run-on sentences. We asked her what the house wine by the glass was, and she never gave us an answer. Just a long, rambling dissertation about how she doesn’t like getting boxed into “names”. What? We finally just asked for a glass of … whatever. So bizarre.

The crab cake was OK, but both our entrees were so salt-saturated that neither of us could eat them. We were overwhelmed by a nasty metallic Morton’s-table-salt-punch-in-the-face. I barely touched my chicken dish. Bruce took most of his steak back for the dogs, but upon one last taste before giving it too them, he threw it in the trash. It was so bad he wouldn’t even give it to the dogs.

We are totally befuddled. It would be nice to have an explanation for why something so highly recommended could be so horrible. Worst meal in a very, very long time. So disappointing.

We still like Belhaven though, and we will visit again.

Flybridge Evening view at Belhaven Marina.

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