Sunday, December 1, 2013
Posted by Sean
We are enjoying our last morning at the anchorage here in Banks Channel at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It had been fairly quiet here, at least up until Friday evening, when a half dozen or so more boats arrived to anchor. By flotilla time last night, the number had swelled to nearly three dozen, and from shore it must have looked as if you could walk across the anchorage from one island to the other on the tops of the boats.
As promised, the weather here took a turn for the worse Tuesday night, and persisted that way all through Wednesday and into the early hours Thursday. We were glad we had put out the extra anchor rode, which we have since brought back in to reduce our swing circle. By Thursday afternoon, however, things were fairly calm, and we had a pleasant, but cold, 1.5 mile tender ride to the Bridge Tender restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner.
The restaurant was actually nicer than I had been led to believe, a white-tablecloth affair with nice views of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The prix-fixe holiday dinner was quite good, and we even had some leftovers to take home. It was otherwise a very quiet day for us, calling family and friends and getting a few things done around the boat.
Among those few things was getting into the holiday spirit, in light of the upcoming flotilla, and decorating the boat. We swagged our white LED holiday lights around the aft deck, which is very festive, and put our indoor decorations out as well, but the pièce de résistance was to run our strings of Italian lights (we call them the Olive Garden lights, after their use as bar decor in that chain) from the bow up to and through the flybridge top and then back down to the rail at the stern end of the boat deck, making Vector look like a tiny cruise ship.
Friday I took the tender out to fuel it up and get rid of some trash, and I noticed several boats around town being decorated for the flotilla. We went back out in the evening for dinner at 22 North, not far from the town dinghy dock, and a quick stop at Robert's Market before returning home.
Yesterday we again left the tender at the town dock, and walked the mile to the municipal park where the big holiday festival was happening. We had hot dogs and too much kettle corn, but did not end up buying anything from the myriad craft vendors there. It was nice to get off the boat and get some walking in. We were home in time for the start of the evening entertainment, which, of course, was a metric ton of weekend boaters making their way to the parade route and jockeying for a good spot to anchor for the flotilla and fireworks. This aspect of boating is a lot like RVing, where the afternoon entertainment is often watching newcomers backing their rigs into their sites.
Just after sunset and before the flotilla started, we took the tender out to get some shots of "cruise ship Vector" before loading the tender back on the boat deck in anticipation of today's departure. We were all settled back in with a glass of wine when the flotilla started, led by a Coast Guard patrol boat.
The boats in the flotilla were over the top -- there is no other way to describe it. I will let Louise's video speak for itself. There is a limit of 30 boats, and they are vying for cash prizes and a first prize of a 17' Carolina Skiff with motor and trailer, nicely outfitted (we saw it at the park). We voted for our favorite, "Great White Christmas," by text message. That entered us into a drawing for a prize, too, and our boat choice did ultimately win. In addition to the text voting, there are also judges on the docks at the Blockade Runner, just across the parade route from us.
We had a blast watching the flotilla. Some of the boats were only decorated on their port side (the side where the main audience an also the judges are located), and our starboard-side view was rather limited, but we got most of it. We sounded our giant Kahlenberg air horns for the ones that really tickled us.
After the last boat went by we sat down to dinner, but the fireworks started a bit early, and we ended up watching them through the windows from our dining table. We had a great view, and the fireworks display went on for a good half hour. After that I sat in the pilothouse with the radar on, as hordes of overloaded boats weighed anchor to leave, not knowing just how much egg nog the skippers had during the evening.
All in all it was a fun time and we are very glad we spent the extra few days here to take it in. I must also admit that Wrightsville Beach has been a great stop, even though I wrote on our first visit here that I thought it was "cruiser-unfriendly." There seems to be quite a different vibe here at the anchorage than there is a mile and a half away at the ICW.
Today we will head down to Southport on the ICW, including a stretch of the Cape Fear River. We are once again in the land of five foot tidal swing, though, and we need to time our travels with the tides. Today's low is around noon, and we will weigh anchor and get under way around then in order to have a rising tide the whole way. Its three hours or so to Southport so I expect we will still arrive with plenty of daylight.
I expect to spend a couple of days in the Southport area. We booked a marina for a week in Charleston, our next major stop, but they could not fit us until the 8th, so we have a week to kill on the way. Southport has a Walmart and at least one decent restaurant, and we also need to take on water and top up the batteries, so we will take a slip for a night or two.
As of this writing, weather looks good for our next outside passage, to Winyah Bay, on Wednesday. We'll spend Tuesday night either at the marina on Bald Head Island, or at the anchorage nearby, for a speedy departure in the pre-dawn hours.