June 29, 2008
We had a wonderful anchorage in Slade’s Creek just south of Belhaven. We had a quiet evening and we were the only boat in the anchorage. The channel coming in was tricky, but we had the crumb trail to follow going out. The wind was blowing pretty good in the Pungo River and across the Pamlico River into Goose Creek and the canal going to the Neuse River. The wind wasn’t bad in the creek and canal, but it picked up significantly when we turned into the Bay River headed for the Neuse. By the time we entered the Neuse, the wind was dead on our nose and blowing 15-20 knots. I can’t tell you how many horseflies we had on the bimini while we were in the channel. We must have killed 100 or more. They would bite every once in awhile, but one bite was enough. Bill seems especially susceptible to them, but I thought I was o.k. We had a slow go – 4 knots, but finally we made it into the channel to Oriental. We fueled up at the fuel dock and then made our way into what we think is the same slip we occupied before. Bravo! I lassoed the cowboy piling on the first try to the acclamation of the dockhand. Bill was not as accurate as I was, but he did successfully lasso his. Upon docking and hooking up shore power, I released the horseflies that had congregated in the V-Berth. However, some remained in the salon, where they proceeded to bite me. I did get my vengeance and killed several more. I transmitted my last blog and pictures. Bill checked out the water pumps at the great marine store close to the docks while I did that. They didn’t have our particular brand, so Bill did some more adjustments and it seemed to work o.k. Then we donned our swim suits and headed for the pool, which, on this occasion was exactly the right temperature. After showers, we once again enjoyed Toucan Burgers. We saw our friends from Elizabeth City, Keko and Adrian on SaraBecca tied up to the 48-hour free dock, so we went over to talk with them. However, it wasn’t long before we turned in. The Oriental Sailing Cup was scheduled for the weekend, so we were anxious to leave before the festivities began. We had bagels and Lattes at The Bean and then exited our slip.
I can only say about this day that it has been a really crummy one. If I wasn’t a lady (which some might question), I would use a bit more “descriptive” term, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. The horsefly bites that I have are swollen and weeping, like poison ivy blisters. Bill’s swell, but don’t weep like mine. Plus, they itch like crazy! The wind worked against us coming out of the slip, and there are pilings extending pretty far out into the channel. Bill tried to avoid the boat on the free dock and we were headed back into the pilings. The water was very shallow and we were churning up mud. After several attempts to elude the pilings, Bill came forward and told me to drive the boat. Following his instructions about which way to turn and which gear to put it in, we finally cleared the docks. Unfortunately, somehow we bent the bowsprit on the port side. The problem is, if you work with boats, eventually, you’re going to end up with some damage. Also, the rub rail bowed out on the port side, which has happened before, but it is a bear to fix. We got out into the Neuse after dodging several small craft dragging shrimp nets, and Bill asked me to watch while he checked out our damage. The boat was on autopilot, and I didn’t pay enough attention until Bill came back and said we were going the wrong way and would have run aground without Bill’s correction. The wind wasn’t too bad in the Neuse and we crossed into Adam’s Creek with a shrimp boat zigzagging back and forth across the channel. We had a few discussions about navigation, but eventually we continued on our way. I drove through the channel to Beaufort and Bill hung over the rail and hammered and nudged the rub rail back into place, assuring that he will be sore tomorrow.
Bill assumed the wheel after the canal and brought us into the Municipal Docks without incident. We had a “fair” Grouper sandwich for lunch and got the rental car to go to the grocery store. I managed to bang my head on the companionway cover, but nursed it with a cold beer. Because the showers at the marina are not air-conditioned, we opted for showers on the boat. I had mine, and then Bill had his. After his shower, Bill banged his head on the glass rack and began bleeding profusely. After we got that stopped, Bill tried to adjust the water pump, which was again acting up. It didn’t respond to repeated adjustments, so we just turned it off, and proceed to drown our sorrows. We were so tired and exhausted from the day on the water, we opted for a bowl of soup and a salad and headed for bed. We had checked the weather forecast and there are big winds predicted 15-20, but less than forecast for Sunday and Monday, so we (actually my call) decided we should leave early and anchor at the Marine Corps base in Mile Hammock Bay. We were worried about exiting our slip, but with help from a dockhand, we made a smooth escape. We thought we’d eventually have the tide in our favor in Bogue Sound, a 20 mile + large body of water, but very shallow. We were wrong. The tide was against us (at up to 2 knots) almost the whole day. We were slogging along at less than 4 knots, but our boat speed was close to 6. Right before we entered the sound, a Coast Guard boat came barreling by us with siren going and lights flashing. Our VHS was still on Channel 9 from our docking yesterday, so we switched to 16. We then heard bad news on the radio. Obviously, a boat had hit a sandbar and two people were in the water. The voice on the radio was pretty controlled, but very tense. “Two people in the water, maybe one is dead.” “Coast Guard, where are you?” “What is your ETA?” The Coast Guard called back and asked for the boat’s position. “I’m only a kid; I don’t know” came the reply. Then, “Between Markers 27 and 28.” We listened as the drama unfolded. One of the injured was now breathing. The second victim had been taken to a sandbar and was given CPR. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene, and then EMS personnel were on the scene. From what we could hear, the 2nd victim had responded, but also had a back injury. Both were taken to a waiting ambulance in a small creek off the sound. We think that everyone survived. I will always remember that young voice, warding off panic and manning the radio, saying “I’m only a kid.” Well, thank goodness someone had taught that “kid” what to do in an emergency and in so doing saved lives.
By the time we reached those markers, there was no longer any evidence of the trouble there. Bill was at the helm the whole way across the sound as it was shallow with sand bars sticking up. The weekend boaters were out in full force, many beaching on the sand bars. There were still plenty of motor boats in the channel, many with skiers or float riders, making our journey totally unpleasant. Bill swore he would never again travel on a weekend except maybe in Calibogue Sound. There were some confusing markers as we passed numerous inlets, but we continued south. Finally, I was able to give Bill a little break, though short-lived. The current continued to make our progress slow, and the trip we thought would take only 5 or so hours turned into over 8. We had one brief respite when the current was in our favor, and we made 7 knots, but that was only for one mile. When we passed the last of the inlets, the tide finally gave us a boost, but at a price. The 20 knot wind blowing against the current created big breaking waves over our bow. We caught another break when the one bridge we had to pass through was under construction and thus in an open position. We came to our anchorage and have anchored among 3 other boats; we were the last to come in. We’re not in an ideal location in regard to the other boats, but after watching our track for several hours, we seem to be set. The bad news is the wind continues to blow well over 20 knots, ensuring a night of minimal sleep. Bill is asleep right now while I work on this blog. I’ll wake him when I’m ready for bed and hope to give him some shut-eye for a little while. I know he’s exhausted and will probably be up most of the night checking on conditions. The boat anchored behind us has an Englishman (Peter) and his Italian wife (Lucia). Peter came up in his dinghy to tell us they were leaving early tomorrow. They have sailed their steel hulled boat across the Atlantic and are headed northward. I’m about to run low on battery, so I’ll close for tonight, and hopefully get this on the internet tomorrow night when we hope to be at a dock. Tomorrow looks like another rough day, with winds exceeding what we had today. Tonight, I haven’t seen any numbers under 15 knots, but hopefully it will lay down a little as the night progresses.
This morning, we watched the local news and learned to our dismay that the boating accident did claim one victim – a 63-year-old man, driving a Jet Ski with his 43-year-old daughter on the back evidently lost control and ran the Jet Ski into a 27-foot boat. We also were interested in the weather – 20 – 25 knots from the SW, but fortunately we weren’t going far. We were all set to leave a little before 8:00, and Bill tried to crank the motor. It caught briefly and then shut down. Several more attempts produced the same result. Bill decided that we had gotten some bad fuel in Oriental, so he proceeded to change the fuel filters (with a little help from a friend.) Because our fuel tank was only about half full, Bill captured the diesel from the old filters in an empty gallon water jug – not much, but hopefully enough to prime the filters. We filtered the fuel through paper towels and primed one filter and half of the other one. Once again we tried the engine but to no avail. Then Bill determined the fuel pump wasn’t working. He had a spare and replaced that. It, at least was trying to get fuel to the motor, but another attempt did not bring any better success. Well, we were feeling pretty depressed and out of options, so Bill called Tow Boat U.S. Luckily, we had gotten the “Unlimited Towing” package. The tow boat captain said he’d be there in about 45 minutes to an hour and was going to bring 10 gallons of diesel with him. It was about 10:15. He got there about an hour later, and was a really nice young man. He and Bill went below and I just tried to stay out of the way, occasionally performing some manual task as required. Just as I was about to give up hope of getting the engine to start and resign ourselves to getting towed back north to Swansboro and spend several days in a boat yard, the engine fired (with a little help from an ether aerosol). Now, I don’t understand it, but we were happy it worked.
We finally pulled out of Mile Hammock Bay around noon and once again headed south into 20 to 25 knot winds. I don’t think the wind spent more than 30 seconds below 20 all day. The channel was narrow, so Bill, who is better at finding deeper water than I am, was at the helm the majority of the day again. After two days of the Weekend Warriors on the ICW, Bill declared that no one outside NC could use the bathroom because all of the anatomical parts necessary to perform that function were cruising the Intracoastal water way. (Well, he didn’t exactly use those terms!) We made the 3:00 opening of the Surf City Bridge and arrived at Harbour Village around 4:00. The wind was blowing like rip and the current was running more than one knot, but after a science-fair project docking, we were finally secured to the dock. Chris, the son of the harbourmaster, helped us dock and gave us a ride in a golf cart back to the marina office. I swear it is over a mile away and will be quite a hike from our slip. Because of the thunderstorm and the long hike, we are taking showers on the boat tonight. We will stay here two nights as we are pretty worn down from SW winds and boat repairs. Cool Breeze is so salt encrusted that it leaves salt crystals on your hands if you touch the life lines. Her crew suffers from the same condition. Tomorrow we hope to get the boat cleaned inside and out and just relax from our exciting life as cruisers!