Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Beach town

We are under way northbound in the Atlantic Ocean, between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout. As I begin typing we are crossing the Camp LeJeune firing range, and a warship is conducting exercises about five miles off our port bow; we can hear the artillery fire in the distance. I called Range Control this morning and learned that firing today is limited to 4nm offshore; we're about twice that distance.

Shortly after I posted here last Wednesday morning, I did yet another Internet check of marine diesel prices. Up to that point, the cheapest fuel had been in Sneads Ferry, which is just west of us now at the New River inlet, and it looked like we'd be slogging up the inside through here (New River is not a good inlet for us), one of the most problematic stretches of the entire ICW.

What I found Wednesday morning was that things had shifted, and the cheapest fuel we'd see was actually in Myrtle Beach, at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club -- just $1.17 per gallon. That made for a change in strategy, because there are no anchorages along the ICW anywhere between the Waccamaw and the Little River. We made it a short day and dropped the hook at the last usable anchorage on the Waccamaw, where it turns away from the ICW at Enterprise Landing (map).

Seen on a store in Wrightsville Beach. Wishful thinking?

That meant we were anchoring before Bertha had entirely passed us by, but winds had already dropped considerably, and we even caught a bit of a break in the relentless rain. We anchored in an oxbow where the depth on the inside of the bend was just 15', but more than double that on the outside. With enough scope out for storm conditions, we swung out over the deep water with our stern less than a boat length from the cypress trees.

By mid-afternoon the storm had passed, the sun came out, and we had a beautiful evening. We had a nice dinner on board and a very comfortable night. In the morning we weighed anchor early and had an easy four hours to the yacht club. Even with all the rainwater, we had a fair tide for some of the way, and favorable water levels through the dicey parts, such as the "rock pile." We hovered outside the harbor for a few minutes while we waited for one other boat to clear the fuel dock, and we were tied up not long after mid-day.

The bunkering process was something of a goat rope. MBYC has two diesel nozzles, a standard size one rated at 17gpm and a large one rated at 30gpm. We can handle either size nozzle, but due to some tortuous piping below the deck, we can't fill faster than about 20gpm or so. Rather than hog the high-speed nozzle, only to have to modulate it to 2/3 flow, when they gave us a choice, I asked for the smaller nozzle. That was a mistake; it had a hair trigger and no matter what I did, I could not keep it flowing.

We swung close to the trees on this oxbow of the Waccamaw.

We did battle with the nozzle through 350 gallons into the port tank, and another 300 into the center tank, before giving up and asking for the other nozzle. In part this was because in the interim, a Krogen had come in for fuel, and were waiting on the smaller nozzle as they could not accept the larger one. The larger nozzle turned out to have no problems, and it took half the time to put the second 600 gallons in as it did the first. All told we took on 1,265 gallons, at the lowest price we have ever paid for diesel, and we are now ready to ride out pandemics, riots, and any other apocalyptic goings-on far away from civilization, if need be.

The fuel stop was also our first opportunity to step off the boat since leaving Jacksonville, and we took turns walking the trash and recycling over to the bins. We noticed the on-site restaurant was open and serving on the patio, and we briefly contemplated spending the night, as they had a slip open. In different times, perhaps, but with many being cavalier about distancing, and almost no one wearing a mask, we decided to save the $78 and move along. We did fill our water tank while we were fueling.

I normally expect to spend about 90 minutes fueling; the recalcitrant pump nearly doubled that. (We later heard the Krogen on the radio with another Krogen complaining about the same dispenser; MBYC really needs to fix it). Fortunately, it was just another five miles to a lovely anchorage on the Little River, near the inlet (map). This is the only usable anchorage for dozens of miles in either direction. It's also a great jumping-off point for an outside run, as the inlet is just deep enough for comfort, but we did not have a weather window for that. We shared the anchorage with a shrimper and a Bayliner 4588 that we had seen at Big Majors in the Bahamas.

Our neighbor at the Little River inlet.

Friday we made it a long day under way, mostly owing to the fact that we had favorable current the entire day. We left Little River on the flood, had a push most of the way up the ditch, and popped out into the Cape Fear River just as the flood was starting there in earnest. Southport was busy as we went past; too much so for our comfort. Every restaurant patio was packed, and, again, no one seemed to be taking any precautions.

We had a nice push upriver to Snows Cut. raced through the cut with two knots behind us, and then rode the ebb all the way to Masonboro Inlet. We had the anchor down by cocktail hour in our old spot at the intersection of the Motts and Banks channels in Wrightsville Beach (map), across from the Blockade Runner resort. It was a tight squeeze arriving so late in the day. We had a nice dinner on board.

Saturday morning we tendered the mile or so to the Bridge Tender Marina, and hoofed it to the Harris Teeter grocery store by way of the Amazon locker, where I had several items waiting. We were early enough that the store was not too crowded for comfort, and the employees, at least, were masked. We were able to stock up on another couple weeks worth of fresh food, two backpack's worth.

The anchorage at Wrightsville Beach, as seen from the bridge. Most of the town is to the left of the water tower.

One of the items in my Amazon order was a new 10" filter housing for the water maker. I've now spent dozens and dozens of hours chasing air leaks on the vacuum side of this system, and apparently a lot of the air has been coming from the filter housing the entire time. I was unable to source the exact replacement, wherein the mounting holes would line up, but I got one with all the rest of the relevant specs, and now I'm getting almost no air and a consistent 12 gph on good voltage while at rest. Today that dropped down to 8 after four hours under way, so I still have more work ahead of me.

In the evening I went ashore stag to try to get take-out from our go-to Mexican place in town, Tower 7. The barrier island side was jammed packed with people on a nice Saturday, and Tower 7 was backed up an hour and a half even for carry out. A long line was waiting to be seated. I walked next door to Vito's and came home with a pizza instead.

We had considered continuing on up the ICW Sunday, but when it started to look like we might have a very short window today, we decided to just camp out in Wrightsville Beach for a few days. Sunday evening we returned ashore together, much earlier in the evening this time, and were able to place an order at Tower 7, this time with just a half hour wait. We used that time to walk around town and out to the beach; this town is basically in full summer-time swing and you can barely tell there is a pandemic.

The beach was busy on a nice weekend day.

Yesterday we returned to the Bridge Tender and walked up to the hardware store for parts to finish the new battery shelf. I needed to have the battery 100% secured against motion before we headed offshore. I wandered around town a bit solo just before dinner, and we decked the tender before eating aboard for our final evening.

One of the downsides of this anchorage is that it is outside the no-wake zone, and all manner of small boats come whizzing through all day long. This is especially bad on the weekend. Overnight it is generally quiet, though. Lots and lots of summertime beach-town partying is happening here. The VHF was also busy with ICW traffic, as the generally northbound migration is in progress.

Yesterday's entertainment was watching the Coast Guard, ICE, CBP, and the Sheriff all boarding a foreign-flag sailing cat that came in from offshore. AIS says it came in from the Caribbean, and they were gone over with a fine-tooth comb, including the sniffer dog. Not many boats clear in here, we think.

Sunset from our anchorage.

Seas are forecast to get worse as the day progresses, with a small craft advisory issued for 4pm, about when we should arrive at the inlet. We'll be anchored tonight in Beaufort or Morehead city someplace. Tomorrow is forecast to be very windy, so we may just hunker down before continuing up the inside.

As a final note, while I was editing this post, we discovered that our blog comment notifications are broken. I apologize to anyone whose comments have gone unanswered, and to everyone for the amount of comment spam that has slipped through in the interim. I'll be trying to clean it all up in the next day or two.


  1. OK, you win the prize for the lowest cost fuel purchase. I likely won't need to buy any for a year or more when prices will no doubt be higher.

  2. I keep forgetting to tell you that if you are ever docked near Myrtle Beach and need some transportation to shop or something please get in touch. I live between Myrtle and North Myrtle and would be glad to chauffeur you around. If you don't recognize the name I used to be Cat Farnworth.


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