Friday, December 3, 2021

Between the Carolinas

We are under way in the Atlantic Ocean, more or less due west along the southwestern edge of North Carolina. The forecast was for calmer seas than we are finding, and we are bouncing over 2-3 footers on a shorter period than we like. It should improve throughout the day.

Sunset under way on the ICW, approaching Mile Hammock.

Friday we arrived to Mile Hammock Bay at Camp Lejeune a little after sunset and dropped the hook (map). Normally crowded, we shared the anchorage with just two other boats. The shoaling on the ICW just before arriving has not improved, and just as last year, we had to pick our way through. At least this time we did not touch bottom.

Passing through Camp Lejeune, numerous firing targets can be seen; here are a couple of armored personnel carriers. Firing practice occasionally closes the ICW.

We had a quiet night devoid of amphibious assaults or Osprey tilt-rotor flights, and got an early start Saturday morning for Wrightsville Beach. Between unpredictable currents and picking our way through the several trouble spots, we just can't seem to get the bridge timing right, and we had to wait a half hour between Figure Eight Island and the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. We pulled off in a wide spot a half mile from the bridge and dropped a lunch hook.

Making the 3pm opening put us at our usual anchorage (map) at 3:20, which was fortuitous. We were most of the way to Wrightsville before we realized that this was the night of the annual holiday boat parade and fireworks, and we passed them setting up the fireworks just before the anchorage. There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the 6pm start of the flotilla, you could practically walk from one end of the anchorage to the other without getting your feet wet.

Best my phone could capture of the flotilla. This is a Nordic Tug carrying Santa, being "pulled" by a pair of reindeer.

As we remembered from the last time we did this, the town was absolutely packed, with police directing traffic coming off the bridge onto the island. We went ashore very early for dinner, in the hopes of squeezing in to our favorite joint, Tower 7 Baja Grill, before the rush. We had a 20-minute wait, which we used to stroll the town.

Fireworks. We were glad not to be downwind; the crowd lining the bridge was enveloped in smoke by the end.

If we could have moved on from Wrightsville Beach Sunday or even Monday, we could have been out here in much calmer conditions. But I had Amazon shipments that did not arrive until mid-day Monday, and so we had a quiet day on board Sunday, leaving briefly for dinner at Jerry Allen's Sports Bar. Sports bars are never our first choice, but it was the only joint open on the island, and Louise found their hamburger to be excellent. The difference from the crowds on Saturday was striking; the town felt deserted Sunday and Monday evenings.

Monday after my packages arrived I headed ashore with the e-bike, stopping for groceries as well. By this time it was too late to get under way, and so we weighed anchor Tuesday with the tide and made the short two-hour run to Carolina Beach, a new stop for us, where we dropped the hook in a small anchorage in the harbor (map). We had to wait a couple of days for outside weather, and I wanted to do it here, where we could get ashore, rather than in Southport, where there is a dearth of usable anchorages.

Sunset at Carolina Beach. Harder to see the rust stains in silhouette :)

There are a couple of trouble spots on this short stretch, easy to handle if you know where they are and to go around them, basically outside of the marked channel. A sailboat ahead of us ran right into one, and we called them on the radio to give them some guidance. They got off under their own power and followed us through, and then we gave them the information on how to get charts overlaid with the Corps of Engineers surveys. At 6.5', they draw even more than Vector. They had planned to continue to Southport that afternoon, but after looking at the surveys they decided to anchor not far from us. It was very nice to meet Isabelle and Kevin aboard Festina Lente.

This "arcade" near the beach is mostly closed for the season. Beyond it, several carnival rides are stowed on their trailers.

Not unlike Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach is a summer beach town, and the season is definitely over. Most restaurants are closed for the season, but we had a very nice dinner at Havana's Tuesday, and decent Thai food at hole-in-the-wall Ida Thai, both a short walk from the town dock.  The dock is a long tender ride from the anchorage, nearly a mile in a no-wake zone, so a full ten minutes. There is also a closer dinghy dock, with access to nothing, really, other that the beach and a beachy coffee shop that, remarkably, was still open. They had a small retail section with some essentials, wine, and beer as well.

Sure sign the season is over: it's not worth the effort to collect the parking meters.

Timing the tide for the southbound run through Snow's Cut and the Cape Fear River is tricky, and yesterday we weighed anchor just at the end of the ebb for fairly slack water in the cut, and some push part way down the river. We pulled off-channel through a small cut between spoil piles to anchor for the night (map). We did have one really bad ship or ferry wake after dinner, but it was otherwise a mostly calm and quiet anchorage.

After the boys of summer have gone.

This morning we weighed anchor for a favorable tide and current at both ends, and made our way down river and out the inlet via a new channel for us, the Western Bar Channel, where we found no less than 10' of depth. We've never made this east/west run between Little River and Cape Fear, and going to anyplace further south is a southwesterly heading where the ship channel is the shorter route. Normally from Cape Fear we'd go at least to Winyah Bay in a day run, or overnight all the way to Charleston.

The very nice dinghy dock that only gets you to the beach or the coffee shop. Also public restrooms, trash, and recycling, which was handy.

We're headed instead to the Little River inlet, a new one for us, because I've made reservations at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club to take us up to the holiday. They had a great monthly rate, even though we'll be able to use just a day over two weeks, and it's an easy scooter ride to numerous services of which we have need. It's been a very long time since we had a couple of weeks of downtime at a dock, and I'm overdue on generator maintenance and overhauling the windlass, both of which require us to be tied up.

Nice breakfast menu at the North End Cafe. We did not try it, though.

Depending on how we feel when we get through the inlet, we'll either drop the hook for the night in the river at a familiar spot, or else proceed all the way to the marina another five miles further on. Despite the name, the marina is actually in Little River, SC, and we stopped there a year ago for fuel. The eponymous river is actually the dividing line between North and South Carolina.

Sunset from our anchorage on the Cape Fear, looking out over Oak Island.

While there is a chance I will be motivated to blog during our stay, perhaps to document some of the work, it's a safer bet that my next post will be underway southbound from Myrtle Beach, en route to our holiday reservations in Charleston.

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts Sean. You are in one of my favorite places in the US.


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