Once again, Marshall and Debbie had mercy on a couple of poor cruisers and lent us their fantastic beach house at Carolina Beach, right behind the sand dunes. We’ve enjoyed being here for 3 weeks despite concerns about hurricanes that seem to be standing in line out in the Atlantic.
Irma sent a tropical storm in over us, but Capri managed just fine on her buoy out in the bay. Jose was a non-event, it had a path far out in the Atlantic. Now we’re waiting on Maria and are hoping that she decides to follow Jose’s route.
We’re using the time to update our website, which we hope you have noticed. We’ve also played some golf and spent time on the beach. As a cruising sailor, you simply don’t get as much exercise as you’d like, so each morning we have walked for a hour along the beach. Wonderful feeling to get even a little bit back into shape. This time we rented a car, because we needed to be sure we could evacuate ourselves if Irma or Jose got too close for comfort. Hurricane strength 5 is nothing to joke about. Since we had a car, we also spent some time exploring the area.
Carsten wanted to see one of the places he had visited with his parents when he was a child, so off we drove to Cape Hatteras. The trip up there took much longer than we had calculated (or google calculated). It ended up as a very long day trip – 20 hours, to be exact. Well, we’re retired and don’t have to be anywhere. This trip was just about as far as driving from Copenhagen to the other end of Denmark and back again in the same day.
We started at 7 a.m. and followed the ICW along several stretches and saw where we had sailed just a couple of weeks ago. And then it suddenly dawns on you that sailing means moving at an incredibly slow pace. That which took us 3 days on the water, was passed in 3 hours by car – and we were on the back roads, not a freeway.
We were truly “out in the country” and drove from one tiny village to the next. The great southern plantations were non-existent here, but trailers (pre-fab housing to politically correct) abounded. Today there are larger and mounted on a concrete foundation. Previously they were trailers and were towed to their destination on wheels and most of them remained on wheels so they could be moved if the owners ever wanted to.
Road signs were distinctly missing most of the way and we stopped and asked directions several times. We didn’t have a road map and with our Danish phones it was very expensive to use 4G and google maps. We were truly out where the signs read “2 miles to nowhere”. Even though we were less than 50 miles from Cape Hatteras, it was clear that most of the people we asked had never been there and certainly couldn’t give us an firm directions on how to get there. They apparently live in a bubble of their little town and don’t venture out.
The countryside was beautiful with both tobacco and cotton fields alongside the road. To our vast surprise we saw signs warning us to be careful not to hit deer, but also alligators, bears and wolves! Don’t see signs like that in Denmark. After 8 hours of driving, we crossed the bridge to Cape Hatteras – the selfsame bridge that Capri can’t sail under because it is only 45 feet high and our mast is 61 feet, which is the reason we didn’t visit here on our way down the ICW. We’ll wait until next summer and sail into in from the south.
Cape Hatteras is an area consisting of 5 long sand reefs which are threatened every time a storm or hurricane passes over the area or close by. The residents are apparently used to being evacuated, sometimes more than once a year. The electricity goes out every time and the roads either flood or fill up with sand and become unpassable – which we were soon to feel first hand.
After crossing the first bridge we were on Roanoke Island. Roanoke is known as the first place a British colony was attempted to be established. One was established but it only lasted a short while. Today the colony’s fate is still known as the Great Roanoke Mystery. The colonists established themselves on Roanoke Island and made the agreement with the captain of the ship that had brought them there, that if for some reason they decided to move the colony, they would leave a message so he could find them when he returned the following year. When the ship arrived, the skipper and crew found the colony houses intact, no signs of violence or mishap, no bodies. Only a sign that said “Ocracoke” which is the name of a neighboring island. The colony looked as if the colonists had just arisen from the dinner table and left. It is still a mystery what happened.
The next bridge took us over to Kitty Hawk, site of the Wright Brothers first flight with an airplane. The area is very touristed, with luxury summer cottages lining the beaches. This made us decide to immediately cross to the next island, Cape Hatteras itself, an area where Carsten has many memories of camping with his parents when he was a child. Here we were met with those impassable (almost) roads, filled in with sand or flooded out completely. Jose had passed by out to sea a couple of days earlier and sent huge waves slamming into the sand dunes and over them. All the roads were flooded and for long stretches we drove through 2 feet of water. There were bulldozers everywhere scraping the sand off the roads.
The trip through the great dunes on Cape Hatteras remind me of driving along the western coast of Denmark. Empty landscape, great white beaches and only a single little town where all the summer cottages are concentrated. Finally, we reached the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, pictured on many a postcard and memorialized by small copies in many of the gardens in North Carolina. Ok, up we went (I mean, we had to didn’t we?). It was only 200 steps and we were huffing and puffing when we got there. But what were we complaining about? Back in the days of the kerosene fired light, the lighthousekeeper came up the 200 steps twice a day carrying 5 gallons of kerosene in each hand. This lighthouse has saved many ships from going on the reefs – it is a dangerous place and known as the World’s biggest shipgraveyard. Just off the coast, the gulf stream races with a strong current, which also makes the area dangerous for swimmers. This year “only” 4person had drowned, a 17 year old drowned the week before we were there.
From here to Ocracoke, we needed to take a ferry – this one is free. We wondered why it took just over an hour – I mean Ocracoke is just across a tiny strait, but the deep water channel wound a torturous path out and about through the sand reefs. We then drove the 15 km down Ocracoke to the other end where we needed to catch a ferry 3 hours later for the mainland.
By the ferry is the small town of Silver Bay, a protected anchorage where we can anchor Capri next summer. The town is an exceedingly charming holiday town that reminds of Skagen in Denmark. We ate a pizza at the local pizza joint (very good pizza) and then took a nap in the car while waiting for the ferry. It is a 3 hour ferry ride to Beaufort and we spent it sleeping in the car. Once again we drove alongside the ICW towards Carolina Beach – the same stretch we sailed in Capri just a couple of weeks ago. Despite catching some shut-eye along the way – we were still tired when we got back to the beach house at 2:30 a.m.
Our stay at Debbie and Marshall’s wonderful beach house (once again THANK YOU DEBBIE and MARSHALL!) is coming to an end. We’ve planned a short golf trip to New Hampshire with Debbie and Marshall from October 2-6. Not just for the golf – we’re also going to see the wonderful colors of the trees which are world famous this time of year. Before leaving, we need to sail to Charleston and get Capri hauled and up on land. She need some tender loving care after 1 ½ years and over 10,000 nm of sailing. From Carolina Beach down to Charleston, we take the ICW and see the magnificent landscape once again. The trip needs to be planned very carefully to coincide with the rising tide, since there are a number of places where the water simply isn’t deep enough for Capri except at high tide.
September 29, 6:30 a.m. the dawn breaks and we haul up our anchor in the semi-darkness. We need enough light to the buoys in Snow’s Cut between Carolina Beach and the Cape Fear river, but we also need to get as early a start as possible to catch the tide further on the ICW. We have 3 hours of sailing down the Cape Fear river and hope we have figured the tides correctly so we start with a bit of following current, then slack water and no foul tide on the river. Happily, we did figure it correctly and didn’t have to fight the 3 knot foul tidal current going down the river.
We cross the river and sail into the ICW 3 hours later. We are only a couple of miles from the sea and are anxious thinking that maybe hurricane Maria, at the moment passing out to sea will send huge waves in over the coast. We would be happy if Maria sent more water into the ICW since that would negate the chances of running aground – but on the other hand, more water could mean that we would have issues going under the bridges. Our mast is 61 feet and the bridges are 65 feet so we don’t have all that much clearance. The water level, apparently, is normal so we don’t have any problems with the bridges.
Our pilot book has warned us about the waves and strong currents in the inlets from the Atlantic to the ICW, where there currents are strong enough to push boat sideways and also deposit great quantities of sand, filling in the channel and forcing constant dredging and moving of the buoys. We pass these inlets very slowly indeed to avoid going aground. The first two inlets present us with only minor challenges, the water shoals, but there is enough for our 7.5 foot keel and we pass without incidence. As we approach the third one, Sharlotte Inlet, we see two big motorboats coming towards us. The channel is narrow here so we drop our speed to let them pass the inlet first and glad we were that we did. As they entered the inlet, both of them were shoved massively to port towards the shore. They were moved at least 20 meters by the current. They finally manage to regain control of their boats and get back into the channel. We took a deep breath and guided Capri out wondering if we were going to get the same treatment. We want to sail as slowly as possible in case we run aground, but need speed to keep on course in the strong current.
It will be a catastrophe if we’re pushed out of the channel because there would be no way we can get clear ourselves. There is only ½ meter of water outside the channel.
Ok – take a deep breath and give Capri some gas and hope for the best. We make it across the inlet with no issues. For once it is an advantage to have a big keel in the ICW to keep from being pushed sideways out of the channel.
Before we get to the golf capital of the United States, Myrtle Beach, with enormous houses and over 150 golf courses (start at one end and paly a new one every day – it will take 6 months before you reach the other end), we have to pass the next obstacle, The Rock Pile. This is a stretch 5 nm long where the bottom is nothing but rocks. We will pass through in an hours sailing in a foul current. This stretch is infamous amongst sailors because there is a real danger of severe damage to the boat if you hit the rocks, so it is best if you go through at high tide. Even at high tide there is danger of running aground because the channel is dredged a cleaning as it could be and the rocks can’t be seen. So we are careful to stay in the middle of the channel.
Fortunately, we come through at high tide. There are no buoys here to mark the channel; you need to trust your chartplotter and your eyes. Nevertheless, even that gives problems. Following the dotted line showing the middle of the channel brings us very close to the starboard bank. So we sail a bit more to port and that helps the water depth but now we are sailing right at the edge of the channel. So we stare at the depthfinder and feel our way along. At one point, our pulse goes through the roof. We are clearly in the middle of the channel, but our chartplotter is showing that we are sailing 50 yards up on the shore. Maybe the GPS was showing incorrectly, maybe the chart is actually wrong. After an hour’s time, we came out the end of the Rock Pile and could start breathing normally.
The entire day we’ve been sailing only a few nautical miles from the ocean and mansions line the ICW along this coast. At the northern end of Myrtle Beach the Mansions reach impressive sizes – and they are all only summer cottages – wow!
Late afternoon and we haven’t made as much progress as we would have liked, mainly because of the foul current. It is very difficult to ascertain which way the current is running in the ICW. There are numerous inlets where the tide comes in and due to curves and switchbacks you go from a fair current to a foul current within a few meters. The big question – Can we reach Bucksport before dark? At Bucksport we can dock in a small marina. Before Bucksport and along this entire stretch there are few, if any, anchor possibilities for Capri with her deep draft. There is a small anchorage shown on our charts but when we get there, we find that it has been turned into a private marina and visitors are not welcome.
The sun is hastily making its way towards the horizon and is now behind the trees. We have no choice – we have to continue onwards despite the darkening. We mount our projector spotlight but prefer not to use it. If we turn it on, we’ll immediately lose our night vision and it will take 10 minutes before we can see anything again. The darkness envelopes us quickly, even though the sun has barely gone down because we are sailing through a heavily forested area. There is a small marina a couple of miles before Bucksport but it will be difficult to find as it is hidden back in the forest.
We can’t see anything here, buoys, tree stumps or anything else – we’re completely reliant on the chartplotter as we fumble our way through the darkness. Carsten stares out through the darkness to see any obstacles and guides me as I stand at the helm and steer by the chartplotter. I’m so tense my body is like a bow.
Haven’t we sailed the 2 nm yet? We agree that we must have missed the entrance to the small marina in the darkness, which means we have another 3 nm left before we reach Bucksport, at least 45 minutes more of this darkness. We’re going very slowly, afraid we might hit something floating in the river.
Suddenly Carsten calls out, “I see the entrance” and points backwards and to port. I turn and can barely see a small creek that runs in between the trees. “Not on your life” I say, I’d rather keep going to Bucksport than try to navigate that little stream.
As Carsten would say:
“Are we having fun yet?”
He’d say “damn right we’re having fun”, but I don’t think it is fun.
Then Carsten says he can see the pier right at the mouth of the creek and it is empty. I look again and this time I agree. So I stopped Capri and managed to turn her around in the dark and stay inside the channel, while Carsten prepares the fenders and dock lines. I bring Capri in at slow, slow, slow speed while Carsten stands in the bows calling out the distance to the pier. I can’t see anything in the dark and am completely dependent on Carsten’s voice. We finally manage to lay her alongside the pier and begin breathing again. Once again we agree that a glass of wine tastes better than damned good after scary maneuvers.
Early the next morning we continue down the Waccamaw river, a fantastic and beautiful trip through no-mans land.
We decide to spend a night in Georgetown at anchor. But we only stay at anchor during lunch. There simply isn’t enough room for Capri to swing with the tidal currents so we end up in a small marina.
Georgetown is the quintessential “Small Town America”, trying to survive on tourism and a papermill. It is the 3rd oldest town in South Carolina, established in 1729 and was an important deep water harbor close to the Atlantic. Up to the civil war, the main crops were indigo and rice. Georgetown produced almost 2/3 of the rice produced in America and the rice plantations flourished and the owners grew rich and built large “colonial” houses throughout the town. Many of them still stand. The town wealth declined rapidly after the war when slavery was forbidden. No former slaves and certainly not the whites were willing to do the back-breaking work that the rice patties demanded. The indigo production stopped completely. Some rice is still produced here, albeit not much. The rice from this area is called “The golden rice” and is known for having a very delicate flavor. We bought a pound but haven’t tasted it yet. After the war, a papermill was erected and the major industry since then has been paper. Georgetown is a charming town with a nice harbourfront.
From here to Charleston, the ICW is known as “The ditch”. It runs mainly straight and according to some has not been fully dredged since 2002, or 15 years ago. But here at the start, we have 3-5 meters of water so we have no immediate concerns – they will come later. A couple of hours later, we pass one of the inlets from the ocean where we know the sand will form reefs and the channel will shoal. Here we tiptoe through a 3 nm stretch and fortunately we don’t ground our keel. We do know that there are always problems at McClellanville, where there is a 3nm stretch where there are many inlets from the ocean and sand reefs abound. As quickly as it is dredged, it fills up again. We’ve planned the trip so we will come through here at high tide. Several times we have to reduce speed to almost nothing and tiptoe our way but we pass without incidence.
Once past McCellanville, we are on the final leg of the trip to Charleston and here we are sailing through a unique marshland, known locally as the Low Country. We are in the middle of nowhere (literally!) and still have 30nm. Impossible for us to Charleston before dark. So we look for an anchorage and explore several small creeks that run through the high grass. We find several where there is enough water but not enough room for Capri to make a circle as the tide changes. On our 3rd try, we find the perfect spot. Indescribable. I hope the pictures do it justice. Words like Idyllic come to mind but are not adequate. Idyllic it is, but when the sun goes down the mosquitos come out and we were forced to seek shelter below
After another day of perfect sailing we docked at the boatyard in Charleston where Capri will be hauled tomorrow. Until then we have much to do before the haul. The watermaker needs to be pickled, the rest of the rigging has to be taken down, the sprayhood and bimini need to be packed away and below many things have to be moved so the boatyard people can have room to work. The dinghy needs to be cleaned and deflated and packed away. That “only” took 1 ½ hours (sigh).
Carolina Beach has really set its mark on Capri. When she is lifted we can see a multitude of barnacles on her bottom – all of which came during her stay on a buoy in Carolina Beach. Fortunately, this boatyard believes in service, so not only do they lift her, they also pressure wash her and now she sits on her keel, support by stands and 4-5 days of work ahead of us.
The brown Moustache from the river is mostly impossible to get off, her in Charleston they call it the “harbor smile”. We finally had to use an acid solution to get it all off. Then a thorough wash with concentrated boat shampoo and lastly, polishing and then wax and then polish again.
Unfortunately (ha, ha,) I’m so short I can’t reach very high and all this is left to Carsten. But I have no excuses when it comes time to paint the bottom. I’m the perfect height for bottom painting (sigh). After 2.5 times bottom paint in 90+ degrees Fahrenheit and 70+ % humidity and our clothes were drenched with our sweat. Hopefully we lost a couple of kilos doing this.
But now Capri is shining brilliant white and standing on her fine red keel.
But it hasn’t been all work. Before we started on Capri we flew to New Hampshire with Debbie and Marshall to see “The Colors” and play a little golf. As the plane was landing I looked out and could only see green trees. The wonderful colors are in the first 2 weeks of October and the hotels and inns are all full. But unfortunately it has rained more than normal and been warmer than normal this year so the turning of the leaves is delayed a few days. All 4 of us are disappointed as we drove further north to our golf course, where we have rented a couple of rooms at the clubhouse.
We played a round of golf the first day there. A fantastically beautiful course, extremely difficult, not the least because of the greens which were anything but level and the fastest we’ve ever played on. Stimpmeter 13.8 – which is extremely fast even for the professional players. No way we could putt on those and it cost 3 putts all the way around, and even some 4 putts. The course and the views were beautiful and we enjoyed playing with each other. Excellent restaurant.
On the second day we drove further north and here the colors were fabulous. We were almost in Canada and the trip was worth it. Panorama pictures are difficult to take with a pocket camera, but I hope they give an impression of what we experienced.
Once again, we found out just how small the world really is. We pulled into a rest area to enjoy the view. While we were enjoying the view, Marshall began talking with another couple who were Danish. Suddenly the man says – I know you, you used to work at Dansico/Dupont. I work in the IT department there.
Yep the world is small.
3 great days in New Hampshire and worth every penny.
We’re finished with all the outside work on Capri and that lets us play tourist in Charleston. When we sailed into the harbor, we passed the aircraft carrier Yorktown, now decommissioned and a museum. After having passed by the huge carriers in Norfolk, I wanted to see one from the inside. It cost $50 bucks each for at ticket – but when will I ever get this chance again? Besides, there is also a submarine and destroyer we can see. I’ve seen a destroyer before, so we only visited the carrier and the submarine.
The Yorktown was built in 1942 and carried a crew of 3500. Even after having walked around the entire ship, I have no idea how 3500 seamen could live on these few square meters. How they managed to carry food enough for months at sea is a puzzle to me. Much of the space is used for the aircraft, spare parts generators etc. etc. Here are some pictures.
The submarine, from 1945, was crewed by 70. You needed to be thin and if you even thought about claustrophobia then this would not be for you. I told Carsten that there is no way in the world they could ever lure me on board one of these. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to not see daylight or get fresh air or be able to see where you are for days or weeks on end. On top of that, spending your time several hundred feet under the water requires you be a certain type of individual.(yeah, I know. People say the same about us – being out of sight of land and seeing no other boats or anything for several weeks? You have to be slightly crazy).
We are grateful beyond words to Marshall and Debbie for the hospitality they have shown us, first 3 weeks in their beach cottage and now 3 weeks in their fantastic home in Charleston. Tomorrow we fly to San Francisco for 2 weeks to play babysitter for Carsten’s 2 grandchildren. We’re looking forward to it and hope we can manage it. Neither one of us is terribly experienced in babysitting. Anne Sophie and Jamie are off on a cruise in the Med, soaking sun and fun. Carsten’s brother Ulrich is also going to come out from New Mexico to visit us, his daughter and grandchildren.
While we’re doing that, the boatyard will be finishing working on Capri. We’ve sailed many nautical miles on the engine since we left Denmark, mainly in the ICW, so a complete engine check is in order. The bowthruster quit on us just before we got to Charleston – an electrical switch crapped out. And the cutlass bearing on the axle needs replacing. The lower rudder bearing has also worked itself loose and needs repacking with adhesive. Unfortunately, this means we have to drop the rudder. We’re not sure how much of this is due to the crap we experienced at Belhaven – maybe we should send the invoice to them. The davits we had made on Martinique have proven to be too weak and we have to have them replaced. Yep, long term ocean cruising is expensive……………
Our monthly budget in October has been blown completely away, with golftrips and boat repairs. But the hell with it, fortunately we can afford it, and we have come to enjoy our lives as boatbums and being together.
We’ve now returned from SF and have babysat Viggo, aged 6, and Frida, aged 4, for 2 weeks. We had a great time, getting to know them and being with children all the time really adds to the joy in your life.
A new experience for me is Halloween. This isn’t a holiday we have in Denmark. So Halloween evening we and Anne Sophie, Jamie and the kids (they had gotten back from the Med the day before), went “Trick or Treating”. Over here, many of the houses are really decorated for the evening. During the day, we celebrated Halloween at Viggo’s school where all the children showed off their Halloween costumes and that evening we trick or treated at the doors of 15-20 houses. Even the parents and grandparents were in costumes – I wore a Spiderman mask. Fortunately, one of their neighbors, aside from giving candy to the kids, also has an “adult trick or treat”. They serve a glass or wine or a beer to the adults – for some strange reason, this is the most popular house in the neighborhood………………
Finally we had a real Danish “Christmas smorgasbord lunch” for the entire Breuning Family just before we left.
Next week we’re driving to Florida to visit Carsten other daughter, Kara, before we set sail from Charleston in week 47.
We’ve truly enjoyed our stay with Debbie and Marshall and their charming company, but we’ve also enjoyed Charleston. We fully understand why Debbie and Marshall chose to retire here. The city oozes of charm and walking around the quiet streets south of Broad brings “Gone with the Wind” to mind. Horse drawn carriages filled with tourists meander down the cobblestone streets lined with antebellum houses (antebellum = before the war – and down here “before the war” means before the War Between the States.), I haven’t seen Rhett Butler or Scarlett O’Hara – yet.