02/12/2009/11:52 am, Georgetown, South Carolina
Tuesday morning, we left before 0700 to get a good start on our long journey. We left with 2 possible destinations in mind. The best one would be Charleston. But with the threat of severe weather starting anytime after midnight, we were aware that our more probable destination would be the Winyah Bay inlet and Georgetown. That's how it turned out. We didn't want to risk getting caught out there when the wind and waves picked up. It seems like we are ALWAYS trying to avoid bad weather.
We had good currents down the Cape Fear River and out past Bald Head Island. Once outside, we were disappointed to find that there was not enough north in the forecasted NE wind to allow us to sail. So - we put the sail up to help stability but the wind stayed pretty much behind us all the way. We'd move it a little this way and a little that way but it wasn't very satisfactory. While it was lovely not to have to worry about shoaling and bridges, it was frustrating to have all that big water and be in too much of a hurry (because of weather) to tack back and forth and just sail.
There was not one single other boat out there in the wide ocean except for a shrimper just outside Cape Fear. We were about 20 miles off the coast for much of the day and at one point I got up and yelled - Is anybody there? Imagine my surprise to see a dolphin leap right beside us about 20 seconds later!! Other than that one reply, I heard nothing else but the engine. (The pic shows a tiny bit of another one)
We turned in the Winyah Bay entrance channel about 8 o'clock and proceeded to follow the lights. Three intense hours later, we dropped anchor in Georgetown. The channel is well marked, and although there were some cross currents in the river, we weren't at peak ebb so it was never a problem. It seems strange, but those last 3 hours were actually the best part of the trip - we were concentrating and active and successfully navigating. It is an awfully long way in at this end, and leaving from Carolina Beach made a long start to the trip too. Stopping at Bald Head Island and jumping out from there makes more sense, but we want to go there sometime when we can stay a few days. Doing the trip from Cape Fear to Charleston also makes more sense, but I already mentioned the weather...
So here we are in Georgetown. It poured rain a couple of times during the day and we kept swinging with current and wind. While we were uneasy, it didn't seem bad enough to move to a dock although we spent too much of the day fussing and worrying. A few hours after we had decided that we were dug in well enough, the wind came up more strongly and we realized that even if we hadn't dragged, we were still stretched too far out into the channel. By this time (4:30), all the face docks were filled with motor yachts, it was starting to get dark, and we circled around looking for a spot to re-anchor. A fellow on a mooring ball called out that the vacant ball next to him was usually home to a 41 foot Beneteau and we could use it. After some debate, that's what we did so as I write this, (9pm) we are swinging around on it.
We've seen a few flashes of lightening, and there is enough wind to keep us rocking on the ball - one gust (35 knots) just knocked us sideways and the rain is lashing down. Jim has the engine on and is trying to take some of the strain off the mooring. A bad night looks to be still in the reports. I guess we'll see. We generally figure that we'd rather be on our own anchor than an unknown mooring, but Georgetown is this guy's home port so we hope he had good local knowledge.
We went for one fast walk around town to get a little exercise - first time off the boat since Beaufort on Saturday evening - but couldn't really stay ashore because of worry about wind.
On the good news side, the Ben Sawyer Bridge is not closing tomorrow, so we can make the shorter inside trip to Charleston over the next couple of days and then get the heck outside and down to Fernandina Beach.
This just doesn't feel like fun right now. It seems like we have had one incident after another - limiting weather windows over and over again, water tank, fridge, dragging anchor. I know it can always be worse - far worse - but tonight is a morose night!
01/12/2009/7:58 pm, Carolina Beach, NC
There is more to the Carolina Beach story...
Jim had gone to bed and I was playing around on the computer when our anchor drag alarm went off. That is not an unusual thing, since sometimes it beeps when we've swung with the current or wind. I went out to look and we had indeed swung and the wind had some up quite strongly, but everything seemed OK so I just hit the "clear" button. Back down below, I finished what I was doing and then before I went to bed, I looked out the window before I reprogrammed the alarm. To MY alarm, I saw pilings where there shouldn't be any! I dashed up the companionway steps - yelling to Jim that we had dragged. As I turned on the engine and got the boat in gear to keep us off the dock that was less than a boat length away, he scrambled out of bed, hit the windlass switch and deck lights and ran forward to haul up the anchor - shouting as he went by that the boat next to us was also moving. So - here we were - two boats circling in the dark, windy night, trying to find new places to settle down again.
There is nothing any fun about dragging anchor and almost crashing our vacation home/ investment, but it sure gets the adrenaline moving and induces huge gratitude that we were saved yet again. Two good things are that we had no damage done, and we worked in perfect symmetry. I felt sorry about the other boat, who had come into that anchorage on our advice. They also found a new spot for the night and had no damage, but I'll bet that's the last time they listen to us!!
We figure that the wind came up so strongly after we swung that instead of the anchor resetting itself, it came loose. We set the alarm to the tiniest amount of movement just in case and took turns getting up all the rest of the night to check on it. Needless to say, neither of us got much rest.
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!!