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The First Mate's Journal
Where to next?

Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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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???)

Mile Hammock Bay
11/19/2008, Swansboro, N.C. (N34*41.135, W077*07.119) Anchorage to Mile Hammock Bay Anchorage (N34*33.087, W077*19.535).

Cooollddd again - woke up to frozen moisture on the insides of the windows. We need to stop breathing in the cold - it condenses on the windows and drips back on us during the night! Wayne's taken to sleeping with a towel next to his head because the window drips directly into his ear.

I decided to make a warm breakfast before starting today (after yesterday!!) and heated up some water for hot cocoa during our transit. I called the coastguard to see if there were live drills at Camp Lejeunes today but they hadn't heard anything so we got ready to go and picked up the anchors (set two last night - strong currents). As we did, we heard on the radio, that live firing activities would take place until 12:00 today. There were 2 Navy Warships off the coast firing live rounds towards some targets on or in shore. We could hear the thunder and see the smoke from quite a distance. Since we were getting a late start we figured we wouldn't get there until about noon anyhow so we proceeded at a slow pace. Our slow pace wasn't so slow. With the tidal current we were doing 8.87 at times and got to where they closed the ICW at 11:20. There were already quite a few boats anchored there waiting for the 12:00 opening so we set anchor too and went below to warm up. 20 minutes later we were hustling to up anchor since they opened the ICW and told us "to make our best time" they were going to commence again within an hour. It was interesting because as we approached the area (they block off 15 nautical miles) we could hear the live artillery being aimed shoreward and see the smoke of the strikes even though we had the "all clear" to pass. As we passed the area you could smell the smoke as well as see it. We really "made our best time" because we heard that they would be re-closing the ICW from 1-5pm again. You could hear this guy on the radio asking about the times. I know we were told that they could only hold you for an hour, but that's not the case. The dialog went something like this: This is the Sailboat **** (fill in a name here) I'm approaching the Camp Lejeune firing range, I understand that they're closing at 1:00 and won't make it there by then, what time will they be reopening and should I just anchor and wait? They'll be closing until 5pm. What? We heard they'd be closing the ICW for live artillery at 1:00 and reopening in an hour? No sir. They'll be closing it from 1:00 to 5:00pm. I missed that - they'll be closed from when? 1-5. They only opened for an hour? That's right. So should I anchor and wait? You could. They're closing the ICW until 5pm... I should just anchor and wait... what... 4 hours? You could... Silence... You could always go outside! Outside meant on the Atlantic. Wow...then if the poor guy did go outside - he'd have to go around the warships for 15 nautical miles (per the Warship's instructions) - and the same schedule will hold for tomorrow too the ICW will be closed 8-12:00 then 1-5 again (they actually let traffic through at 3 today, then closed again till 5). Last comment heard on this dialog - somebody broke in and said "I heard they're only firing at Canadian boats", other comments "well I better snug up closer to you - you're an American boat right?" Nope, but I'm flying that flag right now!

We did make it through and also through the Onslo Swing Bridge. They held it for us since we were the last ones pulling up the rear. I thought that was very nice of them because they didn't have to. They could have told us to slow up and wait for the next hour opening - so Thank you Onslo Swing Bridge for letting us through - we sped up as fast as we could!

As we pulled into the Mile Hammock Bay the Ribs (reinforced inflatable bottoms) were busy doing their exercises in the bay (it's a marine dredged area used as an anchorage). They were whizzing back and forth doing donuts, etc... like in a James Bond movie... The large dredged basin is dredged to 12 ft for their activities and 1 to 2 ft in the eastern part but people aren't allowed to go ashore since this is their camp area. So everyone needs to stay clear of the dock area too since they're speeding back and forth during their exercises. So this is less than tranquil conditions at the anchorage when maneuvers are going on. It was cool to watch them though and they have a ship parked here for boarding practice/activities near the shore. We watched them zoom back and forth and watched the helicopters pass by and circle. It's 5pm and there are several sailboats in here with us now. Time to make dinner - pork chops and slaw tonight... Quite the wave action in here with the zodiacs (big ones) whizzing by us - but at least no live fire in the anchorage (knock on wood).

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