We were finally able to leave Georgetown, SC, on Saturday, June 8. The day before it was supposed to rain all day so we stayed an extra day in Georgetown – and of course it hardly rained at all! Oh well.
We left Georgetown Drystack Marina at 7:15 am on Saturday, June 8, and we were off. It was a gorgeous morning with the sun starting to warm up the shorelines as we left. It was a spectacular morning! The winds were calm and the water was smooth, and only 71 degrees. Nice!
With the new bottom paint the boat was definitely able to go faster and we were seeing boat speeds of 7.6 – 7.8 knots at only 2400 RPM. We were unfortunately bucking a current so were only going 6.2 – 6.5 knots/hr boat speed, but it was good. What else better was there to do on a Saturday than travel on the ICW?
We passed Osprey Marina where we had stopped with our Sail to the Sun Rally on the way south at 12:00 noon. We were sorry we weren’t able to stop in as fellow Rally members, Tom and Trish, now have their boat there, but we wanted to keep moving. At 12:10 pm the rain started to fall and five minutes later it was raining hard! Of course that was about the time we had to go through the Socatees Swing Bridge and the rain made it very hard to hear the bridge tender because of the rain on the canvas, but the bridge swung open just in time and we made it through in the pouring rain. Of course, 10 minutes later the rain stopped. Oh well, again.
It didn’t rain again until 2:15 pm, just before we had to go through two more swing bridges, but the bridge tenders were johnny-on-the-spot and the bridges opened with no problem. They probably thought we were nuts for being out there, but it was all good. Just before 4:15 pm the rain stopped just a few minutes before we put the anchor down in Calabash Creek just off the ICW. It was a great place to stop with a beautiful shoreline and calm waters. The current shifted in the middle of the night, as we knew it would, but we anchored well with plenty of swing room and slept fitfully. It was a good 55 mile day.
At 5:30 am the next morning, Sunday, June 9, it was raining when we woke up, but by the time we pulled the anchor up at 6:30 am the rain had stopped and we were off. We did realize the Up button on the anchor remote switch stopped working, so I had to have Sharon use the Up toggle switch we had installed back in the cockpit. (So glad Tom Cooper came over to our boat about a month before we left to help me install that toggle! Thanks, Tom!) We use headsets so we can talk with each other easily while we’re anchoring so I what I do is just tell her when to start the anchor up and when to stop periodically when I have to hose the chain off before taking it all the way up. I have since ordered a new remote and should get that in the next week or so.
We passed Southport, NC, about 11:00 am and headed into Cape Fear River. We were pushing into the current again until that point and once we turned north we caught the incoming current and suddenly our SOG (Speed Over Ground) was 9.9 knots! Boat speed continued to be consistent at about 7.4 knots. The rain had returned before we headed north and with a south wind we got a bit wetter as our stern was open to the rain, but it was quite tolerable and the rain quit after about an hour.
We anchored in Wrightsville Beach anchorage at 2:00 pm after traveling about 52 miles. We stayed at this anchorage on the way south and knew it was a beautiful area – well protected and good holding. We even put the dinghy down and went ashore for a while. There is a short walk to the ocean beach and it was once again a glorious sight to see. Max was glad to be ashore after a couple of days and he gleefully peed on almost every shrub or tree he could find!
We left the next morning at 6:10 am as we wanted to get through the Wrightsville Beach Bascule Bridge well before 7:00 am when it starts opening only on the top of the hour throughout the day. The next swing bridge, which opens on the hour and the half hour, was 5 miles away so we wanted to get through the first one at 6:30 am in order to make the second one by 7:30 am. It all worked great.
At 12:20 pm we entered the Camp LeJeune military training facility area and thankfully there was no active shooting scheduled so we could pass through! We arrived at Swansboro, NC, at 1:45 pm, and after stopping at the fuel dock for fuel we anchored nearby. Just as we did on the way south when we stopped here, the anchor held well but we swung all over the place with the two different currents going through that area. We actually ended up moving the boat a few hundred yards away in the early evening because when the tide went down a channel marker suddenly appeared about 40 feet off our bow. We certainly did not want to get our anchor rode twisted around it so we moved. Unfortunately that put us more into the middle of the current so we swung around even more, and at one point we actually did a complete 360 degree turn on the anchor, but the anchor held super well and we actually slept well. We didn’t really want to stop at Swansboro but it was another 25 miles to Beaufort, and after traveling 50 miles already we didn’t want to push it.
On Tuesday, June 11, we happily left Swansboro and headed east toward Beaufort, NC. We passed by Beaufort at 10:30 am and headed north toward the Neuse River. We had a little bit of boost of the current after turning north, but it didn’t last long. Because of the tide cycles it seemed like we were pushing currents the whole way. We pushed into the Neuse River at 1:00 pm and with a 16 – 19 knot wind directly on our nose and with a current against us we were only moving 5.2 – 5.5 knots SOG. At 4:15 pm, and after traveling 60.1 miles (remember these are nautical miles – in statue miles it was 69.7 miles) we put our anchor down in Gale Creek just north of the Neuse River. It probably was one of our most picturesque, calm anchorages in quite a while and we basked in the quietness and peacefulness. It was a small anchorage area with a few crab pots around, but we were the only boat there and it was a delightful evening.
On Wednesday, June 12, we raised the anchor to get to the Belhaven, NC, area – to the Dowry Creek Marina, a trip of only 25 miles. On the way we actually had a favorable current so were able to maintain speeds in the upper 7 knots, so that was cool. We crossed the Pamlico River, a NE direction, and when we turned N to head up the Pungo River we put out the headsail as the wind was 12 – 14 knots from the E. With the headsail up we were hitting speeds of 8.0 – 8.2 and we flew! The Pungo River then heads E at Belhaven so we rolled the headsail in for the last two miles to Dowry Creek Marina and arrived at about 11:15 am already. We had thought we would reach the marina in the rain, but it held off. We pulled into the fuel dock to take on fuel, get the heads pumped out and then got into our slip about 15 minutes before the rain. Nice!
It rained pretty much the whole afternoon and we were quite glad to be at the marina. The first order of business, however, was to have Chris and Mark, fellow Sail to the Sun Rally members who had arrived at the marina the day before, over for brownies. We had been talking with them on and off for the past week or so and had promised them brownies so it was great to finally be able to deliver on the promise. Sharon had made the brownies on the way to the marina and it was great to catch up with them and share stories of the past 5 or 6 months since we had seen them last. We actually had seen Mark at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos but didn’t get much of a chance to spend time with him.
I should add that after getting into our slip at Dowry Creek I went to put the side curtains up to shield the cockpit from the rain. I took one of the side curtains out, which we had stored on one of the “shelves” in the cockpit area and a 4 – 5 foot brown snake fell out of it! I attempted to grab it with a boat hook but it didn’t work. It started to slither into one of our lazarettes so I just grabbed it and flung it off the back of the boat. It tried to get back on the boat by slithering onto the swim platform but I shooed it away and it left. We had never thought of the possibility of having a snake on our boat, and certainly hope it doesn’t happen again!
Today, Thursday, June 13, we spent the day taking walks, doing laundry, going for provisions with the marina courtesy car and getting the boat set for the next few days. This evening all four of us took the courtesy car to a local pub for dinner and it was great to spend more time with Chris and Mark. They are both amazing sailors and wonderful people to spend time with.
Tomorrow morning we will all head out for the last final push up the ICW toward Hampton, VA, and then into the Chesapeake Bay. Mark and Chris will take the Dismal Swamp route and we will take the Virginia Cut route, so we will part ways after about 40 miles or so. Hopefully by Sunday we will be able to get into the Chesapeake Bay and start our route up the Bay. Eventually we will reach the top of the Chesapeake Bay and take the C&D canal to the top of the Delaware Bay where we will head down that Bay to Cape May and wait for a weather window to go up the New Jersey Coast to New York. We’re not sure how long all of that will take, but will let you know.