Feeling a bit relieved that we were missed by the storms and tired from lack of a good night's rest, we slept in another hour and were finally underway at around 7 AM. The trip on the ICW was a fast one since we were on a falling tide. That falling tide and our one hour difference in getting started would be the difference between a comfortable trip and a roller coaster ride. But it would not be the first time for us on the Cape Fear River. They don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing.
Between Topsail Inlet and Snows Cut, we averaged about 9 miles per hour, and once we made the turn to head through Snows Cut and under the bridge, we were making over 11 miles per hour with the current. Once out of Snows Cut and onto the Cape Fear, this changed very quickly and dramatically. The tide was coming in with a vengeance and the wind and tides were opposed. Our forward progress was slowed to about 5 miles an hour, and the seas very quickly built to make for short, steep, uncomfortable waves right on our stern. This makes steering difficult since the stern is getting push from one side to another, and the helmsperson needs to make sure the boat does not get turned sideways into those waves. That could be a disaster and very dangerous in these kinds of conditions. The deeper the water, the bigger the waves, and we had to travel part of the way down the river in the deep shipping channel. At some point around Horseshoe Shoal, there is a large gas pipeline pier that sticks out almost to the ship channel. We had to be sure and round that pier, but once we did, it gave us an opportunity to get into shallower water and use the pier to break up the seas somewhat. Things did calm down a bit for the last 5 miles, as we ran with one foot on the shoreline to stay out of the deeper water and bigger seas. At around 1 PM, we rounded the corner and turned into the waterway at Southport.
We knew there were a few options for possible free dockage right where the waterway meets the Cape Fear. There is a small basin with room to anchor a boat or two and a town dock with room for maybe one boat. But there are also a couple of restaurants that offer dockage and will let you tie up overnight if you patronize the establishment. We choose the Provision Company and a quick call confirmed they had a spot for us. By 1:30 PM, we were tied up at their dock and in need of a break and a good meal. We had the lunch specials which were fresh grilled Bluefin Tuna sandwich and cucumber salad with steamed shrimp and a crab cake. It was fairly inexpensive by tourist area standards and was excellent. Once lunch was finished, we walked across the street for an Ice Cream Treat. We debated as to whether we would stay here or move on to our planned anchorage, which was only a couple of miles farther on. The docks were pretty rolly from boat traffic and the surge coming off the Cape Fear so we decided to move on to the Anchorage.
The small creek is unnamed on the charts, but is right at red marker R "8" and next to the docks at South Harbour Village Marina, where we had stayed in the trip north. We entered the creek finding plenty of depths until we got farther inside the basin. There are several local boats permanently moored here, and the depths at low tide for most of that basin would have put us aground at low tide.We found the deepest spot we could and tried to set the anchor. And then we tried two more times. If our new Manson Supreme, sized for a 40-foot boat, would not grab, nothing was going to and it would not grab. We knew there was the chance, albeit small, that we could have some weather come through. And that did not sit right with us in a spot where we could not get the anchor to set with shallow water all around us. The decision was an easy one. We headed back out the creek, made an immediate right turn and parked at the docks at South Harbour Village Marina. We received the same friendly welcome and excellent service we had received the last time we were here.
Marina stops for us are not for resting and relaxing. If we have to pay for a slip, we need to get our money's worth. That means laundry needs to get done, the salt needs to be washed off the boat, the water tanks need to be topped off, a grocery run made if a car is available and Internet work is caught up with the marinas excellent WiFi service. One of the staff at the marina handed Susan the keys to his car to make the grocery run. This kind of service is why we always stop here if we need a marina in the Southport area. That evening we pretty much passed out and even overslept the next morning.