South to Charleston, SC
01 January 2018 | Charleston Harbor and the USS Yorktown
It was exciting being back on the boat, we love to anchor out, and with shrimp boats traveling north most of the night next to us on the ICW we felt right at home, a gentle swaying motion and the slap of waves against the hull. In the morning we got up early, ready to travel more than 50 miles on the ICW due to a weather front moving in after about 30 hours. watching the weather, we decided to move south on the ICW to Cape Fear River and Southport, NC. It would take a few days because we would need to sit out one as the front passed through. Travel on the ICW is limited this time of year simply because of daylight, by 5 or 5:30 we wanted to be anchored for the night, our goal was Mile Hammock Bay, an interesting off channel lagoon on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune. You can anchor, but can't go ashore. The morning was brisk, and a dense fog settled in just as we started out. With radar on and continually watching ahead, we moved slowly south toward Morehead. There isn't a lot of traffic this late in the year, so we felt safe motoring slowly until the fog burned off. Within a couple hours the fog was gone and a bright clear, but cold morning greeted us with Morehead City in sight.
Before we started in the morning another sailboat motored past us where we had anchored. They had continually been in front of us, but now with the fog lifting and a long distance to travel we increased our speed and began to pass them. As always, we look for the boat name and home port, ALASKA ! As we came along side, there were two men aboard, they were heading to Panama, the canal and back north to Alaska. They planned to go outside at Beaufort and sail down the coast, we wished them safe travels and moved on forward. As we motored away, Diana comments, "that the only two boats out on a cold day like this... us and a boat from Alaska."
Beaufort inlet to Charleston would be our preferred route, but it would take 34-36 hours and we didn't have that long a window, so instead we turned south at Morehead picked up the ICW and continued south. It was a cool but bright day, we arrived at Mile Hammock about 4 pm and anchored with only two other boats and lots of room , both were trawlers.
Tomorrow doesn't look good. We can stay anchored here, or move on quickly in the morning, with another 50 miles to cover to Carolina Beach and a mooring to sit out the storm front due tonight through tomorrow. Given the prospect of heavy fog, we decide to make the decision in the morning based on conditions then.
Morning came with first light and to our surprise no fog. The two trawlers left and we followed the first one out. It didn't take long, light rain, a little fog, and after a short run south to the New River inlet, we went aground. Now as the sailors adage says... if any sailor ever tells you he has never gone aground they are lying ! In the ICW, near inlets especially, shoaling is a continual problem, and in this case it had become so bad that the ICW markers were no longer used, and a floating red marked a new channel which we missed. After trying to "twist" off for awhile, it became evident that we needed a tow to move us into the channel as the current and twist attempts had made our position worse. Thank goodness for USBoat, Unlimited Towing Insurance. It's one of the first things I did 15 years ago when first coming to NC, and it has been a godsend on the times when we have gone aground, yes... there have been a few of them! A young towboat captain arrived about an hour later, pulled us off the shoal, and further south to be sure we were clear, he said there was another shoal in the channel, thank goodness for "local knowledge". In all it took about 15 minutes, and we were again on our way, motoring south with rain the rest of the day. Lucky for us the temperatures actually got warmer as we were wet and tired and it was getting dark as we approached Carolina Beach. We had a mooring reserved, and entered the mooring field in the dark, me with spotlight in hand at the bow, Diana quickly put us up against the mooring ball where I picked up the pendant, tied us up and we both collapsed after a long, cold, wet day! The storm moved in that night, but we were snug and cozy below, prepared to rest the next day before moving on.
We had a good 24 hour window after the front moved off shore. That would give us enough time to get to Charleston from Southport, NC. The conditions would be a bit brisk in the morning, settle in the afternoon, and build overnight. We wanted to arrive at Charleston at dawn, get into the marina by early AM before another front moved in. After a good day rest, we dropped the mooring with first light and headed down the Cape Fear River toward the inlet. It was still raining, but light and not quite as cold. We made a quick stop at Southport for fuel and went outside at the inlet, turned south and tried to set a course close to shore to avoid higher winds and seas. For awhile, it was actually quite nice. a light rain, but we had the headsail up and where moving along with a NE wind. By sunset, the wind had shifted to the SW, right on our nose, and we dropped sail and motored the rest of the night. Its always lovely sailing at night, but motoring through the cold, raining night, with nothing but a small crescent moon, is not one of the things that I really enjoy. On watch you huddle for warmth, watch for ocean cargo traffic, and fixate on your watch ! The seas were reasonably flat, so the only consolation is the ability to actually sleep for a few hours in between watches. Our timing was near perfect, just as the dawn poked its nose above the horizon, we entered the Charleston inlet channel. A couple hours into the harbor, and up the Cooper River and directly into the marina. We arrived there before they opened, but as we had a slip reserved, just glided into the open slip, tied up and were home for Christmas and at least a week stay. If there is anywhere to be stranded for Christmas, Charleston is probably one of the best !