Into North Carolina


Cape Fear. A dramatic name to welcome us to our 12th state! We arrived yesterday at this headland jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. And our arrival was a bit scary, entering a small marina with a narrow entrance and nearby rocks on a falling tide.

We intended to stay in the charming town of Southport, where I had made marina reservations. Before pulling into the marina, we stopped to investigate the free dock offered by Provisions, a waterside restaurant in Southport. Docking at their small slip was a bit challenging, especially under the eyes of the nearby diners! (It took a few tries to get it right, due to a current we didn’t expect or see. Knowing the tide charts isn’t always enough; you need to also consider the effect on the current of nearby inlets. And this one, at the tip of Cape Fear, was a big one.) After lunch and a walking tour of this cool town, we realized our slip wasn’t protected against winds – plus, we would be gazed upon by diners all day and evening. As you know by now, we prefer privacy and nature. Carolina State Park Marina was just 12 miles farther, with hiking trails and biking opportunities. They found us a spot at the last minute. The day was still young. So why not go on?

Arriving in a falling tide at a narrow entrance, that’s why not? After we were safely secured–albeit a foot or so off the bottom–I questioned our risk-taking. (Yes, again. I’m a risk-taker myself, but a different type than Jeff.) I agreed with moving on to the park. I did study the tide charts and the marina map, but not its entrance. I wondered if I was becoming too casual. I wondered if Jeff’s type of risk-taking was rubbing off on me. Jeff’s answer: You can stop taking risks when you’re in a coffin. Well, yes. But no need to hurry the day! (To be clear, there’s a very low risk of dying or getting hurt in this adventure. Most people would say that my skydiving and white-water rafting was more risky. But for some reason, I continue to question this. It might have to do with not being in control? 😉 After all, Jeff is the skipper and boat-handler. I put myself in his hands every day — still not a role I’m entirely accustomed to, after all these months. Hmm.)

Enough of my self-confessional. Let me introduce you to Carolina Beach State Park, and our 46-mile journey here, in photos below.

By the way, the name “Cape Fear” comes from the days of sailing ships, when crews were afraid they would get shipwrecked here. Many ships did, including Confederate blockade-runners during the Civil War.

En route from our anchorage in South Carolina to our marina in North Carolina, we passed this waterfront parking garage. Huge lifts put these boats into the water and take them out again, at the owner’s request.
Houses along this leg of the Intracoastal Waterway were not as grand as previously…and we like it better that way.
Passing yet another sound, with access to the ocean. When we cross these sounds, we can get a sudden boost of temporary speed from the ocean tide and related currents.
Dredging is an ongoing activity to maintain the Intracoastal, arranged or done by the Army Corps of Engineers. Your tax dollars at work! (I’ve heard many motor boaters gripe about the federal government. I wonder how many of them use the Intracoastal, and know who makes it possible? Sorry, but as a retired fed, I can’t help thinking that way. 😉 )
We stopped at this waterside restaurant in Southport for lunch, considering staying overnight as the restaurant invites its boating customers to do. (See Many Moons in the background.) Diners watched us as we tied up against the current. Two waitresses dashed out to help. We were the entertainment! We realized we wouldn’t relax here, and moved on — but took awhile first to explore this charming town and eat some superb shrimp and crab cakes. I drove us out and didn’t hit anything. Yay.
When your restaurant is on the water, I guess you can expect this kind of visitor. (In front of the waterside tables.)
This cool town has a long, well-maintained waterfront with dozens of benches. Most were occupied by retirees, as the tourists have not yet arrived. I would come back to this town again.
Nautical whimsy at a store in Southport.
After leaving Southport, we encountered several large vessels, like this one from Cape Fear Community College which teaches the maritime trades. Always nice to know community colleges still teach the trades. They still matter!
This cargo ship from the Netherlands overtook us and passed pretty close by. River pilots are important here, to guide the big ships safely around the shoals.
Many Moons safely tied up (upper left) in the marina at Carolina Beach State Park. There’s a reason you see mostly small boats in here. See the water in the background, beyond the break wall? That’s Cape Fear River.
After settling in, we took our bikes the few miles to the ocean. (It still surprises me how few other bicycles we see. When did bicycles become so rare? When motorized-everything became so common! Or so it seems to me.)
Can you tell I’m happy to visit the ocean (and beach towns) in off-season?
As the tide dropped, this sandbar appeared about 20′ from our boat. We haven’t touched bottom. Yet.
Sunset on Cape Fear River, from the state park waterfront. See why we like it here?
Looking across Cape Fear River from the state park. That’s a navigation light, not the sun…
Our 2nd day here, we did a shopping excursion with the bike cart, its first use in months. Our reward? Ice cream, of course! The best we’ve had on this trip. Something about the Irish butter and cream they use.
Clouds descended soon after we returned to the boat, and rain threatened all day. It didn’t stop me from taking a long hike.
The park’s trails run through an amazing ecological diversity, from the waterfront….
….to inland woodlands….
…and odd grasslands.
Unfortunately, I did not find any Venus Fly Traps.
How I love a good solitary hike of at least an hour, preferably more. I’m a much better First Mate if I can get in one of these at least once a week. (It replaces the rowboat, which isn’t a good idea in these currents.)

15 thoughts on “Into North Carolina

    1. Now we are in Beaufort (NC), we are hearing and reading a LOT about Blackbeard. His ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was discovered near here. As you probably know. Nothing about treasure, though!

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      1. Pretty sure his treasures are not in that area all though he did spend a lot of time near there. When do you expect to be in Norfolk?
        R/ Jim

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    1. Hi, Barb! Didn’t know you were reading this. I just posted our route, on today’s post. I will include a map of the entire Great Loop in the next few days.

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  1. Biking or not is a local thing, apparently, and as far as I see is growing. As a hard core cyclist for 50 years, seeing adults on bikes is far more common in many places than it used to be. And now electric bikes are getting a lot of people started.

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    1. Yep, I agree, actually. I see a lot of bicyclists around Washington DC, more since the pandemic began, and increasing number of bike lanes. I haven’t seen much of it down south. Making your point.

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  2. As a blog writer myself, I am learning a lot from you. I enjoy your short posts flavored with lots of photos. I am guilty of writing way to much and forgetting to take pictures!

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    1. Now we are in Beaufort (NC), we are hearing and reading a LOT about Blackbeard. His ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was discovered near here. As you probably know. Nothing about treasure, though!

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    2. I think I just posted the wrong reply to you. Oops! 😉 I meant to say, I totally understand that comment. I try to discipline myself to write less text, and put “the story” into the captions. People seem to like it that way. And it’s also easier to get it done. I let the photos trigger the thoughts. As I am blogging almost every day while under way, I’ve had to find a more efficient method! I’m also less likely to succumb to the temptation to write an essay. (Which is what I actually prefer, but it takes a lot more thought. And self-editing! 😉 )

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  3. Ahhh Mary I miss you! I’m so enjoying sipping your posts as we gradually move up the ICW and lady, your photos are fantastic! And now, back to reading….😜

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    1. Hi there! I miss you too! Thanks for checking in. By the way, I posted today on the “Women of the Loop” FB page, my first post, about my inner journey on The Loop. Quite the response! I’m off to Egypt tomorrow and will return to the boat sometime in May, somewhere in the Northeast. Gosh. Have I missed you entirely?? 😦 We must get together somehow, somewhere.

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