Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the ICW

While I was tied up in Oriental Sunday, I met a whole ton of really nice folks, but most notable were Clay and Mary. They are aboard a Morgan 36 Out Island named Gemini, home port Woodbridge,VA. I met them on the town dock in Oriental, and we chatted for a while, and that was when I found out they are also fellow Virginians. They had been in Oriental over Christmas, and were planning to leave Monday as well. What was really fortunate for me was the fact that they had a rental car to return in New Bern, and were more than willing to let me tag along and take me by Walmart to see if I could get a new phone. The 3 of us talked over a tentative game plan of doing the rental and phone, then leaving Oriental around noon - destination Morehead City.

The rental car and phone mission went off without a hitch, and when Mary and I returned from New Bern Clay had just finished doing an oil change on their generator. We had a quick huddle, and then made for our boats and got ready to cast off. In no time flat the engines were warming up, and we were getting underway - and ahead of the noon goal at that. We motored out of Oriental, across the Neuse river, and then into Adams creek. It was really windy out on the river, but, being as we were so close to the top of the river, the waves were not that bad, but the wind was blowing. Entering the creek gave us both a break from the wind, and after that it was really calm and fast motoring. We passed a bunch of really expensive homes, and chatted over the radio about how ridiculously large they were, and then about 100 yards further on, we were passing a trailer park. That's North Carolina for you I suppose. However, it was probably the first time I have ever seen a trailer on stilts, like a beach home. The trip down the canal was fairly short and pretty quick, 28.6 miles in just over 4 hours. All of it except the last 8 miles was under engine alone, once we broke out into the Newport River I was able to raise the jib and give a bit of an assist to the engine. In this stretch I saw dolphins again, the second pod I have seen since I have started, and I would not have thought they would have been up this far north this late in the year. On into Morehead City, where it seemed the whole town was shut down, save one antique shop and the Chamber of Commerce.

The public docks were nice and brand new, however, these are the first set of town docks that I have been to that charge per night, luckily for me there was no one at the office, and no one came down to the docks, so I was able to spend the night tied up - for free. Mary and Clay were tied up to the dock next to me, so after the boat was secure, and Spook got in a good walk, I joined them for dinner, as they had been kind enough to extend me the invitation. Dinner was great - roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans, all done well and it definitely was a nice change from the one course meals I usually cook.

Clay and I went over charts, ICW info books and the GPS for a good long while - he has a great chartplotter - and we came up with our game plan. It is 154 miles to Myrtle Beach, and he and Mary want to do New Years Eve there. So, we planned on 60 miles for Tuesday, 60 Miles on Wednesday, and finish up on Thursday with a short day. We found a cheap fuel stop in Sneads Ferry, so we planned on putting in for fuel there.

Tuesday morning was freezing. 35 degrees and very windy, we all hoped that once we got out of the Bogue Sound and into the more protected water of the ditch that we would have a reprieve from the wind. We left the dock at 8 after coffee and bisquits and started out for the day. The plan was for an average of 5 knots, and as we started I wondered if we were going to be able to make that - I was only doing 3.5 against the tide and wind, at 2100 rpms which I knew was burning fuel like crazy.

We finally made more protected waters around 1030, and as we thought, the wind was dampened by the shoreline, and we actually picked up a positive current. That held until we were at the 18 mile mark for the day, when we got to Cape Carteret, where there was an inlet with a swift current. That slowed us down some, and then it was on to Swansboro. This part of the trip was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, as I was stationed at Camp Lejeune 10 years earlier, and we used to love quite close to Swansboro. I was caught up in memories as I passed through many familiar waterways, the White Oak River, Freeman Creek and Queens Creek, which went right up behind my old house there. I got a call on the radio from Mary, they had dragged bottom right after Swansboro, at the 55 marker, and they adviced I hug the mark as I came through, which I did, to no avail. I draw a bit more than they do, and I not only dragged once, but 3 times on my way through. This scared poor Spook, who promptly went back down below and got in her bunk.
Down past Camp Lejuene, through the Onslow Beach draw bridge, and then I drew up alongside Clay and Mary, and she passed me a nice hot sandwich. Talk about service! Not long after this I saw the second pod of dolphins for the day, and once again I was amazed to seem them this far north this late in the season. I suppose they don't go south, but hang around, I might have to look that up, because for the longest time I just assumed they went south for the winter too.

We fueled up at the New River Marina, where diesel was $2.32 a gallon, the cheapest we could find on our route, and the cheapest I have seen so far. Arden took 28 gallons of diesel, and I got a gallon of gas for the outboard. On the way into the fuel dock there was an uncharted sand bar, and Clay ran aground hard. He did a great job of getting her free, using the Genoa to lift the bow and pivot his boat off the bar. I was impressed, as I thought I just might have to tow him off. We all kicked around the idea of anchoring there for the night, but we decided to push on a bit farther, as it was only 330pm and we were not as far along as we wanted to be.

We pressed on for another 2 hours, until right at sunset, and right about when I was ready to call Clay to see when they wanted to anchor, he called me and said they had found a marina just to the north of the Surf City bridge. Talk about the right place at the right time, extremely protected, nice docks - and a hot shower. We had made 49.3 nautical miles in just at 9 hours of cruising, not too bad for a day. Not the 60 we wanted, but very close. (the ICW mile markers are in statute miles, not nautical miles, so we were very close to the 60 statute miles we wanted to make) I had dinner with my new friends again tonight, and then took advantage of the shower, heck, I might just take another one early in the morning.

So tomorrow we try for another 50 or 60 miles, and hopefully we will be across the Cape Fear River, and just north of the South Carolina state line. I am harboring a hope that there will be a magical temperature change at the South Carolina line, because it has been so cold for so long.

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