Southport, NC (Wednesday, 10/25)
Today was a very long day! We left New Bern before light and entered the Neuse River where there was no hint of the storm from Monday and the high winds from yesterday. While there was a slight breeze, it was from behind us, so the cruising was pretty smooth.
We cruised the 20 miles east until we rejoined the ICW route, turning south down Adams Creek. Here we cruised past homes that were snuggled amongst the trees offering us beautiful scenery. Occasionally we came across another small fishing boat, but mostly it was peaceful and quiet.
About half way up the creek we came to Jarrett’s Bay Boatworks and took on some fuel; a fill-up that should get us to South Carolina and then some.
Within 20 minutes we were back on the water and headed south towards the Beaufort, NC area where we had reservations for the night. We were making good time and the windy weather was staying to the southeast of us, so we decided to bypass Beaufort and continue on as far as we could as we had several issues that we were going to encounter further south.
The first was getting through Camp Lejeune, as they have planned “live fire” exercises and the ICW was only scheduled to be opened from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. This had to be coordinated with the Onslow Swing Bridge which only opens on the hour and half hour. We also had to get through the Surf City Swing Bridge some 20 miles further south that only opens on the hour (and it will take about 1 hour to get to it). Adding to this was our concerned about getting past Myrtle Beach by Friday 10/27 as the ICW was closing due to new bridge construction and this could really delay our return home by 11/4. And then there were all those other boats heading south, all using the ICW because the weather did not warrant going off-shore from Morehead City as we would have liked.
So, we pressed on, cancelling our reservation at the Beaufort, NC marina and thankful that all the bad weather stayed behind us in Morehead City. It looked like it would be a nice day in the ICW, but not offshore.
We cruised through the tedious parts of Bogue Sound having to slow down for the numerous fishing boats along the way. Then we made our way through Swansboro, where we had purchased shrimp in 2015 when we came through on our Great Loop adventure.
Around 12:15 we arrived at the North Range at Camp Lejeune thinking that we were in clear as the tower had no red flags and signs did not show warning lights.
However, we arrived at the Onslow Bridge at 12:25 thinking they would open at 12:30 and we would cruise through. We didn’t realize the live-fire exercises were taking place off shore and the south range was the part closed. Therefore, we had to wait on the 1:00 opening of the Onslow Bridge, along with the 15 or so boats in front of us and a barge, all motoring in place. Once again we had flashbacks to our looping days on the western rivers waiting 4 hours for the locks.
At least while we were waiting we got to watch the Osprey and Blackhawk helicopters in action as they buzzed around us.
Finally at 1:00 the bridge opened and the first boats cruised through. Next came the barge, and then us and the 10 or so boats that had now queued up behind us. Once through the bridge we saw the soldiers on their “lunch break” on the western shore and the Navy Patrol Boat making sure we all kept to the required boundaries.
We were able to pass a few of the slower boats and finally make some headway. However, when we came to Snead’s Ferry there is an area where there is significant shoaling on the ICW caused by the currents from the New River Inlet. Here we watched a yacht run aground. We were able to take the deeper channel (thank you ActiveCaptain® community) and cruise past them and another boat without incident. Once through this area we were treated to a few dolphins who danced around the waves created by our wake.
We continued south now moving as fast as we could in order to make the 2:00 pm opening of the Surf City Swing Bridge. We were hoping we might be able to get under this bridge (published height of 12’) if the tide was low. But it was just too close to chance it and once through we were glad we waited as the high water level made it too low a clearance for our 14 feet.
Now there was nothing stopping us from continuing on to Southport except daylight. We had called ahead to make sure they had space at Southport Marina, which they did. We still had a long way to go, but it looked like we were going to be able to make it before the sun kissed the horizon.
After Surf City we cruised through Topsail and Wrightsville Beaches; places you should never transit on the weekend as it is just too crazy. Here is what this area looks like on a calm day:
We then cruised southwest through Snow’s Cut (a passage that takes you further inland) and into the Cape Fear River. We called the marina to let them know we would be there late, and they confirmed someone would be there until 6 pm; our planned arrival time. Next we passed Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal to our west, and Fort Fisher to our east. All of this vast land is military and a restricted zone until you come into the Southport area.
We arrived at Southport Marina and were instructed to tie to the inside fuel dock slip. As we approached the entrance to the marina and the fuel dock we noticed the boat on the outside was none other than “Lady Catherine”; our favorite Trumpy yacht. Mark navigated the boat into a starboard side-tie and in front of another boat, while Denise got the dock lines tied off with the assistance of the marina dockmaster. It was 5:45 pm and we had traveled 129 very tedious nautical miles and we were exhausted.
We had an opportunity to speak first with Catherine on “Lady Catherine”, and eventually her husband Captain Richard. We talked with them about our previous encounters at Pine Island (FL) and then on the Chesapeake Bay. We discussed our mutual adventures over the summer and their plans for wintering in FL West Coast. They could not talk long as they had chartered guests aboard and had to take care of them. Denise loves this boat and is intrigued with the eloquence of its design and beautiful lines. You can learn more about chartering with “Lady Catherine” here.
By the time we settled the boat and checked in at the marina it was just after 6:00 pm. We were hungry and had contemplated going to dinner at Mr. P’s Bistro, a place we tried to get into in the spring but the wait was way too long. However, we were so tired we opted for a quick meal on the boat and by 8:30 Mark had climbed into bed where he slept soundly for 8 hours.
We were happy to be nearly done with North Carolina and this part of the ICW. It is a pretty area, but full of challenges and most of the time you are heading west – which can be frustrating when you want to head east. However, we liked the town of Southport and were happy we made it the entire way here today.
Here are some other pictures of crazy things we saw along the North Carolina ICW: