There have been only two days of travel since my last entry, but several interesting events occurred which I want to record.
Thursday morning we woke in Beaufort NC (mile 202 on the ICW) to sun and moderate winds after the big wind/rain/thunderstorms of Wednesday night. Fortunately we were in a snug anchorage (Town Creek). After raising anchor we hit a nearby marina to fill Spray's fuel and water tanks and headed west past Morehead City and into Bogue Sound, which is quite shallow (3-5 ft typ.) except for where the ICW channel is cut (more like 12 ft deep). There was a decent headwind in Bogue Sound, so allthough Spray was all washed off from the heavy rain, she was soon again covered in salt spray.
Eventually Bogue Sound narrowed down to a bunch of flat islands and meandering channels, as we approached our evening destination of Swansboro NC (mile 229 on the ICW). We were about 2 miles from Swansboro, just passing Bogue inlet when I noticed a US Coast Guard patrol boat (A big inflatable with 2 huge outboards) dawdling up ahead. Sure enough, when we got close, they turned on their blue flashing lights and called Spray on VHF channel 16, asking when we had last been boarded for inspection. I answered 'never' and they asked me to maintain course and speed while they came up alongside. After confirming that Riggs was not aggressive (obnoxious maybe but not aggressive) two soldiers jumped aboard, while two more remained on the CG boat.
So I'm trying to drive Spray into a strong head-current, hang onto Riggs, and introduce myself and Spray to the soldiers. I quickly realized that letting Riggs go to check them out would settle him down, and after a few sniffs and pats Riggs mellowed right out. The CG guys looked over Spray, including below in the engine room and in the lazarette, and wanted to see my documentation. I suggested we wait until I could pull into Swansboro and drop anchor, and they agreed. I still had my hands full as the Swansboro anchorage was quite choppy, with opposing wind and current, and I couldn't get Spray's anchor to set properly. It would hold our position until I backed down on it when it would drag. Finally I decided to shut down Spray's engine so we could finish the inspection and I'd deal with the anchor later.
The CG guys went over Spray's documentation, inspected the head connections, checked PFD's, flares, fire extinguishers, etc. and awarded Spray a perfect score, for which I have to thank Dave Wyman and Jeff&Karen Siegel for their contributions. Even better, after the CG left, I restarted the engine and found that the current had pulled on the anchor and it was now well set.
Once we are at anchor I usually feel like cracking open a Yuengling (official beer of the cruise) and kicking back for a bit but Riggs will not hear of it. He makes a fuss until we get the dinghy unloaded and are headed to shore. So we tied up at Swansboro's dinghy dock and did the explore town/empty-the-dog routine. Swansboro is a pretty town but like many I've seen, all of the shops near the water sell gifts or antiques or such. Useful stores like grocery or hardware are usually a mile walk or more.
By the time we returned to Spray, the anchorage had calmed down considerably, so we had an easy night. Today we wanted to cover some distance so we hit shore at first light to empty the dog, and were underway by 7:30. At last the ICW conforms to my mental images of it, travelling down narrow waterways that separate barrier islands from the mainland. Today we were always within a mile or two of the big, bad ocean, but we never saw it as we traveled. An interesting thing today was passing through Camp LeJeune, where they occasionally have weapons firing across the ICW (see photo above). Their warning sign was flashing, but we saw no patrol boats which would be there to stop us if there was live-fire (so I'm told), so we scooted through with our heads kept low. Caught some glimpses of big hovercraft things, helicopters, and a landing craft being loaded, but nothing went boom while we were there.
Our goal today was Wrightville Beach NC (mile 283 on the ICW) and it became a 'race for the bridges'. Almost all of the drawbridges we have seen up to today were on an 'open-on-request' schedule. Today we had 3 bridges that opened either on the half-hour or on the hour only. We did well with the first one (Onslow Beach), arriving just a few minutes before it opened. The 2nd bridge (Figure Eight Island) was about 2-1/2 hours later and we should have sped up to make the 2 pm opening but instead arrived at 2:15. There was almost no road traffic on the bridge so I asked the bridge operator for an unscheduled opening so we could have a shot at the 3:00 opening at the 3rd bridge (Wrightville). No dice. So when we got through we had about 28 minutes to cover the 5 miles to the 3rd bridge, or we would have to wait another hour to get through (which involves somewhat uncomfortable 'hovering' near the bridge with a current trying to push you into it). It was pedal-to-the-metal for Spray, roaring along at 2000 rpm, and making over 9 knots (with some help from the current). We could see the bridge from 3 miles away and it slowly grew closer as the clock ticked towards 3:00. Thanks to that current we made it just in time, then quickly turned left to get to tonights anchorage at Wrightville Beach.
Wrightville Beach is a surfer's town, plus it has scads of condos and beach houses common on the outer banks. The dinghy dock here is just 2 blocks from the beach, and Riggs had a great time playing ball near the pounding surf. We rewarded our big travel day with a take-out pizza brought back to Spray. And I finally got my Yuengling.