Martyne and Jeff left us in Myrtle Beach. We really enjoyed having them on board the boat, and really did miss them once they were gone.
We had to settle back into our normal routine, which is always a bit hard, after having so much fun with great friends.
We departed Myrtle Beach, and completed the rest of the ICW trip exiting at Little River Inlet, to make the passage to Cape Fear, NC. Departing Myrtle Beach was like leaving behind Disneyland. It is an amazing tourist trap. Full of gaudy surf shops, miniature golf courses and restaurants.
We were not sad to put it in our wake. The rest of the ICW north bound was ditch like. We were relieved to get out of the ditch and into open-ocean again.
Our trip to Cape Fear was only 43 miles; we landed in a marina on Bald Head Island. A very nice marina, surrounded by condos and a few restaurants, and with hundreds of golf carts parked around the park like grounds.
The entry into Cape Fear inlet was brutal with 5 knot current. Luckily the marina was inside its own basin, so once inside we were well protected.
We stayed a night and took off the next day about mid-day, planning to overnight for our next port, Beaufort NC. We wanted to land there mid-morning to try to time slack water. Guide books warned of strong currents.
The passage was nice, we had to make a wide swing around Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals, and we had 150 miles to make Beaufort.
We had some helpful current and realized that we were going to make Beaufort too quickly, and we slowed the boat down.
We were into the swing of the all night passage. We did our 3 hourly engine room checks, and traded watches after each. Jenny took the midnight watch for me, I got some rest in the salon.
We ran with our blue underwater lights on, actually having forgotten to turn them off. When I gave Jenny the watch, I pointed out the dolphins that were following us. At least a dozen of them were trailing us, jumping ahead and riding the bow wake 6 abreast on both sides of the boat. They would then turn 180 and brake rapidly to the side of the boat, just inside the blue glow.
They did this for hours, and I realized that they must have been fishing, attacking the fish that were following the boat, and the blue lights.
Jenny told me they stayed with her for several hours as well. It was a very special night passage, being escorted by a pod of dolphin.
We made Beaufort inlet at about 0500. I was on watch, and slowly made our way toward the lighted channel markers and range lights.
Slowly the sun rose, and we were just making the sea buoy.
The marina we planned to stay in was on Radio Island, just across from Beaufort Township was not open until 0800. We made our way slowly toward Radio Island, and circled the dock for about 20 minutes, waiting for the staff to arrive and assign our slip. Little did I realize that the timing was perfect, we were waiting with absolutely no current; slack tide.
We backed into the slip at 0805, with just a breath of wind blowing us away from the dock. Tired, we were happy to be tied up for a few days, to let the week end pass, before we moved on ahead.
By 1100 the flood tide was in full flood. Water boiled around the dock, and around the stern of Southern Star. She was docked bow to the stream, and the current must have been 7 knots. Water was ripping and boiling around the pilings.
As it turns out the marina has very few transient boats, and most boats are small and in lift slips, hauled out of the water. The dock is well-known locally for its fishing. The condos around the marina, are home to vacationers that come to boat, and to fish off the dock.
I don’t think I have ever met so many mad keen fishermen as at that dock. An old man in a fiberglass john boat, was fishing tied to the dock. He had 5 poles in the water. He pulled up a nice sheepshead, and told me the stories of how many and how much he had caught over the years at that very spot.
We enjoyed the large pool, taking a dip when it got too hot. We watched people try to maneuver their boats in the roaring currents. Jenny did a bunch of laundry, getting caught up after our guests.
We took a cab into Beaufort township, and had $3 cheeseburgers and cold beers at a local pool hall. The town was very quaint, and sleepy. We saw a Nordhavn 40 docked at the waterfront dock. The marina was very public and seems to have no amenities, other than the township.
We walked around, visited the Maritime Museum, got some more information about plastics pollution (more later on that), and learned a huge amount about Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. His wrecked ship was discovered off of Beaufort, and is being salvaged.
It was pretty interested to learn about this renegade who was an amazing seaman in the early 1700’s, what it must have been like to navigate these waters then.
We left Beaufort and travelled the ICW with our plethora of navigation aids, and charts and GPS to guide us along the waterway. We have a long trip ahead of us, to stay inside all the way to Virginia. And once committed there is no way to get outside until we reach Chesapeake Bay and the very busy Hampton Roads inlet.
We did 40 miles the first day, through sounds and canals and rivers. They all start to blend together,
Miles and miles of water ways. Some dotted with houses, some large, some fishing shacks. We motored past small villages, with shrimp boats tied up along the wharfs.
I mostly enjoyed the swampy passages. Moving slowly, like the African Queen, alongside cypress trees, covered with Spanish moss. Old cypress logs fallen across the creek banks, just so much to look at.
We spotted 2 alligators in the Alligator River. We saw lazy fish roll, at times the waterway full of fish as they rolled all around us.
We would exit the canals into natural rivers, and carefully follow the channel markers, and compared them to the electronic charts, and our depth sounder.
The rivers gave way to huge sounds. The Pamlico Sound, the Albemarle Sound, are both over 20 miles wide. They are like small oceans, and the guide books say they can have ocean sized waves, when the winds are right.
We stopped each night and anchored. The weather relented and cooled as some unseasonable cold fronts passed. We were behind the weather patterns, we let the strong winds pass us while we were in Beaufort, and we were enjoying light and variable, and temperatures in the high 70, to the mid 80’s during the day.
Sleeping was good, as we could leave hatches open.
Last night we stayed behind Durant Island in the Albemarle Sound, with not a boat in sight, aside from the few small crab boats out in the early mornings checking their crab pots.
We had a short day today; only about 25 miles and we are now anchored in the North River, just off the ICW, for an early start tomorrow for our trip into Virginia. Since we entered North Carolina, we have travelled nearly 300 miles, most of it by the ICW.
NC has been better than I thought it would be. I grew up in New Bern, and always thought NC was paradise. A child’s memory, I always thought. But now, I think that memory was pretty accurate. I look forward to seeing more of it as we near the northern border.