They say time fly’s when your having fun and so it does, until you meet the unexpected. Our first trip we wanted to do would be a full day sail to a nice place and view the sights hang out a bit and head back. A possible trip for this idea was Beaufort NC. It is around 68 nautical miles and at 5 kts we could get there in around 13 hours or so. So this seemed like a plan. The wind on the first day was not the best, it was 5-10kts blowing NE but in two days it would be great for heading back on a good downwind run at 10-20kts. Our morning began readying the boat and waiting for a bit more water in the marina, with a 6′ draft and a marina filling in your leave time is a game you play so we wait and wait. The day is a hot day but hopefully the wind will help out and make the trip not too uncomfortable. We manage to pull out and head for the inlet at Wrightsville beach with the hopes of having the dolphins to lead us out and give us that good luck that we need.
The old adage if your not doing five knots in five minutes turn on the engine, and thats exactly what we had to do. The day was nice the seas were calm and keeping the shore in sight made for a nice ride. During this time you can read a book or have conversation or do what I did and make a boat selfie.
As the day grows to an end we are still hours away from entering the Beaufort inlet the rule of thumb that most go by would be that you do not go into an inlet in the dark and especially one you have never entered. Now we have sailed at night several times but not in the ocean and not in an area we have not yet ventured in daylight. So it seems we are stepping out of the using your head zone. The evening approaches I do a quick scan and building ahead of us is what appears to be a thunder head so we begin to pull all sails down and checking the weather maps. The reports everyday before we left was always a possibility of pop up showers but nothing exact as to when or where so we felt we could miss them or they could never appear so we kept with our plan to go. And as I hated to see several summer storm cells that are building and heading for offshore, It looks like they will most likely stay behind us. Two suspect cells that are small could cross us or go more north. The more time that passes the more the storm cells begin to build. One will pass behind us but for sure one is going to be dead on us right when night falls completely.
An hour passes and the dog is inside and the rain gear is on. The lighting is giving us a show along with raising the hairs on your arms adding a quick tingle. I go below to check this cell and within minutes we are pushed over, I pop my head out and Burt is fighting the blowing rain straight in his face and struggling to keep the boat pointed in the wind. Just when you think you have it the wind comes from a different place and at one point it seemed we were in a tornado. With every turn of the wheel you had to keep turning to starboard almost in a complete circle. It is now dark and raining with big blasts of wind and lighting that could light up the deck. I hated it!
Time passes and a calm sets in and we both decide to reflect of the event that just happened. We knew that sea trials would have challenging moments and we just happened to roll them all up in one night! The time has come and we are heading towards the inlet now and after a few hours of calm and your just settling in to a rhythm. Time to start preparing yourself for entering an inlet in the dark, But not so fast I will now enter in the next set of events, Why yes its another squall but it is not showing as intense as the last one mostly rain and some lighting. So we decide to shorten up our entrance into the inlet by a few bouys and that almost became a real mistake as we are heading towards the bouy the chart shows plenty of water but our depth sounder was telling a different story so now we are having to head out more looking for deeper water to enter into this channel. By now the rain is on and we are coming in at high tide so we slow down and enter the channel. Holy crap it looks like a christmas tree with the red and green markers flashing everywhere! Now I had the route for us to take and so we slowly approached the markers and then all of the sudden the water get shallow and I see no markers up ahead, even though the charts show markers, it just didn’t feel right so we turned and headed for Morehead. For now we will grab an open spot at the dock and the rain had slowed so it gave us just enough time to tie off plug up and take a deep breath. Within moments a squall blasted us but we are secured to the dock not to worry. It is 4 am and we were both exhausted so passing out was easy, as daylight comes we are awakend by the fishing boats and dive boats going out at first light so we pulled ourselves out of the bed and made a phone call to the city dock and moved down to the slip we were assigned. We made our way to the dog park to let pepper have some walk around time and a much needed bathroom break. Our next move was to get in the showers and scrub off the last 16 hours and do nothing but sleep. Evening sets in and we feel better after a few hours of sleep so we go down the boardwalk and grab some food to only stroll back to the boat to only find a live band setting up for a labor day celebration right in front of our boat, turns out to be the best seats in the house.
The day ends it is time for me to figure out our next move and I’m pretty sure after finding this our offshore plans for heading back on the outside just got canceled. The location mark on the screen was not where we were that is the radar in wilmington that I was using, we were up at the top of the screen and all of this was coming in from offshore so the plan now was to take the next three days that we have and go down the ICW. We will make a run down to Swansboro and stop to wait for this to pass and then do a dead run for Carolina beach.
Our stop over in Swansboro was very nice, we enjoyed good food and another outdoor concert at the dock, we also met some interesting folks. We cut the night short and got in to bed early to ensure we are well rested for the big push to Carolina Beach.
Active Captain has now become my best friend! And I too have made my contributions to the notes. As our day goes traveling on the ICW it becomes a water highway that is in need of help just the same as our road systems, they both seem to be neglected in the same manner. As we round Onslow Beach there are markers that are for the channel but have now become a Zig Zag maneuver that you should perform with precision 2-3′ off and you are doomed. And so we were the ones who missed it by a couple of feet. and here we sit……………we didn’t quite get the Zig and up on the shoal we sit. Now it is past low tide so we had decided to wait for the tide to lift us off or at least enough for us to back off and try again. After a 20 min of waiting we had a couple of good samaratains come along and pull us off and on set us on our way. In the midst of things I had time to look at Active Captain and prepare ourselves for each upcoming disaster and holy crap its at every inlet every turn and even on some straight aways. Im asking myself is the ICW fun? Is it relaxing? HELL NO!!! We managed to miss the next set of traps and feeling relieved. We find ourselves needing fuel so we stopped in New River Marina to fuel up and give pepper a bathroom walk. Now the last time we stopped at this dock we received a big walloping slam from a passing power boat and it cracked our toe rail so this time I put out all the fenders. Everything seemed to be going well until we needed to leave, now the wind had picked up and was keeping the boat plastered to the dock so in our efforts along with the workers we managed to get off the dock and strip all of the varnish down to the wood off the toe rail. Seems we hate that place too along with the ICW. So on we go now and we have 3 bridges to contend with so we need to time them out. Now we raise the sails and take advantage of the downwind run. Our first bridge is the Surf City swing bridge and it is closed to boat traffic until 2pm due to construction repair between 8am and 2 pm. So our arrival of 2pm was insane and we went right through no wait, now you would say to yourself today is going pretty ok one grounding not so good but we made the first bridge in good time and we are doing 6 kts so maybe this will work out. Our next bridge is the figure eight so we call ahead and we are good to go, now he was a bit slow to open in order to slow down we let out the boom released the jib and slowed for the opening and its perfect we zip right through. It is now dark so seeing the danger zones becomes a tricky game you play. Time to really keep a watchful eye, ( in the dark).
BOOM! Just past figure eight you have a marker ( with no light) that you should keep an eye on so Burt said, we should be seeing a marker. So I get my light go up front to look and as I shine my light out its just to late he is already in it because you can feel the rippling of the sand bumping under the keel as if your going across those slow bumps they put in the road just before you need to stop at a dangerous intersection. Except we didn’t stop on our own the big mountain of sand took care of that 6 kts we were doing. We had the sails up so the wind just took the boat turned it around and put us even further up on this thing, at this point the tide is going out it is an hour before mean low and high tide isn’t until 4 am so in no way did we want to wait this one out so we called Tow Boat, Luckly he was just 20 minutes away in Wrightsville a place we could see from where we were. So we wait and in the mean time we pull down and pack the sails. Our Tow arrives and its a quick pull and off no issues worked out well. Now we head down to our next bridge just in time for him to open it up and send us on our way. The last stretch of the trip just around 6 miles to go with one tricky spot but we have our old tracks on this part so we should be ok to follow. With us arriving at our marina at low tide we will have to sit out side and tie up at the fuel dock for the night which will be fine should only get a passing barge or small craft but otherwise should be pretty uneventful. Oh wait! I was wrong at 4am we get the BIG BANG! we run topside to obviously see a boat that has just plowed into us but we only rush out to find nothing , not a thing. Seems from the reports that were coming in from the Coast Guard throughout the day of some runaway logs coming down the Cape Fear river that they had made a turn through snows cut and right in to our boat. The current was flowing just right for this to come our way and we’re not exactly in a protected spot , just sitting right out on the ICW, so now that our adrenaline is up and it’s high tide we decided to move the boat into our slip and go back to bed…….The End!