It poured overnight but the storm cleared out before dawn and we woke up to calmer water, light winds and partially clearing skies. We started out today around 7:30 am leaving Wrightsville Beach, NC with the intention of getting into South Carolina today. We snapped a few pics of the marina below (does not do it justice) and the non-sunrise before we left.
We cruised down the ICW through a succession of marshy sloughs for about 12 miles to Snows Cut at M295 where you need to make a hard right. We followed Snow’s Cut over to the Cape Fear River.
We headed down the Cape Fear River with the current running hard against us – 3-4 knots, making it a very slow go. We made it to the Lockwoods Folly Inlet (M321) just as dead low tide was approaching (the pic’s below are unbelievable but accurately depict the state of this inlet. It is in dire need of attention by the Army Corp of Engineers or this area will be impassable soon).
We had heard that a sailboat was pulled off of some shoaling in the channel just inside the inlet before we arrived. We were taking it very slow and sure enough came to a halt on a healthy bump of sand. We were able to back ourselves off and retreated down the river to check the charts and decide what to do. Just then another sailboat heading south (The Aurora) who we have seen off and on throughout the trip came along. They have the same draft as us (5 ½ ft) and decided they would try to hug the reds and make a go at it.
They got stuck in the same spot we had rubbed on, but they were hard on the ground. So, while chatting it up with them on the radio we decided to make some sandwiches and take a break while we waited for the tide to come in. They finally got off the bar so we started heading down just to get stuck where they had been a few minutes before. We hung out there (this is why there are so many pictures of this area) for a while and then got bounced off by the wake of a shrimping boat. My advice to anyone that is heading down the ICW in this patch is to time it so that you go at high tide. At low tide the depth is about 5 ft at the highest spot we could find. No matter what time you go, HUG the reds. (that guy is walking his small boat through the channel on the green side below…yikes!)
By the time we were moving again it was getting late and there was no way we could make it to the anchorage at Calabash Creek so we started to look for overnight options. There aren’t many in this area. We tried to get onto the dock at The Provisions restaurant, but our depth finder was reading under 5 ft. We kept heading down to Hewett Marina. Turns out Hewett Marina is closed and is now the Inlet View Restaurant. They have very nice looking floating docks. We made an attempt and got stuck on a sandbar that is directly in front of the docks about 30 ft out. We sat for a while (enough time for a few selfie’s) and ended up calling Tow Boat US as it was getting late.
Before they could arrive to give us a tow, we floated off. Took a run at docking, but the current in this area absolutely RIPS and it was pretty breezy. The restaurant does not have any assistance on the docks either. So after a few passes, we checked the Skipper Bob guide for alternate anchorage sites. The book lists the area west of R 76 at M329.5. We called the Towboat US folks to discuss and they confirmed that would be a good spot.
We anchored and the proceeded to grill dinner and had a very nice evening watching another beautiful sunset and relaxing on the back of the boat. We got to bed early as the clocks were going back that night and we would need to start our day an hour earlier to take advantage of the daylight.
Craig got up a few times to check our anchor line and all seemed well until midnight when we heard a sound that woke us both up. Craig jumped up out of bed and fell as soon as he tried to stand up. I jumped up and was like “holy sit we are on our side”. We ran up to the cockpit and we were sitting on a 35 degree angle, on the ground in about two feet of water. Uh oh…what to do now…we sat and pondered the situation. We finally decided to call the Coast Guard to get some advice.
The Coast Guard suggested life jackets (oh yeah…good idea) and they called Sea Tow. Sea Tow came out …. And said “Damn…we figured the Coast Guard was exaggerating when they said ya’ll were sitting on the ground at 30 degree angle…but we think it’s actually 45 degree”. Then he said “oh man…sorry about that recommendation…I sure do feel guilty now”. I was actually very calm at this point still, until he said…”ya’ll probably want to stay in your boat as there have been some pretty big 16 ft great whites tracking around this area”….WHAT!!! Holy crap, now that hadn’t even entered my mind as a concern until then.
Anyway, what to do now? First suggestion was to close all the sea cocks. Thank goodness that Captain Andrew Seligman had made certain in our first ASA course that we knew where every sea cock on this boat was. (Thank you again to #The Sailing School, Captain Gary Thomas and #Captain Andrew Seligman again for the great training we received!!) The water was already filling the galley sinks. Fortunately the boat was on its port side and most of the openings are on the starboard side. But we closed them all to be safe.
The next choice was to either have Seatow attach a line to our mast and try to pull us further onto our side and then into deeper water, or wait it out. We chose the latter. We collected cell numbers from the Sea Tow folks and then hunkered down to wait it out. The pic below is me sitting on the wall, with my feet extended onto the ceiling. I fell asleep for a little while and when Craig woke me up at 3am we were sitting right side up in the water again….Phew!
We went back to bed and got up around 7am to head out. Everything was totally fine with the boat. Not even a scratch. Fortunately the water receded and came back very gently and the boat laid down without a jolt. We love our #Beneteau and feel very, very safe in it!!
All in all it was definitely a “High Drama” day as Captain Marcus would say but we made it through. As my girlfriend Sue once said to me…”Buck up little sailor!”. We live and learn…on to sail another day.
Lesson’s Learned and Daily Rundown (lots today)
- Wrightsville Beach, NC (M283.2) to Gibbs Creek/Shallotte Inlet (M329.5)
- 46.3 NM traveled
- Cast off at 7:30am, anchor down at 6pm
- Go through Lockwoods Folly Inlet area at high tide if possible
- Hug…no, kiss….no, trade paint with the reds in Lockwoods Ferry and also in Shallotte Inlet areas
- I would not recommend docking at The Provisions unless you draw 5ft or less and plan to leave before low tide.
- I would not recommend docking at the Inlet View Restaurant at all – to harry between the big sand bar, (that is apparently expanding by the day), the tide changes and the strong currents that rip here. Not too mention the tidal change from low to high. I’m not really sure what would have happened if all the water had left and we were tied up at the dock….we probably wouldn’t have gently laid down.
- No matter what the guide books or local knowledge tell you about an area, you should ALWAYS check the tide tables. In our case if we had, we would have realized that it was a new moon and there was a greater than 6 foot tide differential called for.
- Before you head out on the water you must know every inch of your boat and especially where all the sea cocks are. You never know when you will need to close them, and when you do, you can bet it won’t be in a “low drama” situation. Fortunately, we did know where they were and were able to close them before any significant amount of water got into the boat.
- Cool heads always prevail. After your initial shock in any situation….calm down and figure out a plan.
- No harm in calling the Coast Guard or Sea Tow…even if only for moral support…:-).