The Route South

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Got To Head This Boat South Pretty Soon….

I got to head this boat south pretty soon
New albums old and I’m fresh out of tunes…
Jimmy Buffett - 1978

Monday October 29, 2007
We have been away for what seems like an eternity. It was only two weeks. We warmed the engine up and after stowing the electrical cord and coiling down the dock lines were away from the dock by 7 AM. Within an hour we had passed Drum Point and rounded Cedar Point heading for Jackson Creek, one of our favorite anchorages at Deltaville, VA. With the wind out of the NE at 12-15 it was rock-n-roll, but no pounding. By lunchtime we passed Smith Point Light and altered course 20 degrees, which made the ride considerably smoother. Shortly before 3 PM Stingray Point was abeam and half an hour later we were entering Jackson Creek. We saw Amalia, our dock neighbors from New Bern last winter, heading to Deltaville and chatted them up on the VHF radio. By 3:30 PM the anchor was down and set.

Tuesday October 30, 2007
After a calm and peaceful night we warmed up the engine and were under way by 7:15 AM. It is a fairly short run down to Norfolk today and we ticked off the miles; 9:00 AM-past Wolftrap Light, 11 AM-York River, 12:30 as we passed between Thimble Shoals and Old Point Comfort light. High Street basin, in Portsmouth, was empty so we took advantage of the free tie-up. A $1 ferryboat ride took us across to Norfolk for wings at Hooters and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s!

Wednesday October 31, 2007
Last night I had to do a bit of math before bed. The next three bridges have restricted hours of operation to accommodate the morning rush hour. By my math we would have to leave by 5:30 AM to make it through unaffected by the restricted operating schedule. I don’t think so! That means that we will make the first opening after rush hour at 8:30 AM, a much more civilized hour. So we warmed up the engine and poked our nose out into the river at 8:20 AM. We were shocked! About twenty-five other boats had the same idea. We had to wait because they were having a problem with the bridge. We all milled around while the marine police and Homeland Security were going crazy with that many boats “loitering”. They were on the radio with the bridge, explaining that all these boats were violating the security areas between the Navy shipyard and the commercial terminals because they are supposed to pass quickly and directly through the area. Jordan Bridge was patiently explaining that they couldn’t open the bridge just yet. By 9 AM they got the bridge fixed and they opened it for forty boats to pass. At 9:15 we arrived at Gilmerton Rd. Bridge and had to wait 1/2 hour for fog and for them to clear a train. By the time it finally opened there were almost 50 boats waiting. Because of the severe drought the Dismal Swamp route has been closed. Normally half the boats would go that way, but with that option shut down we all have to go to Great Bridge lock. Shortly after 10 AM we passed beneath “Steel Bridge” and arrived at the Great Bridge lock at 10:20. After a one hour and fifteen minute wait, we finally were able to lock through! After lunch the Centerville Bridge held us up for only 10 minutes. Albemarle Sound is best transited in the morning and we want an early passage so we skipped the tempting stop at Coinjock, NC and went on for another hour, anchoring in the twilight at Buck Island shortly before 6:30 PM. It is desolate out here! What a miserable day. Less than 50 miles made good in over 10 hours of travel. Tons of other boats, many of them frustrated and discourteous.
There is a fine line between a crowd

...a parade...
...and chaos!
Thursday November 1, 2007
The sun doesn’t come up until after 6:30 AM but we had the anchor up and were well on our way. We entered Albemarle Sound at 7:55 and it was completely flat calm. By 9:30 we were across and entering the Alligator River at #1AR. You couldn’t write a script any better. Three hours later we entered the Alligator River/ Pungo River canal, a straight, boring and lonely land cut. Before 3 PM we were in the Pungo River and once again we have failed to spot any pungos! We have a reservation for the next few nights at Dowry Creek Marina so we can wait out Hurricane Noel. We wound up hunkered down Friday and Saturday while the hurricane skidded up the east coast. The highest wind gust we recorded was 33 knots. Dowry Creek marina has a courtesy car and we were able to sign it out with Pam & John from Compass Rose so we could go into Belhaven for dinner one night. Another night we had dinner with them aboard their boat. We passed a pleasant three days doing who-knows-what.
What hurricane?  The view from our back porch at Dowry Creek Marina.
The Bottle Tree- Dowry Creek Marina

Sunday November 4, 2007
Its ten minutes after six and its 45° outside and I’m in the pilothouse starting the engine. Man, its cold outside! By 6:25 the engine is ready and we have the dock lines aboard for another pre-dawn departure. One of the problems with traveling this time of year is that the days are too short. Compass Rose left a few minutes before us. By 7 Am we are abeam Belhaven and into the Pamlico River before 8:30. Shortly after that we entered Goose Creek and an hour later passed the Hobucken Coast Guard station. At 11 AM we rounded Maw Point Shoal and entered the Neuse River. Last year we turned upriver to New Bern, where we left Morning Star for the winter. Not this time. This year we are headed where it’s warm. Shortly after 1 PM we enter Adams Creek, headed to Beaufort, NC (Bo-fort). The anchor is down and set at Town Creek at 3:45. We didn’t go ashore.

Monday November 5, 2007
Its 6:30 AM and the sun hasn’t shown up for work just yet. Its 50° outside but there is only 5 kts. of wind out of the west. The anchor is up and stowed and we are under way. It is a quiet, uneventful morning. The Marine Corps. firing range at Camp Lejune is quiet so we are able to transit through without delay, just barely making the Onslow Beach swing bridge. We didn’t get that lucky at the Surf City Swing Bridge. We had a fifty-minute wait. Fortunately, our anchorage wasn’t too far beyond at Topsail Beach. We anchored shortly before 4 PM in a quiet cove between the salt marsh and the island.

Flo-Jo is an old Clearwater charter fishing boat
Imagine our surprise when we saw an old sport fishing boat named FLOJO docked nearby. She was a fixture in the charter boat trade in Clearwater for many years.

Company in the anchorage - Topsail Beach

Tuesday November 6, 2007
Today’s mission is to coordinate the timing of our passage with the opening of the Figure Eight Island Bridge. The bridge operation is restricted, closing for maintenance work between 9 &11 AM and again between 1 & 4 PM. If we don’t make it on time, it’s going to be a long wait! Even during the times it operates, it only opens on the hour and half-hour. We had the engine warmed up and the anchor up and stowed by 6:20. We left the anchorage with Ibis (Monk 36), North Star (Nordic Tug 26) and Avocet, a Great Harbour Navigator 37, rejoining the ICW shortly after 6:30.Our timing was good and we arrived at the Figure Eight Island bridge for the 8:30 opening. We had a minor scare when he didn’t open. I guess he was running a bit late and he opened at 8:37. Whew! Why is it that they open late when it suits them but they mostly refuse to wait 5 minutes if you are running late? At 9:15 we arrived at Wrightsville Beach for his 9:30 opening. Today’s going well. By 11:15 we were passing through Snow’s Cut, its strong current slowing us to 5.5 kts. But by 11:45 we were alongside the tee dock at Carolina Beach State Park, a favorite stop of ours. The wind is strong out of the south. A cold front is on the way. We had Susan & Paul Klein from the Island Packet 42, Slow Dancing, aboard for cocktails. Cindy met Susan last June at Anchorage marina in Baltimore in, where else, the laundry room. Turns out they know our cruising friends Lisa & Tom aboard the catamaran, Symmetry.

Wednesday November 7, 2007
The front blew through last night. The highest gust we recorded was 31 knots. By the time we departed the marina before 6:30 AM the wind was NW at only 8 kts. At 8 AM we passed out of the Cape Fear River at Southport, NC. An hour and a half later we passed through Lockwood’s Folly, an area that has gotten much bad press in the last year or so. It was being dredged when we went through last year and we found plenty of water this year. We were blessed with a good current and making 10.1 mph…for a while. This part of the ICW is riddled with inlets. You get a favorable current for a short while and are absolutely flying. Then you turn a corner and “hit the wall” and your speed slows to a crawl. It will be like this until well into Florida. At noon we negotiate the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge, the only pontoon bridge on the ICW. It is dragged out of the way with a cable when it needs to open or close. Shortly afterward we pass into South Carolina. At 2:20 PM we tie up to Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach.

The Rockpile - Myrtle Beach, SC
Thursday November 8, 2007
Its 36° at 6:15! The engine needs to warm up and so do Randy & Cindy. Our cabin is toasty warm because we had the heat on last night but until the sun comes up and warms the pilothouse we will be wearing long underwear, gloves and hats. Thankfully, when we left Barefoot Landing at 6:20 the wind was light and variable. By 9:15 we were in the beautiful Wacamaw River. By 1 PM we had made it to Georgetown, SC, our destination for the night. We took on 125 gallons of diesel fuel @$2.95. We are hearing rumors of $3.60 further south. Georgetown is a favorite town of ours and we took the bikes down and toured for a few hours, enjoying the stately old homes and the beautiful oak trees.
Town dock - Georgetown, SC
Friday November 9, 2007
We’re havin’ a heat wave! At 6:15 the temp is 39°…3° warmer than yesterday. Even so, 6:15 is dark and cold. Thankfully, the wind is 0. With the engine warmed up we are away and rejoin the ICW by 6:35. As we traveled down Minum Creek we heard the Coast Guard on the VHF radio calling for assistance. A bass boat had been reported as sinking in the area through which we were passing. We kept a sharp lookout as we passed the North Santee and South Santee Rivers. Called the CG and reported “No Joy”. Passed the town of McClellanville shortly before lunch. We have never been there but have heard of it for years. Maybe some day.
Miles of spartina grass - ICW north of Charleston, SC
By 2:45 we had passed beneath the Ben Sawyer Bridge and entered Charleston Harbor. This time we turned up the Cooper River (Any true Charlestonian will tell you that Charleston is where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean!) and headed to the county-run Cooper River Marina. Last time we were through here we tied up at the City Marina’s “Mega-dock”. But at over $2 per foot per night and since we are leaving the boat for two weeks while we return to Clearwater for Thanksgiving, it’s quite a bit out of our price range. We got a slip at Cooper River for a month for what a few days would cost at the City Marina. It’s quite a way from town but they have a courtesy van. The marina is secure and very nice. Our niece Sarah and her husband Chris live in Charleston where Chris is doing a post-doctorate internship. We took the next couple of hours getting the boat ready for storage and then Chris and Sarah picked us up. We went to dinner at a local restaurant…very nice…and they dropped us off at the airport to pick up our rental car. I think they were pretty sure we’d never be seen or heard from again. The marina is in a pretty remote part of town but we found our way back with no trouble. We packed up the car and went to bed; ready for another early departure tomorrow, this one by car, to Clearwater.