Rocks and Docks and Skinny Water
25 November 2008
A cold front came through last night (they always blame the cold front on us - they call them the Canadian Cold Front - as if we somehow wreak vengeance on our neighbours by sending down miserable weather) but we were well tied up and had a very pleasant night. Underway at 8:00 am. It is very difficult to play the tides and currents here as you're going to get as much in your favour as against. Anyway, we had a challenging but interesting day today including the transit of three of the areas in the ICW which bring chills to the hearts of long time cruisers: Lockwood's Folly, Shallote's Channel and the Rockpile.
The first two are difficult because the channel shifts so quickly with the incessant and determined change of water flow where an inlet connects to the ICW. There has not been as much money committed to dredging of the ICW as it takes to keep up with the silting and shifting so certain points prone to skinny water. We leave early but as stated above, cannot really plan very well for the tides. Unfortunately, we it the first and most formidable of the challenges Lockwood's Folly at near low tide. We inch our way around this inlet, trying to bring together the information we've sifted from discussions with others and our own instincts given the particular conditions of the day - falling tide and strong winds from the west. A large (55 footish powerboat) comes up on our stern and I ask him to hold off while we attempt the transit of the worst part. He agrees, and in fact, is pleased as we are both the same depth and he says he'll use me as a sounder. I get around and through by "crabbing up" into the wind and current; he aims his bow towards where he thinks he wants to go. Sailors will know the result - we made it through with no less than 8 feet - he ran hard aground. A sailboat behind him also runs aground. We call to offer assistance but with our meagre 37 horsepower engine and likely running aground ourselves we're more a liability than good so we forge on. Another ten miles and we get to the next and similar skinny passage - Shallotte's inlet. Again, we inch our way through at dead low tide and strong cross winds. A lobster boat from Maine asks to pass us and we agree - he's along side of us and runs aground. We continue on and make it without incident.
So much for the skinny water for now....... Now for Docks. This part of North Carolina and South Carolina (we crossed the border today) is fully populated with large, expensive homes on either side of the ICW, virtually each of which has it's own very substantial and complex dock with mechanism that allows their boat to be lifted from the water after their days' activity. Even the most modest of these would rival the most gracious house in Fredericton and there are thousands of them. We think that many are seasonal 'cause there's little activity. Now we know how the other half lives.......
Penultimately, rocks. At the end of our day we enter a formidable piece of the waterway called appropriately, "Rockpile". It is a three or so mile cut through rocks with a very narrow channel. You cannot get off the centre or you'll hit rocks - not good! So like good, responsible sailors, we announce on our radio that we're coming southbound through Rockpile and any interested traffic coming the other way should let us know. Nothing heard, we proceed. Of course, half way through and at one of the narrowest parts, we come up to some sort of barge. While he obviously does not have his radio on, he is courteous and moves slightly east of channel to let us by.
So, to skinny water again...... We pass through what was probably the eighth bridge today, including a one-of-a-kind pontoon bridge and head for the marina we have chosen for the night - Barrefoot Landing Marina. We ready our lines and fenders and make a slow approach. Crunch, we run aground and as much forward and reverse as we put on our engine, we're stuck. So, I get in our dinghy (a ten foot inflatable boat with an 8 hp outboard) and take a line from our bow and pull us into the centre channel with Judy at the helm giving it steerage and power. While it's a bit frustrating, no harm's done and we dock alongside. This is a factor outlet of gargantuan proportions - I hope to keep Judy away from them. It is a lovely but somewhat chilly evening - not chilly like NB. Nice day today, even for two old retirees!