Monday, November 8, 2010

Deltaville, VA to Southport, NC

Sunday, October 31 - Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Trick or treat? TREAT - we're finally heading south! We left Jackson Creek in Deltaville on Halloween morning to make our way to the Norfolk/Portsmouth area. We had anchored in the Hospital Point anchorage on our way north, but Brandon and Carryn from Sol Mate told us about a free city dock in Portsmouth about a mile further south. What a deal! We made phenomenal time motor-sailing at 7-8kts, managed to dodge a cruise ship in the Norfolk channel (those puppies are HUGE), and were in Portsmouth by 2pm. Not wanting to deal with the bridge opening schedule restrictions the following morning, we decided to push on to the locks at Great Bridge and their free docks. We arrived at the lock for the 4:30pm opening!!! There was no room at the inn; every spot on the free docks were full, and the next anchorage was 45 miles away. Thank goodness for the Atlantic Yacht Basin marina. They certainly have a "captive audience" being located just south of the locks, but don't gouge you on the dockage fees. They were completely booked on the outer docks but found us a slip on the inner channel. Going the extra distance to Great Bridge ended up costing us more, but we were awfully happy to be past the five restricted bridges between Portsmouth and our marina.

The next few days involved 40-50 mile hops to secluded anchorages - Lutz Creek on Monday, Alligator River on Tuesday, and Belhaven, NC on Wednesday. We had to forgo a Kill Devil Hills visit with Dave and Camilla (Southern Heat) this time since the winds were pushing all of the water out of the canals. Did we mention that we're now 5'11"? We thought our draft was 5'3" (the CM440 specs say 4'11", and we have 4,000 extra pounds of goodies on board), but we re-measured in Deltaville and had a very rude awakening. Anyway, there was no way we could get into KDH with a 6' draft, so Dave drove to Belhaven to see us. He took us on a driving tour of Belhaven (all three blocks of it), found a new marina and pub (go see Randy at Pungo Creek Marina - he has the only fuel dock in Belhaven), and enjoyed a great dinner at Fish Hook's Cafe. We had a terrific time with Dave and only wished Camilla could've joined us. Hopefully they'll visit us in the islands next year.

After another day-trip and anchorage in Broad Creek off the Neuse River, we made it to Beaufort, NC, on Friday. The Town Creek anchorage was completely packed - there are a lot of boats going south! - but we managed to find a spot to drop the hook. Carryn, Brandon, and Bella on Sol Mate arrived an hour later and anchored in front of us. We all enjoyed a quiet evening and were looking forward to a rest day. Saturday we met up with Dennis and Suzi from Thate Wata, another cruising couple we met in the Abacos last winter. They were gracious enough to drive an hour from New Bern to Beaufort, and we enjoyed an afternoon of lunch and shopping with them. We hosted dinner on Pipe that night for Sol Mate and agreed to buddy-boat down the ditch to Wrightsville Beach. We had initially planned to do an offshore jump from Beaufort, but a Canadian cold front has brought 25-30kt winds and 5-7' seas for the next 3+ days. No thanks! Instead, we decided to get down to Southport inside; hopefully the weather would improve by mid-week for a jump offshore.

We left Beaufort Sunday morning for the 40 mile trip to our anchorage at Camp Lejeune. We came to an abrupt halt three miles later thanks to the 65' Atlantic Beach Bridge that showed only 62' of clearance on its tidal board. We waved good-bye to Sol Mate (damn their 58' mast!) and anchored to wait until the water levels came down. An hour later we edged our way through the bridge. The board showed just under 63', and we heard the dreaded "ting ting ting" of our VHF antenna as it hit the underside of the bridge. Note to self: do NOT go through a bridge unless we have at least 63' of clearance!

Sunday night was spent with 25+ other boats in the Camp Lejeune anchorage. Swing room was limited, and it was cozy to say the least. Brandon and Carryn invited us over for dinner (thanks, guys!), and we had a great evening hanging out together and playing Yahtzee. Monday we took advantage of the time change and were up at 6:30am. It was an easy run to Wrightsville Beach until...WHAM! We were leading a pack of six sailboats north of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge; about a half mile from the bridge, we met up with ten other boats that had been waiting for the 2pm opening (the bridge only opens on the hour, and boat traffic can get pretty busy in front of the bridge). Thanks to 2-3kt currents coursing in front of the bridge, we were all coasting all over the place trying to avoid the shoals and each other. We took an eye off the depth gauge long enough to watch another boat pass us, and suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Rene gunned the engine to no avail. We figured we were on a small ridge of some sort since our depth sounder read that we had a foot of water underneath us. After a couple more attempts to get off, we called for help. As we watched our friends motor through the now-open bascule bridge, we saw a red boat come zooming towards us. Tow Boat US to the rescue! We got a tow-line attached to a bow cleat, and 300HP later, we were loose. It turns out that there was a temporary marker in that exact spot until yesterday; a trawler got caught in the chain holding the marker in place and demolished it. So no more warning for us that the port side had shoaled well into the channel. Oops! Wrightsville Beach is just a bad karma spot for us. The two times we've been here have both resulted in Tow Boat US calls (the first being on our northbound trip when our anchor dragged and we ended up alongside another boat). Oh, least we got free in time for the 3pm opening. There was still enough time to fuel up and get anchored before sunset. We're hoping for a quiet night tonight - we have a long couple of days ahead of us. The weather is finally cooperating enough for us to make an offshore run. We have a small window from Tuesday afternoon to Friday morning where winds and waves remain moderate for a more comfortable crossing. We'll motor the 22 miles from Wrightsville to Southport through the ICW, and should be in the Cape Fear Inlet (south of Southport) by Tuesday afternoon. From there, it's about 200 miles to Port Royal Inlet, the nearest entrance to Beaufort, SC. We're looking forward to spending a week there playing tourist, visiting friends, and taking it easy before the run to St. Mary's, GA, for Thanksgiving. Hopefully our next blog will come to you from warmer temps. Cheers!

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