A Magical Evening
26 April 2017 | Oriental, NC
Beth / warm inside and out
Did we ever strike it lucky tonight! Not only did we have a great time enjoying Mike and Kathy's company at the Tiki Bar and at the Silos, but Jim spotted Peter and Gail (Jabiru) walk through the door. We haven't seen those two since Cuba 5 or 6 years ago. It was wonderful to catch up with them and to listen to Peter's lovely saxophone contributions to the music. I wish I had taken a pic, but here are the Madcaps and the Sapphires!
Good company, good music, good food, and another wonderful reunion. So very fine.
Reunions and Playtime
26 April 2017 | Oriental, NC
Beth / warm and a little damp
We slept in on Monday morning, and around 8 o'clock I was still in my PJ's, making coffee when we heard a knock on the hull. How exciting to look out and see Mike Steere on the dock!
We met Mike and Kathy (Sapphire) our first year cruising - in the Alligator River not all that far from here. For the next couple of years we shared some fine times with them here and there in the Bahamas, and even here in Oriental. But then we headed to Central America and they continued to enjoy the fishing and sailing in the Bahamas, and we hadn't seen them for several years. Sapphire has moved on to other owners; they are settled on land in this cruising community on the Neuse River, and we are moving Madcap back home to Canada, and as in so many reunions with cruising friends, we picked up as if we had seen each other yesterday. Kathy knew we were coming and I had posted a caption-less picture of the Prosecco bottle and our wine glasses on FB. That was enough for Mike to declare, "They're here!" and pedal down to welcome us.
We've been having fun - starting with a soaking wet walk up the road to their house, an invitation to dinner, with the added invitation to bring our dirty laundry and even to have showers if we wanted. The shrimp tacos were delicious, the conversation among the 6 of us (including their friends Sandy and Peter) was lively and the laundry got clean.
We headed to New Bern on Tuesday to explore the old town and have lunch at MJ's Raw Bar and Grill where we sat at the bar and dined on wonderful seared tuna, crab cakes, oysters and clams, and were thoroughly entertained by a server who clearly enjoyed his job. A prowl around Mitchell's Hardware Store that sells hardware and so much more netted a new tool for Jim and a pelican for Mike. Kathy and I both picked up luscious olive oil at the Midtown oil Store.
Way back in St Augustine, I met a woman in the bathroom who said their home base was Whittaker Creek and recommended it as a place to leave Madcap while we do some land travels. We shared anchorages here and there and chatted on the radio and through text messages, but it wasn't until this morning that we got to really meet Amy and John (Aimless). It's such fun to meet folks we've been talking with and feel like we have known them much longer.
We walked to the "Bean" this morning - that great coffee shop and meeting place for boaters down on the waterfront. We picked up jugs of non-chlorinated water so Jim could pickle the water maker, and were offered 3 rides as we walked back along the street. I walked to the Piggly Wiggly - and met Bill, the owner who pointed out the Piglet Shuttle that will pick up boaters and take them back to their docks again with all their groceries. This town knows how to provide services to cruisers.
And tonight, we will head out to the Tiki Bar to have a drink with Mike and Kathy and then to Open Mic Night at the Silos, to see who's in town and who's making music. Will we see more familiar faces? We finally feel like we are cruising again instead of just moving along.
Tides and Bridges: Making the ICW Work for Us
23 April 2017 | Oriental, NC
Beth / windblown and downright chilly
We had a series of pre-sunrise departures in order to arrive on time for bridge openings and place ourselves in shallow water inlets at mid to high tides. And for the most part, our timing worked out well.
We left Golden Isle Marina and motored into the golden path of a rising sun in order to be at Shallotte Inlet, and then Lockwood's Folly before the tide dropped too far. We knew that both spots had been recently dredged, but because these inlets fill in again so quickly, we still worried a little. As it turned out, no problem at mid-tide - the shallowest was 8' by R36 in Lockwood's Folly and we probably would have sneaked through at low tide too. (Are you curious about Lockwood's Folly? The story is that Mr Lockwood built himself a very fine boat, and on his first trip through the nearby inlet, he discovered its draft was too deep; it went aground and stayed there, and his sad experience is remembered by all who traverse the bend in the ICW channel that avoids those shoals.)
Our timing to turn the corner by Southport and head up the Cape Fear River worked out well too, more by happenstance than planning. By the time we got there, the wind had picked up behind us and we were very happy to see that that the current against us was almost slack. A vigorous opposing current meeting that wind would have made us fearful indeed. And then when we pulled into Carolina Beach, we found that the city has installed lovely big mooring balls that made us feel very secure in the continuing wind. (Pick up a ball, any ball, and a very nice gentleman will come by in the evening to collect your $20, provide information and even take your garbage away.)
We pass under many 65' fixed bridges in the ICW, and most of the lift or swing bridges will open on request, but there are a few with restricted hours - on the hour or every half hour - that it helps to time just right. We had to push hard to catch the 8am opening of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge, but we called the bridge master and he said, "Hurry, hurry, hurry." We throttled up as much as we could, and slid through about 3 minutes past the hour. We got to the Figure Eight Island bridge just at the right time without hurrying or dawdling, but we hurried too much on the way to the Surf City Bridge 18 miles along and had to jockey around for a full half hour, avoiding other boats in the narrow channel.
Our skinny water at the New River Inlet was skinny indeed by the R74 and R72, and we wouldn't have wanted to be any lower than mid-tide. The wind picked up again by the time we turned into Mile Hammock Bay and all during the evening we could feel the tug of the anchor secured deep in the muck as the wind howled through the rigging.
The original plan had been to go as far as Beaufort the next day, and on to Oriental on Monday, but consultations with the weather sites put an end to that idea. Once again, we set off early to catch a bridge - the Onslow Beach Bridge - and then motored along under overcast skies and very chilly wind. I wore my warmest top layers, including my heavy foul weather jacket, wind resistant pants, two pairs of socks, toque and gloves! AccuWeather said it was 19 and felt like 14, but it sure felt colder on the water. Jim and I traded places at the wheel and tucked under the dodger to keep warm enough. It seems so ridiculous to be complaining about wind when we are on a sailboat - but the angle and intensity makes a difference in what we can do.
We chugged past Morehead City and Beaufort and the Cedar Creek anchorage in Adams Creek, and after another check of Monday's weather forecast, decided we might as well keep on going. Jim called Knut at Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbour to see if someone would be available to help us into the slip we had reserved, and the answer was yes.
As we came out of the chilly but calm Adams Creek into the choppy Neuse River, we seriously regretted having left the outboard motor on the dinghy (not a problem in the ICW), and with every wave that lifted us and dropped us, I worried that we would lose it. We took some good splashes over the bow, but in contrast to the last time we were crashing through waves, this lasted only 2 miles before we pulled into the calm channel at Whittaker Creek.
That's a tricky one - especially for our 6' draft. The water here isn't tidal, but the level goes up and down by as much as a couple of feet according to wind direction. With Knut guiding us on his handheld VHF radio, we hugged the Reds so closely we could have reached out and touched them, and cruised on in with just over a foot below us. Nice!
Knut and James took our lines as Jim turned very neatly into our slip. We had no worries about flinging mooring lines over posts as once we had a couple of them secured, Knut came aboard and fixed all the rest of them just the way he wanted - and he knew what he was doing. We are now neatly settled in a spiderweb of bow, stern and spring lines on both starboard and port sides. There is no way Madcap is moving anywhere, regardless of current or wind. Ahhh. 10.5 hours and 63.7 statute miles after anchor-up in Mile Hammock Bay, we were in our home for the next 3 weeks.
Time for some bubbly wine and an early sleep.