Monday, May 26, 2014

Southport to Oriental

My new volunteer arrived in Wilmington NC last Tuesday and we spent a few days waiting for good weather, shuttling my car up to Deltaville, VA. and getting a couple last minute fixes done on the boat.  With all of that complete, we set sail on Saturday, leaving Southport behind.

Working hard on a sailboat.

Since Cape Fear and the Frying Pan Shoals are just north of the Southport inlet, I decided we should just take the ICW up from Deep Point marina and head out to the ocean at the next inlet instead of taking the hours it would take to skirt around the shoals.  Of course the next inlet, Carolina Beach, isn't navigable by larger boats due to the constantly changing shoals, so I chose the Masonboro inlet instead.  Motoring up the inlet it was immediately apparent it was the Memorial Day weekend.  There was a ton of traffic on the water and lining most of the local beaches.  After a few hours of dodging boats, we made it back out to the Atlantic.

Sailboats and motorboats, and jet-skis.

From there, the plan was to sail on the outside to Beaufort, and then continue via the ICW up to Oriental, NC so we would bypass Cape Hattaras.  Everything I've heard of Cape Hattaras indicates that you need to give it a pretty wide berth or it can be pretty dicey.  The winds weren't as favorable for this leg as they were for the last one, so we weren't able to go directly to Beaufort, but sailed more up along the coast.  This wouldn't be a bad thing, except there is a big restricted area that is surrounded by a bigger "danger zone" where the military likes to conduct training.  Not wanting to be a recipient of their training exercises, I ended up tacking several times to get far enough out to clear the zone during the night.

The tacks would result in the boat heading southeast, so a couple times I went and sat on the foredeck and just looked up at the stars.  It still amazes me how many stars you can see when the light and pollution of civilization isn't around.  By the end of my night watch, I had made it just far enough out to clear the danger zone and we should now be able to make it most of the way to Beaufort in a relatively straight course.

We were fortunate that we had wind most of my watch as the forecast called for them to lay down in the evening. Naturally, after I went to bed, the winds died down and we didn't end up making a lot of progress the remainder of the night.  I got up just in time so we both got to see the sun rise over the ocean.  With the sun up, you could see how amazingly calm the sea had become over the past few hours.  There was barely a ripple in the water, just a smooth and gentle roll like the ghosts of yesterdays waves.  We finally gave up on pure sailing and fired up an engine so we could make it to Beaufort in time for low tide and wouldn't have to fight a strong current going back in the inlet.  Other than the lack of wind for sailing, it was a beautiful day.

Once near Beaufort, we were again greeted by all the people making the best of the Memorial day weekend on the water.  Dodging a number of boats, we (along with several other sail and motor boats) made our way up the ICW and we ended up in Oriental, NC. around 4pm.  We took advantage of the marina showers, used the marina courtesy car to make a run to the grocery store, had dinner, and called it a night.

Our Route.

Rango, or another little green lizard, made an appearance as well.  Unfortunately when we found him later hiding under the cover of the BBQ grill, it appeared that his back legs were not working well.  We decided that his story would not end well if he were handicapped and trying to live on a boat, so we took him to shore at the marina and left him there.  Hope he can manage better in Oriental. Good luck little stowaway.

Is this Rango, the lizard from the earlier trip?


  1. Poor little Rango! He was probably seasick. Glad you got him ashore there in NC because I think that's about as far north as they can survive come winter time. Good luck little guy! Glad you guys had a safe trip and much luck as you continue to make your way north.

    1. Yeah, was a bit sad to see him go, could have used his help with some insects today. Thanks, things are working out well on the trip thus far.

  2. curious why you didn't duck out the cape fear river between oak island and bald head island?

    1. Well, the theory was that it would take longer to get around Frying Pan Shoals than it would to cut through the ICW. Cutting through Frying Pan with my low draft could have been an option if the wind and seas are just right...but they weren't forecast that way and I didn't want to risk the boat.