Two of our good friends that we have known for many years pulled into the marina across the dock from us on Saturday afternoon. We had planned on leaving Saturday after we dropped off the rental car, but the weather had turned to, well let’s say crap. It was raining and blowing so we decided to spend another day at the marina. After all, this is supposed to be fun. The rain came down in buckets all day and this would make a trip up the Cape Fear River a very unpleasant experience. As our friends arrived late in the afternoon, their first remark was, “you made a good decision”. They had a pretty uncomfortable day and were pretty wet and tired. But after a short rest we had a very nice dinner on their boat and caught up on what was happening with us and them. They had been at the same marina that we had been in Beaufort, but left for a trip up to Norfolk and were now heading back south. It is always good to meet up with friends unexpectedly and share a good meal.
The next morning we waited till 9:00 AM to get off the dock. Low tide on the Cape Fear was at supposed to be at 9:15 AM and we planned to run the incoming tide to get a boost going up the river. The outgoing tides have currents at almost three knots and the incoming tide can add two knots or better to our boat speed. The winds were up at 12 to 18 knots and the wind against current on the river can also be nasty. The wind was out of the southwest and the river runs to the northeast. This put the wind on our stern, much better than pounding into it. As we made the turn at Southport and headed into the river it was obvious that the tide was still outgoing and it was wind against tides and pretty choppy.
We figured the tides would change soon so we kept on going. But they did not change and for two hours we made the slow trek up river to Snows Cut. Once into the cut the currents finally changed in our favor and we quickly picked up speed. The skies were overcast and threatening all morning but we only saw a little drizzle. Our radar showed the rain several miles ahead of us and by the time we arrived where the showers were they had rained themselves out.
Sunset was at 7:00 PM and we arrived at Mile Hammock at 7:05 PM. There was still enough light to see as we put the anchor down and settled in. We have anchored here many times and at times shared this small basin with 20 or more boats. That evening it would be us and one catamaran with the basin to ourselves. This is an active Marine base and it is not unusual to have helicopter training practice or mock landings going on at any time day or night. We could only hope there would not be one of those exercises. We would be trying to beat a front the following day, something we seldom do, and would have to make 60 miles. There was only one bridge we would have to deal with so the only possible delay would have been if the Marines had the waterway closed for firing or bombing practice.
The evening passed quietly and we were up before the sun in the morning. It was a calm sunny day when the sun did rise and we got under way. It is about four miles to the Onslow Beach Bridge, which opens on the hour and half hour and we arrived with only a few minutes wait, mostly because the bridge is sloooow opening. As we motored down the channel there, was no sign of the military and we passed through without being held up. Delays can be measured in hours depending on what maneuvers are taking place. But that day, all was silent. The morning was great and we were making good time. But by the time we arrived on Bogue Sound the wind had picked up and was about 18 to 25 from the southwest. Fortunately that was on our stern so it actually moved us along faster. The Sound is wide and shallow and in any winds can be pretty choppy. At 25 MPH, it was a an interesting trip albeit faster than normal.
As we reached the shipping docks at Morehead City it was blowing hard and steady. The shipping area is always choppy with any winds and this day was no exception. But once we made the turn north and crossed under the high bridge on the waterway, it calmed down immediately.
The tides were coming in and we had a good lift, running at about 9 MPH with the engine hardly working. But as we crossed the Newport River just before Core Creek the winds and waves hit us broadside and it turned out to be the most uncomfortable part of the day. Once we made the turn into Core Creek, everything flattened out and the rest of the trip was in flat water and the creek pretty much blocked the winds. As we entered the creek we were surrounded by dolphins.
At around 2:30 PM we reached Cedar Creek and our anchorage for the night. Once again we had this usually crowded anchorage all to ourselves. As we entered we looked for a spot that would give us the best protection from the already strong southwest winds, which were forecast to switch to the northwest overnight and stay strong. This part of the creek would expose us directly to the northwest winds. In the past, we had envied the shallow draft boats that were able to get into a small creek much farther in called Jonaquin Creek, which was completely inaccessible to us with our previous six foot draft. It has good protection all around so we decided to give it a try. We found the water to be near eight feet deep right up to the entrance, not the five feet on the charts, and the creek to be at least seven feet deep in the middle. It does get shallower the further back you go and near the banks. The protection was great from the waves but the southwest winds do blow over the marsh grass. The protection for the expected northwest winds as the front comes through is great. The anchor set the first time and we settled in with the brisk breeze cooling the boat nicely.
How long we will be here will depend on the winds tomorrow. The Neuse river and the Pamlico Sound are no place to be in heavy winds. But as usual, the NWS is reporting three different forecasts, any or all could be incorrect, so we will poke our nose out in the morning and see what we have. If it does not look good we will head back to our anchorage and wait it out. If it looks OK we will head towards Belhaven.