Beaufort, NC in two days requires an early departure. 6:19AM to be exact.
Planning is a big part of cruising. It starts by thinking where you would like to get to. Then you check the weather, wind speed & direction, marine forecast, sea state, etc. If the weather is bad than you must consult the crew (wife / admiral ) and get their opinion on whether to go or stay put. If you skip this step you could find yourselves in marriage counseling.
Once you know where you want to go you must ask… “How long will this take at cruising speed?”. Slower cruising speed = better MPG = $. We conservatively plan 50 NM / day if we use the 10 hours of light that late November gives us. If we want to cover 70 or even 100 NM than we’ll have to run long into the night. Here you must know your limits. After 12 hours at the helm you may find yourself coming into an unfamiliar inlet or harbor on an inky dark, moonless night with wind & waves and other hazards. (See warning above about counseling).
I find that using every charting and weather app on your phone, tablet while underway to constantly revise your plan works best. Advise your crew that “the next two hours will be a lumpy ride but soon we’ll be enjoying a drink in a peaceful anchorage for the night”.
The Alligator River Swing bridge crosses the broad mouth of the Alligator River. It must be fun driving over this long bridge that is only 20 feet or so above the River.
We had to keep to starboard as our radar showed many faster yachts coming up behind us. They would zoom on by and we’d have to do a quick 90 degree turn to cut their wake or get rocked.
When you reach the Southern end of the Alligator River you enter a 20 mile long canal that was cut through the land with a laser gun. OK maybe it just looks-like the ACE (Army Corp of Engineers) used a laser gun? It’s so straight we barely need to adjust the autopilot heading.
While you are keeping an eye out for hazards like tree stumps and deadheads (trees snapped off at or near water surface), you’ll pass ICW Statute Mile markets reminding you that you have a long way to go.
There is land for sale along the canal.
Perfect if you like duck hunting like this hunter we passes who was picking up his duck decoys.
Moving over for oncoming or passing traffic must be done carefully as outside the center of the canal you’ll run into shoals, stumps and other hazards.
When you see a bridge like the one in the picture above you quickly grab your phone and check for a cell signal. Yup, you’ll have a signal for maybe the next mile.
It was cold and rainy but warm inside our pilothouse.
We knew from checking the wind speed & direction that when we exited the Pungo River it would be lumpy.
Soon we were tucking into Goose Creek and then again into Campbell Creek to avoid the weather. Anchored tight to the tree-lined shore in Campbell Creek we found respite from the weather.
Saturday’s leg looked something like this.
The cell signal in here is either weak or just non-existent.
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.
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”.
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).
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”
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Sun Reflection off Still Waters
Active Captain Royal Thurman Anchorage
Today’s ICW route through Pamlico Sound would end just short of crossing Albemarle Sound. Our route looked something like this.
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.
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.
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.
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?
We passed a several duck blinds confirming that North Carolina is duck hunting country.
As we motored on we were reminded that we are getting closer to ICW mile marker 0 in Norfolk, VA.
Statute Mile 160
Statute Mile 125
Statute Mile 115
Statute Mile 100
The predicted forecast for Albemarle Sound had the wind out of the West at only 10-15 kts.
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.
As I was setting the anchor on the bow I looked up and snapped this photo of the setting sun.
Coinjock Marina is a great place to stop along the ICW. The Sandbar even had an Xmas tree up.
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.
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.
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.
Even as we headed down the canal we had to rely on our radar to see any far out vessels.
As you travel down these canals you will find homes along the canal and people going about their daily business.
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.
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?
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.
The Alligator River – Pungo River Canal was long and straight.
Along the banks of this canal you can see the erosion from passing wakes.
You will see many birds as you float along. It’s a reminder to me to improve my ornithological skills.
Where are my Ornithology experts?
Where is His Beak?
You’ll see other things that you’ll want to stay clear of like …
Sticks = Hazard
Are We Too Heavy for This Dock?
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.
We arrived in Hobucken, NC and tied to an old dock for the night.
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?
It became apparent moments later that it was the spotlight of an approaching tug and we braced for it’s passing wake.