Sunday, April 21, 2019

Southport to Hammock Bay

Not our first choice, nor second, but Hammock Bay is where we decided to anchor tonight. 

Mostly, tonight's stop was largely determined by tomorrow's stop, which is Morehead City. Looking ahead at our travels Morehead City seemed to have a vet close by. Not only does Savannah need another eye check-up, but both dogs are due for annual vaccinations. So, I made them appointments for late Tuesday, which gave us Sunday and Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) to get there.

Based on that, Russ looked for marinas around half way. He decided Topsail would be ideal, but since the weather made a departing day unclear, he waited until Saturday to call. By then it was too late. They only had 3 spaces for boats our size and all were taken Sunday night.

Further searching led him to call Swan Point Marina. Sounds so lovely, don't it? Yes, they had room. The guy Russ talked to gave him his cell phone number in case we couldn't hail him on the radio. So, a plan is set.

Of course, none of us were thinking that Sunday is actually EASTER Sunday.

Hank's handout. Avoid red, if that isn't obvious.
Saturday night, we attended "the briefing." This is quick overview on what to expect along the North Carolina coast by Hank Pomeranz. An excellent talk, Hank covered everything in detail, from what parts of the channel are shallow (or shoaled) to what to expect from some of the bridges (some of which only open once an hour). When we set off this morning, I was a bit daunted by all the info. But having a marker-by-marker guide made the trip easy.

In fact our only thrill during the voyage was at one of those bridges. It's height is 19 feet. In theory, so is our boat. Many boats stopped and waited for the next opening which was 50 minutes away. Russ encouraged us to try it, moving slow. He dropped our antennae, then popped his head out of the hatch on the fly deck. He reported from there that his head was the highest thing on the boat. Proceed! Slowly I inched us forward, aiming for the highest part of the bridge. "You're good," Russ said a number of times. As we went under it, he extended his arm and touched the steel structure.

The rest of the day went swimmingly, until... Swan Point Marina. So gonna give them a bad review.

We hail them. No response. Russ calls them. No one answers the phone. We knew that there would be a face dock on the ICW, and that's where we were supposed to be. However, a barge had taken our spot, leaving us no room. At that point we probably should have just drifted along, but we noticed a long pier inside with space. I suggested we try to tie up there. Russ agrees.

The challenge was getting in there. The barge and pier are on the north side, and some pilings are on the south, making a small channel to go through to enter the marina. The current is pushing us toward the barge, so Russ suggested I stay closer to the pilings. I do. We run aground. In fact, the bow is stuck and the current is swinging our stern toward the barge. Dashing to the back, Russ tells me to let that happen, that we will clear the barge and swing into the marina, and then I can reverse and free the bow. My legs shook with worry, since I had to crank the engines to continue the swing, otherwise we'd be stuck there until higher tide (or Boat US towed us out). As he claimed, we cleared the barge and I reversed the engines. Freedom! We were now in the marina. Backing up I move toward the long, empty pier. Still reeling from the gate-swing maneuver I slowly bring the stern into the pier. Russ gets a line around a cleat, dandy! At least we're now connected to the pier. The plan is I'd use that line to pivot the front end in as Russ gets bow fenders in place. As I increase power to do that I hear a crack, and the boat moves sideways. I report to Russ that we've ripped the cleat clean off the pier. I'm done. We need to go somewhere else.

First, we need to get out of this friggin' marina. Only then do I realize the amount of disrepair the place is in. The end of the pier we were trying to dock at is partially sunk, and the the pier next to it is mostly sunk with a sunken ship. This time, I plan to exit coming close to the barge and with enough speed the current doesn't take me into it. "No wake" zones be damned, we were getting out. I throttled ahead.

Once we got back into the ICW, which we did without further frustration, Russ found us an anchorage about a mile or so away. Plus side, lots of space, good mud, well known. Minus side, all the land around us is military, so we can't take the dogs to shore. 

It reads "Tank Xing". Probably a clue.
Of course, we didn't know that until we'd docked at a pier and walked them, finding the sign that essentially read "No Civilians." No one shot us, so, we're good.

Updated stats:
   Anchor nights: 6
   Aground: 4

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