Ahhh – a nice, leisurely day on the ICW. We left the marina at 07:50 in order to make the 08:00 opening of the swing bridge right at the entrance channel , which only opens on-the-hour. Again, I find it so funny that we did business with this place and never once saw anyone who worked there. This was largely due to the online marina booking service Docwa, but still…
Anyway, we made it through the bridge at 08:00 and headed down the ICW. I knew from past trips that we were getting into a section that is heavily populated and developed, with long stretches of No Wake zones that will keep us at 8 knots or less. So we moseyed down the way for an hour or so and stopped at a marina right on the channel in Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington, North Carolina, and took on fuel, then kept going.
It was overcast all day and we didn’t take many pictures, but there was still lots to look at along the way. One amusing thing for the past couple of days has been the number of recreational fishermen in small boats either drifting or anchored, sometimes right in the channel. And although we probably saw 250 people fishing today, some casting and some jigging, we didn’t see one person catch a fish. I know the old saying, “They call it fishing, not catching,” but still – for all that effort you’d think we’d see at least one lucky fisherperson haul one in. But not today…or yesterday.
As we steamed along we couldn’t help but look at the houses and docks along the way, and one thing that really jumped out at us was all the storm damage. I knew there had been 2 hurricanes this year that hit this area: Florence and Michael, and I knew there was both storm damage and post-storm flooding damage from Florence, and less of both from Michael, but I guess neither of us was prepared for the extent of the damage. Frankly, most houses and most docks were OK, but many either showed some damage or were destroyed. Most of the house damage was to roofs and decks: there were many, many blue poly tarps covering roofs, and many decks that were either missing, hanging off the house, or askew to one extent or another. And the docks: some were missing whole sections, many were more or less in tact but the floating docks and boat lifts at the ends of the docks were again, askew or missing. There were sections of docks and houses in the marshes, and boats, too, way up in the marshes. Some homes and docks appeared to have been repaired already – the wood looked new – but most were waiting…for what, I’m not sure – either the insurance to settle or maybe they didn’t have insurance and were trying to put the money together to effect repairs. Either way, it was really impressive how much damage these 2 storms did to this area.
When we left this morning we weren’t sure how far we’d get, because the weather forecast was squirrelly once again, but after most of the day in the narrow waterway behind the barrier beach, like yesterday, we were suddenly in the Cape Fear River south of Wilmington, and Southport was just a few miles on so we decided to stop there. There are several good choices of marinas in Southport, but we chose Southport Marina partly because it’s right on the ICW so we could get a quick start in the morning. The marina is very nice and modern, good bathrooms, showers and laundry, and good, solid floating docks. We stopped at the fuel dock for a pumpout, then backed into our slip. Once again, even at this modern marina, the Wifi was very iffy, but otherwise the marina and its amenities were great.
The other reason we picked it is because there’s a meteorologist named Hank who lives on a sailboat with his wife and has been on the ICW for many years, and he gives a free ICW briefing every night at Southport Marina. I’ve been reading about Hank and his briefings for a couple of years, so we decided to give him a listen. And I was glad we did! First he showed a weather map of the whole country and described what he thought the local weather would be like for the next few days, which was good. But the big deal was that he spent over an hour going over the trouble spots we would encounter along the way between Southport and Savannah – and there are several. Places with names like Lockwoods Folly, and the Rockpile, not to mention Little River Inlet and various other river intersections – places I’d read about in the guide books, but he showed detailed, colored Army Corps of Engineers surveys of each trouble spot overlayed with recent observations from “reliable” boaters who had gone down the Waterway in the past few days or weeks. We left with a 30+ page handout that Carol separated and inserted the pages into the guidebook, to use to help me navigate through the difficult spots – some of which are pretty notorious.
Carol and I look forward to walks every day after sitting on the boat all day, and we were really glad today because Southport turned out to be the nicest place we’ve been so far (sorry, Beauport!). A really beautiful waterside town with a long (for the US) maritime history with wide, wooded residential streets and a lively, vibrant downtown. We went through a few shops then had a cocktail at a waterside bar and were treated to the best sunset I’ve seen in a long time. We’ve seen several good sunsets on this trip so far, but this one was fantastic. Several people stopped by the dock at this bar just to take pictures of the sunset, and it was worth it.
Then it was back to the boat for dinner, some reading and an early night. I know that tomorrow will be another long one with slow going due to No Wake zones and we want to get as many miles in as possible, so an early start will be the ticket. I’m already getting a little bummed at the realization that this trip will end in just a couple of weeks, but I’m trying to not think about it too much, and to live in the moment. Because I really am having a great time. Life is good!
Today: 41.8 nautical miles
Running total: 893.9 nautical miles