Dismal Swamp – NC to Virginia

The infamous Dismal Swamp wasn’t so dismal, after all.

Dismal Swamp Not So Dismal

Albemarle Plantation

We spent two nights in Albemarle Plantation, a well-manicured gated community with a resident owned marina.  A delightful golfing community, they loaned us an electric golf cart to traverse around.  The slips were really wide, which meant I got to practice my lassooooing technique to secure the boat to the pilings.

Tied to a piling WAAAAY over there
Albemarle Plantation Dockmaster

Elizabeth City

Elizabeth City was our fifth port inside the Albermarle Loop, before traversing the Dismal Swamp. Another town, lost in time, Alisha would have loved this well stocked little sewing center.

Sewing Center Small Town USA
Sewing Center – for Alisha
Singer Elizabeth City
Small Town, frozen in time
Elizabeth City
Main St., Elizabeth City

Dock and Dine

This waterfront cold storage warehouse supplies most of the local restaurants in town, to encourage business they offered free dockage.  In exchange boaters are asked to 1) shop at their local stores then 2) complete a short customer satisfaction survey.  Brilliant!

Entrance to the Swamp

With numerous conflicting stories of how much the Dismal City was loved or hated, I was apprehensive when we heard of mechanical problems at the lock, trapping 4 boats inside just two days prior. When we heard the lock was operating again we headed to the swamp.

Atlantic ICW Mills Lock

With the most spectacular weather we have experienced thus far in the journey, our experience was exceptional, worth repeating even.

Reflective Waters

Dismal Swamp Visitors Center

So, what exactly is the Dismal Swamp??

Dismal Swamp History Here

Dismal Swamp5 Visitors Center

112,000 acres of forested wetlands.  In 1763, George Washington visited the area, and he and others founded the Dismal Swamp Company in a venture to drain the swamp and clear it for settlement. The swamp’s role in the history of slavery in the United States is reflected in Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s second novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp.

We docked at the Visitors Center, our final stop in the Albermarle Loop. A new looper friend, trawler cat Nine Lives rafted off of us. We then traveled in tandem to Norfolk.

Nine Lives

Hello, Virginia

Dismal Swamp Day Two VA

Entrance to Norfolk

Gateway to Norfolk
Norfolk Naval Center

The entrance to Norfolk, VA is dramatic, more details in the next post. Thanks Maureen for the dinner suggestion.   The Prime Rib at Freemason Abbey was yummy.

Waterside Marina, Rendezvous Week

The AGLCA Rendezvous is in Norfolk, VA through May 3. It’s time for Seminars and New friends!

Albemarle Loop – historic side trip to a place time forgot

We normally expect to “get what you pay for”, but, not always.  A brilliant marketing campaign by a coalition of rural waterfront towns in North Carolina caused us to detour to an area that “time seems to have forgotten.”


Year round, one dozen marinas in the Albemarle Loop offer 2 nights free stay. Times 12 locations, that could equal up to 24 nights free.  Proving public-private collaboration really can work (right, Sarah!) – with a little stimulus money, a dedicated chamber of commerce, and some clever entrepreneurs, each little town offers something special. And of course we bought something almost everywhere we went.

Waiting out the storm

We stayed in Oriental for a few days until there was a safe window to travel.  It was definitely the right decision.  At 3 am we found ourselves fully awake, surrounded by lightning, and strong winds.


Surrounded by Stormy Weather

Hospitality in Oriental

Yes, we took this little shuttle to the grocery store – you should have been there, Craig!

Piglet Shuttle

Alligator River Marina

This teeny tiny marina consisted of a gas station and a few small docks.  The new manager, Anna, and her team cooked a delicious meal of fried chicken and potato salad the way my mom made it – bite size bits of potatoes and boiled eggs, lots of sweet pickles, and just the right amount of mustard. We suggest you order your food then take a stroll, they make it from scratch so it takes about 40 minutes.  A quiet little refuge from yet another storm, a total of 5 looper boats showed up over time.

Columbia, NC

Originally known as Elizabethtown, this quaint historic town was renamed Columbia in 1801.  The Municipal Marina had only one slip that could accommodate Exhale, and it was full. Resourceful gold loopers, Nelson and Sandra suggested we “raft off”, tying our boat to theirs, and then ran the power and water lines across their bow.  Thanks guys – that was truly a fun evening!


M/V Destinees, Sandra, Nelson and Eli

In downtown Columbia we found authentic Mexican food (sorry no pics this time).  In addition to the glowing recommendation from Active Captain, the delicious aromas from the street caused us to walk in. A VERY busy little restaurant, with a well stocked mini-mart, we enjoyed some of the best tasting tamales since we moved from California.  It’s crazy busy for a reason.  We were delighted to hear a local retailer (the antique store across the street) tell us the hardworking family successfully paid off the financing for their restaurant, in full, in just 18 months! Once again proving, when the food is delicious, the customers keep coming back.

Columbia Theater and Cultural Resources Center

In the heart of downtown we found the local museum.  Thanks, Helen, for a delightful tour. Original theatre equipment, billboards, and even the “burnt-knuckle” popcorn machine were magical.  Check out the costumes, Alisha!

Scuppernong Wines


We were surprised to discover a local winery.  More than just a pretty label, this wine is made from local grapes.  Paired with chocolate, of course.

Edenton Harbor

Edenton was founded in 1712, it was the first colonial capital of North Carolina. Thanks, McCoy, for loaning us the city car, we certainly didn’t mind that “only one window worked, and the speedometer wasn’t quite right.”

1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse

Touring the lighthouse, situated in the same marina where we docked, was more than fantastic!!  Fueled by whale oil, the lighthouse was originally located on screw-pilings in the Albemarle Sound.

Roanoke River Lighthouse c. 1886

Decommissioned in 1941, it was barged, and “parked” on dry land. In May 2007, thanks to a depressed real estate market, the lighthouse was purchased for $225,000 by the Edenton Historical Commission.

Pre-Restoration Lighthouse
Pre-restoration ~2008

Dedicated local volunteers formed a non-profit to save and restore the lighthouse.  Say a big YAY for a well focused non-profit with passionate, experienced fund raisers!  Restoration History

Small world moment – Rick knows one of the architects who refurbished the historic monument.  Thanks Meghan Beckmann for the pre-restoration photos and for your role in restoring this precious treasure!


Exhale is docked adjacent to the lighthouse.

Liber-tea, 21′ Duffy

Look, Dave, this Duffy is also from California.

Liber-Tea Duffy

Penelope Barker House

c. 1782, the welcome center is found in the well preserved three-story Barker House. Originally located 2 blocks north, in 1952 the Jaycees and the Edenton Woman’s Club took title, and had it “rolled” to it’s present site. Southern Charm and humor abound.

Fun facts about Penelope: Born in 1728, she married John Hodgson when she was in her teens; at age 19 she was expecting her second child when her husband died and left her all of his property.  At age 24 she married James Craven. Two years later he died, leaving her all of his property.  At age 28 she married Thomas Barker.  He was 44 at the time.  Together they had 3 kids. The Barker house was built in 1762 by Thomas and Penelope.  Additions to the home reflect an eclectic mix of Georgian, Federalist and Greek Revival styles.  When Penelope was 59, Thomas died.  He left her “town lots, 2 plantations, 33 mahogany chairs, 53 slaves, watches, horses and 400 books.”  Penelope died at age 68.

Local Orchids

Our visit to Edenton coincided with the annual garden party.  Our favorite was the orchids that were on display in the Barker House.

A Cypress for Alisha

Cypress trees are amazingly strong, as if to say “Last Thing Standing.”  Cypress trees remind me of Alisha, more than just surviving, she is thriving.

Cypress for Alisha2

Next Stops – continuing the Albermarle Loop

So far in the Albermarle Loop we have stayed in Alligator River, Columbia, and Edenton.  Next, we plan to visit Hertford, Elizabeth City, Albemarle Plantation and the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center.  After we navigate the Dismal Swamp we are headed to Norfolk (the locals pronounce it Nor-fuck, no kidding) for the AGLCA spring rendezvous.

Springtime in the Carolinas

Taking time to smell the Flowers

Wildflowers in the Carolinas are fragrant and colorful, reminding us to stop and smell the roses.

Pretty Pink Blossoms
Iris Prismatica
Sharp wing monkey flower?
Ally Garden – Italian style

We tried to identify the local flowers, be advised, you can’t believe everything you read.

Purple loosestrife
for Josie

Beaufort, North Carolina

The quant little town of Beaufort, North Carolina is not to be confused with Beaufort, South Carolina.  We finally learned how to properly pronounce each town..


Docking Skills

If you think it’s tough to parallel park, try docking between pilings.  Sometimes it’s a super tight squeeze, that’s when experience and patience come in real handy.


Marine Traffic

Sharing the water with boats big or small can add a sense of entertainment. Sometimes we see barge traffic,


Sometimes, it’s a fishing tournament!

fishing time

Swansboro, NC

Casper’s Marina – cute logo, right, yet, the marina felt a bit like a ghost town.  Docking was easy, but as we attempted to hand the young dock hand our hose to hook up the water, he shrugged and said their water line was busted, and there was no water at any of the slips.  Stressfully, the next marina was too far away to navigate before dark.

When I said to the Marina boss, “Ma’am, I am surprised you did not disclose the water problem when we telephoned you early this morning” for me that’s a thinly veiled way to say WTF – she responded, “Well, we haven’t been able to get a plumber to come out here for the past three weeks, BUT there’s water in the marina bathrooms” I shook my head in disbelief.

Water in the bathrooms (which was less than clean, by the way) was not exactly what we were hoping for.  Fortunately, a very resourceful Captain Rick ran over 100 ft of hose from the main building to Exhale!


IceHouse Waterfront

Hey Dale, we found a restaurant within walking distance of Casper’s Marina that we think you might enjoy.  The clams and fettuccine at the IceHouse were delicious.  And just up the street is a local hangout, Bake Bottle & Brew, with an ice cold beer that my brother Sam would love.

Oriental, North Carolina

You must agree, live music and local tiki bars warm the soul. The marina at Oriental is one of the best so far – surrounded by live music and friendly locals.

Thanks Craig!

We truly enjoyed the company of Craig Adford – from April 2nd through April 15th he shared our journey. A close friend and great companion, he helped run the boat, drove round trip to Cleveland, helped with all things social, and was a personal chef (so, awesome). Craig flew to Charlotte in a commuter flight this morning and is currently stuck at the airport, due to a storm, hoping to catch a flight to LAX, sometime in the near future …  He texted “flight to LA cancelled due to tornado warnings. Wind and rain is intense, lightning to boot – stuck in the commuter plan until they declare it safe to deplane”

Commuter Plane
Craig’s Commuter Plane

Thanks again Craig, can’t wait until you and Mo join us again.

Happy “birth” day little Gutierrez twins

Congrats to Erica, Elijah, London and Romeo – welcome to the world, sweet little twins.

Next Stop:

We are currently in Oriental, waiting for a storm to pass (the same one that has Craig trapped in Charlotte).  Next stop will be somewhere near Bellhaven, North Cackalacky.


North Carolina Oysters

R’s and P’s

Growing up I remember we could only eat oysters from September through April, months with the letter “R”.  Now, thanks to overnight international shipping, you can probably get oysters year round. If you like fresh seafood, the most delicious local oysters, and an amazing prime rib, when you visit Southport, NC, Mr. P’s is a must!

Fresh, fresh, fresh!
the BEST Oyster stop

Southport, North Carolina

This charming little town, winter population ~2,500, was the filming location for the 2013 romance, Safe Haven.  Thanks to Amazon streaming, we watched the family friendly chick flick, recognizing most of the background locations.  The film was a little sappy for Rick’s taste, but at least it ended with a delightful twist.

Swing Bridges

Some swing bridges open only upon request. Figure Eight was supposed to open on the hour, every hour, from 7 am until 7 pm.  BUT it didn’t really work like that; we arrived 10 minutes before the hour and then waited, impatiently, until 15 minutes after the hour.  Hailing on channels 16, 13, 10 and 9 yielded no response. Thankfully there was a phone number listed in Active Captain.  Rick thinks the Bridge Dude was still sleeping

Figure Eight Island Bridge

Play Date for Maddie

In Wrightsville Beach Maddie invited fellow boat dog, Sammy, to come aboard. Sammy let his boat mates, Dr. Will and Halcyon, hang out as well.  By the way, Mo, Craig is still growing out his beard … inspired by Dr. Will and beloved idol, Dave Letterman.

Dr.Will or DavidL
Dr. Will, or is it Dave Letterman?
Puppy Play Date

Water Scenery

At the pace of 7 knots, you can enjoy the random views along the way.

Next stop:  Craig is running the boat today while Rick tries to repair the freezer (protecting the ice cream). Possibly near Swansboro, NC.

Celebrating Milestones

Exhale was docked in Myrtle Beach (March 30 to April 10) while we celebrated several special milestones.

Happy Birthday Exhale

Irises and more

Exhale is actually a slow boat from China.  Coming through the Panama Canal, she arrived on a container ship via New Orleans just two years ago.  Since then we have spent 593 hours on the water and traveled 4143 nautical miles.  We are looking forward to many, many more.

Experienced Crew – Celebrating Good Friends

Thanks Craig, for joining us in Myrtle Beach, NC!  Craig arrived on April 2, and will be on board until April 15. It’s fantastic having an experienced crew member on board.

Crew Craig A
Craig Adford. Licensed Pilot (really). Experienced Crew.

Cleveland – Celebrating Tyler

Craig and Rick drove 679 miles in roughly 11 hours to surprise Tyler on his 2nd birthday.  The journey to Cleveland included a little snow, which seems to be a constant during the first week of April.

Snow 2016
April 2016
April 2017
April 2018

Thanks Uncle Scott, Aunt Cindy, Rita, and Dan for helping us surprise Jamie, David and Tyler.

Our Grandson’s Birthday

On April 8, 2018 Tyler Jaxson Hendry turned two!

Jamie, Tyler, Grandpa Rick and Gramma Mary
I’m Two! April 8, 2018
Well Helloooo!
Tyler reads to Grandpa

Mickey Mouse was in the House as Tyler celebrated his birthday with family and friends.

Los Angeles – Celebrating Alisha

Shortly before Craig arrived, I (MS) took a one-week side trip to LA (April 1 to April 7) to support Alisha during her surgery.

Alisha and Liz

Alisha is the bravest, strongest woman I have ever encountered.  When she was in her late teens she broke two vertebrae in her neck during a national snowboarding competition.  It was a brutal crash.  Although badly injured she bravely got up and walked down the mountain. Her approach to cancer has been very similar.  She is a tower of strength, and she never gives up.

Since October, Alisha has endured seven nauseating rounds of chemo and two infusions.  No surprise, she continues to work, non stop.  In fact, in between the doses of chemo poisoning she successfully wrapped the second season of American Vandal, filmed in Portland.

Diagnosed triple positive in stage 3b; as of today, she is cancer free.  Bravo, Mija, you are a champion. And in the words of one of her nurses at City of Hope, “she truly rocks that bald look.” Looking forward to the release of  “one woman, one boob”.  Te amo! 

Alisha J. Silverstein

Special thanks to Liz (congrats, too), Dannie, Elke V, and Alisha’s sweet housemate J, for your love and support.  More thanks to Josie for the brisk walks and warm companionship.

Alisha’s adorable frenchy, Josie, outside the coffee shop

Extra thanks to Mo for the screaming fast wifi connection at her office, for taking a mini break from tax season for a delicious meal, and for the early morning ride to LAX.  The flight to Cleveland was timed perfectly to join Rick and Mo’s hubby, Craig.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, there might have been some libations happening.

Next stop:  Somewhere in North Carolina, Craig gets to pick the next marina, possibly Surf City, NC.




Shallow Water – Myrtle Beach

Shallow or skinny water can be a really bad day for a boater.  A shallow pool is just sad.

Shallow Water

Sorry Craig, we won’t be going swimming, yet.

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies.

After nearly a month of chilly weather, Easter morning was sunny and bright!

Myrtle Beach Yacht Club hosted Easter Brunch – the hot food was more than yummy, especially the homemade gravy, oh my.

MBYC Easter Brunch

Tiki BargeThis fun little tiki bar reminded us of Matt and Michele.  The outdoor shower was a hoot.

MBYC was definitely pet friendly.

Sun Ripened Tomatoes

The cherry tomatoes are getting ripe!

Boat tomatoes getting ripe

Osprey, South Carolina

Life is Good when Rick can shop at Costco.

Earlier in the week we enjoyed two nights at Osprey Marina.  Rick got his much needed “fix” at Costco, reminding us, again, that we are not really roughing it on this journey.

Reunited with our Looper friends from Kimberly Dawn, Scott Easton cooked up some deeee-licious ribs.  Maddie was not too sure what to make of the resident goats.

Are You Barking at Me
You barking at me?
Osprey Marina
Osprey Marina
Mac and Cheese
Ribs by Scott Easton

Love for Family and Special Friends

Happy Easter, Good Pesach, and general spring tidings.

Anders aka Harry Potter

Warm wishes for Harry Potter’s buddy, Anders, and his beloved family.

Sending all of our love, hugs and kisses to Alisha.

Coming up:  a visit from Craig Adford.  Exhale will be docked at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club in Little River, SC for the first part of April.  If you happen to be in the area, stop by and say hi to the guys!