For the past three days we have motored Northern Lights down 180 miles of narrow, shoal-infested channels with no chance at all to sail lest we run around. Only one or two degree course corrections on the autopilot, but lots of interesting scenery along the way. The ICW is lined with many incredible homes sporting long docks with lifts for their boats. There are other stretches where the landscape is pristine, with only wildlife and vegetation to capture the eye. Of course, there are many spots in between these extremes, but the landscape is ever changing. Fortunately, the weather has improved substantially and it has been - almost - warm at times. The locals here in NC & SC tell us this is more like February weather than November. Still in full foulies!
We left Oriental on Thanksgiving day and sailed across the Neuse River and down through a cut to Morehead City. From there we motored down the ICW to a very nice anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay, near Camp Lejeune. There were 5 other boats in the anchorage, one of which had been on the same course as we were a few days ago. Much of the area here is restricted land belonging to the military. We enjoyed the turkey we had roasted the night before along with cranberries and sweet potatoes. It was fun to have our Thanksgiving dinner in the anchorage, but we missed family time. We awoke early Friday to see dolphins jumping in the entrance to the bay. We resumed our passage down past thriving Wrightsville Beach NC and on to Southport on the other side of the Cape Fear River. Lots of activity around Wrightsville on Black Friday - evidently not everybody there goes shopping - and the weather was comfortably warm so many people were out on their boats. It was a nice change from the remote areas of northern NC. We stopped at Deep Pointe Marina in Southport, NC where the ferry to Bald Head Island departs and borrowed their car for a shopping adventure to the (not-so-local) ABC store for a refill of our Bombay Sapphire stock. In the morning we resumed our adventure passing two other other sailboats after many miles and becoming a band-of-three due to bunching at the several swing bridges along the route. Tonight we are tied up at a nice dock at Osprey Marina, just south of Myrtle Beach SC. It is very woodsy and calm. The marina attendant gave us a little welcoming package with sweet rolls, shampoo, laundry detergent, crackers and a jar of Pumpkin Butter especially made for Osprey Marina.
Some of the interesting things about this past week have been the variety of what we've seen. Even though it is "more of the same" a lot, we have had times when there has been lots of "civilization" around us and other times it is quite remote. As we get further south, there seems to be more activity on the water - both from pleasure boats, fishermen and shrimp boats. The inlets are fun to pass by because we can catch a glimpse of the ocean. This seems to be where the dolphins congregate as well. You can see in the picture below one who swam alongside our boat for while. It was amazing! One thing about the inlets is that you must be very careful of shoaling at the entrance. This morning we were following another sailboat and they grounded just a few yards ahead of us. Fortunately they were able to maneuver off while we carefully avoided their track. Also, there is some critical timing involved in passing under the swing bridges since they generally open at specific times. This requires us to "hover" in narrow channels dealing with winds, tides and occasionally other boats. Also, we are seeing lots of different birds - osprey, egrets, herons, hawks and finally......lots of pelicans!
Tonight we are enjoying grilled salmon and our new favorite salad...grilled romaine drizzled with Jeff's balsamic mustard vinaigrette and......the rest of the Thanksgiving sweet potato pie!
Thanksgiving dinner afloat in Mile Hammock Bay.
The Capt Jeff shrimp boat!
Crab boat on the Cape Fear River. These guys are out there early in all kinds of weather.
Our dolphin buddy swimming alongside us near Wrightsville Beach, NC
An unusual house along the way
The is lots of dredging along the ICW to keep ahead of the constant shoaling.
Nice scene along the ICW along the way to Wrightsville Beach, NC
Shrimp boats and pelicans!
Just a pretty scene at an inlet near Wrightsville Beach
Early morning shrimp boat near Southport, NC
One of many swing bridges that either open at specific times or on request
Northern Lights docked at Deep Pointe Marina in Southport, NC with the Bald Head Island ferry
Leaving Deep Pointe Marina at sunrise Saturday morning
Jeff tonight at Osprey Marina south of Myrtle Beach, SC.