Thursday, August 6, 2009

Columbia to Elizabeth City

Altho we have two more days of travel, in a lot of ways our trip ends today. We got to Elizabeth City yesterday on the hottest day of the entire trip. I slept a good part of the crossing, so cannot report on what happened! Am back to my sleep one night, but not the next one pattern.

Elizabeth City is absolutely the largest, most bustling place we have visited. It reminds me of the little southern towns that we used to drive thru on our way to the beach every summer. It appears to be on a little slower pace, but all the people we encountered have been nice and helpful.

Our marina is only a few hundred yards from the bridge over the ICW where one would pass if traveling back via the Dismal Swamp Canal - which we will not. In the other direction the waterfront of the city stretches as far as one can see. There is a very nice Museum of the Albemarle Sound located almost on the water and directly across from where we are moored. We spent most of the morning there today, before wandering around the old downtown area, and doing a bit of shopping.

It was so hot yesterday that we napped the afternoon away, instead of moving at all. I understand it was mid-90's and felt like 105. I can only testify to the latter!

This morning we walked over the bridge and into downtown easily in 15 minutes. After the museum and lunch, we broke into smaller groups and shopped a while. There was a delightful embroidery shop where we bought several Christmas presents and a very lovely gallery - Arts on the Albemarle - where we found some other things. I picked up a few things for others and a few things for me! Two of us went back later to the embroidery shop for more, and then visited a couple of craft shops. The downtown is more of a mixture of types of business and more "industrial" than any of the other little towns - more like a "city". It does not currently have the charm of Edenton, but it is clear that they are working in that direction. There are a number of buildings being rehabbed, and one can tell that they are painting up and fixing up others. I think it will be quite nice when the market eases and money flows better to construction and reconstruction.

By the time we walked back, there was a storm on the horizon and as I write I can see it closing in over the water. We will have dinner on the boat tonight to clean out some of the left-overs and then head home tomorrow with a stop in Coinjock again and then reach Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nil, nada, nothing!

This is the only garden in Columbia, North Carolina! Seriously. I walked around one evening and half a day and this is all that I could find. There are a number of small homes in town and a number of small businesses, but apparently no one has time, energy, or perhaps interest to create anything else that approaches the status of "garden" - and you know I ain't too picky! This was a fountain just off the downtown warf that was planted in red annuals [name escapes me at the moment], but which was in poor health.

Edenton to Columbia

After a stormy night, Monday was a beautiful morning with flat seas and virtually no wind. The run across to Columbia took less than two hours. We traveled closer to the center of the sound and found that the crab pots were being laid at about 60 degrees to the center line of the channel, so it was somewhat easier to pick a path through them.

Don gave me the helm about half way in the trip, so I "drove the boat" for about forty minutes until we reached the entry channel to the marina which was narrow and required a hand with more experience than mine. It was fun to handle the boat for a little while, tho.

This is clearly the most remote place we have been. The marina is small and rustic, but has all the facilities that we need. We are not all moored together as we have been everywhere else, so it's not quite as much fun. One cannot walk off one boat and onto the next one to visit or help with some small job. The little town is very little! David took me into town to get Gatorade at the local Food Lion, which was nice and new.

All but Mitchell went to dinner last nite at Mike's where one could get sandwiches, seafood or Chinese. A surprising number chose Chinese - perhaps because Mike obviously was.

Tuesday we spent more than half the day in and around Columbia. This is the smallest town we will visit and the one that so far appears to be struggling the most. It is truly tiny - about four blocks square for downtown. There is a drugstore and a hardware store - three places to eat (open at different times of day and on different days of the week. An art gallery and craft center and that's about it. We had lunch in the local lunchroom, which had excellent food.

We spent the afternoon learning about wine making - Scuppernong Wine. There is a small vineyard and winery in town that is trying to take scuppernong wine mainstream. We visited their tasting room and then traveled fifteen minutes to the vineyard. Having just been to Chadham where they produce more typical wines, it was interesting to see the small differences. Scuppernong is a type of muscadine grape and is two to three times the size of a "regular" wine grape, so these fields will eventually produce 17 tons of grape per acre as compared to 7 tons per acre of the smaller grapes. From there the process is pretty much the same. They are already producing about nine wines ranging from semi-dry white to sweet red, with a blush in between. The big difference is that this wine has a very strong fruity smell. Many of us had difficulty with the drier taste of many of their wines when combined the the strong fragrance. I did buy a couple of bottles of the more "normal" sweet red wine. It's a far cry from Mother's Vineyard (of Petersburg), but still a quite sweet wine.

It was really pretty day and I think we all enjoyed our visit. By the time we returned to Cypress Cove, even Mitchell was feeling well, so by tomorrow I think we will be at full complement of able-bodied sailors.

The trip with Don and MA has been really fun. From our vantage point, it has not been too crowded and we have enjoyed their company thoroughly. I am really looking forward to tomorrow's trip back to the north side of the Sound to Elizabeth City. This will be the largest city we visit and should have much to offer. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Albemarle to Edenton

Yesterday was almost like glass on the water and we made the short run from the Yeopin Creek (previously mis-called a river) to Edenton in less than two hours. It's a lovely little pre-Colonial town with a city dock and park and a wonderful breakwater that shelters the anchorage. There are only five boats left, but we are still having a lot of fun. The cruise was another spent dodging crab pots, tho. We are getting good at it. You will notice that the chart here is correct. It correctly shows the point where Albemarle Sound is located.

Edenton was the first capital of North Carolina and dates back to the early 1700's. In the 1800's it was a major shipping port for North Carolina and quite an industrial town. In the 1900's it fell into disuse as the big canals and shipping moved to bigger waters and ther railroads and super highways. Today they are trying to renew their economy with tourism and retirement. There are several retirement communities in the area as well as many retirees who have just moved into the community. It is your typical southern town that rolls up the sidewalks on Saturday afternoon. I was not able to get my nails done on Saturday! And the massage therapist was not even answering her phone.

We took the trolley tour and got a good overview of the town and then I have walked a good bit of it both last night and this morning. There is an old Episcopal Church that would remind you of Bruton Parish, with an interesting old grave yard. I found many stones from the 1800's but not many from the 1700's, and many interesting monuments. The Baptist Church is much more modern and almost a federal dome-type. The houses are a neat blend of colonial, Queen Anne, and Victorian - both small workman's cottages and larger homes for the wealthy. Along the waterfront are a number of big colonials and also some newer brick homes - all beautifully landscaped.

The downtown is basically one main street with row buildings from the late 1800's and early 1900's. The hardware shop and drug stores have been the same for 100+ years, and it has the wonderful feel of a friendly small town. If we were looking for a place to move in retirement, this might be on the list. Unfortunately, it is the sort of place where you would be welcome in five minutes, but still a newcomer after fifty years!

There is a neighborhood park right at the marina that has the nicest playground I have ever seen. It was build from funds raised in town and is obviously used and loved by the residents of Edenton. Until it started raining this afternoon, there have been children continuously playing since we arrived.

Tomorrow we go almost straight across the sound to Columbia. Stay tuned!

ps: I forgot to mention earlier that my tendinities kicked up on Tuesday and I was in major pain - mostly when I lay down - for the next three nights. You know how I get when I am tired! I finally found some of those microwavable hot packs and got enough of the muscles to relax to get a decent sleep on Friday night and a better one last night. Now Mitchell has something. he is running a fever, so I dosed him with Cipro and he has slept all day. Hopefully, 24 hours on drugs and he will improve. If not, I may have to seek medical attention in Columbia tomorrow. Now, stay tuned.

pps Monday morning: A local power squadron member - who is also a family doc - made a boat call visit last night and pronounced Mitchell sick, but not terminally. I'll spare you the details, but Cipro is the second best drug for what he appears to have. Prediction is that tonight he will be better. MA and I can handle the lines. i got a good night's sleep last night and except for having my shirt on inside out am fine this morning!

Gardens in Edenton

If Albemarle Plantation was a dearth of gardens, Edenton is an ample sufficiency! Nearly every yard has a little spot tucked in next to a fence, or a porch, or down the driveway. If I had felt comfortable tramping thru lots of backyards I could have filled an album. Since I was not happy with that behavior, I'll show you some and tell you about others.

Since this is initially an English colony town, there are many formal plantings. The most interesting (and easiest to photograph) was the Cupola House. This is a 1780's house being restored, but someone has taken pretty good care of the gardens - both front and back. From the front it's a series of fenced in sections. The first one is mostly lawn with planting around the edges at the fence - mostly boxwood and crepe myrtles. I'm sure there are azaleas mixed in, too. The second one is a formal garden of triangles and squares, planted in a typical English manner of annuals and perennials. It's a bit over-grown, but clearly someone is taking care of it while the building is undergoing a face lift.

In the back is a mixture of formal and informal. Can you see the lovely arbor on the far side? It is nearly hidden under the vine that lives there. As much as the formal is not my cup of tea, this has a nice feel. I think the crepe myrtles help soften the formal feel. They have not done crepe murder here, so the trees are soft and vase-shaped. They have also trimmed many of the boxwood as cones, instead of balls as we normally see in Virginia. I wonder if they are creating "conifers"? Whatever the reason, I liked the result.

A block or two away I found this pretty fence row (right). It was a planting that appears to separate two properties. The white picket fence ran the full length from house to house, but about half way there was this planting that juts out at 90 degrees and is filled on both sides with exuberant perennials. There is a yucca near the sidewalk and then something fluffy and white that I did not know. The border on this side is hosta with blooming flowers behind it. The trees to the right are actually behind the fence on the "near" property. This is the type of planting I saw lots of places nestled up against whatever was available. There are many Queen Anne style homes with big porches and the hexagonal pavilions on the corners, so there were lots of spots to tuck a little planting.

But my favorite planting was along the street by a bed and breakfast. This is clearly a work of love. The street side of this raised bed is granite blocks that look like those used in the foundation of the building. The ends and inside of the bed are brick. It it about four feet wide [but unlike my new bed, can be worked from both sides!] and runs the entire length of the side of the building. There were three sections, and the plants seemed to vary according to light. Garland would have loved the section that was all white blooms - impatiens, white Gerbera daisies, baby's breath, and several things that I did not recognize. A second section had hosta, lavendar angelonia, heliotrope [ah, the smell!] and a gorgeous coleus. The final third was the sunniest and had multicolored flowers including daisies, more Gerberas, black-eyed susans, and more hosta. I find it interesting that there are hostas planted lots of places that are very sunny.

The "mound" of green about midway in the photo is actually a small arbor over the B&B sign that is covered with the fall blooming clematis that is just starting to bloom. The whole effect was lovely. I kept hoping the gardener would come out of the house so I could ask about the planting, but I finally had to move on to keep from loitering.

Overall, this is a lovely little town. Lots of old buildings from the 1700's, 1800's, and some interesting one from the early 1900's. It's a great place to dawdle.

Albemarle Plantation

As gardens go Albemarle Plantation was a disappointment. It was all so "groomed" - every blade of Bermuda grass [you already know my feelings on that] cut to 3/4-inch, and native grasses everywhere, with a crepe myrtle every 27 feet to break it up. It was pleasant to look at, but no imagination anywhere, and apparently no "personal" gardens at any of the homes.

The setting, tho, was another story. This is water cypress territory. Along all the swampy edges one could see cypress knees and here and there an intrepid tree growing out of the water like a triumphant king of some lost civilization of trees. The cattails were beautiful and often filled with birds. Mitchell saw two deer early one morning, and we saw a raccoon one afternoon. There were plenty of shore and sea birds, too, of course.

In Hertford I did not not many gardens accessible to us along the main streets, but the tea room did have a pretty little one. On a cooler day one could have eaten breakfast of lunch at a little table "out back" in a pretty setting.

Let's hope for more in Edenton - it's not named for the garden, but one can hope.

PS: About that mystery plant from Eastville Inn. I found another quite like it in Manteo. Beverly - the shop owner - said it was an "old rose" with a heavenly scent. I forgot to ask what color it bloomed, so am not sure it was exactly the same variety as the mystery plant, but it did have similar crinkly leaves and similar - altho smaller - hips.

Manteo to Albemarle Plantation

Manteo was such a charming spot that I hated to leave it on Thursday morning to start the real adventure into new territory. No one on our boat has ever been to any of the little places we will next visit. The Albemarle Sound runs roughly east and west with several small rivers feeding it from both sides. Manteo is at the extreme eastern end and now we headed west and to the north side of the Sound. The Sound is quite shallow, by Bay standards, ranging from less than five feet to a maximum of 20-25 feet deep. This makes it a perfect spot for crabbing, which the local watermen do with abandon. In Bay there is some small effort to keep the pots out of the main channels, but here in the Sound it seems that leaving your string of pots directly in or across the channel is considered normal. We spent much of our two-hour cruise slaloming around and among the pots. Otherwise, it was a nice cruise. With winds from the southwest it was a bit "lumpy", but on a comfort scale that is nicer than "bumpy" and overall quite pleasant.

My map above is not quite right. The red dot that it appears was our destination is actually the town of Hertford, which is about 10 miles north of Albemarle. The location is actually at the tip of that point, just to the right of the pointer. There is a smaller river - the Yeopin - whose mouth is just barely around the end of the point and Albemarle Plantation is there. The actual tip of the point - Harvey Point - is owned by the federal government and used for weapons testing. It has a very large restricted area around it and makes navigation down the middle of the Sound a bit tricky. That may also explain why the crab pots are so prevalent, since they cannot put them closer to shore in that area.

As its name would imply Albemarle Plantation is a retirement paradise. It's the kind of place that you could live and forget there is a real world anywhere. You have a choice of condos, townhouses or individual residences most facing either the golf course or the water - and the best to both. You have a fabulous dock, beautiful pool and fitness club, and social/golf club - what else could a person want? It's the sort of place where the golf cart is the major form of land transportation.

When we arrived it was quite windy and we welcomed the extra help supplied by a number of members of the Albemarle Sound Power Squadron, whose "port captain" had made arrangements for them to meet and help us. Many of them live right there, so it was not a huge sacrifice on their part, but a big help to us. They also scheduled their Friday night social event to include us. They treated us like family and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting them. There were two couples who were also at Bay Creek last weekend, so Mitchell and I had met some of them previously.

Friday we rented a car and drove into the little town of Hertford, which is less than ten miles and the closest shopping - groceries, ABC, some nice little shops, a tea room where we had lunch, and a corner drug store with 60-cent ice cream. [If you are not a boater, you may not be aware that it is a law that boaters must immediately find the closest ice cream store within hours of making port. I am guessing that 20 years ago one couldn't keep ice cream on a boat, and so this was a necessity. With all the modern freezers you find nowadays, that is no longer the case - at least not on a power boat - but the law is still the law!] The tea room pictured above is one of the oldest structures in Hertford and is now run by three ladies who serve very good tea and a nice lunch. We really enjoyed it.

We also visited the tourist information center, where I learned that there are still Webbs living in the area. My mothers people come from Perquimans county way back, but I know little about it. Might require a trip by car sometime to search some records.
Hertford is also the home of Jim "Catfish" Hunter - a famous baseball player of the '70s and '80s. The mayor has a small museum in his honor at the information center. As far as I know he was not related to the Webbs.