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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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Military anchorages and manuevers
05/11/2009, Wrightsville Beach NC (N34*12.441 W77*47.965) SM#283.2 to Mile Hammock Bay (N34*33.163 W77*19.528) SM#244.5

Monday, May 11, 2009

It was an interesting day, with weather and running aground, we still managed to put in 33.5 miles. The day started out looking gray and drizzly. I got up to close the ports at 2:30am when I felt raindrops on my face but it was a nice light patter on deck and I went back to sleep with no problem. I woke up again at sunrise (around 6am) to the sound of the laughing gulls - haw haw; haw haw, haw hawwww haaawwww.... Hey, I remember you guys LOL. It looked like it was going to be a rainy day and the gulls were laughing at us already.

After we took off, the winds picked up and we could see towering cumulus building on the horizon. Then about 10:30am the weather channel broke into channel 16 with a special Thunderstorm warning. Radar had picked up a line of thunderstorms with a history of damaging hail and winds up to 35mph with gusts in excess of 60mph. Mariners seek safe shelter if possible and put on life vests. At 11:11 at SM 270 the thunderstorms hit us but we didn't see the projected gusts or hail. Sheeting rain, lightening, thunder, strong winds yes, but no 60mph gusts thank goodness. It was difficult to see through the rain but we progressed slowly - there's nowhere to put into along this stretch of straight-line ditch, and if we anchored and somebody came barreling through they'd have wiped us out. So we decided to keep going slowly. After it passed we picked up speed again.

We made it to the Surf City Bridge with a lot of time (45minutes) before it opened again (it only opens on the hour). So I decided to lie down and Wayne got to wait at the helm for the bridge to open. While going back the way we came and turning around, we turned into a hard spot and were... yep... aground. It was interesting because I was laying in the V-berth and could feel us as we nudged, then slid along the bottom of the ledge that we grounded on. I realized what had happened and I don't think I've ever jumped out of bed so quickly... We tried backing off, then forward and backward, nothing seemed to help - it just didn't work. We spotted a couple of powerboats approaching the bridge and their wake didn't budge us. Another one we asked to wake us (he was a big one) and he slowed down instead of waking us. He probably thought we were being smart a**es. Needless to say - we missed the 1:00 pm bridge opening. Our first call to Towboat US. We were on a falling tide this time so needed assistance to get off. They finally got to us around 2:30pm and got us off the mud ledge and we made the 3pm opening of the Surf City Bridge.

It was a stressful day with blinding thunderstorms, high winds and currents at the inlets, a hard grounding, and cold temperatures. I made more brownies (good stress food), started them while we were grounded (hey when life hands you mud, improvise and make brownies) and figured the comfort of warm brownies would even out the day.

We made it to Mile Hammock at 6:00pm and anchored in 12 feet in the dredged out basin that the military uses for practice maneuvers. This basin was built during World War II for the marines to practice their amphibious landings using a full-scale mock up of a troop transport ship. Trainees would practice climbing up and down netting with their full packs and weapons here. There was a threat of German U boats at the inlet so this was a safe place to practice for Camp Lejeune. They still have about 40,000 marines come through here per year. We were treated with the Osprey helicopters doing maneuvers over us and landing somewhere onshore out of sight. Last time they had zodiacs doing landings with clandestine midnight raids by helicopters on the ship. Looks like that's out this time.

I wanted some hot soup for dinner - it's in the 50s and I felt frozen to the bone. Wayne wanted "real food". So it's spaghetti for dinner. A good compromise as well as warming.

I definitely won't forget to turn on the anchor light tonight. Last time it felt like the copters were landing on our mast - everything shook - so we need to make sure we're seen. There are a lot of boats in here - about 14 of us tonight.

Happy Mother's Day All
05/10/2009, Shallottes Inlet, NC (N33*54.913)SM330 to Wrightsville Beach Anchorage (N34*12.447 W77*47.953)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to everyone that is a mom or has one.
Leaving Shallotte's Inlet (8:30am) there was only one scary spot as we hit 5.5 then 5.1 feet and hit reverse real fast, backed up and changed course until we hit 7, then 7.2, 8 ft. I'd actually forgotten that it was Mother's Day until leaving the anchorage and traveling a bit down the ICW. I'd noticed it was really quiet out and that's when it struck me that everyone was at their mother's or taking mom to breakfast so there were no fishermen, or power boaters out playing or fishing this morning.

Lonnie had sent me a beautiful video clip for Mother's Day of his little angels. I saved it for today; it was really wonderful, made me cry. Thank you for sending it Lonnie - I hope you enjoy those little girls - they WILL grow up so fast. I wish I had thought to appreciate you guys and hug you a little more than I did when you were growing up (even when you reached the age where that wasn't cool any more LOL). Big hugggg to you now! Steph I loved the pic/card thank you - bigggggg hug! Miss you too and am looking forward to seeing you. Don't know if you're reading this but hang in there.

We went past an older couple with a little blonde tike along the waterway this morning. It was a moment that I wish I'd have had my camera up top with me, unfortunately I was at the helm and it was below but I have a mental picture of it that is very special. A Norman Rockwell Painting in my mind if you will...

The woman was in a red, plastic kayak with the little one in front of her, life vest on, hat on, and big sunglasses half the size of his/her face on... The man was standing/squatting on the corner of a seawall with a cooler behind him and he was taking pictures of the woman and toddler in the kayak. The woman was paddling out of some weeds and toward the seawall where the man stood, then gave the paddle to the little one sitting in front of her. He/she was paddling for all his/her might, first one side then the other (definitely had the moves). The woman was ready to take over if assistance was needed, while letting the toddler take charge paddling the boat towards dad/grandpa. It was sweet to watch and reminded me of Zachery and Greg in the dinghy (was it last summer?) at the lake when Zack took the throttle and dad was "at ready". That seems so long ago, and yet but yesterday. Anyhow it was a great mental snapshot on a cool Mother's day morning - another unexpected gift for my soul.

We also passed a house with a giant giraffe statue on it's lawn... Interesting lawn ornament...

Once we got to the Cape Fear Inlet, I spotted 7 dolphins working in unison to catch their lunch (it was about noon). They were circling their prey and then scooping them up. Fascinating to watch these beautiful, intelligent creatures hunting their meal.

The waterway began getting crowded again after lunchtime and there was a lot of congestion around the Carolina Beach inlet. A Wildlife officer/Boat didn't help by stopping all the fishing boats in the middle of the channel either. Trying to get around them and the fishing boats and staying in the channel was a feat. Couple that with the inrushing water and sediment from the Atlantic through the inlet and boat wakes pushing us, and needless to say we ran aground between buoys 155 and 155A where it was shallow to begin with. Luckily it was sand. We reversed the boat with no luck. The Wildlife officers passed us and waved. We kept the boat in reverse and didn't have long to wait before another large powerboat waked us again and we were able to get off the sandbar. This time I waved back at the officers.

When we finally got to Green 25/Red 24 that marked the entrance to Wrightsville Beach (our anchorage for the evening) we thought we were home free but in turning into Motts Channel we cut it a little to close to the Red buoy and were aground in the channel . A Sea Tow boat came by and asked if we were members. No, we're not. Are you Tow Boat Members? Yes. Okay. Are we on the right side of the Red Buoy (to the right of it)? Yep - I've got 14 feet here between the red and green - you just cut it to close. Want help? Nope, the tide is coming up, we should be able to get off. Okay. He took his dog over to the side of the channel and let him off. Then we watched him play with the dog while we waited for the tide to help lift us off. He'd throw a stick into the water and the dog would bring it back - quite a frisky pup. When we got free, I yelled over that he'd make a great bird dog. He yelled back that the pup was 8 months old and his pop was a very good bird dog. I didn't find that surprising in the least. This pup will fetch many ducks in the future.

We finally dropped anchor at 5:30pm in the anchorage. There were quite a few boats here but we managed to find a good spot out of the traffic path of the powerboats zipping under the fixed bridge.

A drink while waiting to see if the anchor would settle nicely, then salad, flat iron steak and rolls for dinner. I shared some of my stale cinnamon, raisin, and beer bread with the ducks at the anchorage - they didn't mind that it was stale in the least.

Love you mom and wish I could have been there to help Steph, Penelope, Joyce and James plant the little memorial tree for you today.


05/26/2009 | Ashley
Hey Mrs. Aben, I finially got access to this!! Yay! I am going to book mark it :)! You know as wonderful as you take pictures you are reallly talented at describing images and are very good with words! Sounds like you took this wonderful experince and ran with it! I am so happy for you Mrs. Aben?
Aground again in NC
05/09/2009, Bull Creek, SC (N33 36.667 W79 06.228) to Shallottes Inlet, NC (N33*54.913)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Around 5am we heard and felt a bump, bump. I originally thought it was Wayne (sometimes he hits the wall or his foot kicks it) but he said it wasn't. I got up to check on things but couldn't see where we had turned into the curve of the riverbed or where any logs had come downstream and bumped us. Whatever it was was not viewable. The birds were so sweetly singing as the sun came up and as I look around it feels like I could be back home surrounded by trees and birds. I wonder if my tulips and daffodils came up this year...

We left our little outer bend anchorage at 9am. I saw an eagle in a tree - very cool... Traversed through the mighty Rock Pile again. This time it's a bit busier - there are water skiers, tubers, and boats all over the ICW - it's out and out crowded! We played dodge-em with fishing boats who didn't realize we're not as shallow draft as them; chicken with power boats that didn't want to move over and we couldn't; and how long can you circle with the bridges that are supposed to open on demand but changed to opens on the hour (and we'd just missed them); to "oh I see another sailboat cap'n 2.5 miles back so we'll wait for them before I open (only to watch them pull into a marina a quarter mile from us - sigh). One power boater out enjoying the late afternoon dropped his beer over board and was franticly trying to retrieve it - funny except he turned and circled right on our nose - not so fun. It got downright hot today. The weather forecast said it was the hottest day of the year so far 92*.

Our selected anchorage for today was Calabash Creek. Unfortunately after trying to get in there 3 times, at 3 different spots, and running aground 3 times, then watching another sailboat from Montreal do the same right next to us while we were aground (he tried a little further away from us), we gave it up. After 2 hours of this grounding and un-grounding we decided to move further north before we ended up traveling in the dark. We finally put in near Shallottes Inlet - but first we had to run aground again (because we know what we're doing now LOL - per Eileen Quinn's song). The shoaling here is pretty bad and the anchorage is between Green Markers 75 & 77 near the mouth of a winding creek. The current here is 1.5 knots and quite strong. Trying to anchor, Wayne lost his grip on the anchor chain and it started tearing out of the boat and we started screaming backwards toward that 5 ft, 4.5 ft depth again then Wayne got the chain snugged and we yanked to a stop. Poor Wayne's hands are raw and sore from the friction of the chain. It's 8pm and getting quite dim out. It's been an interesting day to say the least. We've now set a new record 4 groundings in one day but at least this time we were able to back out after waiting and our mighty little engine in full reverse. Strange to watch that engine revving at 2700rpms in reverse and not see anything moving...

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