November 22, 2007
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It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Sue and I surely have much to be thankful for this year. We apologize for not keeping our blog up to date, but as you will read, we have been quite busy enjoying our journey through the Carolinas.
We are currently anchored in the Georgia “low country”, in Killkenny Creek. The day started out rather gray, and we had to rush to keep up with the tides, but right now the sun is out, the skies are blue and we are looking out on miles of golden marsh grass with the temps in the low 70s. We’re nearing Florida, but are focused right now on how to get through the few “thin spots” on the ICW at mid-tide and at the same time enjoy visiting St. Simons, Jekyll, and Cumberland Islands. Life is good!
So how did we do in the Carolinas? This posting picks up at Oriental, NC.
If it’s BOH-fert, we must be in North Carolina! (Mon, Nov 5)
Just as we were weighing anchor from Oriental, a “small” 200-ft. cruise ship arrived, to swallow up our place in the anchorage. It must have shaken up the boat anchored behind us, when he saw the new guy on the block dominating the anchorage.
This was the first day when dolphin sightings began to happen frequently as we skirted areas that opened directly on to Pamlico Sound and neared the direct opening to the ocean at Morehead and Beaufort, NC. We arrived at the Beaufort City Docks at around 1:30 pm, and didn’t even scratch the huge yacht next to us during the landing. We stayed on our best behavior trying to pronounce Beaufort just right (BOH-fert). We had been warned by dozens of boaters we shouldn’t confuse it with Beaufort (BYEW-fert), which was in South Carolina.
After lunch we took a stroll in the nearby shopping and residential area, got our email at the local library, and generally enjoyed the sights of Beaufort. Of course we couldn’t pass up some crab dip and “buffalo shrimp” appetizers at Clawsons.
More importantly, we also managed to get some valuable “tid bits” on the Georgia portion of the ICW. We were seated next to a friendly “delivery captain” who gave us some thumb rules for predicting currents knowing the tides, and frankly advised us to go outside and avoid the shallow and twisting ICW in Georgia. (Delivery captains are hired by owners to move their boat from one location to another at quickly as possible.) While his cautions about Georgia gave us pause, we are still determined to “stay the course”. Based on the advice of our ICW cruising friends back home (thanks, Dave and Cal, Peter and Vicki) plus many other first timers we have met along the way, we think the Georgia section has lots to offer us.
Catching up with the To Do List (Tues, Nov 6)
Today was a chance to get caught up on the logistical details. Sue got the marina courtesy car (a ’93 woody station wagon) to do some provisioning at Piggly Wiggly and Food Lion, while I fueled Sogno at our slip. This was the first marina I had been at, where they could bring a fuel nozzle to your slip, rather than taking your boat to the fuel dock – a great idea. I also did some engine maintenance, while Sue did the laundry --- in a real laundromat only 2 blocks from the marina. (Most marinas only have 1 – maybe 2 washers which means it can take forever.) The afternoon was devoted to composing our next blog posting, and then we went out for appetizers (“Dock House”) and dinner at the “Net House.” Lots of friendly locals, but we didn’t see any other cruisers. We retreated to Sogno, fired up the heater to take off the 45 degree chill before lights out. A productive but also relaxing day!
Good Food Trumps Misbehaving Technology (Wed, Nov 7)
Speaking as an engineer, today did not start well. I’ll skip the gory details, but the net result was I had to swap out one laptop for another, when we had problems with our Raymarine navigation software. In addition, the onboard heater was acting up in the morning; the temperature was 39 degree temperatures. The net result was a late start, but the good news was that we had most of our area of the slips to ourselves so we could make a very graceful departure with the aid of the dockmaster.
Once we passed the Beaufort-Morehead entrance, the 20-25 knot winds and chop calmed considerably and we had an uneventful trip to Swansboro, where we anchored for the night. “At the end of the day” I’m happy to report that crew morale was fully restored thanks to: (1) grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, (2) restoring our heater to service via a cell phone call to customer support, and (3) Sue’s fresh shrimp and pasta stir-fry for dinner.
Bridgekeepers Rule! (Thurs, Nov 8)
We left Swansboro at around 8am (not quite as chilly as Beaufort) and managed to “touch bottom” briefly as we went around a well advertised shallow spot. (Note: There IS a difference between your boat touching bottom, hitting bottom, and having to call Sea Tow to pull your boat off the bottom. To date, we have not had to call Sea Tow – keep your fingers crossed for us.) Despite all the VHF radio chatter and our cruising guide advice, we (and others behind us) managed not to pass too close to Green Buoy “61A”. Even the tug captain who was advising other boaters over the VHF, managed to have his barge ground briefly as well.
After that adventure, we very happy to discover that there were no live gun fire exercises going on at the Camp Lejeune. The ICW passes through 6 miles of the Marine Base and there’s a big sign with lights warning you that if they are flashing, live fire is in progress. I’m told they back that up with the appropriate armed vessels to discourage any ICW John Waynes from trying to join in the fun by water.
This stretch of the ICW was our first test on how to pass through 4 successive draw bridges over the next 54 miles, some of whom only open on the hour, and some who open on the hour and half hour. We thought we had a reasonable plan, but we (and everyone else) learned at bridge no 2 (opening at 1:00) that bridge no. 3 was also down for maintenance from 1:00 to 4:00. All we could do (both sailboats and power boats) was to move along slowly. Our friendly tug and barge kept us a nice distance for those 3 hours. Brian was so bored by the whole thing that he got careless even and ran aground briefly. (One needs to watch the depth finder constantly in the ICW.). Finally we all went through bridge no. 3 at 4:15 dashing for bridge no. 4. Luckily our commercial tug captain got the bridge to open 15 minutes early and we were all through by 5:00.
Now a parade of 8 boats left the ICW in one group and all headed for the Wrightsville Beach anchorage. It was quite a sight to see us all racing for spots to drop the hook, as darkness descended (sunset was at 5:15). After a few false starts, we finally found the perfect “parking spot”. In this case perfect was defined as: 1. not near any local fisherman’s gill nets, 2. not too near any other boats, and 3. would actually let the anchor grab the bottom.
A post-sundown “sundowner” plus some pork chops and veggies for dinner made things right again. It had been a long and “interesting” day on the ICW.
New Friends from Chicago and Rhode Island (Fri, Nov 9)
We were off and running at 8am but most of our previous day’s ICW companions were already on the road already. Today promised to be a great day – no draw bridges!
We got to see some big ships and a large Army ammunition station as we passed down the Cape Fear River. We arrived at the St. James Marina, which is part of a condominium and golf resort near Southport, NC. We fueled up, pumped out, washed Sogno down and then hit the showers. After posting some more pictures for “Bud-at-Sea”, it was definitely time to socialize.
We set up camp near the marina store, with some wine and cheese, and pretty soon two other ICW couples joined us. Tracy and Vytas (boat name Sunshine Daydream) had sailed from Chicago via the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and Hudson. They were also heading for the Bahamas. Frank and Terry (boat name Frankly Terryfic) had begun their trawler voyage from Point Judith, RI. It was their very first boat, and they were aiming for the Florida Keys. We all had a great time exchanging stories. Tracy and Vytas had been in the previous day’s “bridge tournament”. At 9 pm, we called it a night after some coffee on “Frankly Terryfic”.
Going Barefoot after the Rock Pile (Sat, Nov 10)
Despite the “late night” festivities, we managed to get underway at 8, without incident. By noon, we were passing through the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge. This clever design from the past, had the central bridge span and the keepers house on what looked like a barge, and a series of cables was used to pull it out of the way when an opening was requested. Not very fast, but at least a change from the lift, draw and swing bridges we had seen thus far. Within a few miles we were in South Carolina and encountered a conventional, and very slow to open, draw bridge followed by a construction barge that had to be maneuvered out of the way by two tugs, before we could pass. (We had read that the bridges were slow and bridge operators we often slow to respond in SC. However, the operators were always very friendly.)
Our next hurdle was the “rock pile”, a notorious four mile stretch that had been dug through an unusually rocky area. For anyone who has cruised in New England, you really had to look hard to see the rocks, and the narrow channel itself was quite rock free. The real danger was meeting a large barge, and being squeezed out of the channel. We managed however to pass through untouched and then through a much better run draw bridge.
We then tied up at Barefoot Resort and Yacht Club. It sounds fancy, but the condominium and marina complex lost all its electrical power just as we arrived. (They still managed to collect our dockage fee.) Unfazed, we got into our shore clothes and walked over a bridge to the other side of the ICW to check out the Barefoot Landing factory outlet and entertainment complex. Everything from a House of Blues, country music theatre, dozens of shops, and a complete assortment of restaurants. We were actually in the Myrtle Beach area, and all of this was aimed at filling in the spare time of those not engaged in golf. We of course had appetizers in 3 restaurants, and ran into Tracy and Vytas at the last one. They were still on track to stop in Charleston, and we agreed to stay in touch and try and share an anchorage the following day.
Coming attractions: We enjoy our extended shore leave – 4 days -- in Charleston, bump our way through the SC-GA border, visit Savannah, and check out the “Golden Isles.”
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Brian and Sue
Buds at Sea