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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Goodbye NC, Hello SC
Temps in the Mid 50s Winds NE 10 changing to SE 5 later in the day
11/23/2008, Southport NC to Coquina Harbor SC (N35 51.852 x W78 38.295)

Cape Fear has an interesting history from pirates to treacherous shoals where the mighty Atlantic rolls in here with amazing force. It's earned the nickname of the Graveyard of the Atlantic with reason. We faced going through here with some trepidation first because we were heading out at low tide and there were several problem spots along the way that we needed to watch out for - at Lockwood's Folly several boats ahead of us had run aground in shoaling and the intersection of the ICW and Shallotte Inlet the same held true. We also had to make sure to be careful at the bridge construction where it became very shallow. We managed to make it along this stretch with little problem by using extreme caution in the trouble spots but almost lost it at Calabash. I saw a line of sailboats and started following them - they were all headed towards two Towboat US boats near a red beacon and I thought they were following the channel - only they weren't - they were going into a shallow anchorage. I watched my depths change to 8 ft, 6 ft and thought - ohhhhhh ohhhh, then swerved and made my way back into the channel. Close one!

We went through a pontoon bridge today - first one I ever saw - interesting - they move that section for vessels to pass and because it's a pontoon bridge they won't open it at low tide (they can't).

We got in at 5pm - hard to see with the sun setting in our eyes but we made it in just at dark. There's a lighthouse that signals you've reached the marina - pretty cool looking. Maneuvering in was a bit tricky to find our marina though - there's 3 or 4 marinas in here (I made reservations this morning at the Coquina Yacht Club), and they book up quickly too, so I called this morning before leaving to make sure we had a spot. It's an interesting spot - it used to be a coquina quarry (the sedimentary rock that looks like shell fragments) but as they kept quarrying, they went below water level and flooded the mine site, then tried to fill it in with other materials that kept washing out, so finally left it be to become waterfront property/marinas. Sandy was here to meet us with her husband - they've been together 48 years - and manage the Coquina Yacht Club Marina. I really liked her. We chatted with them for a while, then helped 3 other boats come in. We'd heard/saw them back at the pontoon bridge coming up hard behind us but they didn't make it for the bridge opening and had to wait for the next opening at 4pm (it only opens on the hour).

Made Steak and salad for dinner and we had sourdough hardrolls with it. Long hard day (stressful avoiding shallows) but I finished it off with a nice meal... Happy Anniversary Capt'n.

Tomorrow we face the infamous "rock pile". When the Army Corp began this cut, they didn't realize they would be digging through Cretaceous Limestone and marl pits. This limestone varies from 65-144 million years old and formed at the end of the age of dinosaurs and the ledges underwater have been know to damage many boats. It worries me because we'll be transiting this area at low tide so the possibility exists that we may encounter these underwater ledges if we're not careful...

Southport is a historic town
11/22/2008, Wrightsville Beach NC (N34*12.380 x W77*47.987) to Southport NC (N33 55.055 x W78 01.736)

It was just to pretty out this morning to sit at anchor another day even though there was a small craft advisory still (windchill 17 this morning) until 9 am. At 9 we started hoisting anchor and headed out to Southport. We were leaving at low tide and several boats had grounded in the shoal areas leaving so we were careful to pick and hunt out the deepest areas leaving. It was a pretty traveling day, sunny (but cold) and we put into Southport about 3:30 and docked in water depths of 9-10 ft after fueling up and pumping out.

We were in search of a CVS, bank and grocery store, which we were told were in town. Got a map of the town and saw that the grocery store was 2 miles (Walmarts), CVS was about 5-7 miles and bank about a mile. Wayne didn't want to take a taxi so the CVS was out - even though we both need refills. I voted taxi to go shopping, and got vetoed so we walked to the bank, scoped out the convenience store, and then walked to Walmarts for groceries. With our anniversary tomorrow and Thanksgiving this week, I NEEDED to go to the grocery store, even if it meant walking 2 miles and freezing to get my steak for tomorrow and turkey for Thursday... The walk through Southport was cccccoldddd, but really nice. It's quite a historic town and very pretty. A lot of the houses had names with dates on them. The oldest I recall seeing was a house built in 1839 and I don't remember the name associated with it. One of the plantations here has been used in quite a few movies, but the town, the park, etc... are beautiful and historic. Half way to Walmart, Wayne decided it was probably a good idea to get a taxi back. We'd both not eaten all day (how do you forget to eat?) and between the cold and hunger - Wayne was not looking too good. We went into the Subway at Walmart to get a sandwich and I left him there and did my grocery shopping and called a taxi to take us back to the marina. It turned out to be a 2- mile walk to Walmarts and with the cold factored in it felt more like a 5-mile hike. The taxi ride back was warm and much appreciated - we could not have carried all the food stuff back in this cold... actually we couldn't have carried it all back period without a car and the taxi was well work the price to me.

This is quite a nice marina - the facilities look pretty new and the women's head area was sterling and scented with something reminding me of the old strawberry/myrtle incense that we used to buy in the 60s and 70s. The shower... the shower was awesome! Hot, hot water with plenty of water pressure and the room itself was decorated with art deco and black tables with granite counters. I'm so not used to this kind of shower facility.

Tomorrow we go through Cape Fear and leave North Carolina and begin our trek through South Carolina. If it were nicer and earlier in the season I'd love to stay and explore Southport. Maybe some other time....

Sleepless in Milehammock Bay
11/20/2008, Mile Hammock Bay Anchorage (N34*33.087, W077*19.535) to Wrightsville Beach NC (N34*12.380 x W77*47.987)

Wow - Mile Hammock was something else last night. From dark until after midnight it was loud and intimidating. The military was doing some kind of helicopter exercises and you'd swear they were doing touch and goes off the tip of our mast - that's how loud it was. They'd circle, and then hover and you could feel the drum drum drum and whirr of the helicopter motor and blades. It was kind of scary not knowing what they were doing above us. This morning it occurred to me that they were probably doing boarding maneuvers on the ship that's beached about 50 - 100 ft away from us which is why it felt like they were right on top of us. Good thing we had the anchor light on so they could see where our mast was (um if they really cared!). I'm just glad they didn't practice their boarding procedures on us. Another cold night but amazing at the same time!

When we pulled out of here, there was a dolphin convention going on right at the entrance of the anchorage. It was really cool to watch them (about 10-12). Little ones, big ones, all splashing and hunting for breakfast. A couple did a sideways swim-by looking at me at the bow watching them. Needless to say by the time I got my camera, they were to far away and not as photogenic - I need to Velcro the camera to my forehead LOL.

We had a rising tide following us to Wrightsville and there were a lot of dolphins whenever we passed by an inlet where the Atlantic meets the Inter-coastal Waterway. The water along this path changed to a beautiful green between emerald and beryl. We anchored near the Wrightsville Beach Bridge in 11 ft of water (N34*12.380' x W77*47.987').

There appears to be a lot of services here - restaurants, stores, etc., and the marinas and condos here are plentiful - it's like a summer or marine resort town. The "live oak" trees are more abundant and as I recall from my studies, this is the area where you can start seeing carnivorous plants (if you're on land) - pitcher plants, Venus flytraps, bladder & butterworts.

The winds are really starting to kick up and there are small craft advisories out for this area so we'll probably stay put here for tomorrow and possibly the next day. The windchill puts us in the 20's for the next couple of days and with the way the cold was biting at our hands and cheeks today, it's not something we want to do everyday even with the Nov/Dec weather moving in early. We're at Mile Marker (mm) 283 at Wrightsville so another 377 to reach the Florida border line. Looking at the weather reports - this arctic blast IS going to follow us to Florida (ready for snow Joe & Di, Lonnie & Terri???)

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