Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Intracoastal Waterway from Beaufort, NC to Carolina Beach, NC

     Prior to transiting the ICW each day it's imperative to be certain to take your blood pressure medication! This kind of trip isn't for the faint of heart nor does it resemble anything similar to traveling offshore. There's little time to relax and no time for daydreaming about palm trees swaying in the breeze in tropical paradise. The ICW commands a boaters full attention.
Shrimp boat in Bogue Sound
     Each day with plans in place, the clanking sound of anchor windlasses and chain being brought aboard at sunrise is a familiar sound in any anchorage while bleary eyed cruisers prepare for the morning departure.
     At this time of year even down south in the Carolinas temperatures can drop into the 30's and 40's overnight making it a chilly wake-up call in the morning. Sprinkle in a few more challenges from weather. Unexpected hurricanes, tropical storms, gales and the occasional "pop-up" thunderstorm and lets not forget cold nor'easters.

     We had an unexpected "interesting" experience on Sunday while motoring through the firing range at the Marine Corps training facility at Camp LeJeune. While perusing Navionics software on the iPad I noticed a strange arrangement of channel marker illustrations that didn't make any sense. I brought it to Joe's attention long before we were actually in the range. He didn't appear to be concerned so I didn't make an issue of the weird little red and green markers. I went below to make lunch when I heard "an issue" developing in the cockpit accompanied by "What the #%!¥!" Simple Life had arrived at the weird little red nun and green can that appeared to be off position. After abruptly turning back to calmly collect our collective thoughts, we began scrambling through our collection of cruising guides to find out what in the HELL was going on with these marks! One guide on which we rely heavily, "Skipper Bob" had listed about ten coordinates to safely guide a boat through the section. Joe went below to plug coordinates into the chart-plotter while I took over the helm motoring in loops in the channel and away from the markers. We needed to figure this situation out quickly with only an hour to go before sunset. After reading the guide aloud several times we felt slightly confident that we could make it through this badly shoaled area without running aground. It was time to make our approach. With eyes glued to the depth sounder and breath held we pointed the boat in the direction of the markers...and saw nothing less than eight feet right through to the other side. It was time to breathe out and start motoring for the anchorage before sunset.
The following day would require passage through numerous bridge openings. Some openings are on the hour and some open on the half hour. If the pack of boats arrives at the bridge too early it becomes a challenging attempt to stay within the boundaries of the channel while 10-15 other vessels circle around in the same limited space all at the mercy of the friendly bridge tender opening on schedule. Add some strong current and let's not forget the final ingredient, wind. Let's also consider that some full keel boats aka Simple Life don't maneuver as quickly as fin keeled boats. All the while awaiting the opening with everyone jockeying for position and then watch as boats go hard aground and pray that it's not your turn to put out that embarrassing call over channel 16 requesting a tow from Boat US. On this particular day we'd already passed two boats that had gone aground. Pressure!

    Now we have cold weather! We're in Carolina Beach, NC and it's cold. I hate cold weather and Joe reminds me often that it will get better. He says, "Temperatures are certain to rise if we keep heading south." I've heard that one before and we never took the foul weather gear off until we sailed into Hawk Channel at Key Largo. But, tomorrow's another day, we're heading south toward Charleston, SC and it really is supposed to warm into the 60's by Friday. We'll see if Joe is right.

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