We got underway at 0700 but missed the 0900 hourly opening of the Surf City swing bridge by 10 minutes and so had to loiter in front of it while others from our anchorage, who probably enjoyed their coffee and breakfast, came wandering in to join us. Underway again at 1000, we made the Figure 8 Swing bridge and then had to loiter again to wait for the 1300 opening of the Wrightsville Bascule Bridge. As all of the marinas in the area were full we decided to head for Wilmington and continued south past Carolina Beach and into the Snow's Cut to get to the Cape Fear River. Now, the tide was at a spring-tide low but the guide book said the north channel was deep so when we grounded suddenly at its entrance we were quite surprised. Fortunately, the tide was rising and we were able to pollywog our way off of the shoal and back into the south channel instead. About an hour later we pulled into the Wilmington Marine Center and took a side tie for a week in their protected harbor.
Cruising up the Cape Fear River with a big one passing us!
Northern Lights in Wilmington Marine Center
11/16/13 - Visiting Wilmington, NC
We took a cab into the downtown area to explore old Wilmington. They had a farmers market on Saturday and we saw some great okra pickles in one stand and tasted some local wines before wandering up the street to explore. Across the river, the WW-II battleship North Carolina sat in her war paint begging us to visit, so we took the water taxi across the Cape Fear River and spent 2 hours wandering through the old battlewagon. As it turns out, BB-55 was the first battleship to reach Pearl Harbor after the Japanese invasion and saw action in every major theater of the Pacific during the war. She was torpedoed by the same submarine that sunk the carrier Wasp - the first shot missed the carrier and hit the ship 13 miles away. Bad luck for sure but she returned to Pearl, her damage had been repaired and she was back to sea in 3 weeks. She was saved from the scrap yard after the war and visitors can tour a 16 inch gun turret, see the shell & powder magazines below and generally tour all of the ship. Jeff was in heaven and thought it well worth the trade of another art museum tour to compensate Neala, although she does seem to be fascinated by ships and such. We had lunch at The George on the waterfront and had the southern version of Eggs Benedict - buttermilk biscuit topped with a grilled tomato, a crab cake, a perfectly cooked poached egg all topped off with perfect Hollandaise - yum! (Accompanied by a nice Chardonnay.) Later we returned to the boat to pack for our flights early the next day. Jeff was flying to San Francisco for a conference and Neala was flying back to Erie to visit her family and friends.
USS North Carolina BB-55
Sixteen inch, forty-five caliber battleship rifles shot 1900 lb projectiles - quite impressive!
11/22/13 - Return to Wilmington
We both had late flight arrivals but Neala was delayed by weather in both Erie and Philadelphia and so would not arrive until midnight which meant she had an 8 hour layover in Phillie. Digression: Jeff's college girlfriend Bonnie's family owned a summer home in Wilmington right on the ICW waterway between the Figure 8 and Wrightsville Bridges. Jeff had visited the cottage in the 60's with her and had recognized it last year as we steamed by on our trip south. He had called Bonnie's brother Tom and wife Jan at the time - they had all stayed in contact over the years - but we could not get together then. This year Jeff called sooner and we had arranged to get together for dinner the next night. Anyway, Tom & Jan left a car at the airport for us (so nice!) and he was able to drive back to the boat to turn on the heat and make her comfortable for Neala's late arrival. That was so thoughtful!
11/23/13 - Tom's 70th Birthday Party!
We slept in late after all the traveling and drove into Wilmington for lunch and to wander around a bit more in this historic town. We had another lunch at The George (ordered those great crab cake Eggs Benedict again!) and picked up some very fine okra pickles from Angela before returning to the boat. Around 1600 we headed out to Tom & Jan's and arrived to find they were celebrating Tom's 70th birthday! They had their daughter Amy there for the party along with her two young children 4-yr old Josie and 18 month old Rex. Tom & Jan are long time cruisers and have made the ICW and Bahamas trips several times over the years. Jan was most interested in our experiences on the Erie Canal and in the Great Lakes so it turned out we had many topics for animated conversation that evening. After a delightful evening which included a great meal of "beer can chicken" with their family Tom drove us back to the boat and we prepared for our trip south the next day. Thanks Tom and Jan for a wonderful evening!
Angela's pickled okra and citron cucumbers are the best - perfect for Jeff's "martini salad"
Some of the fresh Swiss Chard we got at the market
Tom and Josie opening birthday cards
Jan, Amy, Josie, Tom and Rex celebrating Tom's birthday. So glad we could be there, too!
11/24-25/13 - Our First Overnight Offshore Together!
A big low pressure cell had just passed over Wilmington the previous day and there were gale warnings up and down the coast up until 1pm today. After fueling, we departed the marina at 1230 to head down the Cape Fear River with some trepidation. The Frying Pan Shoal buoy was still showing 27-32 knots of wind and 8 foot seas when we left but the forecast was for easing of conditions so we headed out knowing we had until 1400 to chicken out and take the ICW south in Southport or head out to sea. By the time we got to our decision point the winds had abated to 18-24 knots and the seas were calming too so we decided to head out for our first offshore overnight together! By 1630 we were heading SW on a broad reach in 18-22 knots and making 7-8 knots as the sun set in the west. The wind had clocked a bit too much to carry both main and jib so we furled the jib and ran downwind under main alone. At sundown, Neala took the first watch while Jeff snoozed in the salon. At 2130 he awoke and took over the conn for the mid watch. At 0430 Neala took over on a port broad reach and Jeff went to bed. When the sun came up the winds had built to 25-30 kts and the seas to 6-8 ft and we ran out a little bit of jib so we could head up to reef the main. The Charleston channel was in sight and we were going to need to close reach so a balanced, double reefed sail plan was in order. We were able to reach into the harbor in exciting conditions to the breakwater where the seas at least abated. From there it was an easy sail into the harbor and finally under power again we rejoined the ICW to clear the 1100 opening of the Wapoo River bridge on a flood tide. Neala took the helm again while Jeff took some calls - it was his usual busy Monday morning at MiHIN. At 1500 we anchored in the Toogoodoo River in a nice little anchorage and decompressed while our friends (and Delray Beach neighbors) Wayne & Kristin of Kemo Sabe motored into the anchorage to meet us for dinner. They had been keeping their boat in Charleston and were only a couple of hours behind us for the rendezvous. We put the dinghy in the water and motored over to Kemo Sabe for drinks and a dinner reunion and a celebration of Kristin's birthday!
Broad reach in 15 - 20 kts offshore of Cape Fear River
First double-handed sunset from Wilmington to Charleston
Celebrating Kristin's birthday on Kemo Sabe in Toogoodoo Creek - beautiful anchorage south of Charleston
These happy guys celebrated, too!
11/26/13 - Into Beaufort, SC For Thanksgiving With Tina
0830 We awoke after a good night sleep and got underway to Beaufort. The weather was awful, with rain and fog obscuring the channel markers on this twisty part of the ICW. Neala drove again using the GPS and binoculars to navigate in the bad weather while Jeff conversed with his MiHIN colleagues in Michigan over GoToMeeting in the comfortable cockpit enclosure. It's a pretty tough way to earn a living! We made the 1500 opening of the Lady's Island Swing Bridge and tied up at the City Docks at 1530 for two days of visiting with Jeff's daughter-in-law Tina. Jeff's son, Troy, is currently working in the Philippines so unfortunately he was not with us (except by Skype!)
Going through Ladies Island Swing Bridge in the rain. We docked in this stuff, too!
However, the evening was beautiful - Northern Lights is the left mast
11/27/13 - Conference Calls, Art Galleries and Shrimp n' Grits
Jeff had his usual Wednesday calls and a demonstration of his Provider Directory so he was busy in the salon until afternoon. Neala met Tina for brunch and they spent the morning touring the many art galleries and little shops that line Bay Street. Beaufort, SC is such a great little town! By 1300 Tina was off to her work and Jeff was done with his so we both walked around the town together in the afternoon. Tina picked us up for dinner and we drove to the Dockside Restaurant where we had dined with her last year for some of their famous Shrimp n Grits. We have been sampling the various recipes of Shrimp and Grits (no one prepares it the same way!) and, hands down, the Dockside's is the best!
11/28/13 - Thanksgiving Turkey and Time With Tina
We drove to St. Helena Island to Tina's who had prepared a yummy breakfast of fruit crepes, coffee and Swedish sausage, then went for a long walk with her two award-winning Shelties - Fiji and Chanel. Tina is a national-level Agility competitor with these dogs and she has a complete agility course set up in her back yard to train them with. It is amazing to watch the dogs fly around the obstacle course following Tina's verbal and hand commands. After our walk we returned to the boat to change for Thanksgiving dinner at Panini's in town. They prepared a delicious smoked turkey dinner with all of the trimmings and we had a wonderful meal. After dinner Tina drove us to Port Royal for another walk and tour of the town before we returned to Northern Lights for dessert (Dutch apple pie in the cockpit) and to say farewell. Tomorrow, we plan another offshore overnight to Jacksonville, hoping to avoid the shallow small intestines of the ICW the rest of the way to Florida. We just had another big front blow through yesterday and the weather forecast looks like what we saw from Wilmington so we are heading out again tomorrow.
Tina and Fiji showing us their award-winning Agility moves
Neala and Tina on the neighborhood dock
Nice Thanksgiving day walk
Jeff and Tina with Fiji and Chanel
Pretty scene of the salt marshes along our walk
Port Royal Sound from the observation tower
We loved this "shrimp" mailbox we saw along our walk!
Jeff and Neala in front of the "Traveling Buoy" that broke loose and traveled 6,000 miles to Scotland - we couldn't make that one up!
Plaque at the Traveling Buoy
Ladies Island Swing Bridge at dawn