Delaware Bay

The morning started with me readying the dinghy to be hoisted onto the flybridge. I attached the dinghy hoisting harness and untied the dinghy and walked up to the flybridge to operate the crane. I no sooner had the crane control in my hand and I looked out to see the dinghy floating away. Apparently, I had attached the lifting harness to the dinghy and not connected the crane’s hook to the harness. Oops. I had to quickly start the engine, untie from my mooring and chase the dinghy down as it was blowing across the harbor. We caught up with it just in time and used a boat hook to grab it. Crisis averted.

As we pulled out of Annapolis harbor this father, son, dog team passed us.

Guy Son 1
Father, Son, Dog Boating at it’s best

A quick check of the weather showed the SCA (Small Craft Advisory) was going to stick around for a few days.

2 SCA.PNG
SCA

As we proceeded North up the last bit of Chesapeake Bay you see many structures like this.

3 Structures in CB
What is it? I dunno?

A quick check of the currents showed me that I better increase my speed to prevent an unfavorable current while transiting the C&D canal.

4 CD Currents.jpg
C&D Canal Current Table

Entering into the C&D canal you see many interesting sights.

When you study the charts you’ll see things that cross canals like bridges and overhead power cables. When I saw an “overhead pipeline”, I was intrigued.

I also so these lighted poles that I’m guessing make navigation easier at night. These poles will also generate radar pings in areas where the canal is shallow. Without these light poles, you could imagine a ship accidentally straying outside of the dredged channel in the areas where the shoreline extended far from the channel.

CD canal lights
C&D Canal Lights

Soon we exited the East end of the C&D Canal and we turned South down Delaware Bay.

South
It’s frustrating to spend two days heading South when you are trying to get North

As we approached our anchorage the sun began to set and I was so busy trying to navigate in the small cut on the West side of the barrier island that blocks the entrance to the Cohansey River. I was so busy at the helm, I could only manage a single picture.

Sunset
Sunset in Delaware Bay

Soon we were anchored in the Cohansey River and the waves of Delaware Bay were held at bay by the river’s banks. While the river has a strong current, the river bottom has proven to have good holding power.

Delaware Bay has some interesting facts. It is home to many horseshoe crabs and their numbers are dwindling due to horseshoe crab harvesting. Not for eating, though you can eat their eggs or roe but for their blue blood. That’s right, horseshoe crabs have brilliant blue blood due to copper that carries oxygen in their bloodstream. This is very similar to the red hemoglobin that carries oxygen in our human bloodstream. Research scientists in the medical field harvest their blue blood for it’s ability to react to the presence of bacterial endotoxins. This unique ability allows medical professionals to detect bacteria in many places.

Horseshoe-crab-blood-harvest-11
Harvesting the Blue Blood of Horseshoe Crabs

Delaware bay is also home to the Red Knot bird. The red knot has one of the longest migrations of any bird. Every year it travels more than 9,000 mi (14,000 km) from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America. The exact migration routes and wintering grounds of individual subspecies are still somewhat uncertain.

Red Knot
Red Knot – A.K.A. Calidris canutus rufa

Lastly, Delaware Bay is home to a phenomenon called “Sand Waves”. This is where the sand on the bottom of the bay forms a wavy bottom surface. The wave patterns that sets up are static and have reached an equilibrium. The sand waves cause larger water waves on the surface. It’s interesting to see on your sonar picture as you go over the top of these sand waves. We saw this very same sand wave phenomenon on our sonar at the mouth of Chesapeake bay.

Sand Waves Chart
Sand Waves Depicted on my Chart
Sand Wave SF Bridge
Sand Waves West of the San Francisco Bridge

Annapolis MD

Leaving Solomons Island we checked the weather and saw that there was a SCA (Small Craft Advisory) in effect. Thankfully we were getting higher up in the Chesapeake Bay. As you approach the head of the Chesapeake the fetch (amount of water the wind has to blow on) shrinks.

Small Craft Advisory
SCA due to a low and a cold front 
Annapolis Weather
Small waves with gusts

The trip North had us staying out of the way of many large ships which we would see again anchored just outside of Annapolis. Maybe they wanted some shore leave in Annapolis too?

I thought it would be more interesting if the ocean was not flat and these ships could simply slide down or be forced to push up hill.

There were many interesting structures in the bay like this lighthouse.

Upon arrival in Annapolis we grabbed a mooring and I dropped the dinghy and raced off to do a one-man pub crawl of Annapolis.

1st stop Pussers.

Luckily all the canals in Annapolis offer free dinghy tie ups.

2nd stop Dock Street.

Dock Street
Dock Street

3rd stop Middleton Tavern.

3 Middleton Tavern

4th stop Federal House.

4 Federal House

5th stop O’Brien’s.

5.1 O'Brien's 2

6th stop ACME.

6 ACME

7th and final stop Castlebay.

Castlebay 2

Castlebay was alive with karaoke.

As I made my way back to the dinghy at the end of the canal I recalled seeing this Alex Haley’s Roots statue the last time I was here.

And just like that I was returning to MV Simple Life and would sleep like a rock.

MV Simple Life return 1

Solomons Island MD

After getting some much-needed rest on anchor in Godfrey’s Bay it was time to push North to Solomon’s Island. This meant dodging the many fishing boats that dotted our path and taking in the sights along the shore. There appear to be many military type buildings which were festooned with satellite dishes and other communications equipment.

Satelitte Dishes
Maybe it’s just someone who wants fast internet?

As we got close to Solomons Island, we hailed Zahniser’s Yachting Center and requested a slip for the night. With each attempted to pronounce the name right, I butchered it worse. It’s sounds something like “Anheuser” in “Anheuser-Busch beer” except starting with a “Za”. Turns out it was a Sunday and they were closing at 3PM but the dockhands would be around till 3:30PM. We pushed the throttles down and MV Simple Life roared from our usually leisurely 6.5 kts to 9.3 kts. We arrived just in time for Jason the dockhand to catch our lines and we had no sooner tied up and plugged into power and we off to dinner at the Dry Dock Restaurant.

Dry Dock Restaurant
Dry Dock Restaurant at ZYC

Bartender Timmy introduced me to a local IPA called Calvert Route 4. Apparently we were in Calvert County MD. It was great and so was dinner.

Calvert Route 4 IPA
Calvert Brewing Co Route 4 IPA

We chatted a bit with some of the locals at the bar and soon we would be back aboard to race off to sleep. In the morning, I walked the dogs around the yachting center and found many interesting boats.

Jason the dockhand was nice enough to use the courtesy van and drive us to the local Weir grocery store to reprovision. I was starving and purchased some precooked fried chicken. As I chased Kelly around the grocery store with the carriage I kept taking bites of fried chicken. Kelly remarked that “she could find me simply by following the smell of fried chicken down the isles”. I can’t believe I ate all 8 pieces of chicken and was now in need of a napkin.

Fried Chicken

At the checkout I heard a “hello” and it was the friendly couple from the bar the night before. Calvert County seems full of very friendly people. As we made our way back onto MV Simple Life, we passed through this simply designed gate and we were gone. On to Annapolis, MD.

Lead Weight
Love the old-school simplicity of design

Retreat from the Waves

Before leaving Coinjock Marina, we received an email alert that MV Meanders had left Port: Coinjock. MV Meanders had been docked bow to bow with us. They had stealthily slipped away while we were making coffee.

Meanders Marine Traffic
Marinetraffic.com email alert for a boat as it leaves a port

MV Meanders is a beautiful 49’ North Pacific yachts RPH trawler. She’s a bigger version of our boat with reverse raked PH windows. MV Meanders was recently sold to a nice couple named Tom & Nancy who stopped to say “hi” when they saw our NP43 fueling up on the docks. Meanders was previously owned by friends of ours, Andy & Marty. Andy was my boat broker and took me for my first ride in their NP43. I was smitten. I setup the MarineTraffic alert when Andy & Marty were living aboard their boat and traveling to many different ports. At that time, I was working and enjoyed getting alerts about all the interesting places they were visiting. I would think to myself.. “soon that will be Kelly & I and the dogs”.

Meanders
MV Meanders a 49′ NP RPH docked off our bow in Coinjock, NC

We had to delay our departure momentarily to allow for a passing tug pushing not one but two barges. We don’t want to be in the way of something like this.

Tug 2 barges 3
Tug Pushing 2 Barges up the ICW

As we traveled down the ICW were chasing a 1935 boat called “MV NAN” out of Osterville, MA. A beautiful old boat that hails out of a marina that we have visited once or twice.

At the helm, I was using my iPhone’s charting app to measure distances to restricted bridges and locks. Many bascule, lift or swing bridges only operate at certain times like “top of the hour” or on the “half hour”. You need to measure the distance to the next bridge opening and adjust your speed to arrive on time. If you don’t you’ll find yourself treading water till the next opening. As I looked up from my iPhone, I saw this log floating down the river and had to swerve to avoid hitting it. iPhones make it even easier to run into a hazard on the ICW.

Hazzard Log 4
Hazards to Navigation are everywhere in the ICW

Just before arriving at Top Rack Marina you pass this school bus hanging precariously over a precipice. They put a sign in the window that says, “Fire Rescue Training in Progress”. I imagine they added that after someone called 911 to say that “a school bus was about to fall into the ICW!”

Fire Rescue 2
Fire & Rescue Training Using a School Bus About to Plunge into the ICW

Soon we were at Top Rack Marina and enjoying a well deserved dinner at the Amber Lantern Restaurant. What great food this restaurant has. Kudos to the Chef.

AmberLantern
Amber Lantern Bar

When we awoke in the AM we could not depart due to an emergency! We were out of dog food! I hailed an Uber with the app and raced off to the local Petco. Dogs fed; we untied and headed North to Norfolk, VA.

Coming into Norfolk you feel small compared to the many warships lining the channel.

How cool is it to have a Navy ceremony seated beneath the “Big Guns”?

Navy Ceremony 2
Navy Ceremony – Battleship Wisconsin?

I always admire this thing as if it was a cool sculpture of sorts.

Star Wars 2
Star Wars?

One large container ship appeared to be washing their anchor. I wish I had a dedicated anchor wash system. Sometimes when our anchor comes up, it can be covered in muck from the sea bottom.

Anchor Wash 3
Anchors Getting Washed

We exited Norfolk harbor and pointed the boat up the coast. The weather was supposed to be 2-4 ft with 20kt winds.

We soon realized that the waves which were on our beam were far larger than predicted and made for a miserable ride. When we arrived at our planned anchorage which was just inside the “Great Machipongo Inlet”.  We had only to cross over the bar shoal at the entrance. By now the waves had built into large breaking waves that were pushing us from behind toward the bar. As we progressed slowly over the bar I watched the depths with dread. 10’, 9’, 8’, 7, 6’!!! When I saw 5.7, we did an immediate hard spin and raced back out to sea the way we came in. You don’t want to run aground in breakers 30 miles from anyone.

As the spray from the waves washed over the pilothouse, Kelly & I had an emergency discussion about what to do?

We had 4 Options:

  1. Hold the bow into the large waves until the tide rises and attempt to cross the bar again. It would probably be dark before we got enough lift from the tide.
  2. Continue North 70+ miles to Ocean City, MD. I was exhausted and did not think I could make it another 10 hours into the night.
  3. Continue North 30+ miles to the MARS anchorage. Zero protection against the large waves would have made for an unbearable night on anchor and the next day was predicting 25 kt winds and larger waves.
  4. Return the 30+ miles back the way we came and tuck around Fisherman’s Island and into Chesapeake Bay to find an anchorage.

We chose option 4. This was hard for me because I often say to Kelly,  “I hate moving backward or retracing steps”. I think this comes from a combination of being A.D.D and always not wanting to go backwards for something that you forgot and just a desire to never see the same scenery twice. Always seeing something new brings happiness.

As we made our way back into the bay, the sea began to soften and the ride became smoother.

Cape Charles Sunset 4
Sunset off Fisherman’s Island, VA

We selected an anchorage called Sunset Grille Anchorage. As we approached it was very overcast and dark. Radar pings were showing two docks extending far out from shore on either side of our intended anchorage spot.  If we didn’t approach from exactly perpendicular to the shore we’d have slammed into these pilings on this dark night. Thankfully we have radar and a remote searchlight to identify hazards the radar pings.

We anchored and tried to get some sleep.

1AM and the boat was ROCKING. The wind had picked back up and the current had aligned us so the waves were on our beam. The boat was rocking violently. So much so that eventually, I had to start the boat and pull anchor and leave into the blackness. It’s always better to stay on anchor than attempt to navigate an unfamiliar harbor on a black night. But spend 4 hours in a boat that is rocking like an amusement ride and you’ll take your chances underway.

The wind had picked up and we were on the wrong side of a 20 mile fetch of water that was now battering us with large waves. We fought our way to the calmer side of the bay and then turned North looking for an anchorage that would give us protection against the strong Southerly wind and waves. We motored our way to Godfrey Bay and anchored in a calm protected bay, safe from the day’s harsh weather. It was only 11AM and I could barely keep my eyes open even with the 3 cups of coffee I had pumped into myself.

As we entered the anchorage, we passed this classic Chesapeake crab boat.

Crabber 20
Looks like a painting I’d hang on my wall

Now peacefully on anchor. We are plotting a new course that takes us up the Chesapeake Bay.

We’ll traverse the C&D canal and then have to sail down Delaware Bay, round Cape May and go North up the coast toward NYC.

Coinjock Marina Going North

We had a quiet night on anchor in the Alligator River. Our anchor spot was just off the ICW and was an “easy in” and “easy out” in the morning. Note: some anchoring spots can have shallow or tricky entrances.

The sunrise was amazing.

 

We had no sooner got through the Alligator River Swing Bridge and we hailed the large cruise ship, Independence, coming up on our stern. The captain was very friendly and thanked us for giving him exclusive use of the narrow channel.

MV Independence uses AIS just like us so it was easy to acertain their ship’s name and hail them directly. I simply let the captain know that I saw they were going to overtake us and stated we would manuver to starboard and allow them exclusive use of the entire channel for a “2 whistle pass”.

Cruise Ship 1
American Cruise Lines, MV Independence

As the channel got narrow we had to get in line behind this sailboat who did not seem to have their VHF radio on. (repeated hails from us and the Alligator River Swing Bridge with no response). On the ICW you must monitor channel #16 (the international hailing channel).

Traffic 1
Canadian Flagged SV

Note: the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) designates 3 channels internationally as “Safety Channels”.

Channel 16 (156.800 MHz) – Distress, safety and calling

Channel 13 (156.650 MHz) – Intership navigation (bridge-to-bridge)

Channel 70 (156.525 MHz) – Digital Selective Calling

DSC Discussion (skip this technical section if you like)

CH 70 or DSC or Digital Selective Calling is a new technology that uses EM wave pulses on channel 70 to send digital (1s and 0s encoded in electromagnetic pulses over a radio wave transmitted on channel #70’s designated frequency)

This channel is not for human voice transmission but for ships continually broadcasting their current position and heading. The data is received by your VHF antenna and processed by your AIS transceiver before finally being plotting on your chartplotter. Instead of just a radar blip on my chartplotter, I see a triangular icon representing the ship and if I click on it I get all sorts of info like:

  • Ship Name: So I can hail them by name instead of “Motor vessel off my port bow”
  • Heading
  • Speed
  • Ship length
  • MMSI #
  • Sail or powerboat
  • CPA (Closest point of approach or how close will they come to our boat if nothing changes)
  • CTA (at what time will they be the closest to us).

DSC also has a well hidden secret function where you can use a ship’s MMSI # (like a personal phone number) to call them directly. By this I mean you don’t hail them by name (ie. “ship name, ship name, this is motor vessel Simple Life on channel 16”. Instead you type in their MMSI number and a channel that you want their VHF radio to automatically tune to. Hit the PTT (Push To Talk) button and a loud tone plays over their VHF radio and their radio automatically jumps to the channel you wanted to communicate with them on. It’s a great feature but I must say I have not used it, nor have many other boaters. Maybe it will just take some time till the early adopters start teaching other boaters how to use it?

As we approached Coinjock, NC, there were large plumes of smoke coming from shore. I saw that the smoke which had started as grey/black was now white indicating that it was burning itself out (Where are my firefighter friends here, keep me honest).  Maybe it was a controlled burn of the low lands?

 

As we were pulling into Coinjock Marina, named for the NC town of the same name,  we were aware that our port fuel tank was running on fumes. NOTE: we had some reserve fuel in the starboard diesel tank.

Diesel
I think I need to start wiping my leather helm down with lint-free cloths 😉

We had made two long runs up the coast and at almost 9 kts and burned lots of fuel. Coinjock about 20 cents more per gallon of diesel than the marina we were heading to next. While not the cheapest place to take on over 300 gallons of diesel it was convenient. I mentioned to the dockhand that the next marina North was 20 cents cheaper a gallon and he responded, “Oh, our costs are higher because we sell more fuel than them”. I just smiled and thought, I’m pretty sure this friendly dockhand skipped school that day in business class 😉

When choosing a location for diesel be sure to chose a location that sells a lot of diesel. Common wisdom says: the more they sell, the less time the deisel sits in storage tanks acculmulating condensation water or other contaminations. If you have ever had your engine die offshore due to bad fuel you’ll agree that it’s better to spend a bit more for the likelihood of clean fuel.

The cruise ship which had passed us on the ICW was now docked in Coinjock to take on 5000 gallons of diesel.

Cruise Ship Coinjock
MV Independence Docked in Coinjock NC

I believe in large ship terminology, the captain and crew talk about the amount of diesel they have in terms of weight rather than gallons. Diesel is about 7 lbs / gallon while gasoline is about 6 lbs / gallon. When you take on 5000 gallons of diesel you need to be thinking about how much that excess fuel weighs and what it does to your ship’s draft. Draft = how deep your boat sinks into the water. Air draft = how tall is your boat is above the water for fitting under low bridges.

MV Simple Life took on about 311 gallons or 2,177 lbs of diesel while we were there. We also filled our water tanks (8.3 lbs / gallon) so that adds another 3,700 lbs to our boat. If you ever read the specs for a boat it will list it’s dry weight as well as it’s water draft. Always remember that when you load your boat up with your possessions, passengers, dogs, food, fuel, water, etc that it will sink your draft a few more inches into the water. When a boat is designed they guesstimate the weight & displacement of the boat from summing up the weight of every item in the CAD drawing. This we know thanks to the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes and his “Eureka” moment when he figured out that a body (boat) displaces it’s exact weight in water.

An engineer friend of mine who also loves physics, Andy,  once asked me this fun question about a man in a canoe in a pool who drops a stone into the water and asks how high will the water rise?

Boats with sharp narrow hulls must sink lower in the water to float while boxy square hulls like that of a barge need only sink a small amount to displace their weight in water. The boxy square shape to the cruise ship allowed it to have ashallower draft than MV Simple life. So don’t follow the cruise ship up the ICW thinking… ”if there is enough water in the channel for them, we can easily follow them”.

Alligator River NC

We awoke at sunrise and just before pulling anchor, I snapped a few photos of just how still this anchorage was in Adam’s Creek.

Today’s ICW route through Pamlico Sound would end just short of crossing Albemarle Sound. Our route looked something like this.

ICW NC Route
ICW Route Through Pamlico Sound and almost into Albemarle Sound

On our way out of Adam’s Creek, I hailed a loaded tug and barge to let them know we would deviate from the channel and not impede their passage. The strong current was at their back forcing them to keep their speed up. As a tug captain it’s better to be driving the barge rather than being driven by the current. It’s always better to push a barge into a current than be pushed by it. At least that is how I understand it.

Tug Barge
Tug & Loaded Barge in Adam’s Creek Channel

We no sooner exited Adam’s Creek into the Neuse River and passed this beautiful schooner with the captain at the helm and sails set.

Schooner
Capt was still in the process of raising his staysail

Once it Pamlico Sound you realize it is a pretty large sound. Wikipedia defines a sound as, “…In geography, a sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord; or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait)…”. These geography terms can be confusing.

Pamlico Sound.JPG
Pamlico Sound

As we motored on, a USCG boat hailed us over VHF channel 16 and let us know to stay to port as we passed. They had a line around and were pulling what remained of a green daymark piling using their boat. Our best guess is that a boat hit the piling in the night and snapped it off.  We figured they were dislodging it so that it would not float away and become a hazard to navigation?

USCG Pulling Daymark
USCG with a line off their bow to a green daymark that was broken off.

We passed a several duck blinds confirming that North Carolina is duck hunting country.

Duck Blind
Duck Blind – Do they really fall for this?

As we motored on we were reminded that we are getting closer to ICW mile marker 0 in Norfolk, VA.

The predicted forecast for Albemarle Sound had the wind out of the West at only 10-15 kts.

Forecast
Albemarle Sound forecast 10-15 out of the West

We chose an anchorage with a small fetch to the West but far enough off the shore that we could open the hatches and get a good breeze while we slept.

Alligator River Anchorage
Alligator River Anchorage

As I was setting the anchor on the bow I looked up and snapped this photo of the setting sun.

Sunset Framed.JPG
Sunset in Alligator River, NC

Adam’s Creek Anchorage NC

Because it was a 98.8% full moon, we pulled up the anchor and got underway before the sun had even risen.

Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach Anchor Location

As we skirted our way up the coast, we tried to minimize the length of fetch as the winds were blowing 20 kts from the NW (with gusts to 25 kts). Recall: a fetch is a distance of water that the wind has been given to blow over the top of. Wave heights build wave heights with distance.

Sunday Forecast
25kt Gusts

Along the way we saw beach homes like these near Surf City

We saw a giant ocean-side pier near Top Sail Beach.

Top Sail Beach Pier
Top Sail Beach Pier

As we go, I’m always watching the depth sounder, ie sonar. It pings high frequency sound (like a dolphin) off the sea floor and displays the depth as a graphical chart over the last 60 seconds. It is very important to understand not just the instantaneous depth but also how the depths are trending over time. You need this info to ascertain quickly if you are running off a downhill slope or running aground. The steeper the incline, the faster in time the sea floor is rising up to meet you, metaphorically speaking. While watching the sonar,  I repeatedly saw objects between the boat and ocean floor. I believe these depictions to be “bait balls” or schools of bait fish in a tight spherical grouping. Sometimes they are formed into these ball formations by preditors such as dolphins.

I’m no expert at reading the fish finder / depth sounder’s visually displayed ping returns, however, I also saw this fishing boat hauling a net.

Bait Net
Small Trawler Netting Bait Fish

The trawler’s size makes me think that they are hauling a small net sized for bait fish.

A moment later, we were passed by this Italian designed Azimut luxury motor yacht. She clearly has some horsepower in her diesels since… as big as she was, she was just skimming over Mother Ocean.

azimut
Azimut on plane

As we approached Beaufort, NC, we passed Brown’s Inlet. The ActiveCaptain description for this inlet simply says: “Browns Inlet is unmarked and used by local boats only;  not recommended to strangers.”

Soon we were off Fort Macon State Park Beach which is just before Beaufort inlet, NC.

Running a dynamic inlet whose shoals change with each storm is not advisable as even the latest published charts with depth soundings will likely be incorrect. That said, we attempted to use the latest NOAA charts to sneak into Beaufort Inlet via a narrow channel close to shore. It was low tide so you don’t get any added water depth over the low water spot soudings. We entered the narrow natural channel displayed on our chartplotter.  I checked the accuracy of the spot soundings (depth numbers) and the actual depths (reported by the sonar) were 3’ shallower than what my recently updated chart displayed. That was not comforting, but I still proceeded slowly at only 1.7 kts.

Beaufort Inlet 6.7
1.6 kts is slow forward

We will run aground at about 5’ and I was already in only 6.7’. To make matters worse, there was an ocean swell that was lifting and dropping the boat above and below the static ocean surface. I was confident that however “skinny”, “thin” or simply “shallow” the depths got that we would make it. After all my charts showed a low of about 10’ and we only needed 5’.

Well, we made it about 10’ from crossing into the deep channel when we bumped the bottom. You have to tell yourself: “resist the temptation to simply push the throttle forward and plow the next 10’ to the deep channel”. You just can’t know how shallow those next 10’ are. You could be pushing your boat up onto a shoal so shallow that the diesel engine / propeller combo won’t have the bite on the water needed to either push or pull you off the shoal. I opted to put her in reverse and spin her back the other way. We knew if we didn’t hit on the way in, we would not hit leaving.

Beaufort Inlet 5.8'
5.8 is Shallow
Beaufort Inlet 10 feet.JPG
10′ more and we could have made it into the deep channel

Note: The top picture showing the chart with 5.8’ depths displayed is not as recent as the chart depicted in the picture below it. We were literally 1/4 of a boat length from making it into the deep channel. You can see our track as we backed out. FYI: track = a black, dotted line or bread crumb path of where your boat has been. The dashed orange line with circular junction points is our plotted course. We backed out and came in the inlet via the mid-channel / safe water buoy. This buoy marks the center of the entrance channel.  Line up with this vertical red-white striped buoy and you are heading directly in the inlet.

Confidence is a good thing as a captain but … so is restraint 😉

I was emailing with a fellow boater who was getting ready to come North from Vero Beach. They have owned their blue water trawler and traveled up and down the coast. However, I still added the below statements to my reply. I did so because, I myself, am often curious where other sailors draw the line at the decision to “go offshore or not”?

Marty Reply: I wish you fair winds and seas however, checking your weather forecast on my favorite web app: http://www.marineweatherbybluefin.com/united-states/app

The NWS weather zone just above Vero Beach shows 3-5′ waves with a 6 second period and winds out of the East. I hear that and think…

1. If the winds were instead out of the West, you could run North tight to the coast.

2. I prefer 2-4′ seas because 3-5 is the average wave height not the significant wave height. 

On average, about 15% of waves will equal or exceed the significant wave height. The highest 10% of waves could be 25-30% higher than the significant wave height. And on occasion (about one per hour) one can expect to see a wave nearly twice the significant wave height.

3. Six seconds is a rather short period. I’m picturing steep waves. Your boat is stabilized,  ours is not. I would not want 6 second period,  5′ possibly 7’ waves on my beam.

On my laptop, I like to use the Windfinder web app

On my smartphone, I like to use the Windfinder Pro iOS app

WindFinder
WindFinder Pro iOS App

When you study the densely displayed data given by this app, you see that the waves during the daylight hours will be… at worst 4.5’, out of the NE with a 6 second period. The tide will go low about an hour before the sun sets (read that as… “about when you are entering the shoaling inlet from the sea”).

Then you say “4.5’ waves are not that bad”. However, that wave height forecast is based on a statistical wave distribution.

Statistical Wave Distribution

Make sure not to mix up “mean, median or average

The average of the biggest 1/3 of the waves you’ll see are much larger, possibly to the height of 6.5’. That is uncomfortable to most crew in an un-stabilized trawler. Note: Blue water, top-heavy, flybridge trawlers often use active fins beneath the waterline to oppose the roll of the vessel to port or starboard. This can dramatically improve the conditions underway in a sea. Naiad is one such company who manufactures marine stabilizers.

Naiad

Here is a dated but decent overview of marine stabilizers

After making our way in the inlet we passed ICW statute mile marker 200. Note: Mile 0 starts in Norfolk, VA and the ICW milage progress to statute mile 1243 in Key West.

ICW Mile 200.JPG
ICW Mile Marker 200

We made it into Adam’s Creek before having to anchor up for the night. Adam’s creek offered us the last anchoring spot before we enter Pamlico Sound and must travel the next 25 or so nautical miles to the Goose Creek anchorages.

Our current anchorage does not offer wind or wave protection but the holding is good. The NE winds are forecast to be light, at only 10kts.

I found it interesting that we had a full moon rise off the stern and a simultaneous sunset off the bow.

Moon
Full Moon
Tonight Moon
Moonrise off the Stern
Tonight Sunset
Sunset off the Bow

Wrightsville Beach NC

We got underway early, leaving the Waccamah River behind us.  Alongside the ICW we found houses like this one. This home just stood out against the others. Why? Crazy downhill fence, twisty walkway? Sawgrass? 2nd level stairway? The palm trees? Or does it all work together?

Home
Breathtaking, like that Seinfeld episode with the ugly baby

Then I passed this 27′ trailerable Nimble Kodiak motorsailer. Interesting little boat. Here is a link to a random 2002 Nimble Kodiak for sale on Yachtworld.com

Kodiak
27′ Nimble Kodiak trailerable motorsailer

We passed the “Sombrero thing” that I could not quite figure out what this place was on our way down the ICW. Now we are heading back and I still have not looked it up.

Sombrero
Sombrero thing and Yes there are propeller eating rocks on the ICW

We passed the Myrtlewood golf course right on the ICW. I’m thinking how many boats get hit with golf balls?

We also passed a home or restaurant that had all these HUGE ocean buoys all around their lot. I love red buoys and green cans but I’m not sure I’d want them as yard ornaments?

Then we came to “Little River Inlet”. You can’t miss it because it has this commercial fishing boat marking the entrance off the ICW.

Little River Fishing Aground
I guess even the pros can have an oops moment?

Kelly & I recall this inlet as one that we ducked into on our old sailboat, Skull & Swords. We were getting beaten up in a storm off Cape Fear and the moment we tucked into Little River Inlet it provided us with a place to anchor for the night.

The ebbing current was running strong as we never hit 11 kts.

SOG 11
11 kts SOG – Speed Over Ground (GPS calculated)

As you twist your way out to sea be careful of the floating steel drums that are just outside the channel.

Little River Drum
Would not want to hit that at night

Little River Inlet twists a sinuous path to the ocean.

Little River sinuous
Snaking it’s way to the ocean

The strong outflow created a distinct boundry between the brown, full of sediment water rushing out and the green water off the coast of NC.

Little River Sediment
Sediment laden waters flowing into the green sea

Friends of ours,  Jimmy and Wende had just taken their fishing boat out of Lockwood Folly Inlet and were chatting with us on the VHF. I had to raise my 45 degree lowered antennas to the upright position to get better reception. On the ICW you must lower your antennas to fit under low bridges. The reduced reception does not matter as you are really just communicating with a passing boat or a marina that you are next to. They were quick to end the call reminding me to put my antennas back up, which I just did after writing that 😉

The inlet they came out of might scare anyone who looks at it on the charts. When you see a bunch of shipwrecks dotting the inlet it might be telling you something about the inlet.

Lockwood Folly Inlet
That’s a lot of boat bones

We had planned to go offshore at Little River Inlet and run the 25 or so km to Cape Fear. However once we were outside we were enjoying making over 9 kts.

SOG 9.2 Off Shore
Making good time

We decided to see if we could find a way through Frying Pan Shoals rather than around them. I spent some time plotting a course that in the end had us seeing 8.7′ at the lowest. Normally we would simply plot a course around Frying Pan Shoals but the added distance could mean a nighttime arrival. A check of the tides showed that we were not going to get much of a lift from the tide.

cape Fear Tide station
Barely 2 hours after a negative low. won’t add much water to the chart soundings

The swell presented a bit of a challenge as well. Ocean swell can push a boat closer to the sea bottom when you slide into the trough of a swell. The swell also can cause “breakers” (think breaking wave tops) where the shoals are shallow. Today however, as we cautiously motored over the shoals our path was uneventful. If you want to cross the shoal there is a path that lies about 3 nautical miles off the point of Bald Head Island. Just take your draft and everything else into consideration before you attempt.

cape Fear 3
Our Actual Path over Frying Pan Shoals – 3 miles out

Once we rounded Cape Fear we were making good progress toward Masonboro Inlet and Wrightsville Beach. You can see on our iPad navigation app the boat icon that is us, a black dotted track line that is where we were as well as the magenta 3 mile offshore dashed line.

Cape Fear
Us rounding Cape Fear

Once inside the inlet we quickly anchored up and watched the sun go down

While the sun was setting the full moon was already up.

Moon

OK, it’s not technically a full moon but 98.8% is close enough. Tomorrow we’ll have a full moon.

Waccamaw River

As we sit here @8:30PM in the Waccamaw River, I can’t help but think how serene it is. Thinking back to where we began this morning, it was just 6:45AM. It’s a reminder that when your boat moves at 7 kts & you need to cover lots of ground,  you’ll be putting in long days at the helm. We used to sail for 12 hours with no bimini top in the beating sun. Now, a bit older & wiser, I hide from the sun in the pilot house. That’s not Kelly, she’s a sun worshiper. While underway during the mid-day heat, we closed the portholes and hatches to the bugs and ran the genset & AC. I know, SHAMEFUL, but Oh the coolness was a welcome reprieve against the heat and insects as we made our way down a very shallow ICW in SC.

Here is the AM sunrise in Charleston, SC.

Charleston Sunrise 2.JPG
Charleston, SC Anchorage S of Fort Sumter

As we made our way through the harbor, that very same sun became my biggest obstacle as we headed East. FYI: Don’t pick a course directly into the sun

Charleston Sun on bow
Piloting into the sun is like starring at a lightbulb

We passed this “Habah Monstah”

Habbah Monstah 1
Habah Monstah

But riding up the ICW involves paying attention to the water depth which soon dropped from and average of 12′ to under 6′. When you see the water get “thin” you slow down to prevent grounding in a way that you may not be able to power off the shoal.

Shallow Shoaling.PNG
Some areas as deep as a puddle 

I’d love to say as a captain that I never run aground but if you push hard, you’ll eventually run aground. The trick is to do it slowly. When the water is 6′ or less we proceed at low speed. We often zig zag back and forth as we move forward seeking a path to deeper water. Running aground is just a fact of life in the ICW.

Shallow 4.6 feet
Sonar graph showing water depth over time

 

Yes at 4’6″ we are aground. As a captain you learn to watch the depths and if you do run aground, do so gently. You’ll need to use that 26″ prop and 330HP to pull the bow of your 36K lb boat off the shoal that you just plowed onto. Go too fast and you’ll ground more than just the bow.  It’s also comforting to have a full keel that keeps your prop above the mud and sand.

Shallow 10
Docks, high & dry

After backing off and finding deeper water, we passed this house that just made me think .. how cool. It’s completely enveloped in trees and shrubbery. Maybe it’s a secret hideout?

Tree House 1.JPG
This house just makes me smile.

Even more surreal were the clouds. It’s easy to find beauty in these!

Clouds 1.JPG
Clouds. Are you stoned enough?

We set a date of 5/18 that we need to be in RI. Every Captain knows NEVER to do that. However, that is our fate. It means that we stress about getting the boat to a particular location on a particular day. Many times that can end in disaster because you are pushing too hard and not respecting mother ocean and the weather. We have already pushed past many other boats who chose to stay in port and I think they have the right idea. That said, we are hoping Mother Ocean will be kind to us when we need to run outside from Norfolk, VA to NYC. The anchorages are far apart and not the most protected on that leg of the journey.

But tonight, tonight it’s like a mirror on the Waccamah River. The dogs are in my lap and they are snoring away.

 

While the river is beautiful the sunset is amazing..

Waccamaw Sunset Good 0
Waccamah River sunset

 

As we get ready to retire for the night and glance up at the night sky, the stars seem to be close enough to touch. Time to contemplate life and existentialism. .  We Love feeling small in the cosmos…

Charleston SC

Our last night in Beaufort we got to meet the new owner of a 2010 North Pacific 43 called MV Quiescent and his crew mate (my fellow DB admins will recognize the term “quiescent” as we all have to place the DB in quiescent mode to perform a DB backup). Quiescent = in a state or period of inactivity, dormant.

Q-Mode meaning - what does Q-Mode stand for?
Stuff Tech Nerds Say

Kelly & I quickly set up chairs in our cockpit for our new NP friends and we enjoyed a beer and listened to their tale. They were nice folks who had just purchased the boat in Stewart, FL but had some difficulty during their trip North. After catching their lines when they arrived, I learned that they were having some electrical issues and had pulled into Downtown Marina to meet a boat serviceman to diagnose and repair the issue. After only a few minutes aboard the service guy said … “We have a bigger issue, the boat is sinking!”. Apparently, the PSS seal’s cooling hose had been pushed up against the prop shaft and melted. This caused water to begin filling the engine compartment. To add insult to injury the bilge pump switch was not operational. The water in the engine room had crested the engine room floor boards. A quick manual running of the bilge pump brought things under control as well as plugging the broken hose and adjusting the PSS coupling so it was tight enough that the flow of water coming in was down to a small stream. I’m happy they were able to get this under control as nobody wants to lose the boat they just bought on it’s trip home.

In the morning TowBoatUS strapped them into a hip tow and wicked them away to a boat yard to be hauled and repaired. I’m sure they will be back on the water within 24 hours. I hope we run into them again but under better circumstances.

Quiescent
MV Quiescent being towed in for some quick repairs

Once they were gone we borrowed the marina’s courtesy car. A classic Ford wagon but it’s FREE (just put gas in it).

Courtesy Car
It’s Free to a Good Capt

I used the courtesy car to make a run over the Lady’s Island swing bridge to Bill’s Liquors. While pulling into the parking lot a biker dude laughed and said he’s sure that the courtesy car knows how to drive itself to Bill Liquors. It was not the first time the car had pulled up out front.

Once back at the marina, we pumped out, took on 260 gallons of diesel, filled the water tanks and cast off our lines. Almost as soon as we headed North we were treated to about a dozen or so military jets screeching directly above our heads.

As the afternoon light was fading we were pulling into Charleston, SC. Charleston City Marina was full of large yachts as was the anchorage. 

Marina
Charleston City Marina

We had pre-selected several anchorages that just did not work. Most were very crowded and the reviews of a few others mentioned boaters fouling their anchors on underwater hazards. From the look of a sailboat mast sticking up out of the water I’d guess there was more than one boat sitting on the bottom of the anchorage.

As the last bit of light left the harbor we decided to simply drop the hook along the harbor’s shore and get some sleep.

Tomorrow we hope to make it to Georgetown, SC. A trip of not quite 60 miles North.