In Wrightsville Beach, NC

Today was a short 45 miles, but 3 opening bridges and 3 areas that have shoaled in. Shoaling on the ICW is always interesting. There are many places that have silted in or where currents have piled up sand, all invisibly below the surface. This means you can be chugging along in 15 foot deep water and then hit a pile of sand 3 feet below the surface. Merlin is a relatively deep draft boat and needs 6.5 feet of water. The controlling depth oft he ICW is 8-10 feet, so 6.5 foot draft should be no problem,….right?  Well yesterday 4 boats got stuck at the same place and time at one of these areas.  We made it through be leaving the marked channel and going thru what should have been shallower water.  We knew to try this from comments other boaters have left on a boaters website called active captain, a real help to us. Here is the comment and screenshot of our chart that got us thru without getting stuck

  
The currents here run to 2 knots and tides are about 5 feet, just to confuse things. Anyway these tools are great. Then there are the bridges. Our mast is about 60 feet tall so we need to wait for low bridges to open. 2 of the bridges open only on the hour, and the other one opened on the hour and half hour, so we time our approaches carefully. But with currents that can help or hurt your speed by 30% this can be a challenge. Couple that with arriving at the bridge early with 15 other boats and a current trying to push you into the bridge, it can get really interesting. But we made it and dropped anchor at Wrightsville Beach and went ashore for a beach walk. 

   

 After the walk we joined some new friends for drinks and appetizers on another boat.  Then back to Merlin for dinner and sleep. Tomorrow is the Cape Fear River. 

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Mile Hammock

We left early this morning to take advantage of lighter current in the marina and a rising tide for most of the day. There was one area where many boats ran aground, but we followed advice on Active Captain and left the channel and went closer to shore to the north and had no problem. There are 25 boats in the harbor here and we had cocktails on one with some folks who have taken their boat around the world twice. It makes us feel like real amateurs. Here is the anchorage at sunset.  

   

Morehead City

We left River Dunes around 8:45 after waiting in the checkout line. Then it was an easy trip down to Morehead City Yacht basin with a little motor sailing. The current at the yacht basin was approaching 2 knots and they assigned us crosswind down current slip a shot way down the fairway. Not the most graceful landing, but we didn’t hit anyone. We took a taxi over to Beaufort and visited their museum and enjoyed their exhibit of artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge;  Blackbeard’s ship. Then a stroll on the docks, a bit of shopping and a great dinner at Aqua. Here are a few pix.  

 
Shrimp boats at Honucken

   
  Beaufort Docks 
Our Bento box. 

River Dunes

It was forecast to rain for a day so we decided to spend 2 nights in one place at River Dunes. It is a marina basin in an upscale development near Oriental. It has very nice facilities and they host buffet dinners for cruisers and residents from the community. There were at least a dozen other cruisers there so we had fun at dinner catching up with those we knew and meeting quite a few new people. It gave us a chance to do laundry and make a run to Walmart. Ed updated all the ham radio email software and modem firmware so now that’s done too!  And of course it was time to sign up for another year of weather forecasting from Chris Parker. Today is sunny, clear and in the 70’s. The warm weather continues without any complaint from us.

Belhaven, NC

We left Coinjock around 0730 headed for the South end of the Alligator River.  The Albemarle Sound was very quiet and we made good time not even slowing down for the Alligator River Swing Bridge opening. The wind built to 15 out of the north so we unfurled the jib and motorsailed to the mouth of the Pungo Canal and decided to push on for the motor thru the Canal. We anchored about an hour after sunset just off the ICW in 10 feet of water. Other than Ed’s cold peaking we spent a nice quiet night in 15 knots of breeze. Slept in a bit and departed in 18-22 knots of breeze NNE, so we unfurled the jib and sailed for an hour and a half until we arrived at Belhaven. We have anchored in about 10 feet of water inside their breakwater. We are having dinner with good friends who have moved to Washington, NC at a place called Spoon River. It is a farm to table restaurant that is exceptional and worth stopping for alone. The Sail to the Sun Rally, a guided group of 20 boats is arriving here today, a day ahead of their schedule. We have scheduled our stops to avoid them, but town should be hopping for a couple of days. We will move back ahead of them tomorrow. 

We later met a couple of the rally participants and the Waterways Magazine guide on the docks and at dinner. They seem to be having a great time.

  
Dinner ar Spoon River was fantastic, Ed had yellowfin tuna over jasmine rice with bok  choy and Tina had Wahoo.  We left the specific wine choices up to the owner and ended up with a very complex Pinot Noir and a good Cab. A very enjoyable evening with Richard and Janet. 

North Carolina

One of the railroad bridges over the waterway has been having repairs made which has kept the bridge down and the waterway closed except for 3 short openings a day. Last week there were over 70 boats queued up waiting one day. That has significant ripple effects farther downstream too. But today the bridge was back on normal schedule…until Thursday. Timing is everything.  The rush hour restrictions on bridge openings are not in effect for the weekend either, so we were ready to roll, and everything started great….until a loooong coal train came and closed another railroad bridge. No big deal reall, just had to float around and wait for 30 minutes. After that everything went great. We saw our second Bald Eagle of the trip, the first was in our slip getting ready to leave. Tradition has it that you stay at Coinjock Marina and enjoy one of their Prime Rib Dinners. Well we tried, but they only had 38 feet open on the dock and we need 46. They tried all day to make room for us, but it was not to be.  So, we fueled up at their fuel dock and the crossed the creek and stayed at Midway Marina. Great rates and a very nice owner who runs the Crabby’s restaurant with his wife cooking. Tina had fresh scallops and I had fried oysters and didn’t miss the prime rib a bit. After not being off the boat since Solomons we took a walk into town for a few groceries from the gas station. Not fancy, but they had what we needed. 

   
 

Today Norfolk, VA

We had a very pleasant night at anchor. The winds were supposed to build and switch directions, but we woke up with calm conditions. We weighed anchor at 0710 and headed off. The winds were light as we motored but built to 15-20 out of the north so put out the jib, turned off the engine and relaxed on a nice downwind sail.  Just north of Wolftrap light we saw our first Dolphins of the trip.  As usual the boat traffic into Norfolk was crazy with barges, freighters, tour boats and warships. We weaved our way thru the traffic and anchored at hospital point. Normally we would go ashore, but now I have a cold too so we just fired up the grill and made a chicken dinner and watched the world go by.   

The Carnival Splendor was docked across the river and after running their safety training left the dock for Bermuda. We weren’t sure they could turn it around without hitting us but they did.
 
Then there was the evening schooner cruise to watch. 

Day 2 – Solomons to Deltaville

We managed to leave Solomons by 7:30 AM and had a relatively quiet trip past the mouth of the Potomac into about 10 knots of wind from the south. We had enough angle on it to motor sail for about an hour. But we averaged a bit over 6 knots and got to Deltaville in time to anchor and grill a steak before dark.   

We passed a Navy submarine going the other way, but had too keep our distance. 
  
Here’s our anchorage at Deltaville. Very peaceful.  

Off to Solomons

After filling the water tanks and collecting the docklines we were off at 0830. A very quiet trip down the bay and so far all boat systems are good.


This is our computer navigation program by Rose Point Navigation. It shows where we are using GPS and the boats around us using AIS.  You can see we are passing Taylor’s Island and that Lady Maryland just went by Northbound.


Here is Lady Maryland.


Arriving at Solomons, MD and found Sultana at the dock. She is a small tall ship from Chestertown.

   Went ashore and rode bikes to CVS for some cold supplies for Tina, then dinner at the CD Cafe. This is one of our favorite restaurants.  A great dinner with bourbon pecan pie a la mode for desert. A super start to our trip.

On our way again

The weather is looking great for our trip down the bay, but not much wind. We moved onto the boat this afternoon after a day of mowing and cleaning at home.  With a little luck we will be at Solomons Island tomorrow afternoon.  Now, I wonder what we forgot………..