Even Score

Wednesday November 14, 2012

Waking up to another cold and blustery morning we continued on our way down the ICW, making our way to the Cape Fear Inlet where we’d decided if we were going to jump out or still stay inside. Winds had been howling all night and into the morning and it wasn’t making me feel any better about going offshore again. Rounding through the channel to get to the marina we passed Hideaway at the dock and waved good-bye as they wished us well with our ocean voyaging, should we choose to go that route. Filing in line behind the other boats on the ICW we were treated to a few dolphin sightings and two even came up right next to the boat. They popped their heads out of the water and stared at us for a moment before continuing on their way. After seeing the dolphins Matt told me to keep an eye out on the marshy islands separating us from the ocean as they were supposed to have wild goats roaming around them. Since we had been lucky enough for the ponies (and probably only because Rode Trip was with us, they seem to find every kind of wildlife there is out there) I didn’t have high hopes for a goat sighting that day.

 Traveling down the waterway you could tell this was the area where big money was coming in to play. All of the homes on the water started ranging from wood-shingled Hamptonesque homes to gaudy Malibu mansions and everything in between. There was even a spot on our charts called Money Point. And they homes placed there looked like they had it. When the homes began to turn to marsh again I looked over the little islands to the east of us and could see what looked like white foam in the distance. We were coming up on Carolina Beach Inlet, the one I almost mistakenly brought us to the night before. The shore flattened out and all you could see and hear where thunderous waves crashing to shore. Coming up on the actual opening to the inlet it was rolling seas as far as the eye can see. I know that the crashing waves are only close to shore and we’d be rid of them once we were a few miles out, but it was not helping Matt’s case to want to go out in it that afternoon. One thing I did see there as well was how shallow the entrance looked. It’s a very good thing that Matt had caught my mistake yesterday or there’s a really good chance we would have run aground on our entrance and probably have run into some of the buoys because they were very small and didn’t look to be marked with lights. Add in that there is no place to anchor in the area and the end of last night could have been much worse than it was.

With both of us wanting to seek the shelter of a warm comfy bed I let Matt go below to lay down in the late morning while I manned the helm. We were coming up to the area where the ICW connects to the Cape Fear River which eight miles later flows out to the Atlantic. Fighting a decent current to get through the connecting channel it more than made up for it once I got into the river. I thought we had been doing great down the ICW at six to six and a half knots but the river shot me into the upper sevens and close to eight. This also made me happy because it meant that I would only be traveling down the river for an hour before I had to make the decision to jump into the Atlantic or continue on the ICW and Matt would most likely still be sleeping so I could make the decision based on what I felt comfortable with and not having him coax me into anything else (can you guess which one he’d like to do?). Not only did Serendipity keep moving forward at that fast pace, but she kept speeding up. I brought out the camera to snap a photo when we hit nine because I wasn’t sure Matt would believe me, and then just a moment later we were up to 9.9, the fastest we’ve ever seen her go. I throttled back a little bit to bring her down since if the current was going to carry us we could reserve a little fuel but before I knew it we were at the fork in the road and I had a decision to make. Probably knowing in my head all morning I would make this decision if it were up to me alone I turned right into the ICW with many extra miles and hours but guaranteed safety. I’m sure we would have been fine if we jumped outside but I was still too intimidated by the day before to take on another ride like that in the overnight hours on watch by myself.

When Matt woke up he asked where our stop was that night, aware I had made the decision and there would be no ocean sailing for us that day. As a compromise I found an inlet forty miles south of us that I told him we’d anchor near and jump out in the morning, once we’d had one more day for conditions to calm. He seemed fine with it although I could tell he was a little disappointed to not be out riding waves again. But he’s very familiar with the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life‘ and acted like it was no big deal that I had just added another day on to our journey. Settling in to spend the rest of the afternoon on the ICW we took turns at the wheel and read from our e-readers. As I was sitting in the companionway enjoying the warmth from our bus heater below I looked up to see the bow of a boat overtaking us and didn’t think much of it. When I checked again it was Hideaway and immediately jumped up to talk to Ryan and Tasha in the cockpit. We compared notes for the day and found out we were both planning on anchoring at the same spot that night. When we told them our plans for the next day Ryan looked at us surprised and in his British accent shuddered, “You mean you’re going out ….there?” and pointed past the lavish mansions to where the Atlantic was sitting on the other side. We told them that conditions were supposed to lighten and we had a report from Rode Trip a few hours earlier verify that winds were only 20-25 and waves were 3-4 ft on their stern. Our optimism didn’t seem to rub off on them and they established they were still going to continue down the ICW all the way to Charleston. I don’t blame them.

After we had been passed by Hideaway and Northern Cross, one of the boats we’ve been seeing on and off since Norfolk, we were trying to beat the sun so we didn’t have another nighttime anchoring. I had left Matt at the wheel while I went below to try and perfect my pizza dough, something that’s getting better each time but still isn’t quite there yet. As I was kneading the dough I hear Matt moving around above and pulling out the headsail. There was less than five miles left to our anchorage and when I called that up to him he said he was getting bored and needed something to do. The line must have gotten stuck on one of the stays so with the autopilot on he went above to release it. I should have warned him that depths had been changing frequently and to keep a close eye on it at all times, but in the time it took him to run up to release the line and come back into the cockpit we had run off course enough to run around in five feet of water. Throwing it in forward and reverse we could wiggle around but could not get free. We were good and stuck once again. That now leaves me at two and puts Matt up at one. I wasn’t even upset at all, in fact I was kind of glad the score was getting evened. The bottom was soft so there was no damage to the boat and the only thing it was costing us was daylight. Checking the tide tables we saw that high tide was coming up in three hours and by then we should have enough water under us to keep moving along. As if knowing we needed a little spirit lifting once again Matt looked off our port side to the little islands that separated us from sea and called, “Look, … goats!!” Sure enough a heard of about four wild goats were making their way down to the water a few hundred feet behind us. Knowing we weren’t mobile anyway (at least in the large ship capacity) I suggested we dinghy to shore to get a little closer to them. “Who knows”, Matt replied, “Maybe they like carrots”.  Putting down the dinghy I thought he was actually going to bring us to the goats but instead he tied a line to the boat and pulled us off.  It’s amazing what a 3 hp engine can do.  Getting to the anchorage just after dark we laughed about the day and I tried to mentally prepare myself for another ocean voyage tomorrow.  I can do it, I can do it.

The inlet I almost brought us in the previous night.

Following the well laid markers.



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