Things That Go Bump In The Night

Thursday November 8, 2012

Our destination today wasn’t a very long one, only about twenty miles, going down from Oriental to Beaufort. This was originally where we were going to sever ties with Rode Trip as they headed into the Atlantic and make a six or seven day trip to the Bahamas while Serendipity continued down the ICW. Not ready to get rid of each other just yet we both changed our plans that we’ll still go to Beaufort together and then make the jump out in the Atlantic and come back in at Charleston, about 200 miles down the coast. Originally thinking they’d be leaving from Beaufort though, they had their last immunizations scheduled at the Health Department here and needed to be to Moorehead City right next door this evening. Letting ourselves sleep in just a little bit because of the short ride we upped anchor at eight-thirty and pointed our bows directly across Neuse River to Adams Creek which would take us directly into Beaufort. The sun was semi-visible but it was better than clouds and rain. Since we on Serendipity had no idea where we’d be anchoring that night we let Rode Trip lead into the channel and followed not to far behind. Behind the wheel as usual (Matt came too close to hitting a few markers in the water, no attention span I tell you) I was called up by Brian on the VHF. Switching to 71 as we usually do I was expecting to hear a course update or some kind of detour when Brian exclaimed “Dolphin sighting off our port bow, keep your eyes open”. Almost dropping the handheld I put on the autopilot and started scanning the waters ahead of us. We had not seen dolphins yet on this trip and I was determined to do it before we reached South Carolina. It seems like everyone besides us has seen them so far on their trip and are always surprised when we mention we haven’t come across any yet. Just like the bald eagles that seemed to be everywhere except where we were, the dolphins that had been eluding us were a daily occurrence for most people. I was not going to let this day finish without seeing one now.

 Excited himself but knowing how bad I wanted to see one, Matt took control of the wheel while I ran up on the bow with camera on hand. It felt like I was waiting forever and thought I had missed my chance once again when I saw the water begin to form ripples in front of me. This was it, I was about to have our first dolphin sighting. Two fins sliced through the water a few hundred feet ahead of us and then went back under. Waiting for them to come back up I kept my eyes peeled, not sure where they would move on to next. While looking far ahead one of them momentarily surfaced just off our starboard bow and went under our keel. It was very quick and if I had looked away for a moment I would have missed it. Having our two boats almost slowed to a stop while a few others behind us were quickly catching up we kept waiting for the fins to surface again. Now we could tell there were two pairs although they would just come up for a brief second and then go back below leaving us guessing to where they’d come up next. They must have been feeding because it looked as if they were on a mission and not interested in us or our boats at all. I really can’t wait for when we’re traveling on the ocean and a playful group follows us and jumps off our bow, but these four dolphins were enough to satisfy me for now and finally make us part of the club.

Getting out to Beaufort I still had no idea where we were anchoring and kept blindly following behind Rode Trip. After passing under one large bridge I could tell the ICW cut to the right while going toward Moorehead City, but we kept on going straight, closer and closer to The Beaufort Inlet which led right out into the Atlantic. Thinking maybe we were taking a trip out for another dolphin sighting I kept following behind until they made a sharp cut to the left, getting into a nasty current that was almost shoving their boat through sideways. Serendipity made it through without much problem at all and within a few minutes we made our way into Taylor creek where hundreds of boats were anchored or moored. Some of them looked like they had been abandoned or at least sitting there unattended for a very long time. When I saw that Rode Trip was swinging around in a semi-clear spot to drop anchor I followed suit in the next open spot behind them. The current in this area was also very strong, probably going against us at close to two knots, and we were barely making headway. When it looked like Matt was ready to drop our anchor I put it in neutral and waited for the signal to back down. Standing behind the wheel I noticed us moving backward and getting closer to the boats behind us. Having this be a normal thing while we let out however much chain we need I didn’t give it much thought until they started getting nervously close and then I looked up at the bow to see the anchor still sitting on deck.

Apparently Matt had been chatting with Rode Trip on if this was a good spot but never actually put the anchor down. Now we were floating backward at two knots in a field of hundreds of boats. The currents were starting to push the boat sideways and I was waiting for our bow to turn more before putting it in gear and moving us out of there. This process of turning was taking way too long and by the time the bow would have made it’s full turn we would have already crashed into the boat behind us, or a large channel marker that was also coming up. Getting into a full panic now I forced Matt to take over the wheel and stood by nervously watching as we came within just a foot or two of one of the boats before he punched the engine and we shot in front of the next one, narrowly missing it as well. Too scared to take the wheel back we followed Rode Trip further back into the creek where it cleared out and while they anchored we rafted up to them to discuss where we wanted to go. The big problem to the situation was they were going to Richmond for the weekend and we were going to keep an eye on their boat. With the strong currents and sardine-like anchorage they didn’t feel it was fair to us to have to watch our boat and theirs and they decided to move on to a marina. Thinking our original spot was just fine we went back to it although I made Matt promise to drop the anchor as soon as we were out of gear this time.

Later in the night a thirty-five foot catamaran dropped next to us and we weren’t sure if they would be too close but made sure to keep an eye on them. After it got dark and we were fixing dinner Matt went above deck to check on us and found the catamaran basically on top of us. This was not going to work as it looked imminent we would hit during the night. Getting a little too worked up over the situation he grabbed a flashlight and started shining it in the window of the cat until the owner came out and which point he started arguing that they were too close and needed to move….now. They guy came back that they had been there for hours and if we had an issue with them we should have said something earlier. That part I do agree with, although I told Matt from the beginning that since I have to do all the talking on the VHF (I do mean all, he’ll call me up if I’m below deck just so I can answer it while he’s steering) that he would handle all anchor disputes and I would have nothing to do with them. So it was still in his hands and he was not going to give up the fact that we were here first and we’d be staying put. The owner of the cat felt that if we were uncomfortable we should be the ones to move, and both men went back in their boats with no resolution to the problem.

An hour later I went on deck to make a call out to my parents and keep an eye on both boats. The cockpit of the cat was completely black and it looked as if they had made the decision to stay exactly where they were for the night. While most of the boats in the anchorage were all pointing the same direction, Serendipity likes to swing all over the place and I watched in horror as there were multiple times we came within a foot or two of the cat just to be pulled away at the last second. Continually going up to check we seemed to be settling into a spot that kept us far enough away from each other that there may not be a midnight collision.  After awhile I got tired of looking and put Matt on watch although I think he went the ignorance is bliss route because he never got up once to look.  First thing in the morning we looked outside to see the cat was gone and our boat was still intact with no new scratches we could see.  Now we just have to survive three more nights here.

(Above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

This wasn’t even nearly as close as we were at one point.

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