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.

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

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