[This is a longer post than usual as we wanted to cover all of the run outside in one post]
So the day of departure was here. The lock opened at 8:00 and we called at that time and arranged for a lock out.
We headed north on the ICW to the St John’s River, then through Mayport, into the Atlantic, and set the new auto pilot on the St Simon’s waypoint. As we were passing Naval Station Mayport a Coast Guard Cutter came through the inlet.
Weather was light winds from the south and calm seas. Just off St Mary’s Sound three Coast Guard boats came running out on their way directly east, this was accompanied by two large military helicopters patrolling above. Given were we where we assumed that one of the big nuclear submarines from Kings Bay Submarine Base was heading in. We have been in the channel previously when one was coming in and they are quite the sight.
We had an uneventful trip to St Simon’s Sound entrance. Along the way we saw a basking shark and large turtle which dived before we saw which kind it was. Arrived at our anchorage just south of the Morningstar Marina at 3:00pm. This anchorage has been designated by the Coast Guard as a “Special Anchorage,” meaning that it was a recognized anchorage where boats staying there did not have to display an anchor light. Regardless we felt it safer to put our anchor light on.
We were really fortunate in that the weather this week calls for light southerly winds and waves around 2 feet all week. At 6:00am we made the coffee and headed back out through the St Simon’s Sound to the ocean.
We entered the Tybee Roads GPS waypoint leading us to Calibogue Sound and Hilton Head. Again we had calm seas. Because we were running with the wind we were not getting the benefit of any breeze and it was pretty hot. We arrived at Tybee Roads at 3:00pm and crossed into Calibogue Sound and our reserved slip at the Harbour Town Marina at the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island.
During the day John and Suzie Mc Carley, friends we had first met in the Exumas, and who had recently stopped by Queens Harbour in their boat Escape, a 49′ DeFever, got it touch via email. They were running the same track as us on the ICW and we found out that we would both be in Charleston tomorrow, so arranged to get together for dinner downtown.
Paul left the blowers on trying to cool the engine room as we had some work to do in there after we anchored. We needed to move fuel from our port tank to the starboard tank to balance the boat. This is because we have 12 heavy glass mat house batteries on the port side of the engine room that make Sonas lean slightly that way. The yard suggested that we could put in ballast to offset the batteries, but we decided that we had enough weight on board without adding lead! So we always keep more fuel in the starboard tank than the port and that resolves the issue. In fact, as we talk to other boaters, this is a common issue and a common solution! Also the camera that monitors our engine room had been knocked loose. Paul worked on that but could not fix it. Will need to have a replacement delivered during our trip.
After we cleaned up we went up to the Quarterdeck restaurant right by the marina. Paul had curried grouper and Sian had the pesto Salmon.
We were up again and away by 6:00am from the marina, retraced our path to the ocean and set our autopilot to the Charleston channel.
Looking along the track we found that we would have to head offshore for the first hour to avoid the Garvin Shoal just north of St Simon’s. After passing the shoal we then reset the track to head directly for the jetties at Charleston. During our run the wind died completed and we had glassy water for most of the way. We reached the jetties at 2:50pm and turned in.
As we passed Fort Sumter Paul went live on Facebook and gave some short details of the role the fort played in the American Civil War. Once past the fort we turned to the south and headed for our overnight stop at the Charleston City Marina.
As we came alongside John and Suzie came out from Escape and helped the dockhand tie us up. We were on the 1100 foot face dock and found that we were one of the few non-mega yachts on the dock. The rest were 100+ foot yachts.
We got all of the air conditioners cranked up and got cleaned up for dinner. The marina runs a complementary shuttle to downtown so, with John and Suzie, we arrived at Blossoms in time for our reservation at 7:00. The food and company were both excellent.
One thing we did notice today, which has hit us in the past, is that after a couple of days on board we have begun to switch from our shore routine to our on board routine. We rise earlier, each of us know our “jobs” without saying anything, and we run our cruising day in an efficient and orderly fashion. That included regular drinks to ensure hydration, meals at set times, and engine room and instruments checks. By now we are also reintroducing some exercise routines, Sian with her resistance training using bands and Paul with his core stretches so as to avoid the sciatica issues we had in the Bahamas earlier this year.
Our plan today was to run from Charleston to Georgetown, setting us up for a run to Bald Head Island on Friday. Since it was a relative short and easy run we thought we would relax and leave a little later than we had been. However our body clocks thought otherwise and we were still casting off the lines before seven! Several boats followed us out of the marina, including the Canadian boat Ennui, whose crew we had chatted to as we were getting ready to go. They were also going to our next stop. Unfortunately we watched them turn back and radio the marina to say they were returning with engine trouble.
About half way to the next stop we saw a Coast Guard ship dead ahead, which did not seem to be moving. Paul zoomed in on them using his camera and saw that they were working on a buoy. So we turned east a few degrees so as to give them a wide berth. About five minutes after doing so the CG vessel, Willow, called us on the radio and asked us to give them a wide pass to port, which we told them we had already changed course. She later passed us going south.
We ran the 50NM and pulled into the Georgetown inlet at 2:00 and were anchored by the lighthouse before 3.
John and Suzie McCarley joined us as Buddy Boats on our run as they are headed back to their home port of Wrightsville and our next two stops are on their way. Escape, their DeFever 49 arrived about 45 minutes after us and anchored next to Sonas.
On the way up the channel Sian checked the weather for Georgetown and found it was 93 degrees! We thought it would get cooler as we moved north!!
It got a bit blustery in the anchorage as the wind direction blew straight into the inlet but, like most days, after the sun set, it calmed right down.
Around 4:30pm Sian’s phone rang. It was our home cleaning company telling us that we had a major issue. Today was our cleaning day. We had decided to have them come in one more time to clean and then lock the house up until our return from this cruise. One of their cleaners knocked a print off a bathroom wall and it fell on the water feed pipe for the toilet – cutting it. Water was pouring out. We called our neighbors who quickly got over there. Paul explained how to turn off the main valve into the house. Bill and Sally then diligently brushed all of the water out of our wood-floored bedrooms and got an industrial drier to start the clean-up process. Meanwhile the cleaning company sent some supervisors to plan the full correction. We also called our plumber to have him schedule to fix the broken pipe. We owe Bill and Sally a major steak meal when we get back!
This is NOT what we had in mind for the first week of our cruise!
We had a great overnight under the Georgetown Lighthouse. Not a ripple was felt on board. We woke at 6:00 am without the alarm and got ready for the off.
Escape left the anchorage a half hour before us and we were off by 6:45. We did bump up against a bit of an incoming current but once outside we caught a push from the offshore current and at times were cruising at a whole 10 knots – supersonic speed for us!
The run to the inlet at Cape Fear River was 66 KM and again the winds were light from the south. While light winds are always a blessing when running offshore, the problem you get is that the boat is moving at the same speed as the wind so you get absolutely no breeze – and it was stifling hot. We brought the big fan up from down below and got some relief. The alternative is to run the boat from the pilot house and turn on the generator and AC. But we really like running from up above and seeing what is around.
Escape runs efficiently about 1.5 knots slower than Sonas so we passed them after a couple of hours but we were always had sight of each other and VHF connection.
We turned towards the inlet around 2:00pm and found a significant wave action. We had to avoid a large dredge and her auxiliary vessels which was spread right across the channel. We made the turn into Bald Head Island Marina and were tied up in slip 3A by 3:30pm. Paul got the power plugged in and all four AC units blasting cold air. He then went off to check in at the marina office and ten minutes after he left the power went out! When he came back he checked everything on the boat and couldn’t get it working. The boat was getting a bit steamy. He checked the breakers at the shore pedestal, switching them off and on. Finally he called the marina office out and they switched us to another supply and we were up and running! Whew!
Meanwhile Escape came in and tied up across from us.
Betty Robinson, who Paul worked with at J&J, keeps Li Li (For Living Life) her beautiful Kady Krogen 48’ at Bald Head Island Marina and lives on the island. We had both been in the Abacos earlier in the year but missed each other. We had been in touch and told her we would be stopping by the island. Betty had just returned from a trip to New York and Baltimore and was very generous with her hospitality. She gave us time to get cleaned up and then came in her golf cart (no cars on the island) and took us to her home on the dunes. We had some wine and nibbles, talked boats, retirement, travel plans, family, after which Betty blessed us with a golf cart for the evening and next morning along with a map and instructions on how to navigate the island.
We drove along the beach road to the marina. We plugged the golf cart into the charging area that Betty had pointed out earlier and went to Delphina Mexican restaurant for dinner. After dinner we swung by Escape to say goodbye to our travelling boat buddies. They were leaving early the next morning for their home marina 21 miles up the ICW in Wrightsville Beach.
[An update on the house. We have a great plumbing company who do all of our tile and plumbing work. They had people at our house at 9:00 am on Friday. They cut a hole in the wall behind the toilet and fixed and tested the pipe. They then suggested that they leave the water into the house off for the rest of our trip and also turned off the gas to the two water heaters. They told us to call them the day before we were due to get back and they would go in and turn everything back on. They also advised us to have someone run a moisture meter on our drywall to make sure that it was all OK and we didn’t have a mold issue in future. We have a neighbor,a general contractor who worked on major renovations on our last home. He was no longer in that business but we called him to see if he knew of anyone who could help. He volunteered to go over himself and run his meter on the dry wall. Later that evening he called us and told us that the insulation right by the break would need to be dried out and that we should open up a few small check holes in the rest of that wall just to be sure. He also suggested that, even though the moisture readings where fine on the other walls, we open up similar check holes in those to make sure. His argument was that dry wall is easy to open and then redo, whereas mold was not! We asked him to recommend someone who could do that and he said he would come over on Sunday and do it himself. He would also go and rent a couple of heaters for the wall he knew was wet. As I said before, having such neighbors is a God send!]
Today we were only travelling 21KM up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach to anchor right inside the inlet, ready to jump outside and run to Morehead City tomorrow. We had to run inside as going outside means going all the way around Cape Fear and the shoals there – which go straight out 15 miles! That would be a 50km mile run! So, since we did not have far to go, we decided to spend the morning at Bald Head and have a look around.
First thing after coffee Paul got the water hose out and gave Sonas a wash. He then moved some more fuel over to the starboard tank. After a shower we jumped into the golf cart that Betty had lent us and took our recycling to the recycling center on the island. Then we drove over to Betty’s home where she joined us and took us on an interesting tour of the island. She told us some of the history, how many actual residents there were compared to vacationers, where the children go to school, and generally how you live life in a small island community. Betty took us to the Turtle Conservatory where she volunteers and supports their graduate intern program and then we went to the beach to find the turtle nest that she had adopted! She explained the turtle nesting process and how the volunteers guard the nest and help the young on their way after birth! We visited the beach club, and then the very pretty little non-denominational church, and the nearby lighthouse, which has now been decommissioned. After stopping by the post office to post a card and to pick up some packages, Betty took us back to the marina.
Paul had a tour of Betty’s Kady Krogen 48 Li Li and we then said our goodbyes. We untied and followed the ferry out of the harbor. We went north on the ICW, through Southport and Carolina Beach and into our very sheltered anchorage at Wrightsville Beach. Being a Saturday and a hot day, there was a lot of boat traffic, and we even had a narrow call with a paddle boarder. We were able to anchor in 15’ of water just a hundred feet or so off the beach. Sian went for a swim and walk on the sand. We were visited by a number of other boaters who inquired about Sonas, and the trawler lifestyle.
We had a great overnight at Wrightsville Beach. There was not a murmur of wind and no wake or wave action. We hadn’t even bothered putting a snubber on and did not hear a sound all night. We were up and ready at our usual 6:00 am, and ground the coffee. Sian was a bit surprised to see an elderly paddle boarder pass the boat as she was preparing the flybridge for travel, of course she grabbed the camera and got the evidence! Who goes paddle boarding at 6:00 am on am Sunday?!
We Iifted the anchor and headed for the inlet, to be passed by dozens of small fishing boats headed out. Then we made the turn at the inlet and saw a couple of dozen people fishing off the shore – and it wasn’t 6:30 yet! What an active community!
We entered the waypoint to Beaufort Inlet into the GPS, and it advised us that it was 61nm. We would be at the channel at 1:30 and inside 45 minutes later. The run was completed uneventfully – and we had water like glass the whole way. We brought our Bose wireless speaker up to the flybridge and put on Margaritaville through Sirius. Jimmy Buffett himself was doing a two hour show from Florida. We made the Beaufort Inlet channel right on time and were amazed at the number of boats using the inlet.
Since it was early afternoon we then made the decision to carry on up the ICW. From Beaufort it was 178 miles to Norfolk and the start of the Chesapeake. We had planned to take four days to do this, but that would have meant we would have been sitting out in the country at a place called Coinjack on the Fourth of July. There was nothing else there apart from a marina and restaurant.
By taking another three hours to get to the Neuse River, then adding an hour each of the next two days, we would be able to reduce that by a day and be in the Portsmouth/Norfolk area on the big day. We entered the Neuse River and saw a nice anchorage on the south bank of the river. We anchored in 10 feet of water, again in calm waters, and had a wonderful evening.
We had now completed the Atlantic Ocean outside portion of our trip north!