Travellin' on the Inside
30 November 2009 | Carolina Beach, NC
Beth / 58 F this morning, 65 F at quitting time
The Inside option won out, and we have spent 2 days that seem like an eternity on the ICW. It's strange that last trip we didn't really mind it. So what if we were motoring along the ditch? Everything was new and (mostly) interesting. This time it is hard to get our minds into an appreciative mode. However we are trying, and at least we are moving southward and we are not alone. There were nine of us in Mile Hammock Bay and probably the same number here in Carolina Beach tonight.
Soooo ... this is what we've seen and done... (the technical stuff first)
We've paid close attention to the cruisers net and the radio, and all the books we have for reports on shoaling. That takes a fair bit of time and figuring. There was a possibility at Mile 210 but we didn't see anything less than 14 ft. There was some significant shoaling at Bogue Inlet - somewhere around Mile 228 (G 45) There are buoys in place but the channel goes from one bank to the other quickly and is confusing, and the depth sounder showed less than 6.5 feet. (We draw just under 6 ft.) I think my heart might have stopped for a beat or two with the combination of confusion and depth. (Isn't that an interesting thought? One or the other is merely challenging. The two together are stressful....) At New River Inlet (shortly after Mile 245), we encountered shoals again and had to hug the red cans 72A and 72B. Fortunately we left Mile Hammock (Sunday's anchorage) in time to catch that bit at mid tide because we squeaked through, bumping once, while a boat behind us just could not find enough water, and since the tide was falling they decided to wait for the next day. At Carolina Beach Inlet (Mile 293.5) we hugged the Green 55 and 55A like we heard the Tow Boat US guy recommend. It worked and we didn't see less than 6.9 ft (again at mid tide). Then we turned into Carolina Beach anchorage and promptly went aground trying to find a spot to drop the anchor. No biggy - we powered through the mud and successfully anchored further along. This seems not so much beach as back yard for condos and big houses and motor yachts. We are the itinerants passing through.
As for the bridges, we timed our departures and pace well for most of them, but ended up stretching 5 statute miles into a 1 1/2 hour trip because we came through the Figure Eight bridge at 12:30 and couldn't make the 1 pm opening of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. It opens only on the hour so we went just as slowly as possible and arrived shortly before the 2 pm opening. WHY couldn't it open on the half hour too????
We saw graceful dolphins doing their surface and dive thing in lots of places - and we never tire of watching them. Sometimes it seems as if they MUST bump into our keel as we go by, but they never do. Their smooth grey backs glisten in the sun and they never hurry - they just curve up and down, up and down.
Laughing gulls in their winter plumage are everywhere. The summer plumage is more striking - black cap, white breast and bright red bill - but we could still distinguish them - with just a grey patch behind the eye. We've seen gulls sitting in abandoned ospreys' nests on the navigational aid posts, and cormorants lined up by the dozen on the great long boardwalks that stretch from elegant homes ashore out to the boat lifts and gazebos at the water's edge. The pelicans make great splashes as they dive to catch pouches full of fish and they are so striking as they glide along just above the surface of the water. What a wing span! I saw a lucky fish get away from a tern today. The tern swooped down, picked him up and then dropped him. The flash of silver was so fast as that fish leaped once and disappeared into the water!
The colours of the marsh grasses are as lovely as before, and the mud banks are just as chock full of goodies for the wading birds. We've watched motionless herons and wading egrets and multitudes of little birds - sandpipers?
For the first time this trip, we sat in the cockpit after we anchored at Mile Hammock Bay and relaxed in the sun. I brewed a pot of lemon ginger tea in my elegant china pot, and Jim read while I knit. Small joys are good ones.
All that seafood I bought has provided several meals: salmon with capers/sundried tomatoes/garlic one night, salmon with curry sauce the second night, fat juicy shrimp steamed with good old Old Bay seasoning one night, and leftovers of everything with rice and some sausage bits a fourth night. Mmmmmm.....
Tomorrow - December 1st - we expect to leave Carolina Beach just as soon as we can see what we are doing to go along Snow's Cut, down the Cape Fear River and out past Bald Head Island into the ocean. Our plan is to do an outside run, come in again at Winyah Bay and go up to Georgetown to ride out the next front coming through on Wednesday. Wish us luck!!