Saturday, November 23, 2013
Posted by Sean
We are anchored tonight in Cedar Creek, off the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between Oriental, NC and Morehead City (map). We've had two long but very nice days of running across Albemarle, Croatan, and Pamlico Sounds, the later of which is the largest lagoon along the east coast of the U.S.. At several points we could not see land in any direction. In our entire crossing we saw only two other pleasure boats, both high-speed vessels clipping along on plane.
Yesterday was particularly pleasant. We got underway around 8:30, which, in hindsight, was perhaps an hour later than we should have, considering how perfect the weather was. It took us an hour to reach the Albemarle from our spot in the North River, and on our way we found one of the ICW markers over on its side, barely visible -- no doubt the victim of a towboat pushing some heavy barges around the turn which it marked. I spent several minutes on the radio with the Coast Guard reporting it, as it did not appear in the latest Notice to Mariners.
The Albemarle was glass calm, and about halfway across I remarked that we had yet to even turn the stabilizers on -- we had also managed to run the whole day Thursday without them, a first for us. By the time we were in the Croatan, between the highway bridges, we could at least see waves on the surface, but we were well into the Pamlico before the very slight roll prompted us to turn them on.
The charts for the Croatan are confusing, showing a marked "channel" with a reported depth no greater than the surrounding bathymetry. We followed our instincts along with some advice we got from our good friends captains Chris and Alyse of Captain Chris Yacht Services, including a number of waypoints for the route they use when on delivery runs through this section. Professional skippers like this route because it shaves 18 miles off the ICW route, requires less steering input, and allows greater speeds for boats capable of such.
Shortly after crossing into the Pamlico Sound we took stock of the time, our speed, and the early sunset, and started planning our stop for the night. We ended up anchoring in Middletown Anchorage (map), an area just off Middletown Creek with protection of land to the north and west, and the enormous Gibbs Shoal to the east. Increasing winds from the south made it a bit rolly in the evening, but, as we expected, the winds clocked around to the north in the night and we slept soundly. We had the anchorage to ourselves, and the stars were quite spectacular.
Today's forecast, which was not bad yesterday morning, had deteriorated by the time we anchored to winds 15-20 gusting to 30 with seas 2-3'. Mindful of how bad 3' seas felt on the Chesapeake, we were somewhat apprehensive, but things looked fine at dawn this morning and we opted to weigh anchor and get under way. We had a very pleasant ride until lunch time, when the seas finally picked up to the predicted 2-3', and then we had a bit of motion, but nothing unpleasant or uncomfortable. Even Angel managed to keep her breakfast down.
Once we were in the Neuse River things calmed back down again, and we discussed docking at Oriental at great length. Ultimately we decided to press on, as the free town docks were full up, and we could not think of a good reason to pay $60-$80 to spend the night, or possibly two. That second night would be on account of tomorrows forecast, which includes gusts to 50mph, so we may very well be staying right here for a second night.
We have just a dozen miles or so to the twin cities of Beaufort and Morehead City, NC. We stayed in Morehead on our way north. Our plan is to go outside at Beaufort Inlet, so we will be in this general area until the weather outside is conducive to a full day's run down to Masonboro Inlet some 60 miles or so south. At this writing, that looks to be after Thanksgiving, so it looks like we will be spending the holiday in Beaufort or Morehead City. I hope someplace decent is serving a nice holiday meal.