Cruise to New Bern, Bridgeton
A few weeks ago, our friends Bill and Susan invited us to a cookout at their home in Bridgeton North Carolina. Bridgeton is on the east side of the Neuse River opposite New Bern. We accepted their invitation and started preparations for a major cruise. As I have said before, we are not world travelers and this cruise was a big deal for the crew of Southern Star.
Labor Day weekend arrived and we were ready. I took a half vacation day on Friday so we could arrive at the boat at a reasonable time. We got things ready for the trip and Judy prepared a delicious dinner. We turned in early so we could get an early start. When you "mess about with boats" there is always something to do. You never actually get finished. Saturday morning I emptied the holding tank and topped off the freshwater tanks.
Bill arrived and we left the docks at about 9:30 am. The fleet consisted of Bill and his nearly new Hunter 32, Richard and Francis in an elegant Catalina 36, Joey and Dorothy aboard their beautiful new Hinckley B-40 and Southern Star a Catalina 30, the smallest in the fleet. We had a nice easy sail all the way. The wind was very light and almost but not quite dead astern. This point of sail is not the best because you never know what to do with the head sail, but we got by. We averaged a relaxing 4 knots under sail. Joey and Dorothy got a bit of a late start but the big B-40 caught up before the trip was half over. Richard and Francis led the pack for most of the trip.
Whortonsville to New Bern Map
New Bern, Bridgeton Pictures
With about 10 miles to go, Captain Bill suggested that if we were going to finish the trip before dark, we should probably crank up the iron sails and make up our delay due to the light winds. The rest of the trip was uneventful until Joey started having engine trouble. Most sailors have a love, hate relationship with their diesel engine and I'm thinking Joey's was more of a hate, hate thing on Saturday afternoon. Joey is an excellent sailor and very resourceful. He used his dinghy as a tow boat when the wind died under the Highway 70 bridge, and sailed the B-40 to the anchorage at Bridgeton. Getting a boat of that size safely to it's anchorage without power is the kind of thing that most people wouldn't give a second thought but to a sailor, it's a very impressive feat.
After the anchors were set, everyone enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool, which was only one of the amenities of Bill and Susan's lovely home. We were then treated to a five star meal in elegant surroundings. Everything was delicious and having it served on the deck overlooking the river, made it even better. We all took advantage of hot showers, which is an important event after a day on the water. The very first mate and I excused ourselves when I discovered I was having trouble not falling asleep in my dessert. At that point I wondered why I didn't put the outboard on the dinghy. I had decided it was such a short trip I wouldn't bother.
I don't think a better night's sleep can be had than on a boat at anchor when the weather is nice. There was a cool breeze all night with very little wave action. We slept in on Sunday morning which turned out to be a poor use of our time. Our plan (and I use the term "plan" loosely) was to sail to South River and drop a hook overnight before returning to Whortonsville on Monday. We decided to go ashore and borrow some water and ice from Bill and Susan for an extra night. As it turns out, we had been expected for breakfast and we were an hour late. Oh well when someone offers you breakfast, you "gotta" eat it, right? We had eggs, bacon, toast and grits. We are of course south of the Mason-Dixon line and grits are not an option at breakfast. After breakfast we said our goodbyes and took "Charlie Gibson" (the dingy) back to the mother ship. Bill and Richard were going to help Joey get his engine up and running. We were the only boat that was returning on Sunday.
As I mentioned before, we should have started earlier on Sunday. When we left there was a decent breeze. We set sail on a very broad reach in about 10 knots of wind. The farther we went the stronger the wind got. We are not experienced sailors by any means but trips like this teach lessons on a fast track. I have heard it said that old sailors reef (reduce sail) early. The obscure meaning is that they live to grow old because they reef early. We did not reef early enough. Caught in a 20 to 25 knot blow after we turned northeast at Minnesott beach, everything went wrong. We tried to heave-to and reef the main but the boat would not cooperate. I suspect this was more the fault of the crew than the boat. We got a torn mainsail for our efforts. One of the battens ripped out the closed end of the pocket and landed on deck. Finally, we threw in the towel, dowsed the sails and cranked up the diesel. The wind was right on our nose all the way up the river. Tacking under sail would have taken much too long after our late start. We vowed more "cannon practice" as the 19th century English Navy captains called it. We will practice reefing when the wind is less than 20 knots. Judy did most of the steering on the way home. She tends to get a bit queasy when it's rough and the distraction of steering the boat seems to help. We decided that a dash for home was in order since the weather forecast (for what that's worth) was for steadily building winds from the northeast. The ride was bumpy and tiring but not dangerous. The little boat did just fine, as usual. When we got home we had to wash the salt off and wash and dry the jib. I decided to take the mainsail home for repairs. Judy prepared yet another fine meal with a Mexican flavor. This was after fighting the wheel most of the afternoon.
Labor day Monday morning arrived and it was time to go back to the real world. We were glad we had returned the day before. The wind was even stronger on Monday. This was reported by the other Whortonsville fleet that had traveled to Cape Lookout. We stowed "Charlie Gibson", removed the mainsail for repairs, and put things in order. We left before noon and had (thankfully) an uneventful ride home. We will return to sail the sound again as soon as possible. An excellent trip!
Whortonsville to New Bern Map
New Bern, Bridgeton Pictures