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Charm on the ICW

Wrightsville Beach to Swansboro, NC

There are two natural body of water wonders to choose from, when navigating by boat up and down the eastern seaboard. One, on the outside – from the ocean. And the other – on the inside – the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). The ICW isn’t always majestic, or even natural for that matter. For example, southern Florida’s ICW is sadly overdeveloped, and any natural beauty requires you to have a bounty of cash. But along the coastline of North Carolina, the ICW offers a mixture of tranquility, nature at it’s finest, and some of the most unique “hurricane housing” architecture you’ll find anywhere.

For Cat Maudy, with her ‘tall girl’ mast – navigating along the ICW becomes strategic. We must “time” getting under the fixed bridges at lower tides, and many of the drawbridges only open on the hour. Twice, we missed “the hour” by less than 5 minutes. This caused us to motor in circles – and passing 55 minutes of time waiting for the next drawbridge to open. It’s not easy to “time” the drawbridges. Sometimes, we travel at 9 knots when the current is in our favor. Usually, as we cross an inlet…the current works against us, and our speeds drop to 5.5 knots. It doesn’t matter if the tide is ebbing or flooding. You never really know how long it will take to get to any destination. Part of the charm on the ICW.

A 5 mile stretch of the ICW between Wrightsville Beach and Swansboro, North Carolina – is a military base. Called Camp LeJeune. Nobody plays with Barbie dolls here….this is serious GI Joe war games “get out of my way” stuff. Signs along the ICW indicate that boaters must “STOP” cruising if the red lights are flashing. I triple checked. They were NOT flashing red. So we continued.

Hard to imagine what “goes on” here when the red lights ARE flashing – but when they are NOT it is quite unnerving. Gun artillery goes off incessantly, and Top Gun jets swoop toward Cat Maudy at warp speed. The sounds are terrifying, and this continues for 5 miles. I manage to get a few photos of the swooping fighter jets, before deciding that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe they don’t want their picture taken? Their guns sure are awful big.

We end the day – at anchor, in Swansboro. Swansboro is a quiet ICW town, just north of Sneeds Ferry – and shrimp boats line the shoreline for the evening.

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