Little discoveries along the Inside Passage

Swansboro to Belhaven NC (approx)

Up at 5:30AM we had the engines crackin’ at 6 – and started moving Cat Maudy northward. Our first fixed 65′ bridge was lined up for low tide. Yeah right. I’m not sure what’s up with the tide tables, but we keep finding that low tide is really closer to high tide. Irregardless, it appeared as if the water levels between Cape Fear…and Swansboro were lower than we expected (probably due to some lunar cycle) – so even when the tides are not at their lowest — we were seeing plenty of low water. If you don’t understand anything I just said – then you “get it”. Forget trying to understand the tide charts and water levels. They is what they is.

The first hour of motoring we skirted with patches of dense fog. So dense, that a trawler who was motoring along, doing the “la la la”, directly in front of us….suddenly veered off to port and within a few seconds ran aground. Lesson learned: Stick with your GPS when you can’t see a thing. We slowed to 5 knots…and blindly worked our way thru the next few miles.

The bridge heights are looking very favorable to us. We easily glided under the first 2 fixed bridges with height markers on the bridges displaying well over 65′ of clearance. The third fixed bridge – in Moorhead City – registered at 67′ and for the first time EVER – we didn’t even bother to slow down. Cat Maudy is getting a bit confident eh?

As the fog gave way to intense sunlight, it looked as if we would be overdosing on Vitamin D – until we made a bit of a discovery. The 2 helm stations on Cat Maudy are “exposed” to the elements. If it’s raining….you get wet. If it’s sunny – you get a tan. If it’s windy – you hang onto your eyeballs…that type of thing.

Here we are, four years into owning Cat Maudy – when we discovered we had “bimini shades” for the open cockpit. Sure enough – a nifty zipper connects the hardtop bimini – with two huge cloth extensions – which cover each helm station. So that’s what these little scraps of cloth are for? Who knew? I can assure you, the Captains are living large now. Under the newly discovered “bimini shades”.

Speaking of the motor yacht named Living Large — they were NOT having a good day. The ICW channel northbound from Moorhead City – some 20 miles inland is surprisingly shallow. You can be right in the middle of the channel, and let your mind wander about what’s for dinner….when all of a sudden, without notice – you are in 2 feet of water. Just like that. You quickly check to starboard and port and wonder – ‘woa – did I just doze off at the wheel?’ – but no, you are smack dab in the center of the channel. As we passed Living Large, and his companion TowBoat US – it looked strangely quiet in their wheelhouse. In their case, they had veered well outside of the channel. Guessing the Admiral was having a little “chat” with her Captain.

This must be prime “crabbing” season – as it didn’t take long to discover that crabpots are everywhere. This includes not only the shallow waters lining each side of the ICW channel, but in the channel itself. I guess there are no “rules” when it comes to dropping crabpots in the water. Navigation is challenging enough with the shallow depth. Paddy calls this “Cruisers Challenge”. We spend the next hour devising a monopoly-like board game designed for Cruisers. “Go to Jail” is more like “Run aground”…and winning a fortune is more like “Sail in flat seas at 11 knots” – that type of thing. Or, an unlucky move on the board game would be “hit a crabpot….slow to 2 knots….and waste an hour trying the unleash the beast from your rudder”. You get the idea. Maybe we should return to paying more attention at the helm.

Along with a brigade of other sailors and cruisers, we motored up the Neuse River…to the Pamlico River…to the Pungo River – and finally to an anchorage that wasn’t cluttered with crabpots at 7:30PM. A long 13 hour day, covering 88 miles of the Inside Passage. We are two miles from the dreaded “Wilkerson Bridge” – all 64 short feet of her. Will save this excitement for tomorrow.

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