Wilmington, North Carolina

November 6, 2020

Early Thanksgiving with Family in NC

From our slip at the Bennett Brothers Marina, I biked to rent a car so we could visit my family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for an “early Thanksgiving” weekend.  We had a great time at my mom and stepdad’s house, with my two sisters and my nephew Alex who flew down from NY, and my daughter Claire.  The food was amazing and the company was pretty good too 😉  It was especially nice because in January Mom and Jim are moving a few miles down the road to Carolina Meadows.  They’ve been back and forth about when to go to the retirement/assisted living village for a while now.  I think they’re decision was made when Jim broke his ankle on the golf course the week after I visited them in September.  Luckily, Jim has always been an athlete, and I think that helps him to recover quickly.  He was back on his feet and moving with no pain this visit, so that’s terrific.  However, I think both Mom and Jim saw how hard it was on both of them when Jim couldn’t put any weight on his foot at all.  Anyway, we got to see the new villa, and construction for the renovations and floor plan changes they wanted just starting.  The place was huge, with a bright southern exposure that made it very cheerful and an exciting new beginning. 

November 9, 2020

We arrived in Wilmington on Nov 5th, but all we did was go to sleep and head to Chapel Hill the next morning,  so we are really just beginning our visit to Wilmington now. Coming up the river last week, it looked promising, and the Bennett Brothers Marina is really nice.  Great WiFi.  I always thought it was strange how other sailors always mentioned WiFi in their comments on marinas.  I thought it was an odd fixation.  It turns out, you can’t possibly appreciate a fiber optic cable until you don’t have one anymore.  I have not had really good signal since we moved out of our house in April, so I am fully loving it now. 

Wilmington is a funky little town.  We enjoyed having a car to explore it conveniently.  In fact, we couldn’t have gotten to town on the bikes, because even though it’s only a few hundred yards under the bridge to town, you have to drive a couple miles of highway loops to get there.  I suppose we could have launched the dinghy.  We walked the docks of the long riverside marina and at the end by the bridge, I thought they could install a line and if you had a little raft, you could just pull yourself hand over hand to town.

The town itself was filled with cute restaurants and coffee shops.  We got a pizza that claimed to be from NY.  Not really, but still yummy.  Jeff found a house he really liked.  Historic, on the river with beautiful gardens sweeping down, and for sale for only 2.9 million.  Too bad he forgot to buy his lottery ticket.  Also, in front of the courthouse’s massive Corinthian columns there was a crowd with signs and flags cheering Biden’s election victory.  We both enjoyed beeping the horn as we went by and stirring them to new heights of enthusiasm.

We spent an interesting day touring the USS North Carolina, a WWII battleship.  It has a pretty setting with a long boardwalk all around it, and a huge long self-guided tour inside.  Jeff and I particularly enjoyed sitting in anti-aircraft gun turret.  Jeff cranked left to right and I cranked up and down, and coordinating together, I’m sure we could have taken out any approaching Japanese Kamikaze’s that didn’t exceed a walking pace. 

We drove a little bit inland to a nice mom and pop machine shop(Leland Machine Shop) (can’t believe I now have a view regarding machine shops!!) to get our bent stanchions straightened.  On the way back we stopped at the local Piggly Wiggly for a huge provisioning run, but it wasn’t the Piggly Wiggly I remember from my youth in north Texas.  They seemed to specialize in pork.  There were huge tables of smoked meats, a special deli counter for ribs, and when I asked for some Eastern NC BBQ there, they sent me to the front corner of the store to the BBQ section.  WOW.  To fit in all those different cuts of Pork, there were several other things they couldn’t fit… like baguettes, and to Jeff’s delight, vegetables.   I made a separate run to a distant Harris Teeter to fill the gap.  I got my Diet Coke fix – another 6 12 packs.  Jeff is horrified, but I feel more calm, knowing I have it.

We planned to stay a week in Wilmington, but as hurricane Zeta (I think… what’s the order for Eta, Theta, Zeta?) rolled through.  We held off another day, and left just in time for the 10 AM bridge opening.  My job was to cast off the final line as Jeff guided us out of the slip in the swift current.  The dock line got a kink in it, and caught on the cleat as I let the line off.  We were zooming out and stuck to the dock by one line.  I tried and tried, but the line was so heavy after the rain…. Jeff had to come off the helm!! And I ran with a fender and put it between the boat and a huge metal pole on the other side of the slip just in time.  Jeff easily shook out the kink and we were free.  No harm done, except that heart attack I had.  At least Jeff is cool under pressure.  He reminded me that I could have just dropped my end of the line, and it would have been a bummer to lose a dock line, but a lot less stress.  I can’t believe it never even occurred to me in the moment.  At least I learned something new.

There is a sailor’s rule – never start a voyage on a Friday.  This was Friday the 13th, so looking back; I can’t believe the only issue was a kink in the dock line.