Friday, October 23, 2009

Life in the slow lane

Today we covered almost the first 50 miles of the SC ICW in 8 hours, motoring at 5-7 knots. For you land-lubbers, that’s about 6-8 mph. SLOWly we watch the world go by.

There is only one boat slower than MicMac on the ICW at the moment. It’s a unique “home-built” sailboat with only 14” draft that can go almost anywhere (MicMac’s draft is 5 feet). We keep leap-frogging them as we move south.

The first 26 miles today were through the infamous Pine Island Cut (by North Myrtle and Myrtle Beaches) where the cruising guides warn you to be “Heads Up” all the time. There are rock ledges (rocks are hard!) along a lot of it, and they’re invisible during high tide (when we were there). But Captain Pete kept us in the middle of the channel and all went well.

ICW by Myrtle Beach
Now I know why the Shag, the state dance of SC, began in Myrtle Beach. Everyone is slow dancin’ as they watch the snowbirds travel slowly down the ICW. They even have cable cars to slowly take the golfers to one course across the ICW!

Lots of golf courses in Myrtle Beach, but we were here in February. So we'll pass for now. But we do have our clubs onboard.

Lovely Waccamaw River
We went down the beautiful and truly secluded Waccamaw River today--for hours. Nothing but cypress trees and Spanish Moss for 20+ miles. It was mesmerizing. I didn’t even want to read. Instead I counted turtles (some were a foot long). I stopped at 40. They were sunning themselves on logs on this beautiful warm day. I am obviously easily amused onboard.

We’re anchored out again tonight on Thorofare Creek off the Waccamaw. Unfortunately, it’s accurately named as it’s the short cut to the Pee Dee River. These cruising guides do NOT share our definition of “quiet anchorage.” But the good news is: No casino boats! We just battened the hatches for our first big downpour of our trip. Not bad for 12 days.

Atlantic off the port side

As we motored south past two shallow inlets after leaving Southport yesterday, we could see the Atlantic. She looked so calm out there, but I’m glad we’re in the sheltered ICW and not “outside.” Lots more lovely homes and shrimp boats too. The architects of America are doing a great job down here. I'm really enjoying all these mega-homes and the more modest ones too. Looks like the building boom was successful along the "Ditch."

Suddenly yesterday, I knew we were in SC. FYI: the “stars and bars” also fly in front of the state capital in Columbia--and perhaps along the Appalachian Trail?

We anchored in secluded Calabash Creek last night. Then a few large tour boats and casino boats (Polsons onboard???) motored by. So much for solitude.

“Krill crazy after all these years”

Sleep was spotty as we again heard light tappings on the hull throughout the night. Kinda like in Poe’s “The Raven.” Or sleet during a wintry storm.

We experienced the same thing in Barnegat Bay many years ago and mentioned it to sailing friends. “Not to worry,” they advised, “It’s not errant electrical current, but tiny shrimp-like krill munching on the algae on the hull.”

Guess that $250/gallon bottom paint doesn’t include krill-repellent!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cape Fear and Southport, NC

We left Beach House Marina in Surf City, NC, early yesterday to catch the 8 a.m. bridge opening. Our lives seem to revolve around bridges these days.

Finally had a fantastic weather day with no need for longjohns! Saw some mighty fine houses and lots of egrets and dolphins on the way to anchor out off Carolina Beach.

I've noticed that the blad cypress and loblolly pines have given way to longleaf pines, and now we're seeing lots of live oaks too. When we start seeing more Spanish moss in them, my blood pressure automatically drops. It's so peaceful.

Also saw a giraffe and a metal mermaid. I can just see the ARB approving these artistic statements in Governor's Land!

I just love individual expression of eclectic folk's tastes.

Today we left our anchorage early to motorsail down the 15 miles or so of the Cape Fear River to the really cute village of Southport. We stayed in a B&B here a few years ago and really loved the town. It's across from Bald Head Island, which we'd like to visit on our way north--whenever that is.

I kept looking for Robert DeNiro or Robert Mitchum to turn up onboard on the Cape Fear. I remember both the '60s and '90s remake as powerful terrifying movies. But the actual river was relatively calm today--but the current swift.

Pete had some nostalgic moments as we passed by Sunny Point Army Military Ocean Terminal, the largest ammunitions port in the world. Lieutenant Pete spent some time there in 1970 putting googads of nerve gas onboard a WWII Liberty Ship to "dispose" of it permanently--by sinking it 150 miles off the NC shore. Then we saw lots of Lientenant Dans on their Bubba Gump shrimp boats too. Are the shrimp here neurologically impaired?

I had lots of time today to walk by the many well maintained homes in Southport from the early 1800s to the early 1900s. It's like a "mini-Charleston" here--complete with horse-drawn carriages. A touch of Willieburg!.

Enjoyed dinner onshore at Mr. P's Bistro. Actually needed reserations, and the place was full.

We just met a couple from Warren, PA, across the dock who are friends of Mai and Paul Ignatius. Small world on the water. There are quite a few of us in this parade down the ICW.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tides & Currents 101

Wow, blue skies greeted us this morning for the first time in 3 days. Still cold, but the sun makes a big difference in the crew's attitude.

Super fast currents down here are a challenge that we've had little experience with--other than Delaware Bay and River. So we had an ugly departure (sideways for a few seconds) out of the slip this morning as the current and wind were stronger than our diesel. Then it was all smiles as we caught the current and traveled down the ICW at 7-8 knots for much of the day.

ICW goes through Camp Lejeune for about 15 miles and views were great--even a few Marines getting ready to enter the ICW on amphibious vehicles.. They sometimes stop boaters from coming through when live ammo practice is taking place (definitely a good idea), but today was too nice for maneuvers. Pete said they usually hold them on nasty weather days.

We've gone 260 miles down the ICW so far, and got a slip in Topsail, NC, tonight where we met friends John "Poopie" and Patti for dinner. We hadn't seen them for a year--since Edisto weekend last October, so we had lots of catching up to do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beaufort, NC

It's pronounced "Bo-fort" here in NC ("Beu-fort" later on down the ICW in SC). Kinda like NewARK, Delaware and Newark, NJ! We passed ICW Mile Marker 200 today--in 6 days!

What a charming town this is--lots of restaurants, shops, and well-maintained historic homes. Plus a great little NC Maritime Museum--with some artifacts from Blackbeard's recently discovered ship, Queen Anne's Revenge.

We arrived here after watching the Dolphins and the Eagles (NOT football teams, but the real thing) in another narrow channel. We got a slip at the town docks (new since Hurricane Isabel), looking across the water at some wild horses (perhaps descendents of conquistador days).

Wifi is fleeting, since large megayacht (on left in photo) is blocking the signal. See photo to judge MicMac (in center of the photo) in relation to the mega yacht and a custom yacht next to us that was modeled after Joshua Slocum's circumnavigation around the world yacht. But MicMac is proud of herself. They say size isn't important!

Had a great dinner at the Blue Moon Bistro last night with fellow sailors, Harriet and Skip (s/v Moondance from Baltimore). They "did the Ditch" and continued to the /Bahamas last year--on a 8 month voyage on Moondance. I'm getting really inspired to keep on movin' south on MicMac. Harriet has a blog too and I'm including her link.

It's even chillier today--in the 40s. The long-johns Julie gave me for Christmas are coming in handy. We plan to head to Dudley's Marina in Swansboro today--just to have shore power for some heat.