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Sloop Les Miserables
Bumping along the ICW
11/07/2011

We are thinking of starting our own web link - goingagroundsailors.com - yes we managed to go aground once again on our way past Snow's Cut to the Cape Fear river. Fortunately, we found Robert and with his strong motored fishing boat we were pulled off. It turns out that we misread the charts and the shortcut we had hoped to take only had 4 feet of water. However, had we gone at high tide this might not have been a problem - but then again, we had to consider the current on the Cape Fear river and the bridge opening timing. All in all, there is a lot to consider when traveling the ICW and we have found a great resource - Active Captain.com. This website has information about areas of shoaling etc. that captains add to help everyone navigate. We make it up the Cape Fear River. It is very deep (40-50+feet) and is used by large container ships. This eases our fears about hitting bottom :-). We even make the bridge 10 minutes before the 2:00 opening. We were able to do this because we were pushed along by the flood tide/ current. Immediately upon reaching the Bennet Brothers we were put in the "sling" and hauled out. Three repairmen began inspecting our rudder. The good news is the rudder was not damaged (it was not bent as our result of numerous groundings - the bad news was that the wear and tear of 20 years of sailing required that the rudder have the bearing and bushings replaced, as well as a repair of the cracked fiberglass column that the rudder goes through. We find a hotel in Wilmington, rent a car, and plan on leaving after repairs on Tuesday. We are delighted to have some time in a real bed with our own private bath and the opportunity to drive around town. We manage to go to the beach twice, see the North Carolina battleship, shop around in downtown Wilmington, enjoy a wonderful Mexican restaurant Mixto - and drown our $$$ sorrows in Margueritas!

11/08/2011 | Diane Thompson
First of all Happy Birthday. Not sure when you will read this but hope you have a great day. I've been reading all of your blogs and to say the least it sounds as though you have had quite an adventure so far. Stay safe.
Emergency tiller is found! :-0
11/07/2011

Yikes! Today was a challenge and a half and Wiley pulled us through. As we were carefully navigating the ICW south to Wrightsville, N.C. with plans to anchor out for the night right near the beach we lost control of the boat - no steerage! No steerage in very shallow water boded for another grounding. Quickly, I dropped the anchor until we could figure out what was wrong. Our steering was gone. We had always said that we really should try to use the emergency tiller - but of course, had never done this. It was at the bottom of our locker - and we were thrilled that it was still there - it worked. We had difficulty identifying the marker we needed to follow and with Wiley bent over the emergency tiller I called a passing power boat. I requested that first they slow down and not wake us and then if they could lead the way through markers G103 and G105 we could then follow. Unfortunately, this portion of the ICW has a lot of current and it also requires that we go through two bridges. These bridges only open at certain times - on the 1/2 hour or hour and so timing becomes an issue. The last bridge, Wrightsville Beach only opens on the hour and we calculate that if we do 3.2 kts we will get from Figure 8 Bridge to W.B bridge. Wiley is very nervous and keeps varying his speed because he is nervous that he will miss the opening, but our speed averages out and we make it. I called 8 different marinas to find a slip so that we could get some repairs done and none were available. Of course, at this point and as the saying goes... it could be worse - it could be raining - it does!. We decide to anchor out in Wrightsville. This requires negotiating a narrow channel that frequently shoals - but Wiley does this as I call out markers and where to steer. We make it and drop the anchor in a beautiful anchorage near the Wrightsville Beach. I continue to call for a slip for the next day and finally find that the Dockside Marina and Restaurant is willing to take us in and allow the Bennett Brothers to come and do repairs on our boat. We move the boat against the current again using the emergency tiller and Rich from the Bennet Brothers comes and fixes the steering by installing a new sheve. However, when examining the boat for the steering Rich notices that our rudder may need repair. We plan on moving the boat to the Bennet Brothers in Wilmington, N.C. However, this requires that we move the boat up Cape Fear - which has very strong current. We know this is what we need to do - but are anxious about making this trip. There is a bridge just before the Bennet Brother's Marina that only opens at 10:00 and 2:00 - so that narrows the window on when we can arrive. Oh well, we will think about that tomorrow!

Joining the Marines
11/06/2011, Mile Hammock Bay

We departed the town docks at Beaufort right after dawn, at slack tide. We had to head down the channel past Radio Island, as if we were going out into the Atlantic, and then turn back into the ship channel toward Moorhead City. We had spent almost a week at Beaufort, and wanted to stay longer, but we can't help but notice that it is starting to get really cold at night; we need to get south! We now see dolphins with some frequency, and this day was no exception. After a bit of difficulty deciding which channel was the intracoastal, we joined a stream of boats all heading south. We were, alas, the smallest and slowest boat, and constantly had to move to starboard and slow down to let other boats pass. The channel took us to the New River, which goes right through the huge marine corps base at Camp Lejenue; at times,
the river is closed because the marines are practicing on the artillery range I am happy to report that the marines did not shoot on this day. We anchored for the night in Mile Hammock Bay, a large area that had been dredged so the marines can practice with landing craft. We were one of 23 boats in this beautiful anchorage, in the middle of the Marine Corps, but also, the middle of nowhere.

11/11/2011 | Anonymous
...okay... so previously the word "frequently" was employed in a reference to your posts... and while this one ("Joining the Marines") is STILL quite good, I am overcome with caution... and compelled to issue advice to a "brother"... do NOT let Marines near the fair-skinned captain... no good can come of it! Honor can often be found in circumstance avoided.
02/19/2012 | Bill Weir
Marilyn and I were stationed at Camp LeJeune after Vietnam. We think of you often and wish you calm winds and following seas.
The Wave Off!
10/28/2011

The trip to Beaufort (pronounce Bo-fort) North Carolina takes at most an hour. However, you do go out near the ocean inlet and the current, wind, number of boaters traveling in and out of the inlet can stress any captain. We managed to find all of the markers and stay in the channel. All went well, or as they say in flying, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. While entering Taylor Creek to the Beaufort Dock Marina the incredible current from a high tide was sending us down the channel at about 2 knts without us providing any power. We were directed by the dockhand to go past the docking T to turn and the current would push us into the dock so we would need to back down quickly. Merry told Wiley that he should travel not just one dock past the dock we would be going into but 2 since the current was so strong and this would allow for greater control. However, Wiley did not hear her correctly. So this resulted in Merry screaming at Wiley to not turn yet - when it was too late. Poor Wiley! It is difficult to maneuver a boat in these circumstances and he had a screaming wife to add to his stress. The dockhand had selected a dock for us but we were not able to turn into that one but instead Merry was able to throw him some lines (as we entered sideways) he yelled out directions to the captain. The end result was we made it into the dock, generously tipped the dockhand, and began to worry about how we would ever get out of this dock with the strong current. Merry took Wiley to lunch and brews to settle his nerves. We have entered a strong learning curve regarding tides, current, and wind when maneuvering the boat. Sailboats have a mind of their own and adding these elements make it all the more challenging. We are determined to find the best time - slack tide to move the boat to an anchorage outside of the harbor prior to leaving for our next step along the ICW. Slack tide occurs at near the apex of either high or low tide. Now we just need to figure out when that happens.

10/31/2011 | Brian E.
Remember, this is all about adventure so please make sure you have plenty of food... and then don't spend a minute worrying about the tide.
Surprises!
10/28/2011

We left Oriental crossing the Neuse River to Adam's Creek. We should mention that crossing the Neuse River takes almost an hour; it doesn't look like a river but resembles a really big lake. We successfully entered the channel for Adam's Creek when Wiley (who was at the helm) once again became distracted by the sun in his eyes and Merry reading him her proposed blog entry about Oriental. SURPRISE #1, we ran aground! The air was once again full of "sailor talk". A brief attempt to back off was unsuccessful. Merry saw a large old Chris Craft named Navigator approaching the entrance to the creek and called on the radio requesting assistance. He generously offered to help and approached the area to pull us off. We requested that he proceed with caution so that he too would not go aground. We decided that Wiley would row a line out from our stern in Dimples to pull us off. Meanwhile, a SeaTow boat showed up and asked us if we would like his help. However, we do not carry SeaTow insurance so refused his services, as it would be very expensive. He commented that we should not have the other boat pull us off by our stern because we could break our rudder. This sent Merry into a tizzy as Wiley was currently in the process of rowing the line out to Navigator. Navigator began to pull us off, without much success, and with Merry yelling at Wiley about the possibility of breaking the rudder while trying to keep the line from pushing against the outboard (used for Dimples) mounted on the back of the boat. Finally, Wiley called Navigator off and Merry once again called Boat U.S. There was quite a bit of wave action against the boat and with the movement caused by the pulling of Navigator - SURPRISE #2 - we floated off! We were able to call Boat US and decline their help and we were once again off down Adam's Creek. However, Wiley's pride and confidence was damaged and so we followed other sailboats - Persistance and Celeste down the channel. Celeste, a 25 foot sailboat, single handed by a fellow from Maui sailed wing on wing down the channel. We admired the beautiful homes along Adam's Creek and really felt that we were definitely in the south as we noted that many of the homeowners had planted Palm trees. We also noted the damage from Hurricane Irene was obvious; boarded windows, roofs with tarps, and docks with missing boards. We felt that we were flying down the creek and noted that we were maintaining 7.2 knots with the wind and current behind us. We soon passed mile marker 195 of the ICW. Around noon, the greatest surprise, SURPRISE #3 happened. We saw approximately a dozen dolphins swimming along in the Creek. We had been hoping to see one and to finally see not only one but pods of dolphins made our day. We continued our attempt to navigate through to Morehead City Yacht Basin and realized that we had gone past the marker we should turn at. We called them on the radio and were redirected. When we entered this marina we were impressed by all of the large - million dollar fishing boats. This area is known for big game fishing and our little sailboat looked like their dinghy when we pulled into the dock. We were able to spend the afternoon and evening enjoying Morehead City. We sat on a floating dock drinking our sundowners and watching a blue heron across on an island while Wiley continued to lament about going aground. it is going to take time for him to heal from this traumatic event and yet most likely it will not be the last time we go aground. As we were sailing along to Morehead City we heard of another boat calling Boat US. A fellow sailor from the vessel Kittyhawk says that there are three kinds of sailors that travel the ICW, those that are aground, those that are about to go aground and those that lie about never going aground. We planned to take on the challenge of going to Beaufort tomorrow even though we know that there are strong currents in this area. We sought a lot of advice from other sailors in Morehead City and also learned of a new online, resource - Active Captain We don't want to miss the opportunity to spend time in the beautiful city of Beaufort.

Leading the Fleet
10/28/2011

We left Dowry Creek at 7:15 AM, just as the sun was starting to come up. The sun broke through a cluster of clouds and provided us with great lighting on markers as we were traveling from east to west on the Pungo River. We were the first boat to enter the channel, and became the "mother duck with all the duckling boats" following us south. At the end of the Pungo River we then turned south on the Pamlico River, through Goose Creek, an ICW canal, and Gale Creek. We continued to lead the way. All went well, as all the markers were easy to see. It was fun looking back at the long line of sailboats trailing behind us as all of the "snowbirds" flew south. This was the second time on the trip that we really felt the flow of all of the boaters moving south. However, we read many warnings about shoaling in Gale Creek so we decided to slowly and carefully traverse this area. Along this area we saw shrimp boats and immediately thought of "Bubba Gump". The "mother duck" having slowed down just after the Hobucken bridge resulted in many of the following boats passing us into the Neuse River. In the canal and Gale Creek we were unable to sail, but once out into the Neuse River all of the boats raised their sails once again. We were able to sail until we were out in the middle of the river when we turned toward Oriental, North Carolina. It became very lumpy and with the wind in the wrong direction, behind us, all of the boats were rolling on their round bottoms. We were all watching each other's "sticks" (masts) roll from one side of the boat to the other and sailors later commented on the ride.
We entered the channel to Oriental and turned past anchored boats on our starboard and shrimping boats on our port. Once again we were greeted by a dockhand who helped us with lines as we landed in our slip. Oriental Marina has a lovely restaurant, hotel, pool, laundry facilities and offers towels- shampoo - soap. We joined some of our new sailing friends Marge and Dick as well as another couple from Ohio - Bert and Pru for dinner at Toucan after having a sunset drink from the Tikki Bar. Marge and Dick are sailing their boat to Fort Pierce, Florida where they will leave their boat. They plan on living aboard their boat in the winter and going home to Ohio during the good weather. Bert and Pru have sold their home and plan on living on their boat, Exuberant, full time. Every sailors own intention for their experience is a little different than others and they often try to convince others to follow their path. There is comfort in company when you find others who are making the same crazy decisions that you have or are making. While in Oriental we met the owner of the local health club, who offered use of his facilities for free, and who drove us to the local West Marine. We met a lot of wonderful people including a retired diesel mechanic whose son had died in a motorcycle accident just a month ago. He nonetheless gave us some sound advice about maintaining our diesel. Wiley set up a wooden support for our gerry cans of fuel and water on the boat. We scrubbed the boat and prepared to leave for Morehead City. There are always a lot of little tasks that we need to do to maintain the boat and they often consume a surprising amount of our time.

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