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.
Because it was a 98.8% full moon, we pulled up the anchor and got underway before the sun had even risen.
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.
Along the way we saw beach homes like these near Surf City
Surf City Beach Homes
Surf City Beach Homes
We saw a giant ocean-side pier near Top Sail Beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.
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.
We made it into Adam’s Creek before having to anchor up for the night. Adam’s creek offered us the last anchoring spotbefore 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.
As we weighed anchor in Robinson’s Creek you could feel the power of the wind. The airport wind speed last showed a 30 MPH gust.
Even with the strong winds a pair of US Custom agent boats zoomed by, unaffected.
Our route would look something like this:
We would avoid many shoals:
We would cross over the St. John River in Jacksonville, FL and see sights such as this Navy ship in dry dock. What a narrow beam and sharp bow these attack vessels have.
I had always wondered what a trawler would look like with a wind generator mounted on the fly deck and I just have to say I can’t imagine ever doing this..
The free overnight dock in Jacksonville had a spot open but we were determined to use what we had left of the light and cover more ground. Our plan was to cross over the Savannah River and into GA.
Once in the Savannah River we saw that many of the river banks had been built up possibly for storm surge.
As you approach Cumberland Island there is a heavy Navy presence in the area. We passed these two big Navy ships in port.
We read the writeup on the Cumberland Island Anchorage.
We chose this anchorage because it offered a lee in the face of strong winds.
The anchorage was quite busy and the only spot we found was one tucked between two other anchored boats. I had to anchor in an area that had oyster shells and mud. Not a strong seabed for anchoring. The anchored dragged a bit as we set it at 700 RPM. I backed off a little on the throttle and this would have to do for the night. I was tired and needed sleep.
I set the anchor alarm app on my phone and drifted off to sleep.
After getting a late morning start leaving Vero Beach, we decided on a short route that ended in an AC anchorage called “Bluefish Point”.
We use a app called Charts&Tides on both our iPhones and iPad that has integration with ActiveCaptain.com. AC is a website where boaters enter their favorite local anchorages, marinas, local knowledge (where the closest Westmarine.com store is) and hazards they are aware of or hit may have hit in their travels. This information is loaded into a small text database and iPad navigation apps can use your AC login to download for offline integration into the charting and plotting app.
The pic below is an example of the kind of AC information that can be pulled up by clicking on a AC green square icon in the app.
If you click on reviews you’ll find notes from AC Captains like ourselves about how best to approach, depths, currents, seabed type, onshore restaurants, etc.
Our route looked something like this:
It was a short run but along the way we were passed by several boats and this is one example of the type of VHF communications you can expect.
When passing a boat on the ICW: The overtaking boat should hail the stand-on vessel by name or description. MV Simple Life transmits our name on AIS as well as large letters on our stern. As the stand on vessel you should lower your speed to idle or the slowest speed that you can still maintain control at. The stand-on vessel should maintain a straight course and the overtaking vessel should reduce speed till their wake will not rock the boat being passed excessively. If the boat being overtaken does not slow down then the passing boat has no option but to increase speed and wake the boat as they pass. Large boats on the ICW can really rock you if they refuse to slow down. As a captain your learn that you are responsible for your own wake and any damage or injury that it causes to the boats you pass.
As we passed Sebastian, FL just North of Vero Beach and saw many great restaurants with live music and while tempted to drop anchor and go for some beer & live music, we pushed on. We need to cover as much ground in the next few days that we can.
We passed an interesting small island that looks like it would be fun to setup a beach chair and few hours relaxing on.
We had so much fun on Lake Boca Raton watching the “Boca Sunday Funday” that we decided to stay for 3 nights. Some weird Boca facts by Movato.com (Disclaimer: I have no idea if they are true). Just a few listed below.
#11. Boca Raton is home to the Boca Bash, one day a year when party-goers wake up early, throw on their bathing suits, and grab whatever boat, float, or paddle board they have for an all-day, music-blaring, police-tolerated massive party on the Boca Inlet.
#12. Boca Raton is a homestead for the rich and famous. Just a couple of major names that have or had homes in Boca include John Henry, who owns the Red Sox, Donald Trump, Sheryl Sandberg, Rush Limbaugh, Jon Bon Jovi, Marilyn Manson, Maury Povich and Connie Chung.
#16. The IBM computer was invented, not in Silicon Valley, but in Boca Raton.
#20. The beloved novel and recent film adaptation “Marley and Me” takes place in Boca Raton.
#33. The highest point in all of Boca Raton is 24 feet above sea level, and it’s located in the guard shack at Camino Gardens
We arrived in Lake Boca Raton on Friday night and found the anchorage almost empty. early Saturday morning the boats started to parade in and anchor pretty much anywhere they could find space. Up North there would have been blood spilled if people anchored so close to you but alas the crowd here was very friendly and I did not see a single argument.
The first boat named “Gallant Lady” is Jim Moran‘s. We stopped at Lighthouse Point Marina for some fuel, pumpout, water and ice and chatted for a bit. The dockhand mentioned that Jim had a boat in their marina and pointed to a $159M mansion just across the ICW which was Florida’s most expensive real estate.
We weighed anchor in the AM and headed out of Toogoodo Creek. We followed the sinuous path that was spotted with shoals. During a VHF communication with a passing boat, the captain warned of shoals of only three feet ahead. We quipped back that MV Simple Life has a 4’10” draft (actually 4’8″ dry but after filling the tanks she sits a bit lower in the water) and that out to make things interesting. There were times when we were down to 3 kts as we hunted for deeper water but we made it to the Coosaw River as planned. What I had not planned on were the 25 knot wind whipped waves. Making matters worse, the current was flowing against the waves making them steep and breaking. Happy, our Boston Terrier, was not “happy”. She hates a lumpy ride. I had not bothered to check the weather in the AM. I was proceeding with the belief that while we were on the ICW, I could simply check the weather periodically. Even though I was aware of the Small Craft Advisory, I figured we’d never feel the full force of it while running “inside”. I was wrong. The Coosaw River runs West directly into where the 25 knot winds were coming from. We were forced to slog our way 8 miles in about an hour as the windshield wipers washed away the spray off the pilothouse windows. Not a bad ride thanks to the pilothouse.
Once we turned to port into the Beaufort River the tree-lined banks offered us some wind protection. Though even in the Beaufort River, the flags on the banks were out-straight.
When we hailed Downtown Marina in Beaufort, SC. Dockhand Troy gave us our slip assignment and caught lines as we neared the dock. We slipped just in front of the beautiful sport-fishing boat pictured below.
Without hesitation we hopped off the boat and ran for some refreshments. We found Luther’s to be an amusing bar where the locals were.
First IPA of the day and it put the smile back on my face.
We decided to check out a few more places so we hit up a fancy place called “Saltus River Grill” and while Kelly was eying their filet mignon, the only IPA on tap was terrible so I cleverly talked her into a restaurant called “Plums” that was two buildings away and served Stone IPA. Plums had amazing food and when we could not eat another bite, it was time to stroll back to the boat and check on the dogs. On our way we walked through Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. I snapped the pics below as the light got low.
The next day I used the “courtesy car” to run to a local liquor store to stock up on Captain Morgan & some local IPAs
Precious cargo secured and it was time to replenish the fuel I used and get back home. For my brew-night pals, here is the list of local IPAs that I will be sampling and then reviewing using the Untappd app.
We got a lazy start and the boat that was anchored next to us (captured in the photo below taken just after anchoring) was long gone by the time we weighed anchor.
Last night’s view of the sky was amazing. The stars popped like I have never seen. It would seem that being devoid of any extraneous light makes the cosmos seem even larger and us even smaller.
We navigated beneath several bridges.
Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge located at SM 462 along the ICW in Sullivan’s Island South Carolina.
Wappoo Bascule Bridge located at SM 470 along the ICW in South Carolina.
Both of these bridges had about 30′ of vertical clearance so no need to hail the bridge tender for an opening.
We also passed several ADVs (Abandoned or Derelict Vessels) along the way.
NOAA has a website dedicated to helping with ADVs.
Abandoned boats are a problem everywhere. When she is new everyone flocks to see her. When she falls into disrepair, her value can be upside down. The cost to junk an old boat or the salvage fee after an accident or storm only adds to the abandonment problem.
As we sailed into Charlestown, SC, you could see the tall steeple of what I think might be St. Philip’s Church built in 1836.
While the thought of exploring Charleston was buzzing in our heads, we remarked that we could stop on the return trip. There are so many great stops along the ICW but if we stopped at all of them we’ll never make it to Florida.
The moss on the trees reminds you that this is South Carolina and not Rhode Island.
The type of tree that surround this home are everywhere along the shore. Maybe a type of oak tree?
I’m dying to see one of those live oaks that look like something out of a fairytale down here.
We passed many crab boats that would race between the crab pot floats that line the channel. You can always tell the boat up ahead is a crab boat because the birds follow them wherever they go. As the pot is pulled to the surface, the crabs are measured and those to small are discarded back into the sea. The flock of sea birds use this opportunity to nab an easy lunch.
Don’t you just love that man’s best friend is tucked up behind the windshield absorbing whatever warmth from the sun could be found?
Kelly & I got a kick out of seeing this “flats boat” with a man on the back pushing it through the shallows with a push pole. I could only imagine how difficult it must be to balance on that small platform as the boat rocks. We slowed as we passed so our wake would not flick him into the cold water.
As the sun got low in the sky it became clear that I needed to pick which anchorage I was going to drop the hook in tonight. Kelly requests that I research anchorages ahead of time that have strong Verizon cellular signal strength so she can watch the football games using the NFL Mobile app on her iPhone. While cruising we consume cellular data like teenagers stranded at the adult party.
We anchored in a creek called Toogoodoo just in time to watch the Patriots game.