Bright and early Monday morning we untied the lines and motored away from the dock, heading down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), another step toward the end of our cruising journey. We left pretty early in hopes of making it to Beaufort, North Carolina. In case there is any confusion, there is a Beaufort in both North and South Carolina and both are reported to be boating friendly towns. To distinguish the two, I guess someone decided they should be pronounced differently. So we are going to the one pronounced like "Bow-fort" and not the one "B-eww-furt" (sorry, I don't do phonetic spellings, but you get the idea).
|Docked in the harbor north of Beaufort.|
With the recent storm and flooding, we were concerned about two things on this trip. First was what might be floating in the water, washed out by the storms. Small debris we can probably deal with, but we definitely don't want to run over any partially sunken trees or house parts or whatever your imagination might come up with that could poke a hole in a fiberglass boat. Fortunately we only had one minor thud as a 2x4 that wasn't visible above the water bounced off the hull. I was actually a bit surprised, but thankful, for the lack of debris we encountered.
The second issue is getting under the two fixed bridges that cross the ICW in this area. They are supposed to be 65 feet above mean high water, but that doesn't take in to account for rives and canals that are inundated with the runoff from the storms. We could see that the water was a foot or two higher than normal at Dowry Creek and I scoured the internet for any reports of water levels along our route. I found that Oriental was a couple feet high and didn't find much else. Since our mast is just under 60 feet above waterline, and the radio antenna puts us at 60 and change, we figured we should be good to go. Most of the time bridges have a gauge at water level that tells you how much clearance you should have. Since these areas aren't subject to normal tides, I guess the bridge builders decided this was unnecessary. When we got to the first bridge we looked at the shoreline for indications of how high the water was relative to "normal". The adjacent docks were above water but we couldn't see a normal high water line on the shore. Needless to say, we went very slowly and luckily had no problems clearing the bridge. Just after we made it through, a boat behind us called us on the radio. He watched with binoculars to see how we did and then called to ask how high our mast was so they would know if they should try it. I guess we had at least three feet of clearance (what I had estimated), so they proceeded and no masts were damaged. The second bridge had a gauge and we were comforted to read 65 feet on it.
|The historic main street shops in Beaufort, N.C.|
It was a long day of motoring down the ICW. There were two places where we could have sailed, but the wind was generally on our nose. There were short segments where we put out the head sail and gained 0.3 knots or so, but it was our Westerbeke engines that kept us moving along. We made pretty good time thanks to an out-flowing current from the second canal and arrived in Beaufort around 5PM. A little confusion with the entrance channel thanks to a new high-rise bridge they are building, and again with our slip at the marina, and by the time we were tied up we were beat.
|One of the historic houses spotted on our walk through town.|
The next morning, we did do a little exploring in town. The marina we are at is on the north side of town and most of the touristy shops (and the more expensive docks) are on the south side of town, but it is a nice 4 block walk. Beaufort seems like a nice little town, far less industrial than its neighbor Morehead City. It is a bit more of a tourist trap with waterside cafes and tee shirt shops, but still cute. The few people in town we met were quite nice. We decided to go out for breakfast and the employees at Homer Smith's marina even let us use one of their cars to drive to the cafe.
Later that afternoon we continued our journey south. Instead of risking possible issues with the ICW along the North Carolina coast, we departed for an overnight hop on the outside to Southport.