At least once a week we ask ourselves, “Is it a cruise or is it a delivery?” We want to take our time going down the ICW, but if we stop and see everything we’re interested in, winter will overtake us before we get to Florida. As it is, weather delays have resulted in our being much farther north at this point than we had originally planned. Heck, we thought that we would be in St. Augustine, FL by the time we needed to return to Connecticut for Jeff’s doctor appointments. Where were we in reality? Hampton, VA. That’s a long way from St. Augustine!
As we left Oriental we decided we needed to start making some tracks south and switch from cruising mode to delivery mode.
We started off well, sharing an anchorage for the night by Morehead City with our friends from S/V Lone Star and S/V Duchess. The next morning we sadly waved goodbye to Lone Star as we headed off in different directions. They were going to wait for a weather window to make the seven day passage straight to the Bahamas, while we were continuing to take the slow route down the ICW. We are very much looking forward to seeing our good friends somewhere in the Bahamas!
After waving goodbye to Lone Star, we saw our first dolphins!
We managed to get some miles under the keel that day and anchored in Mile Hammock in the middle of Camp Lejuene. This part of the ICW is periodically closed to boaters for a few hours while the Marines conduct live fire exercises, but we didn’t have any delays. Maybe because it was the day before Thanksiving?
At Mile Hammock we enjoyed an unexpected visit from S/V Oasis who we had met in Oriental when they were docked across from us at the free town dock. We were planning to go down to Carolina Beach the next day while they were stopping in Wrightsville Beach, but we hope to see them again in the future.
The next day we were up bright and early to make the 50 statute mile trip to Carolina Beach. We were making good time until we made a classic ICW-newbie error. We had three bridges that needed to open for us that day, and we had not planned the timing carefully enough. As a result we missed the first bridge opening by ten minutes. It only opened once an hour, so it was a LONG wait. The next bridge opened every half hour so that wasn’t an issue, but the third bridge was five miles from the previous bridge and only opened on the hour. We caught the second bridge at half past, and since there was no way we could cover five miles in thirty minutes, it was a very slow motor over the next 90 minutes so that we wouldn’t be turning circles in front of the bridge for an excessive amount of time.
Eventually we made it to Carolina Beach where we picked up a mooring ball. Winds were forecast to be in the 20’s for the next two days and we needed to run some errands in Wilmington, so we decided given the forecast that we’d be more comfortable leaving Pegu Club on a mooring while we were away for the day.
Our friends Matt and Joyce from S/V Duchess were also staying in Carolina Beach, and we enjoyed stretching our legs as we walked around town with them after a long day on the boat. The next day we took a Lyft to Wilmington where we took care of a few things and visited the USS North Carolina battleship.
The North Carolina has been completely restored and the entire ship is open to visitors for exploring. We were there for several hours before calling it quits when Jeff’s legs started swelling up a bit. There was no way we could have seen it all in one day, so we will definitely return. Wilmington appears to have a very cute downtown which we didn’t get to explore at all, so next time we think we’ll detour up the Cape Fear river with Pegu Club and stay for a few days.
After three nights we were ready to leave Carolina Beach and continue to our next anchorage which was 45 statute miles down the ICW. We had originally planned to spend a few nights in Bald Head Island, but we were now firmly in delivery mode and decided to save it for next time. The alarm went off, we were dressed and ready, and we opened up the hatch to discover dense fog. Doh! We were already antsy after spending more time than we had wanted to in Carolina Beach so we were disappointed with this turn of events, but we can’t control the weather.
By the time the fog cleared it was too late for us to make the anchorage, and we were going to have southerly winds in the 20’s the next day – not good for the Cape Fear River. Sigh. Looks like we were going to be spending two more nights in Carolina Beach.
We ended up enjoying a warm sunny day walking along the boardwalk in Carolina Beach, and the next day we had an unexpected phone call from M/V Eventide, who we had met in Oriental. They had just pulled into the harbor and were a few mooring balls away from us.
We ended up spending several hours hanging out together on Eventide. Having also sold their house and moved onto their boat full-time earlier this summer, we had a good time comparing our experiences thus far. Eventide is planning to spend the winter in South Carolina so we won’t be seeing them again for awhile, but hopefully we’ll be sharing anchorages again as we head north later in the spring.
Finally, finally, it was time to leave Carolina Beach and we headed out with the sunrise. Note to self: next time go down Snows Cut and the Cape Fear River WITH the current, not against it. Big Red was barely making 3.5 knots at full throttle, and with the eddys and swirling water around us I told Jeff that I was not liking this section of the ICW at all.
With a big sigh of relief we finally made the turn back into the channel by Southport and we steamed along for the rest of the day, stopping for the night in a new state – Calabash Creek in South Carolina! The next day was 43 statute miles to an anchorage at Cows Head Creek, and then we had a short 20 mile day to Georgetown.
Previously we had planned to explore Georgetown for a bit, but we had just experienced three extremely cold days in a row with high temperatures in the upper 40’s/low 50’s and nights in the low 30’s. We had even woken up one morning to frost all over the boat. We ended up MacGyvering a few items to keep us more comfortable while we motored:
The cold weather motivated us to stay in delivery mode, so we decided to spend only one night in before shoving off again, vowing we would stay a little longer next time.
The list of places to visit “next time” is growing rapidly: St. Michael’s, MD; Tangier Island, MD; Washington, NC; Wilmington, NC; Bald Head Island, NC; Georgetown, SC; Charleston, SC, etc. Not to mention all of the places we enjoyed and want to revisit. It’s a good thing we are loving this lifestyle and are hoping to do it for a long time!