Tuesday August 10 – Saturday August 14
We catch the outgoing tide at 8 AM Tuesday from Charleston, on a beautiful sunny morning, giving us a nice 1.5-2 kt boost down the channel. The city looks beautiful with the sun coming up and shining on it, much nicer then our gloomy entrance a few days earlier. The jetties are almost totally submerged as we go out the channel, thankful for charts & GPS. Between that and all the natural obstacles of shoals & rocks the east coast is a challenge for a 6'3” draft boat, we are having to go out quite a ways off shore before being able to safely turn north towards our next destination. On the positive side, the water is much cleaner out there, it is still a beautiful feeling sailing along (even if the motor is helping) in the blue/green waters off shore. You can tell as soon as you enter the channels as the water turns from green to brown you can see the line. By 4:30 we are turning in the channel to Winyah Bay, between South Island & North Island, by 6 PM we are in a nice little isolated anchorage off Cat Island where we spend the night before a sunrise departure on Wednesday to head up to Bald Head / Cape Fear River Inlet. Long day ahead of us, Have light winds and a slight chop to the water as we head out, winds are right behind us but too light to fill the genoa, so we roll it up and leave the main out to dampen the rolling action of the boat. By 1 the winds are strong enough to hold the genoa and the swells are building. Later we can turn the engine off and sail wing on wing by this time the following seas are 4-5 feet it is a beautiful day on the water. We are in the channel passing Bald Head Island by 5 PM, our original plan was to anchor out, but we did have a couple of marinas in mind in case the anchorages did not look good. The tide & current were still strong and we did not see any other boats anchored out so we decide to go to a marina. By 6 we are tied up at Southport Marina. We had wanted to do a short trip up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach to go out the Marsborough inlet but talking to the dock master we all agree it could be a little tricky. We would have to travel up river with the incoming tide (at 5 knots) which would put us at the 65 foot bridge at high tide. Later walk into town for dinner and decide to skip the inland trip and go back offshore. Thursday we sleep in a little as we will be waiting for the outgoing tide to give us a boost going out the channel, we are under way by 11 for another overnight trip up to the Morehead City / Beaufort Inlet. Getting away from the dock took some doing as the wind had us pinned to the dock. We were glad we had room to maneuver, as the wind and the current were pushing us all over. We are heading out the channel beating into 5-6 ft. waves but doing 7 knots with the outgoing tides help. By 12:30 we veer off Southeast, from the channel to run parallel to the shoals for several miles. We have 20 – 25 knot winds at 40º angle, so we put double reefs in both sails and we are at a better angle with the waves. Good news is we are having an exhilarating sail, bad news is we see a tear in the main sail about 2/3 up right along the seam. We leave it up until 2 when we turn east/northeast at which time the wind is behind us on the quarter so we sail under genoa alone, doing 6+ knots which is actually too fast as that will get us to the inlet before daybreak. At 6 PM a weather alert comes over the radio warning about a thunder storm heading Southeast right towards us. We have been cruising for almost 5 months now with NO bad weather during trips, now within 1 week we have 2 overnight passages with bad weather. At least it is still daylight and we can see this one coming, it is an amazing sight seeing the storm move across your path (SEE PICTURES), once again our main concern is the lightning. This storm passes quickly with only a 30 minute shower. By 8 PM we put the genoa back out and are having dinner before starting 3 hour shifts at 9. Sailing right along downwind, hoping the winds die down and slow us down so we do not get to the inlet before dawn. At about 2:30 the wind dies, and we start the motor, motoring slowly to time our arrival at pre-dawn light. 5 AM we are almost to the channel so we do a little 15 minute turn around and then by the time we get to the channel we can see our way in the inlet. We have also timed our arrival with low tide as we have to pass under another 65' bridge, we make it with no problem and by 7:30 we are tied up at the marina in Morehead. The marina office does not open until 8:30 so we use the time and still air to take down the main sail. Steve goes to the office to ask about a sail repair shop, and is given a name & # that he calls but the guy is too busy to be able to get to our sail until the following Monday. He gives us a name & # of a guy up in Oriental 20 miles up the ICW. We call him and he can work on the sail and he is located right in the marina, solving transportation problems. We were planning on taking this route up the ICW on Newport River and Adams Creek to the Neuse River, passing Oriental on our way to Ocracoke, so since it is only 9 AM we decide to continue up to Oriental and by 9:45 we are underway again. This trip up the ICW is very pleasant, we have a cool breeze and the tide pushing us along, passing some beautiful homes and wooded areas. Noticing the different trees and the cooling temperature with less humidity. The incoming tide giving us a boost in speed is also a concern as there is another 65 foot bridge that we had planed to arrive at LOW tide, as it is we will be getting there at almost high tide. Backup plan is we throw in the anchor before the bridge & wait for the tide to go out. As we approach the bridge they have the height measurement sign indicating the different water level clearance. We have the binoculars out and can see the 65' mark is just starting to be covered, so 64'9” should be okay. We hold our breath as we pass under and hear the scraping noise of the VHF antenna that just bends back as we go under the bridge. After a quick change of underwear (LOL), by 1 pm we are tied up at the dock in Oriental, drop the sail off with the sail maker located in the same building as the marina office. Back to the boat for lunch and a nap it has been a long 26 hours. Oriental is an interesting little area, we don't get to explore much as our marina is not close to town, but there are a lot of sail boats in the area with some great boating venues. Saturday morning do a quick load of laundry while we wait for the sail which we have back by 10. Move the boat to the other side of the dock facing the wind so we can put the sail back up, by 11 we have tools put away and are underway across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke. Wind is on the nose so we are motoring across the sound in cool temperature with low humidity. As we near the channel we see several ferries coming & going to the Island. We slow to let one pass and follow him in, grateful for his lead because we probably would have grounded on an unmarked shoal if we hadn't seen him zig around it. By 6 PM we are anchored enjoying a drink in the cockpit. Excited to be someplace where we will spend a few days exploring the sights.
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