June 13, 2020
Mid-day today, Home Free and her crew arrived at her home for the summer, or at least until the COVID-19 travel restrictions blow over. At last report, Home Free had just rejoined civilization at the Beaufort Inlet near Beaufort, North Carolina. Here are the happenings since.
There may have been mention in the prior post that I brought crew aboard for this trip. I have insurance restrictions for how long I can operate the boat alone without sleep and so being offshore requires that I have someone else aboard on a multi-day offshore run. On a different note, but with a similar solution, transiting the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) involves periods of effort/thinking that are best served with two people aboard. The solution is to have crew aboard, and Marianne was looking for off shore experience and graciously agreed to help.
On June 10th, at the easy hour of 6:30am, we untied from the dock at Jarrett’s Boatworks a few miles inshore from Beaufort (Core Creek seems to be the name on the terrain map) and began the transit to Atlantic Yacht Basin. The first mile offered a couple of ominous signs . . . I guess I should be paying close attention for the next few days.
The path is up Adam’s Creek, into the Neuse River, then a turn East, a bit of a run to the ‘open’ water of Pamlico Sound. The term open water is a bit generous as the water depth doesn’t exceed 22 feet.
After a short run, there is a turn back to the North into Goose Creek and following the ICW channel which takes a lot of time off of an otherwise circuitous route around Brant Shoal and Pamlico Sound’s eastern waters. Goose Creek ends in the Pamlico River, but we barely stayed there, crossing it quickly instead to get into the Pungo River and a short hop to Belhaven. There we stopped for the night.
One of the benefits of having Marianne aboard is that she knows these little spots. Having transited the ICW three times this year, she was familiar with many of the features of the ICW, (houses along here, wetlands there, a great place to stop for the night here, swing bridge there, etc.) and she new Gregg at the Bellhaven marina. Originally we had hoped to go to the town dock (with no power), but on closer inspection, it appeared to be a little too shallow. We opted for Bellhaven. There is also a nice town just at the entrance to the marina and some very nice homes along the waterfront.
While the day was a bit cloudy, a relatively early arrival also meant there was time for a short bike ride. (In the photo below, Home Free is visible between the two buildings. Taken from a bridge along my bike ride route).
While walking the waterfront, I noted a very familiar ‘stack’ on a boat tied to the dock. It was clearly a Nordhavn 47 and the first thought I had was ‘am I lost, how did my boat get there?’. Of course rational thought returned quickly and I realized there was another N47 tied to a dock just down the way. I went over and introduced myself to Chris and Holly Barber, owner of Paragon (N47-13).
This introduction was fortuitous, in that Chris suggested that I not leave the following day because high winds were expected. In fact he suggested that staying for a few days was best because that high wind would be followed by a lot of rain.
I am new to the ICW, I don’t know the territory and so opted to stay put given the wind forecast. While 25 knots of wind wouldn’t worry me much (or maybe more aptly, wouldn’t worry the BOAT much) on such a small body of water normally, there was no room for contingencies if anything went wrong.
The next stop was expected to be the Alligator River Marina. Their depth was reported to be 6-10 feet, but shoaling could take depths to 4′. This is a problem. After that, the next stop (Coinjock) was a bit far for a one day run in the ICW. If I couldn’t get into the Alligator River Marina, I would have to stop in Albemarle sound, which in high winds could be very bumpy and worse, those high winds could push all of the water from one side of the sound to the other leaving a pretty shallow and very bumpy anchorage if a stop was required. This was all too much.
The rain on the other hand was not a problem. Home Free is fully capable of handling rainy conditions and so a one day layover would clear much of the ‘danger’, being high winds.
After two nights, on June 12th, I untied the boat at 6:03 am and started for an ‘epic’ run to Coinjock. That is 85 miles on the ICW and not a very common occurrence, at least on such a slow boat.
Things went well enough in the morning. The expected rain held off, the expected winds of <5 knots appeared. Around lunchtime things took a turn for the worse however and the rain decided that it would indeed fall, and the wind forecast was shredded. Arriving at the Alligator River Bridge, the rain was coming down a bit and the winds were picking up to 20 knots. Home Free barely noticed and the bridge opened up to let us pass. They stop operating the bridge at 24 knots of wind apparently. Phew, got lucky there.
After the Alligator River, things open up into Albemarle Sound. Well, it was a tempest. Winds rose to 30-35 knots, the waves were tossing about around 6′ high and again, Home Free barely noticed. There were other boats trying to navigate the narrow straw that was the opening between the bay and the sound. One poor sailboat was being tossed like a toy in a tub. The weather was not destined to last and so, pressing on, things settled down within a couple of hours and even before that, we were making our way down another narrow channel of the ICW toward Coinjock.
Despite the ‘epic’ 85 miles, we arrived and tied up at 6pm, just 12 hours after our departure from Bellhaven, none the worse for wear. We were re-united with another boater who had been tied up behind us on our first night in Bellhaven, Don, and he regaled us with his story of the prior day on the Albemarle, which sounded much like our experience.
Today, the last day of this journey, was set to be much shorter, with just a 40 mile run. Again we were slammed in the open water of Currituck Sound with winds up to 36 knots. With very little fetch, water depths of just 3-7 feet in most places, there were almost no waves, just the constant push and whistling of wind on the boat. During these heavy winds while following such a narrow sliver of deep water (well, 9-13 feet in the channel), most of my focus was on what to do if an engine quit.
Around 9 am, the wind died down to a perfectly respectable 20 knots (just a little sarcasm there) and the sun came out to warm the air and dry the boat. We completed the run to Atlantic Yacht Basin and have Home Free tied up at a ‘temporary’ dock for a few days until they find a covered slip for storage. I will shortly return to Canada to wait out COVID-19 travel restrictions and isolate in our new to us home on Amherst Island.
Many thanks to my new friend and able crew Marianne.