Updated: Dec 1, 2019
Beaufort, NC to Southport, NC (via Carolina Beach) //
On Wednesday morning of November 21 we departed Beaufort, NC. We continued motoring inside, along the ICW, given the conditions offshore were forecasted to be pretty dismal for the next few days. We made a turn into Morehead City and continued on toward Mile Hammock Bay for the evening, an anchorage area along the ICW where the Army just so happens to practice target shooting nearby... just a fun fact.
During our trip on this section of the ICW we noticed much more damaged property from the recent Hurricane Florence. We had started to see signs of damage along Adams Creek just before getting to Beaufort, but it was much more apparent along this stretch: broken docks, many more roofs covered with blue tarps, and so many boats, both motor and sailing vessels, washed ashore or into the marshes. It brought us back to a conversation we had with another fellow sailor we met back in Dowry Creek Marina almost a week back. He had stopped by to check Sparidae out while we were docked there. She reminded him of his Pearson 35 which had unfortunately sunk at the marina he kept her in New Bern. He was a very nice guy with a very optimistic outlook in life even after experiencing such difficult times.
On Thursday (Thanksgiving day!), we started motoring down the next stretch of the ICW down toward Carolina Beach where we decided to spend the evening at anchor. I had gladly welcomed the challenge of putting together a holiday meal to remember and planned for a day of cooking. Being in the ICW there would barely be any wake to compromise cooking activities. Had we been doing an offshore passage, this would have been a much different story. But we did want to enjoy the holiday and cook up all those familiar dishes that would make us feel close to home and remind us of the love of family and friends that we would be missing.
Having stocked up on goods back in Beaufort, I laid out a plan for which dishes to cook and when. We needed to keep in mind that both of us would be jumping in and out of the cabin to help with the timing of the various bridge openings along our course. We were cruising along with about 6 to 8 other boats in front and behind us at times, so when it was time to go under a bridge with an opening on the half or on the hour, we needed all hands deck. We would need to keep an eye on the depth, slowly motor forward, reverse, or turn around in order to safely stay in the deep parts of the channel while waiting for the bridge to open.
So the dinner plan was as follows: We marinated a turkey breast first thing in the morning. I took over the helm while Tom helped peel the yams for a sweet potato casserole that we put in the oven mid morning. The turkey breast itself went in around 2pm, which is when I started cooking the ‘arroz con gandules’ (a typical Puerto Rican rice dish). By 4:30pm we were anchored and all that was left to put together was the green beans casserole. By 6pm we were having a feast! We were amazed that our little alcohol-based oven cooked everything, including the turkey breast, to perfection and without ever having to refill it with more fuel (alcohol). We accompanied our meal with a free bottle of wine we had gotten as a welcome gift back at Utsch’s Marina Back in Cape May, NJ. It was surprisingly delicious. Free anchorage, free wine. Life was full of precious moments.
Tom of course was counting sheep as soon as he finished his last mouthful. But soon enough around 9pm, perked right up given the wind started to pipe up. With all the joy and excitement of the cooking and looking forward to a nice meal, we had forgotten to continue monitoring the weather. Generally, we knew there would be strong winds that evening, and we had reserved a slip at a marina nearby just in case. But the idea of eating dinner in an anchorage, watching the sunset, was much more appealing...
And it was, until we realized we wouldn’t be sleeping that evening. Yet again, strong winds from a cold front were bringing gusts of up to 25-35 knots to the area. The boat started yawing and swaying side to side, all. night. long. There were a lot of boats anchored around us too and that added to the general fear of “are we going to drag toward another boat, or someone else onto us?” That feeling finally receded by 4am along with the winds which calmed down to somewhere around 15-20 knots. Through the rougher parts of the evening we kept letting some chain out and taking shifts to monitor our position and the conditions outside.
With the strong winds continuing into the weekend, we decided to get into the slip we had reserved at the marina nearby even though we had to motor upriver and into 25 knot winds. Let’s just say that having had very little sleep the night before, having to ready the dock lines, and fenders, all while taking care of all the dishes from the night before, the level of grumpiness Friday morning was rampant. Neither Tom or I were having it and tantrums were had. Not one of our best moments. But if there is something Thanksgiving is good for, is to leave all issues behind by bringing family together around a meal. It seems to work with leftovers too! As soon as we got settled into the marina slip, we reheated our food, got some rest, and all was good in the world again (taking showers helped too!).
On Saturday, the stormy weather continued, this time accompanied by pouring rain. We sat tight during the day and when the afternoon cleared up it was time for... boat projects! This time I had the pleasure of hoisting Tom up the mast (my arm was still sore a week later) so that he could inspect for any issues but also install a more visible weather vane that we could better keep an eye on from the helm. After freaking out over whether I was going to lose my husband to my own hands, he made it safely back on deck, we cooked dinner and we continued looking over the charts to see what our next moves would be.
Given all the hoopla over the past several days, on Sunday we decided to stay put in Carolina Beach. It was forecasted to be a gorgeous sunny day and a walkabout felt necessary. We could have taken advantage and continued motoring toward Southport, NC, down the Cape Fear River, but we kept missing the window for catching the right current through Snow's Cut, mostly due to our indecisiveness. Do we stay and relax? Do we keep moving as fast as we can? Yet, we knew the answer when we saw that the forecast for the next few days included two evenings with below freezing temperatures. We looked into our propane fuel storage and realized we only had one small canister of fuel left. One! -- those things only last an evening, if at all! So there was no way we could leave without provisioning. Better warm than sorry. And so we dinghied ourselves to town, and to the hardware store to find the canisters plus a few other boat related items.
By the time we got back it was lunchtime (we had missed the right window for Snow's Cut, again!) so we decided to check out a nearby taco joint and walk up to the beach. What a welcome respite. By then it was about 65 degrees and sunny, we were wearing only a light jacket and light long pants. As we sat on the glistening sand, we couldn’t help but savor how much closer to our goal we were -- warmer days ahead. We could feel it. We went back to the boat, and got serious about planning our next moves. That meant we would be getting up early to catch the current on time, motoring slightly against towards the end so that we could get into Cape Fear River and on to Southport, NC.
By Monday, we were expecting some rain. But in reality, it was a lot more than we bargained for. We also knew we could be experiencing strong winds — but maybe not that strong? To top it all we seemed to have calculated the timing of the current wrong and were headed against it with +30 knot winds at times. A large barge just also happened to head our way as an intense fog was settling in. Did we have an unpleasant run to Southport, you might ask? No doubt about it — a very uncomfortable one. Why did we do it? I guess we were just antsy...
Moral of the story: our decision making was impaired by the cold weather we've kept experiencing. We really had been struggling with it and it made us anxious to keep moving as fast (and safely) as we could. Even though we really needed the rest, especially with the holidays and all... But it's all part of the learning process, learning how to slow down — part of the reason why we are doing this trip. We are accepting the challenges we’ve been confronted with and work through them with patience. Inevitably, we are bound to make some mistakes, and we will continue learning from them. But these past few days taught us we should try harder and take care of ourselves before letting the feelings of stress take over.