Thursday, July 23, 2009

Probably the best thing about cruising is not about what you do on the boat, but rather what you do off of it. Being able to visit small waterfront towns, making new friends and getting off the beaten track is what this experience is really all about. I have had the good fortune of being able to travel my whole career and during that time, I have discovered a cornucopia of of local flavors and hidden treasures that you don't read about in guidebooks. For the most part, the really neat places were found, not by Googling a destination and planning a visit in advance, but rather by an accidental detour or last minute diversion. The scintillating aromas from a restaurant kitchen or perhaps the music and laughter from a county fair drift on soft breezes until they entice your senses enough that you just have to find out where they are coming from. When you discover these gems, you have to wonder whether it was fate or luck that brought you there. In "The King and I", Yul Brynner would have called it kismet!

Now, about the only thing ole' Yul and I have in common is our hairstyles, but I would have to agree with him that resigning yourself to destiny can often bring great fortune. The trick is to be open to all possibilities.

This cruise was highlighted by several enroute stops. While we enjoy anchoring out, it is also a lot of fun to get off the boat once in awhile and explore.
The first place we stopped was a little community called Surf City. We chose it mostly because we had heard that there was a Dairy Queen right across the street from our marina and I was craving some ice cream. (I guess that is as good a reason as any to stop!)

The marina was sorta small...a real mom and pop operation. There were only about a dozen slips but they were very nice. We arrived a little late in the afternoon and got one of the few remaining spots. Unfortunately they parked us right next to one of those obnoxious 'booze cruise' boats. You know, the kind that take tourists and their money on a two hour swing around the beach. If you like Jimmy Buffet and watered down pina coladas, you would love this thing. For most of the afternoon and early evening, there was a steady stream of party-goers lined up to get onboard. They all had to pass Maya in order to get on their ship and as a consequence, we drew the attention of many gawkers. It didn't take us long to get cleaned up and headed into town. There is nothing like having people looking in your windows as you are trying to relax.

Surf City is probably a lot like most of the smaller beachfront towns along the Atlantic Ocean. It was not overrun with fast food places (but thank goodness for the DQ) and there weren't many hotels there. It was mostly condos, local restaurants and cars with out of state license plates. We found this little bar that offered a fresh fish sandwich and ice cold beer so in we went. I like these kind of places. Nothing fancy. It was right on the beach and most of the diners there were barefoot and in their swimsuits. The food was served in a basket with plastic untensils and the napkins were from a roll of paper towels kept on your table. It was all good. The highlight of the evening though was our trip over to Dairy Queen. I think Kim was glad that we finally got there as I had been blabbering about that ice cream cone all day long. Now, at least I could shut up about it.
The next day found us in Southport, North Carolina, Maya's previous home port. Roger and Cathy Tatum, the couple from whom we purchased Maya, still live there and we took the opportunity to meet them for dinner. They are a delightful pair who still have a soft spot in their hearts for Maya. We spent the evening listening to stories of their cruising adventures. It was really a treat. Of course, I had to have some ice cream afterwards. When it is hot out, it just tastes so good.
Southport reminded me a lot of Mayberry. I half expected to see Aunt Bee out on her front porch and Goober down at the fillin' station pumping gas. It was Fourth of July weekend and the town was completely decked out in patriotic garb. There were flags and bunting everywhere. The big parade was the talk of the town and people were coming in from everywhere to see it. We would have liked to stay and seen it but the marina was booked up and they needed us out the next day. We put Southport on our list of places to visit again someday.
We wandered about the town for awhile after dinner just taking in the Americana and watching the sun go down. You could see the kids finally running out of energy after a long summer's day of play and weary parents getting ready for them to do it all over again tomorrow. I could see why the Tatum's enjoyed living here so much.
It was a short walk back to the marina where Maya bobbed patiently in her slip. Tomorrow we would leave the tranquility of small town America and head for the mayhem of Myrtle Beach. What a difference a day would make.

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