Thursday, May 27, 2021

OBX

We are under way northbound in Pamlico Sound, bound for Croatan Sound. To our starboard are the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and to port the mainland. As I begin typing I can not see land in any direction, and I expect my Internet connection to come and go throughout the day.

Tuesday we had a full dinner in the pilothouse before we even arrived at Beaufort Inlet. High tide happened while we were eating, and they managed to refloat the cargo ship Kite Bay and pull her off the shoal; we had just got her in sight. By the time we arrived at our inbound turn, she was already back in the anchorage licking her wounds. We assume she needed a diver inspection and some Coast Guard clearance before being allowed back into port.

Vector arriving at the Fort Macon anchorage. USCGC Maple at left, and just visible through our hard top is USCGC Smilax, the "Queen of the Fleet." Photo: Stephanie Morris

Passing high tide meant we had a good push into the inlet, at one point doing nearly nine knots. We rounded the corner by the Coast Guard station and headed to our usual spot (map), dropping the hook a little before 7pm just 300' from our friends aboard Blossom. We did have an occasional wake from a go-fast boat in the channel, but spent an otherwise peaceful night. Blossom was already gone when I came upstairs in the morning.

The forecast said we had a good window to cross Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds this week, with weather moving in over the weekend. And so we weighed anchor early with the flood and continued up to Adams Creek and the Neuse River. Under way, we turned our attention to planning some stops in the Hampton Roads area. We needed an Amazon locker, and also a marina to which we could have our mail and some other items shipped.

Our view of Blossom at anchor. Beaufort at right and Morehead City left.

The most convenient locker will be in Great Bridge, and for the other items we opted to book a night up in Hampton. I tried the yacht club there, but they have races booked, so we will stay at our old standby, the Hampton Public Piers. Between here and there, we will need to take on some fuel.

We had set our sights for the end of the day on the same anchorage we had used last year, near the Cedar Island Ferry Landing. We learned that Sharky's, where we ate on that pass, had closed, but the storefront had reopened as Bay Breeze, so we figured we could at least get in a bit of a walk and some dinner.

We had a great push out into the Neuse, and by the time we were approaching the NR beacon, our predicted arrival at the anchorage was just 2pm. With both the river and the southern part of Pamlico Sound very calm, we opted instead to continue to Ocracoke, to shave some time off today's cruise. The anchorage is also more protected, and there are more and better dining choices.

Silver Lake anchorage, Ocracoke.

The predicted afternoon winds arrived sooner and heavier than forecast, and seas picked up to two feet on a very short period sometime after we passed Brant Island Shoal. We had a bumpy ride for the last hour and a half before the turn into the Big Foot Slough Channel to Ocracoke. We were champing at the bit to get into the anchorage, but, as luck would have it, the NC State Ferry Sea Level was coming down the channel out of the harbor as we approached.

The narrow part of the channel, constantly shifting, is not wide enough for both of us, and we agreed to wait outside until he got through. I ended up circling around, because it was too choppy to just hover in winds of about 25-30. On the plus side, I put an AIS track on him, so I could follow his bread crumbs across the squeaky bit, which was very helpful alongside the Corps of Engineers depth survey. The ferries draw 7.5', give or take, depending on load.

I made a few loops while waiting on Sea Level.

After we got past the skinny stuff, the ferry Swan Quarter overtook us in the channel. We otherwise had an uneventful entrance, and dropped the hook in a familiar spot in Silver Lake (map), a short distance from another steel hull, aluminum house trawler named Congrio and sporting a Valparaiso, Chile hailing port. We had the hook down by cocktail hour and in plenty of time to go ashore for dinner.

A new restaurant opened in town just a couple of months ago, Dajio, with expansive outside dining and an eclectic upscale menu. No reservations, so we arrived by 6 to get seated. We had a wait of about ten minutes. The food was decent and the space was pleasant, and we enjoyed getting off the boat. It was just a short walk from the park service dinghy dock at the ferry landing.

Our neighbor. We felt right at home.

In the middle of dinner a reader of this very blog approached our table, having recognized us from across the room. He and his wife were waiting for a table; he's a fellow bus conversion enthusiast and has been following since our bus days. They were staying in the campground in their MCI. I did not hear their names well enough to reproduce them here, but I am hoping he will drop me an email or a comment here.

We are apparently in a period of high solar flare activity, which has been wreaking havoc with our radios. We are getting periodic bursts of static that can not be squelched, and had to turn the radio off overnight (we normally keep it on 24/7, both for urgent messages on VHF 16, and to get weather alerts). We're also hearing ship and Coast Guard traffic from far afield; yesterday we head Sector Jacksonville and Sector Southeast New England within minutes of each other; the latter was reporting that the New Beford Hurricane Barrier would be closing.

Ferry Sea Level, incoming this morning as we were leaving. You don't get the scale unless there is a tractor-trailer aboard.

We had decked the tender when we returned to Vector last night, in anticipation of an early start this morning. I had checked the ferry schedule and wanted to get out the channel before any of them would be making their way in. We weighed anchor just a bit before 8. Well, we tried to, anyway.

The windlass struggled mightily for the last dozen feet, ultimately grinding to a halt with the anchor shank out of the water but the flukes just below the surface. Our windlass can exert over a ton of force, so whatever we snagged was well-secured to the bottom. Once the cloud of mud cleared, we could see it was either a heavy hawser or a steel cable, extending off in both directions. All three of our flukes had caught it. Hooked on it, right next to our own anchor, was another anchor of the Danforth type, presumably cut away and abandoned by another boat that had snagged the same cable.

Best shot I could get in the heat of battle. This is as far as we could raise it. You can see the hawser over the shank below the ripples. At left is a Danforth anchor hooked on it, also under water.

With the problem still below the water surface, I needed to splash the tender to go deal with it. Once I got my hand on it, I could feel it was a 1" nylon hawser rather than a cable, and I started to saw through it with the serrated knife we keep for line fouling emergencies. I got about a third the way through it before I stopped on account of safety: there was no way to take any of the one ton of force off the anchor without the hawser falling beyond my reach.

Instead we ran a 5/8" line under the hawser, both ends secured on our deck. I tied a line to our anchor's trip line hole, and we lowered the anchor. With the wind still blowing Vector back against our makeshift mooring line, I had to haul the anchor well in front with the power of the dinghy motor so that Louise could lift it clear with the windlass. We had the tender back on deck and we under way just a half hour after we started.

After freeing it. My pull-away line still attached. Taut loop of line behind it is still holding Vector firmly moored in place. After I was aboard we let one end of that line go.

That extra half hour was just enough to ensure that I would have to call Sea Level on the radio on my way out the channel. This time he slowed down for us, and we squirted through the shoals with a knot of current behind us. We've been on the same heading since leaving Big Foot Slough, and as I wrap up typing, we still have another hour to the next turn, at Long Shoal.

Tonight we should be anchored somewhere in Croatan Sound, unless tomorrow's forecast on the Albemarle Sound is lousy. In which case, we have the option to continue across the sound over dinner, and anchor in the North River at twilight.

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