Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
Eric here reporting on the travels of our crew after leaving Barefoot Landing Marina and making their way across the state of North Carolina and part of Virginia.
But first one funny story about the good fortune of the skipper while at Barefoot Landing. You may recall that our skipper has a liking to ice cream and he is on a mission to test as many ice creameries as possible while on this adventure.
When he arrived at his favorite Barefoot Landing ice cream store there must have been 25-30 people jammed in line at the store. He noticed that the servers were not serving and that someone was on the phone trying to troubleshoot the cash register. Seems they had lost their internet connection so they could not charge the customer transactions. (Do you see the irony in calling this machine a cash register?)
After about a five minute wait with no activity, the server on the phone hung up and announced that the ‘cash’ register was broke and that they could not accept credit cards, only cash. Darn the bad luck, almost everyone cleared out of the store and left the skipper third in line behind two other older gentlemen. One of the three reached in his pocket and pulled out some cash and showed it to the leaving crowd. Needless to say they were not impressed. The three had a good laugh as the young folks left the store moaning and complaining. The skipper placed his order and paid cash at the cash register, what a novel idea.
Crossing North Carolina
Day 1, Sunday, April 24, 2016, The crew left Barefoot Landing about 0930. As they travelled up the river they noticed more and more local boaters getting on the water. The skipper was aware of an inlet not too far away and began to wonder if most of these folks were headed out into the Atlantic. The skipper reviewed the weather and wave forecasts and proposed that they travel up to Southport on the outside, i.e. Atlantic Ocean.
After a little discussion the crew decided to go out the inlet and run on the outside as long as the forecasts were correct about the wave size. When they arrived the Atlantic looked good so they proceeded out into the Big Pond. They ran East three miles off of the coast for some 25 miles and then came back in at the Cape Fear Inlet.
After getting back on the ICW they anchored out in the Bay at mile 305.
Day 2, Monday, April 25, 2016, The crew weighed anchor and headed north on the Cape Fear River at 0801. The Cape Fear River does not seem as scary to the skipper as the movie made it out to be. Actually very calm and serene.
Every day presents new challenges to overcome and today that challenge will be to make bridge openings on time. Several bridges through this section only open on the hour. Miss the opening and you have to wait for the next opening.
The skipper timed the Wrightsville Beach Bridge just about right. Only had to wait for 15 minutes to pass through. There was a funny exchange between the skipper and the Bridge Tender though. The charts show the bridge to be 22 feet. Still Waters II air clearance is 17.5 feet. The skipper was looking for the clearance markers on the bridge to verify he could go under, but could not see them. He hailed the tender and asked for the current clearance. The Bridge Tender informed the skipper that there was only 15 feet of clearance. He also suggested the skipper wait for the bridge to open.
The Figure 8 Island Bridge had 22 feet of clearance when the crew arrived so they did not have to wait. However, they arrived 30 minutes early for the 1400 Surf City Swing Bridge Opening.
The crew caught a break though because a commercial Ferry was headed south so the Bridge Tender opened the Bridge early and allowed Still Waters II to pass. Not bad, only 20 minutes of waiting this year. Beats the hour wait from last year when the bridge Tender closed the bridge just before the crew was about to pass because so many boats were in line and car traffic really got stacked up.
At about 1450, a powered catamaran passed Still Waters II. Her name was ‘Next Adventure’ and she was flying a white AGLCA burgee. When the crew approached Mile Hammock Bay to drop anchor, they noticed that ‘Next Adventure’ was already swinging on the anchor. The skipper dropped anchor next to “Next Adventure.”
In a little while the skipper noticed that someone in a dinghy was rowing over to Still Waters II. It was the captain of ‘Next Adventure”. Tom Hoffmann rowed over to swap boat cards with our crew. Tom retired after 31 years at the Kennedy Space Center.
Day 3, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Three unusual events unfolded as the day progressed.
The crew pulled the anchor at 0815 and headed north through Camp Lejeune. They arrived at the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge at 0847. While waiting for the 0900 opening, a crimson boat arrived at a high rate of speed. The captain radioed the skipper and asked his cruising speed. The skipper answered, “Usually 6-8 knots. The captain then asked if he could pass them prior to the bridge opening. The skipper maneuvered Still Waters II off to the side and then behind the crimson boat. As the Swing Bridge began to rotate the crimson boat started forward and by the time the boat was between the fenders of the bridge he was throwing a huge wake. So much for the No Wake sign hanging in plain view.
The skipper let that die down a little bit before he went through the bridge at idle speed. He commented to the Admiral that that guy must be in a big hurry. Not to long after that another person came on the radio and said that he was pulling back on the throttles and asked the red boat for a slow pass. Obviously that did not happen because the next thing you here on the radio is “Thanks for the @#%$^ slow pass and huge wake.”
Then a little later, the crew heard the marinas in Swansborro hailing the red boat and telling him to slow down because he was in a posted No Wake Zone passing by town. Again, he ignored them and was met with some sarcastic thank you’s.
The next strange thing that happened today was a report of a sailboat wrecking into the fenders at the Beaufort Bridge. A sailboat captain hailed the Coast Guard and asked to go to Channel 22A. The skipper decided to listen in and also went to 22A. The sailboat captain reported that another sailboat, ‘Evergreen’ had come within 20 feet of colliding with him as they approached the bridge and then ‘Evergreen’ actually collided with the bridge fenders.
The Coast Guard sent a boat out to find ‘Evergreen’ and then had them return to port for a safety vessel inspection. The skipper suspects they got some other type of inspection also. Something about walking a line and touching your nose.
When the crew passed under the bridge about 45 minutes later, you could see the damage to the fenders. If the bridge fenders look that bad, I would hate to see the damage to the 40 foot fiberglass sailboat.
The final creepy event occurred after dropping anchor up in Cedar Creek. A few hours after dropping the anchor, the Admiral looked out the window and commented that it looked like the boat had moved. The skipper jumped up and looked out, and sure enough the anchor had let loose and the boat was drifting to shore. She was only 30 yards or so from the bank.
The skipper got the depth finder turned on and determined they had 5 feet of water under the boat so he started both engines. The Admiral hustled out to the bow and began retrieving the anchor. With the anchor up, the skipper moved the boat back to the leeward shore and they dropped the anchor again. This time they let out 150 feet of chain in 5-6 feet of water. That should hold them tight for the night.
Never a dull moment on Still Waters II. Needless to say the skipper did not sleep well as he monitored the anchor every other hour.
Day 4, Wednesday, April 27, 2016,
The challenge over the next several days will be the weather. More specifically, the wind speed and direction. Still Waters II will be passing through some large bodies of water that can get nasty with strong winds. However, by the look of today’s weather forecast, the crew should have favorable conditions most of the day.
The cruise turned out to be pretty good due to the favorable winds. The winds were normally blowing from the stern of the boat causing 2 foot rolling waves. Still Waters II handles these just fine. There was about twenty minutes though that they took the waves directly on the port beam and this caused some rocking motion as each wave passed under the boat. Hope you did not get sea sick Teddy Paul. It was only twenty minutes.
The crew made good time and arrived in Belhaven to dock at the River Forest Marina. The winds were building as they approached the marina and the skipper backed the boat into the wind. The Admiral and Eddie, the dock hand, did a great job of getting the boat secured to the dock.
There were four other Looper boats in the marina. The skipper talked to the Dock Master and learned that the boats had been there for three days waiting on a good weather window to leave and cross the Pungo River, Alligator River, and the Albemarle Sound. These waters have a bad reputation. The Dock Master said that the wind was supposed to die down over night. The skipper hopes so, because it is howling at 20 mph at 2030.
The skipper talked to a few of the other looper captains and seems no body is ready to commit to leave in the morning. Our skipper looked at the weather and expects to leave in the morning with winds less than 10 mph. Time will tell.
Day 5, Thursday, April 28, 2016. When the skipper woke and looked out, he noticed that one boat was already gone. He noticed several others prepping to leave. By 0700, there were only three boats left in the marina. Our crew continued their morning routine and prepped to leave by 0900.
A storm blew thru and after it passed our crew safely left the dock with one other boat. ‘Triple Threats’ captain, decided to sit it out one more day before heading on to Norfolk. The morning cruise was comfortable but the skipper was mulling over how to proceed. Most of the other captains were all going to stop at the Alligator Marina, just south of the Albemarle Sound. Sounded like a good plan B for our skipper but he desired to get across the Sound.
The skipper decided to delay the decision of where to stop for the night and whether to cross the Sound until he actually got to the Alligator River Bridge. Then decide based on weather conditions and time of day. When they passed through the swing bridge the winds were in a favorable direction and there was plenty of daylight left to make it across the sound safely.
The crew had an easy crossing in two foot waves and about 10 mph winds. However, they still had 10 miles to navigate before they got to a good anchorage location. After nine hours of cruising and 80 miles the crew dropped the anchor. But while dropping the anchor the anchor lower switch stuck in the lower position. The skipper had to turn the power off to the windlass to get the windlass to stop letting out chain. This should make raising the anchor interesting in the morning.
Day 6, Friday, April 29, 2016. The skipper found a simple solution to the anchor issue. The electrical connections for the switch are in the chain locker are easily disconnected. Does not solve the problem to disconnect the switch, but it did allow for the Admiral to raise the anchor in the cool misty rain this morning.
Another day of timing three bridges and one lock. Two of the bridges open on the hour and half hour while the lock and associated bridge only open on the hour. Initial plan was to try and make it through the North Landing River and make the 1300 opening of the North Landing Bridge. Even with the fog reducing visibility to less than 2 miles, the crew made the 1300 opening. The skipper kept monitoring his progress and adjusting speed accordingly to make the bridge.
The Centerville Turnpike Bridge is 5 miles up the canal. The skipper set the speed for 10 knots and arrived just in time to make it through the bridge for the 1330 opening.
Now just 3.2 miles to the Great Bridge and Lock. The skipper set the speed at 6 knots and they arrived a few minutes early to be in a group of four boats to pass through the lock. Two of the boats had passed our crew earlier in the morning but missed the 1300 opening and had to wait an hour. A crew member of one of the boats commented on the crew’s ability to time the bridge and lock just right.
If the truth be known, the skipper has a little tool that helps him. If you know the time of the bridge opening, and know the distance to the bridge, the little tool does the math and tells the skipper what speed to set the throttle. Works every time. The skipper loves math so he has fun checking the numbers for an on time arrival.
With the bridges and locks behind them, the crew pulled into Top Rack Marina to spend the night. The marina offers a good deal for transient boaters. If you spend $75 dollars in the restaurant, you get to dock for ‘free.’ The crew was stopping here because of the fuel prices, so might as well stay and celebrate completing the AICW, again.
Day 7, Saturday, April 30, 2016. The crew made the final 9 miles to the Waterside Marina in Norfolk on Saturday.
They will spend Sunday cleaning the boat and getting her ready for company. Monday through Thursday, next week the crew will attend the Spring rendezvous of the AGLCA. Part of the agenda is called a ‘Looper Crawl.’ Think tour of homes. The boaters at the rendezvous will open up their boats and let others tour and see what they like/dislike. It is a good deal for people in the planning stage of doing the Loop. Our crew has signed up to open up Still Waters II for the ‘Looper Crawl.’ The Admiral wants to make sure the boat looks her best for the guests.
Signing off for now, but I will bring you the latest news on the crew once they get moving again in a little over a week.
Next up will be the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.