Thursday, December 31, 2009

The ICW just goes on and on

Well I am wondering where I left off. I think the last post had us tied up at the dock in Surf City, NC two days past. So here we go again, I could very well sum up this posting with 3 short words - The ICW Again. But, that would not do the past few days justice, so I will elaborate just a bit.

Wednesday morning was frigid, I think it was the first time the cabin temp was below 40 when I got up. I went in and got another hot shower, then took advantage of a special the Hardee's was having - steak biscuits for 99 cents. Scraped through my change, and got 2 biscuits and coffee. Figured I'd have one for breakfast and one for lunch, since it is kind of difficult to make lunch while trying to make time down the ditch. I left the harbor ahead of Clay and Mary - we are still sailing together right now - and went out to the ICW to wait on an 8am bridge opening.

Bridges have been the trademark of the trip down the ICW so far. I can't even count how many bridges we have been under or draw bridges we have been through, the draw bridges can be especially aggravating, such as the Surf City Bridge that only opens on the hour. At the stroke of the hour the bridge opened, I had been idling in the current of the waterway for 30 minutes waiting, and we were off for the day. Pretty soon Clay outpaced me and I could see them pull away in the distance. It was good that we could keep in radio contact, and had the phone, because every so often Mary would call and let me know what things were coming up that I needed to know about, especially navigational hazards. There were a few sections, mainly around inlets where the ICW met the sound or the ocean, were shoals had built up near the inlet and the channel was not where it should be, or was much shallower than it was supposed to be. At one point, near day marker #150, I bumped over 3 shoals, really convinced I was going to run aground, but I did not. However, the bumping and heaving this caused really scared the heck out of Spook, and she went down below and stayed for the rest of the day.

Then there were more bridges. I just about caught up to Clay and Mary around noon, but I missed a bridge lift and lost a half an hour. Then it happened again about another 10 miles farther on. So here I am, trailing them, and thinking just how much farther do I have to go? Around 2pm I got a call from them, they were entering the Cape Fear River, just south of Wilmington, and had decided to call it a day in a little town ahead called Southport. I was about 10 miles behind them by that point, so I told them I'd be there when I got there, and I'd call when I did.

We had a really good night in Southport, and what a great little town. It is right at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and there is a ton of history here. This is where all the river pilots lived and would row or sail out to incoming ships, to guide them up the river and into Wilmington. It was also a very important spot during the Civil War, as the pilots would get the blockade runners through the shoals and into port with supplies the Confederacy desperately needed. We had an excellent dinner in a local restaurant just up from the boats, and watched the Weather Channel to see how we were going to be with the storm that was coming our way. According to the weather, we were supposed to get drenched Wednesday night, which we did, and have a good bit of rain today, which we didn't. But, we did wake up to extremely thick fog. We put off launching until 930, but then we were underway, our goal was Myrtle Beach for New Years Eve.

All day long we ran through the fog. It wasn't bad at first, and Clay got a good bit ahead of me, but then it got thicker and thicker, and he had to back off. I was fighting the current and only able to average 5 knots, so I did not back off, just kept a very good eye on what was coming ahead. There was a new bridge under construction about 10 miles into the trip, and when Mary called and said they were passing through that area, I knew I was not too far behind. I caught up to them in the fog not long after, and trailed Clay as we wound on down towards South Carolina. Just after noon Clay ran aground on a sand bar at mid channel, and I backed off to see if he was going to be able to get off on his own. He did, and we moved on, and then Clay called and said he was coming along side, Mary was fixing me a sandwich, and we were going to do an underway replenishment. So cruising down the ICW, at just about 4 kts, Clay comes alongside and Mary hands me a hot cheese and bacon sandwich, talk about service.

We had lost some time due to fog and currents, and then we came to the Sunset Beach Swing bridge around 2pm. This was a bridge like no other I have ever seen - it is a pontoon bridge that is motorized, and it starts up and opens every hour on the hour - with the exception of times of extreme low tide, where it opens when the bridge master thinks there is enough water in the channel for boats to clear a cable that spans the bottom of the cut. Guess what? It was just after dead low tide when we arrived at 2, on a day of a full moon, and the low tide for today was forecast to be .7 feet BELOW mean low tide. So what did that mean? We had to wait. And wait we did. I dropped anchor and we rafted up and waited for just over an hour for the water to rise enough for us to get through. One interesting thing we did see though was some poor guy that misjudged the channel at high tide in the fog, ran aground, and the tide left him totally stranded and out of the water for most of the day.

Once this really odd bridge finally opened we knew we were too far behind schedule, so we went to our fall back plan, anchoring out in Calabash Creek, which was not too far away, and just inside the SC line. So here we are, rafted up, the boats tied together,and our anchors out in a type of Bermuda rig - my anchor is at 6 oclock and Clay has his anchor at 12 oclock - so we should stay put in just about the same spot all night. Mary fixed a great dinner, and we had a small celebration early New Years Eve. Tomorrow is a new year, and we are sailing through a new state, and hopefully, if all goes well, we just might make it to Georgetown by tomorrow night. Happy New Years to everyone, and hope all are safe and well, as I am.

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