30/11/2009/7:18 pm, Carolina Beach, NC
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!!
28/11/2009/7:15 pm, Beaufort, NC
I stayed snuggled in bed this morning while Jim did his departure chores before we left Oriental- checked the engine - fuel and oil levels, raw water intake filter. He topped up the fuel tank with diesel from the jerry cans and did the same with the water cans and then went off to refill them all. When the coffee was ready, most of the chores were done and my book was finished, I rolled out of our snuggly berth and prepared for the day with a shower at the marina. This is the only marina I know of that provides towels along with shampoo and soap. Oriental Marina is a class act.
Then I headed off to the local Farmers' market. That was somewhat disappointing because there were fewer than a dozen tables, very little produce and no baking except for some little nut loaves. On the upside though, was the quality - some beautiful pottery, jewelry, wooden baskets, recycled sailcloth bags, and handmade grocery bags. I sipped hot cider from Wit's End Art Gallery as I perused the stalls. From Will, I bought a lovely produce basket made of teak with a screen bottom, and then got sweet potatoes, rutabagas and peppers to put in it. It will be useful for storing vegetables on the boat. If I didn't have to put all my Christmas shopping in a suitcase to fly back to Canada, I'd have bought a few more of these lovely baskets! (The pic shows some vendors; Will is wearing the blue shirt and green ball cap!)
The fish market opened at 10 and I bought salmon and shrimp. The salmon has been out of the water for a few days, so when we had it for dinner tonight, I baked it with sundried tomatoes, capers, garlic along with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. I told the vendor how many dollars I had left in my pocket and asked for as much shrimp as I could have for that amount. By the look of the scale, he was generous.
While I had fun on the waterfront, Jim lugged our propane tank to the hardware store to fill it, and stowed a block of ice in the icebox. Then it was time to make our departure and it went as smooth as silk. Tom (dockmaster/manager) was a big help in handling docklines and giving advice on how best to get out of the slip without hitting Melodeon. By following his suggestions, Jim backed Madcap farther into the corner than he would have otherwise dared (because of depth concerns), then swung the bow around and we were off in beautiful form. Thanks Tom!!
We had a half hour sail across the Neuse River but as we got into Adams Creek, the wind died so we had to motor the next 3 hours to Beaufort where we anchored in Taylor Creek - just off the town docks. We dinghied ashore and had a nice little walk around. The town is getting dressed for Christmas, and it is a very pretty little town with lots of attractive shops and restaurants and houses dating from the 1700's. Our impression wasn't all that favourable last time, but I think we might have sold it short. (We were suffering Customs and Border Patrol Stress then). We have to leave very early tomorrow (Sunday) so we'll plan for a longer exploration on the way back north in the spring. On the way back to Madcap, we swung by Feelin' Lucky to say good night - and good bye for now. That is one beautiful boat - an Island Packet 44. I truly do love my Bayfield 36 but ... if one had 8 footitis, one might look in that direction!!
We'd love to jump out to do the next stretch on the outside, but with south west winds forecast, they'd be on our nose. If we have to motor, we might as well stay in the ICW and then try to go out at Cape Fear. That way, we'd avoid the long detour around Frying Pan Shoals too. The winds will be favourable on Tuesday, but we want to keep moving - so, as of tonight, inside wins.
27/11/2009/6:13 pm, Oriental, NC
We arrived in Oriental in time to partake of the Thanksgiving Buffet at Oriental marina. It was our good fortune that Jim and Betsy (Feelin' Lucky) arrived in time to join us. We heaped our plates with all the traditional good eats - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce, and at least some of us added apple pie to already full stomachs!
Because there are strong winds forecast for the next two days, we decided to take a slip at the marina here. ($1.75 per foot, excellent showers/laundry/wifi). Imagine - Madcap tied up again!! Jim did a masterful job of turning into the slip, I had the lines all ready to throw over pilings and between us - with the help of Tom the dockmaster - we did a smooth job of docking. Then it was time for puzzling out how to let this line slack - pull this one tighter - do the same with different lines all over again to let Madcap rest where the big bowsprit wouldn't hit the dock and yet some portion of the side deck would be within leaping distance of the slip. Yeah! Success!
This picture shows the shrimp boats at sunset last night, and if you look up the town dock web cam (www.towndock.net/harborcam) you might see Madcap's mast visible in the far left corner above the roof of the Bean - the local coffeeshop. Of course if you wait too long, we'll be gone!
There were only 3 boats in the anchorage, unlike our other visits when Madcap has been one of many out there, and I'm just as happy we weren't among them this time. The wind really came up during the night and we heard some loud voices and saw movement out there. Apparently someone dragged. Glad it wasn't us.
On Friday morning, Bob arrived to check out our refrigeration system. Unfortunately his diagnosis was that we need a new compressor - not good news since that is another pricey item. Some more "not good news" was that it would be several days to get the part in and then have him install it. So - in the interests of getting further south before we get snow on our decks, we are now an ice-box boat. We know other cruisers who travel this way all the time, and although it is harder to keep things cool with ice, we can do it for a while too. We visited Jim and Betsy onboard Feelin' Lucky to do some research, and decided to see about a fix farther down the way.
Bob was a fascinating person - he says he is 80 although his agility and enthusiasm for life would lead one to think he is at least 10 years younger. He and his wife used to run a charter business in the Caribbean, and now they have settled into land life here. (Maybe... I get the feeling that since Bob has just finished building a house, he is looking for a new adventure.) When we asked how he keeps so youthful, he put a finger to his head and said with a nod that it is mostly a state of mind. Words to ponder from a man who seems to know what he is talking about. Between them, he and his wife have 10 children and are in training to become foster parents!
We chatted with Ed and Fred who were walking the dock this morning, and discovered that the boat tied up next to us in Dowry Creek Marina belongs to Ed. Last night we met Frank, who with his wife, Chris, is taking his first cruise on Melodean - the boat he spent 30 years building. Melodean is tied up at the town dock and is sure attracting visitors. It is a distinctive boat - red hull, junk rigged sails, a chimney that was dispensing wood smoke when we took our evening walk.
We went in search of a small propane tank to have as a spare, and some distilled water to top up our batteries, neither one of which could be found at the hardware store. When the man at the counter said we were asking for the wrong things and to try another question, Jim asked for shrimp. The guy (how could I have forgotten to ask his name?) turned to his co-worker and said, "Hold me back, Mary!" I guess Jim will have to go back tomorrow with a new request.
Although we took a look in the interesting little mariners consignment store, I couldn't convince Jim to buy anything. I had a great time prowling around the Inland Waterway Provisioning store - part chandlery/part souvenir shop - and of course we picked up coffee and muffins at the friendly Bean across the street where dogs, old folks, kids and all the rest of us flock for conversation and sustenance.
We'll check out the Farmers market here tomorrow, pick up some fresh fish, and then be on our way. With luck we will make Beaufort and then be able to SAIL on the ocean!!