Sunday, May 4, 2014

When we last spoke...

When last we spoke...

Arrived at Charleston and anchored at 0500 on Tuesday.  Three good hours to catch up on sleep and then the coffee was made. Looked across the the anchorage and was surprised to be looking at s/v Dalmatian (Tom & MaryLou) from Durham, NH!! They stopped by at about 0900 to say "hello" as they headed to a medical clinic to check on an odd bug bite that Tom had (and rightly feared might be dangerous - any injury on a boat can get infected really quickly).

We hope Tom is all right since we left Charleston at 1030 without further adieu.  A tender from a Megayacht on the Megadock came over to inform us that his MegaCaptain believed we were dragging. We weren't, but as the tide and wind changed we did swing into the channel a bit (150 feet of chain at 5:00 in the morning after three days offshore; it's hard to judge where you might end up!). Rather than move, we decided to leave. Hard to pass up Shrimp & Grits in Charleston, but we know we'll be back.

We made great time across Charleston Harbor and into the ICW. Our very first Lift Bridge was, thankfully, "on demand". Tuesday night was spent in Minim Creek, one of our favorite ICW anchorages.  Marsh and shore birds galore, fish jumping, tall reeds giving us a protected, secret garden feeling. Just nice.  Next morning, we glided past Georgetown SC and put our head sail,out to add a boost into the beautiful Waccamaw River.  Scenic as a State Farm calendar!

Our second night was in Calabash Creek on the South Carolina/North Carolina border.  One of our least favorite ICW anchorages. Too narrow. Too shallow. But our third time here.  We ran aground entering the Creek. Rookie mistake. Must be too tired. But we managed to back off and take the proper route into the Creek.  Only one other boat there. Great! Plenty of room.  But, dead low tide.  Be careful.  Anchor down.  We stop. Sideways. Aground again. Is a pattern developing?  We negotiate off our shoal and try again.  Hope the neighbors aren't watching (who wouldn't?).  This anchorage is more like stopping to sleep in a local 7-11 parking lot. All the charm of a place to sleep and nothing more.

We were successfully anchored by 5 PM. And, one of us at least, in bed by 8:00.  Two groundings within ten minutes is enough for some.  That one was up by 4:00 AM and calculated that, to assure a favorable tide in the Cape Fear River we needed to be on the road (so to speak) by 0545. An alarm was set for 0530.  At which time it remained extremely dark. Another alarm for 0545. And we were off anchor by 0615.

The plan worked! We needed to clear the Cape Fear River and get into Snow's Cut (which leads us back into the ICW proper) by 12:30 in order to avoid the ebb tide in the River. We actually hit the ICW at 12:15 even with our 30 minute morning delay. That felt great!  "Delay"?!?  Did he really just say a 6:15 departure was a Delay???

And once in the ICW we had a Southerly ocean breeze so we again put up the headsail and added an extra knot (at least) to our motoring speed.  It felt good to be a sailboat again.

Wrightsville Beach Bridge opening at 1500. Figure Eight Bridge opening at 1600. We were on a tear! Until 1615. Hard aground with a "THUMP". We went from a consistent 12 foot depth onto a 4 foot deep shoal in an instant. No warning. Black Mud Channel at Green 99A. No way to motor or sail off. "Oh, yeah", says SeaTow. "You'll be our second or third one today at that spot".

We were off again in an hour, but too exhausted to proceed much further.  Luckily we were within a few miles of Harbour Village Marina in Hampstead, NC and Mike, the Harbormaster, was still there when we called just before 5:00. We re-fueled and then pulled into a slip. Hot showers. Italian Restaurant dinner delivered to the boat. And we made 75 miles that day. Not bad, even with the bumpy ending.

The irony of the grounding is that when it happened I was on the phone with my marine insurance broker (talking about another customer's issues). When THUMP happened, I threw the phone down, let the headsail sheet fly from the winch and jumped up to see where we were. Five minutes later I remembered the phone and called the agent back (after calling SeaTow) to explain the sudden chaos and disconnect. New Rule: Never talk to a boat insurance agent when the boat is moving.

Friday brought us to Swansboro after a slow day with adverse currents (never even reaching a 6 knot boat speed) and more scary, shallow shoals (including one bump). Damn Spring Tides! We were spent by 3:00 PM and happy to start napping at a secure anchorage. Only 38 miles, but we'll make it up somewhere.  He says "napping"...

Well,...we did get a good night's sleep. Like, from 4:00 PM to 6:00 AM. each with a short break to grab a small bite to eat.

But, we were off the anchor at 6:25 to take advantage of the Bogue Sound tide. A long way to Morehead City, but we made the Neuse River by 12:15. The Neuse was dead calm and glassy, but with a favorable tide giving us 7 plus knots. That meant we had up to another 7 1/2 hours of daylight! And that took us all the way across the Pamlico River and up the Pungo to Belhaven. We were at anchor in Pungo Creek by 6:30.  A long day, but still well rested. Also, a 93 mile day. Making up for short-changing Friday.

No good cellphone or internet reception here. But Norfolk looks like it's only two days away.

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