St. James Plantation with Friends

We are leaving St. James Plantation Marina in Southport, NC this morning but made a promise to come back and spend more time with our friends Jim & Wende. They were very gracious hosts while we were here and we got to share in the experience of being in a “private town”. So very interesting though I must say Kelly & I will have to investigate exactly what that means?

Wende Kelly Jim Marty

Thanks Jim & Wende, you showed us a great night off the boat and we promise to come back and spend more time.

The night before we had anchored in Sloop Point, NC and the trip down to Southport was an interesting one. We saw heavy equipment dredging around what looked like a new pier going in. I know what salt water does to steel and I still shudder at the thought of dipping an excavator’s arm into salty water. I’m sure the water in the ICW is brackish but still.

Dredging Excavators

I was checking my ICW bridge list and realized that I would not make the Figure Eight Swing Bridge in time for their restricted opening time. This meant that I would be waiting for the next opening. However the bridge tender who I had hailed on the VHF asked me about my air-draft. Your “draft” is your vessels depth in the water and your “air-draft” is your vessel’s height above the water. I replied that I believed it was somewhere between 21-22 feet. The bridge tender remarked that he currently had 22′ of clearance. Every bridge along the ICW has a “height board” that is partially submerged under the water with height markers at the waterline. While all bridges on your nautical charts will list their height at an average high tide, the actual vertical clearance varies with the height of the water. The bridge tender offered to come out of his office and stand under the bridge to check my clearance if I wished to approach the bridge slowly. This can be a tricky maneuver as there was a current pushing Simple Life toward the bridge. I slowly edged the boat idling in reverse to the bridge and bridge tender assured me that I had a good 6″ of gap between the top of our boat and the bottom of the bridge. MV Simple Life’s air-draft is 21′ 6″.

Below is a stock photo of the Figure Eight Swing Bridge as I was too busy at the helm to snap pictures. You can see I circled the “height board” and at the time this picture was taken there was slightly less water under the bridge giving even more clearance than the 22′ we had the other day.

Figure Eight Swing Bridge

Just a few more miles down the ICW and we had to pass through the Wrightsville Beach Bascule Bridge located at statute mile 278 along the ICW. This is a restricted bridge that only opens on the top of the hour.

Wrightsville Beach Bascule Bridge

As we continued on to Cape Fear (Southport, NC) we were delighted at the scenery.

High Sandy BluffOcean InletMarshy Islands

Dock at Water Level

We passed many Atlantic Ocean inlets that had high sandy bluffs and marshy islands dotting the entrances. You could see and hear the surf breaking in the shallow inlets and it makes for nice scenery. The last of those 4 photos is one of a fixed dock that just barely exceeds the height of the water level. Interesting choice of fixed dock heights as this surely must be slightly submerged at times? Slightly submerged docks must be fun to walk along but just like submerged rock jetties that often protect many of the ports we enter they can be dangerous if boats come into contact with them.

As we got the point where the ICW connects with the Cape Fear River via “Snow’s Cut” we were passed by a US Army Corp of Engineers survey boat. These folks use sophisticated sonar to accurately probe the depths of these constantly changing waterways. He kindly slowed down as he passed and got back on plane once he was in front of us. However, just then the VHF crackled on channel 16, “Trawler in Snow’s Cut, are you OK?”. I quickly answered the hail with “comeback to the trawler in Snow’s Cut”. It was a boat in a marina that was hailing us stating that they “saw what had happened”. I replied, “If you are referring to the ACE boat that passed us, yes we are OK”. I found this communication amusing and I can only guess that the survey boat had passed the marina giving a large wake and making the marina boat unhappy and maybe this was her way of shaming the ACE boat publicly on the VHF?

US ACE Survey Boat

Snow’s Cut Graffiti

It would seem the kids in Snow’s Cut like to party at this old bridge abutment. “Party on” Capt B.

Once in the Cape Fear River it became quickly apparent from the size of the docks that extend out into the river that this river is used by large ships. Passing these behemoths must be done at a distance.

A quick turn back onto the ICW, by a dilapidated building and we arrived at St. James Marina.

Dilapidated Building

St. James Marina

Time to push on to Georgetown, SC where we’ll update with a new post of what we saw along the way.

Prince of Tides

Beaufort, North Carolina is your quintessential small southern town. It is the 3rd oldest town in North Carolina and as you walk through this quaint small town, you can’t help be taken a back by it’s charm.

Santa’s Satellite Workshop in BeaufortClock on a StickCenter of Beaufort

As we came ashore there were two monuments to local heroes within feet of where we landed. The first was Michael John Smith who gave his life for the pursuit of space exploration. Michael was a NASA space astronaut. Like so many, I believe that every human owes a great debt to astronauts who risk their lives so that the human race may have a better chance at surviving this hostile universe. They take risks that many of us might think too great. Michael was aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it exploded only 73 seconds after launch. The entire nation stood in horror at that moment, Like so many of you, I recall the shock and disbelief of this tragedy. The whole nation was forced to mourn the loss of these 7 heroes.

Michael John Smith

The second memorial stone was dedicated to a local oceanographer named John G Newton who discovered the U.S.S. Monitor using side scan sonar technology. Side scan sonar is an improvement on the DSM (Depth Sounder Module) that MV Simple Life uses to determine our depth as we came into Beaufort.

John G. Newton

Leaving Beaufort was as tricky as getting in. The currents here in Beaufort are swift. When we arrived, I had to swing MV Simple Life into a narrow fairway with an extra strong 3 knot current directly on our beam. Simple Life’s full keel gives that current a flat surface to push her down-current quickly. With some fast movements at the helm and some help from the thrusters we landed her gently into our assigned slip. The trip out of the slip was made easier by the fact the strong current was on our bow. I nudged her out of the slip and simply swung the bow a few degrees off the current and she quickly pointed out of the fairway.

The currents can be seen pulling this green can under as we were exiting Beaufort and rounding the Southern point of Radio Island.

Green can pulled under by strong current

Currents are brought on by the tides and our friend Rebecca informed us the the movie “Prince of Tides” was filmed on location here in Beaufort. Knowing now that the movie was fillmed in Beaufort, maybe it’ll make a good first-time watch while on anchor?

Prince of Tides Movie Artwork

Youtube link to 1991 Prince of Tides trailer

Our last night in Beaufort was a late one and the morning’s light was unwelcomed. We had a long trip ahead of us if we were to make Sloop Point anchorage by sunset.

Route Leg From Beaufort to Sloop Point Anchorage

We needed to make up time so we used the fast currents to our advantage and raced westward through Bouge Sound.

 MV Simple Life moving at a rare 11.4 knots thanks to fast currents

Bouge Sound is an East-West body of water trapped between main land North Carolina and a set of barrier islands. The sound has a narrow channel and marshy islands that abound. While the ocean was lumpy, Bouge Sound was a flat and reflective, like a mirror.

The only boat traffic we passed was a tiny little tug and barge with a piece of heavy equipment on it as well as one of those awkward looking front-loaded boats where you drive from the bow.

304CR CAT - I wonder what they are using this piece of equipment for?

Just looks strange to me.

A little further South and we were reminded that Camp Legune is around us. Signs along the river warn of possible live fire events.

Incoming!

This picture of a shelled APC (I’m just guessing this was an armored personnel carrier, military expertise needed here)  reminds me of a Monet or maybe a watercolor painting.  The marshy grasses in the foreground simply mush together while the island and threatening clouds in the background appear to bleed and wash out the watercolors on a canvas.

With sunset approaching we had to race to make it through the restricted Onslow Beach swing bridge.

Winslow Beach swing bridge

Every morning we research where the shoals are along the ICW. It seems the ICW’s bottom is in a constant state of evolution. You need to use sites like activecaptain.com/livemap/ to be able to use the knowledge other ICW boaters have posted to avoid running aground like this poor sailboat did.

Sailboat hard aground @ New River

We anchored in Sloop Point behind green daymark 15 and it was a peaceful night as we listed to the rain pitter-patter on the boat. The perfect background noise as we whisked off to the master stateroom.

Supermoon Where Are You?

Yesterday morning we awoke before sunrise and got underway to Beaufort, NC.

The first & last supermoon of 2017 was helping slice through the dark as we pushed away from the dock.

Supermoon 2017
Supermoon Reflecting the Sun’s Rays

 

Supermoon infographic
Supermooninfographic

Supermoons happen when a full moon approximately coincides with the moon’s perigee, or a point in its orbit at which it is closest to Earth. This makes the moon appear up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than usual.

December’s supermoon is actually the first of three back-to-back supermoon full moons to come in the next two months. On Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, the full moon will also occur near the moon’s arrival at perigee, according to NASA, which billed the line up as a supermoon trilogy. The Jan. 31 supermoon is also the second full moon of January, making it a Blue Moon, and also occurs during a total lunar eclipse.

 

As the sun got ready to sneak over the horizon there was a beautiful orange-pink hue reflecting off the water.

Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise

Today’s leg of our journey takes us from Hobucken, NC to Beaufort, NC

The Beaufort of coastal North Carolina is “BOH-fert”. The Beaufort of South Carolina is pronounced “BYOO-fert”. Established in 1709, Beaufort is the third-oldest town in North Carolina.

Leg Beaufort
Beaufort Leg of Journey

As we made our way out of Goose Creek and into Pamlico Sound, the only traffic we passed was a tug pushing a barge.

Tug and Barge
YATPB – Yet Another Tug Pushing Barge

The dominant wave set was coming from the NE and that meant we had a following sea as we turned and made our way down the Neuse River. A following sea that is slightly to one side of the stern can be annoying when you are at the helm. The waves catch up to the boat from behind and lift the stern pushing it to port or starboard. This can swing the bow as much as 30 degrees at times and it starts to feel like you are pointing the boat all over the place. I made a quick adjustment to increase the autopilot’s response rate and the bow heading deflection lessened considerably. Being a slow boat (6-9 knots) you are often at the helm from sun-up to sundown to make your destination. Autopilot is an electronic device with some firmware loaded on it that drives a hydraulic pump which turns the rudder. There are many settings that you can control but the response rate is the one you will want to adjust so that the rudder position changes are swift or slow enough for how you want the boat to point.

As weekend boaters, we were boating in destinations like Block Island, Nantucket or Provincetown. These locations are anywhere between 6-12 hours from our home port in Warwick, RI. We would be forced to run the boat at 8.5 knots and only get about 1 MPG. Now that we are full-time boaters, we slow the boat to about 6 knots and get 4 MPG. You can go 4X farther if you simply reduce your speed by 2.5 knots. (Recall 1 knot = 1.15 MPH so approximately every 6 knots you would simply add 1 to get the speed in MPH).

Even knowing this, we made the decision to up the speed to 8.5 knots and reduce the amount of time spent in the following sea.

Happy and Chief Martin Brody appreciated that we burned a a bit more fuel for their comfort.

Brody and Happy
Chief Martin Brody and his Big Sister Happy
Wake
Wake in the Neuse River

As we turned into Adam’s Creek the ride smoothed out and we dropped back down to 6 knots. The current in Adam’s Creek was swift and the DSM (Depth Sounder Module aka. Fish Finder) was showing asymmetric rippling of the creek bottom. I believe this is caused by a swift bottom current.

Adams Creek Rippled Bottom
Asymmetric Rippled Bottom of Adams Creek

The fish finder was also well, finding fish. The DSM uses sonar or high frequency sound generated by a device that protrudes through the hull and is sending a column of sound waves straight down beneath the boat. These sound waves not only reflect off the bottom but when they hit a fish the sound resonates in the fish’s swim bladder (a small air-filled sack that helps control a fish’s buoyancy) and this echo is detected and colored sharply to allow you to spot fish on the screen.

DSM Fish
Look Swim Bladders

Adam’s Creek is a lovely place with lots of sights to see.

Youtube Video of Bald Eagle in Adams Creek

Adams Creek spills out into the Newport River and it’s marshes and shallows are something that you will want to avoid.

Newport River
Newport Marshes as you Head South to Beaufort
Shallow Birds Standing.JPG
Kelly & I Often Joke… “If You Want to Know Where it’s Shallow; it’s Where the Birds are Standing”

As we pulled into our slip in Beaufort we hailed the dockmaster who warned us about the swift current running transverse to the slip we were assigned. As we pulled in to the fairway the current slammed into our full keel and began to push the boat toward the bows of the boats across the fairway. I was forced to back out quickly and reposition so that I could now take the swift current into account and position the boat for rapid spin and quick back into our slip. Kelly was quick to toss lines to the dockhands and soon we were checked in and given the keys to a “courtesy car”. Up North, I’ve never stayed at a marina that offers a fee courtesy car to marina guests. The car was a welcome treat and we put it to good use re-provisioning the boat with more food & beer.

Courtesy Car Kelly
Courtesy Car – We Got Wheels!

With all our chores completed we quickly made off to the marina bar for happy hour and spent time chatting with Bartender Kristen and fellow bar patron, Dan. Dan was an amazing fellow who told us stories of his solo sailing around the world in a small boat. He offered us some local knowledge about wild horses that roam the islands around here. I KNOW more wild horses to find!

Kelly and Dan
Kelly & Sailor Dan

After I consumed as many 50 cent pork sandwiches as a man can eat and washed them down with a great local IPA it was time to retire to the boat.

Hoppyum IPA.JPG
Great Local IPA From Foothills Brewery

We were no sooner readying for bed when we were accosted by “Monkey Bird”. This vile creature had a penetrating stare and an awful cry. I spent sometime staring into this monster’s gaze and knew it was time to lock the door and keep the crew of Simple Life safe.

So it’s off to bed.

Monkey Bird Standing.png
Monkey Bird Prowling the Docks

 

Coinjock, NC to Hobucken, NC

Coinjock Marina is a great place to stop along the ICW. The Sandbar even had an Xmas tree up.

Xmas Tree
Too Early?

While we were at the pier a 1998 Bayliner 4788 arrived during the night and as they passed us we saw the severe damage to their bow.

Bayliner 4788 Bow
Hope Nobody was Injured

It was a reminder about how dangerous boating down the ICW can be (especially when traveling at night). I hope nobody was seriously hurt. After having a crash like that you’d think you’d stay far away from everyone but as they passed us I thought for a second that they might hit us.

Bayliner 4788 Close
Yikes – This Pic Snapped Out My Pilothouse Window!

At that moment I went out in my PJs and attached two fenders to the canal side (just in case 😉  )

When we left Coinjock Marina it was foggy.

Coinjock Pier
Coinjock Pier Looking Off our Stern

Even as we headed down the canal we had to rely on our radar to see any far out vessels.

Fog
Fog Was Worse Than This at Times

As you travel down these canals you will find homes along the canal and people going about their daily business.

Coinjock Home
Me Waving from the Pilothouse to the Locals

As we traveled along we saw several boats anchored just outside the channel. Being anchored well after sunrise is a sign that someone is having a peaceful morning enjoying their coffee.

Anchored in Fog Close
Peaceful Morning on Anchor

We continued South down the North River and into Albemarle Sound. There was not a single boat to be found in the sound. We had the crossing to ourselves. While approaching the mouth of Alligator River I saw, what I thought were boats but upon closer binocular examination, I see they are some sort of mini islands? I’m not sure of their purpose? They look to big to be duck blinds?

Alligator River mini islands
I Need to Figure Out What These Are?

We anchored at the head of the Alligator River as we lost daylight. The anchorage was quiet with no boats passing but the cellular signal was dead. During much of the transit we would see our cell signal go from LTE => 3G => Extended 1X => blank. At times we would be excited to see 3G and upon trying to connect, we’d see the signal instantly drop to “Extended 1X” which did not work at all.

No Signal Extended 1X small
What Kind of Tomfoolery is this?

 

The Alligator River – Pungo River Canal was long and straight.

Canal Straight
I Can See For Miles

Along the banks of this canal you can see the erosion from passing wakes.

Canal Bank
Geology Experts of the Future Will be Doing Molecular Analysis on That Green Line

You will see many birds as you float along. It’s a reminder to me to improve my ornithological skills.

 

You’ll see other things that you’ll want to stay clear of like …

 

At times this can be difficult as you run straight down the sun heading South. While the camera does well looking into the sun, I was struggling at times.

Sun Dead on BowJPG
Staring Match With The Sun

We arrived in Hobucken, NC and tied to an old dock for the night.

 

Coinjock_to_Hobucken Edited
2 Days Journey

It’s been quiet here except for the passing tug pushing a barge down the river at night. At one point I was staring at a stand of tall trees that were illuminated on the shore and I could not for the life of me see the source of that light?

Spotlight on Trees
A Stand of Trees Illuminated

It became apparent moments later that it was the spotlight of an approaching tug and we braced for it’s passing wake.

Barge at Night 1
Barge at Night Passing Us While We are Docked