Elizabeth City, The Harbor of Hospitality

The Sail to the Sun Rally departs from Midway Marina, bound for Elizabeth City, known for its generous hospitality.

ICW Rally
A beautiful day for sailing on the ICW.Wally Moran

From Midway Marina, the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally's next stop was Elizabeth City. While this meant a bit of backtracking, since we hadn't run the Dismal Swamp - it was badly beat up during Hurricane Matthew - it was a trip well worth the detour in the group's opinion.

Elizabeth City, the Harbour of Hospitality, is known for its friendly locals, Rose Buddy receptions, and free dockage. Along with drinks and nibbles, each lady is given a rose, a tradition started back in 1983 and continued by the Chamber when the founders passed away. The Sail to the Sun fleet was this year's first Rose Buddy reception - and if they are unable to reopen the Dismal soon, it may be the last for this year as well, sorry to say.

With time to enjoy the city, the group spread out to explore the museum and other sites, while several of us headed for Byron's Hot Dogs. This small restaurant makes absolutely great 'dogs', and sells them for $1.25 - $2.50, depending on how you dress it. Best of all, the Coconut Pecan cake for dessert was amazing. This is one of those hole in the wall establishments that, should you be lucky enough to discover it, is the ones you always remember.

The next day in the early morning fog, the goal was to cross Albermarle Sound and get into a safe anchorage at Tuckahoe Point before the near gale force winds predicted late in the day struck.

Albermarle Sound was calm, flatter than I've ever seen it in 28 previous trips.

Last year coming north and fleeing Joaquin, gusty winds blew out my dodger and bimini while propelling me along at 7.2 knots...the Sound can be like that sometimes. You never know. Despite being a shallow body of water, or perhaps because of, it's one that demands caution while crossing if there's any serious weather about.

The S2TS fleet was soon across and tucked in safely for the night, watching the front come over the horizon. Reports from those who crossed the next day were that it was 'sporty' - so sporty in fact that the bridge was closed due to high winds. It was a good choice to leave when we did.

The winds were lighter than expected the next morning and of course, the Alligator Pungo canal offers good protection.

Everyone set off for Dowry Creek Marina, but that day wasn't without it's problems. One of our two smaller boats, a Cape Dory 28, managed to back down on the dinghy painter and, you guessed it, wrapped the prop.

ICW rally
Foggy weather and light air means no sailing and a little bit of motoring for progress.Wally Moran

Everyone got involved in the 'rescue', one of the group donned a mask and went in, but wasn't able to remove the line, so Steve, in his Seaward 26, our other small boat, towed it to a dock at the end of the canal where they were finally able to get the line off and Sweet Pea finished the trip under her own power.

Meanwhile, in the confusion, another of our boats managed to wrap a prop and required towing assistance to the marina. There, Frank from Let It Be donned his dive gear and quickly had the problem sorted out. It's a resourceful group we have here! In any event, the multiple problems in the canal reminded me of last year's rally when we had a rash of stuffing box leaks, including mine, and which necessitated tows for two of us. Is this year's epidemic to be wrapped props? I sure hope not, and for the moment, everyone's boat is running well. Still, as we know, things happen on boats. It's all part of the adventure, as was everyone pitching in to solve the problems.

Nick and Mary at Dowry Creek hosted our group with a wine and cheese reception which was most welcome, and provided an opportunity for everyone to talk about the excitement of the day. The next day was given over to shopping in Belhaven, boat chores and laundry. Some things just don't change!

On the way to our next marina, River Dunes, I stopped at the seafood dock in Hobucken and picked up 31 pounds of fresh caught shrimp. The plan was to have a shrimpfest that evening, and what a party that was.

In fact, during this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally we've already seen some great parties, and the fun is just starting to ramp up. One comment was that the Rally is just a floating two month long party - that's not really all that far off actually.

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Shrimpfest!Wally Moran

The following day, we convened by the pool to play croquet - and the ladies won the first game, but with a considerable amount of creative tactics, such as kicking the ball through wickets and turning the wickets sideways for the men's shots. The men were far too polite to notice this of course. The next game was a tie, with the men winning the third game, making the overall result a tie. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with that.

Our next party the following evening was a dinner at River Dunes with Bob Laverty playing. Turns out that some of the crews knew Bob, from Cape Cod.

Bob is a fellow boater with a great voice, and just as last year, provided an evening of great music for us. The meal, chile and clam chowder, which doesn't sound inspiring, was superb, as I've come to expect here. There's a reason this marina has been judged as one of America's top 25 marinas.

We've also been blessed with some really good sailing conditions, and several times at the dock I've heard tales of the crews hitting hull speed during the day.

This is despite some naysayers claiming you cannot sail on the ICW. Truth is, there are a lot of areas you can, and even more in which you can motorsail. It just requires some determination to get those 'emergency white things' up the mast, which this group does with enthusiasm!

That's it for this post - stay tuned as we head on to Beaufort NC, home of Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. You can also follow this adventure at http://www.cruisingworld.com/wheres-wally, and also follow our location on the Where's Wally Delorme Map, which will give you our precise location.

If that's not enough Rally excitement for you and you want to follow the fun on a daily basis, click to our Facebook page, Sail to the Sun Rally - it's almost as much fun as being with the crew! Just look at their smiles!