Navigating Firefly

Ryan and I are sitting at “The Bean” in Oriental NC, “Firefly” is sitting snug at the free town dock…if you click this link within the next 18 hours or so you’ll be able to see us, to the left of the big red shrimp boat, blue mainsail cover.

Let’s see, I have no idea what the date or day is, but since we last spoke we left Elizabeth City, crossed the Albemarle Sound in benign conditions, entered the Alligator River and stayed at the Alligator River Marina, which is a combination roadside gas station/marina. It’s pretty reasonably priced and there’s somewhat of a lack of decent anchorages around there, so we decided to “treat yoself.”

From there we continued down the Alligator River (through the bridge) and entered the Alligator-Pungo canal. Despite having to motor all day, it was warm and beautiful out, first day without rain in a while. Also, fighter jets were doing flybys. I was super pumped, as you can see in the video. They must have flown by 10 or 15 times.

We anchored that night just outside the end of the canal, up the Pungo River in a quiet little cove that we had entirely to ourselves. All the big boys with their deep drafts bounced around just outside the channel, and we sat pretty. Granted the big boys have showers, indoor cooking, and refrigeration, but we gotta take what we can get.

Our friends on Elara recommended the Garmin BlueChart app for the iPhone, and frankly, it has made our lives 1000x easier. Navigation on “Firefly” was a fairly old-school affair, we hand plotted courses on paper charts, measured off distance runs using DR (Dead reckoning, essentially we’ve been travelling N for 20 min at x knots, we should be here…ish.) We are running a program on the laptop called “SeaClear” to double check ourselves in tricky spots, but we don’t feel comfortable bringing the laptop out in the cockpit

Pic of Sea Clear

We have a wee USB GPS dongle that plugs into the computer, you can download NOAA charts for free, and SeaClear (also free) gives you a blip with your location! Pretty nifty, but computers don’t like to get wet I hear.

The Garmin App lets us double check everything just by glancing at the phone…also apparently “location services” aka the GPS in an iPhone doesn’t use data! Who knew?!! It does chew up battery, but we have solar power a-plenty.

Anywho, with our new found confidence and ability to double and triple check our navigation, we left the Pungo River anchorage at dawn, made our turn south at Bellhaven, crossed the Pamlico River to the Goose Creek canal…

…which after playing tag with the barge “Beaufort Belle,” dumped us out into the Bay River, and we poked our noses out into the Nuese to see what it looked like. Things looked good so we kept cooking all the way to Oriental. It was about 54 miles, which is pretty good for us. Of course the wind built the last two hours or so, right on the nose. It wasn’t exactly rough, but motoring into the wind and chop got pretty uncomfortable, lots of spray and every ten minutes or so a larger set of waves would almost stop the boat’s forward progress. We made it into Oriental, slipped under the bridge (45 ft clearance…benefits of being small) and settled the boat down in a nice quiet anchorage, all to ourselves. We spent a day rowing back and forth between town and the boat, and this morning snagged an opening at the free town dock. Life is good.

The local marine supply in Oriental has loaner bikes for boaters, so we hopped on and made a supply run to Walmart, which recently ran the old local grocer out of town.

What else have we been you using to get from A to B you ask? Assorted navigational literature and inherited legacy devices!

Ryan, Skipper Bob, Waterway Guide, Chartbook, Handheld GPS, VHF Radio

That little handheld GPS, along with many other boat-related paraphernalia is a gift from the Johnsons, thanks guys! It’s been getting a ton of use, mostly to tell what speed we’re going. It’s been great in figuring out where the engine is most fuel-efficient.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we leave for Beaufort. Thanks for checking in!

PS you can track us by clicking the “Where are They” tab at the top of the page.

11 thoughts on “Navigating Firefly

  1. Love your blog and great to see you at the “Bean”! Enjoy Oriental and perhaps Jody and I will see you down the waterway.

  2. Chris and Ryan, I really enjoyed meeting you guys at M&M’s! I have really enjoyed pouring through your blog and look forward to reading about all of your adventures. BTW I love sitting up on the balconey of the Dock House in Beaufort with a shrimp sandwich and a good draft beer (they have a good selection). Anchoring in Taylor Creek can be a PIA with the tide switching every 6 hours, best to use a Bahamian mooring and not have to worry about the anchor resetting with every tide. Better idea may be to spend some time in Beaufort then sail out to Lookout Bight for the night. This time of year it will be nice and quiet, and very beautiful!!

  3. Chris, your Mother must be really busy – she has not commented yet about your haircut or shave – to steal and modify a line from your college roomate’s mother’s response to Mom’s inquiry about the status of your hair your freshmen year, I will tell Mom,”It’s still red – and Noah and his beard have no more competition” – you and Ryan look great and we love following your adventures. LOVE, DAD

  4. Go, Firefly, GO! I love your story, your writing, your adventurousness, your perseverance, your musicianship . . . everything! I just inherited a lovely Pearson Ariel from a beloved uncle, and I’m enjoying getting to know her. The work you put in to getting Firefly seaworthy is tremendously inspiring. My West coast-centric question to you: Are tides a consideration when navigating the ICW? Godspeed! Ernie

    • Hey Ernie,

      Thanks for checking us out, the Ariel has taken care of us so far, she’s a great boat and we’re pretty found of her. The tides just became a consideration for us, today we made 20 miles in 4 hrs, mostly with a knot or two of current helping us…apparently as we head south the tidal range (and presumably current) will increase to a maximum of 9 ft in Georgia.

  5. Somehow lost track of you guys what with not having internet all summer and then a hectic fall, so looks like I have lots to catch up on! Congrats on finishing the restoration and setting sail! Looks like you’re enjoying some lovely spots, despite gales!

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