After the debacle yesterday we were hungering for something a bit better today. We got it. For a bit. Then came the swarm of boats.

Start: The worst anchorage in the entire world, Calabash Creek, NC, 0641
End: Wrightsville Beach, NC, 1643
Total Distance: 50.9
Time: 9:51
Average Speed: 5.1 kts

IMG_2682 2
A shrimp boat throws itself on shore rather than anchor in calabash creek

Dawn broke and we were already awake for it. We didn’t sleep well after the anchor angst from the previous night. Lucky and I find some good trails to explore at 6am, return to the boat and we lift anchor. We have on tap a 50 mile plus day with an anchorage at the far end. We have some serious tracks to make today and want to get the bad taste from yesterday out of our mouths.

First half of trip was quick and uneventful. We had the current with us and with the engines puttering, easily made 6.5 knots. We stopped for gas just before Cape Fear Inlet/River and talked to the dock dude a bit. He said that if we made it to Wrightsboro that there was a good inlet that we could take and head 65-70 miles across the atlantic to BOE-FURT, NC (not booouefurt); it was an easy run he just made a couple of weeks earlier. Good to know–we would keep that in mind. But so far the ICW has been pretty interesting and not too bad with other boats; we will see what tomorrow brings.

We push away from the dock and head to Cape Fear river, take a right and our day slows back down. And changes dramatically. The slowing down is due to the current–we are now running against it and while we were doing 6 knots easy up to now, rest of the day would be in the four-five knot range. Even with slowing down pretty dramatically, we will still make it to Wrightsville by 5pm. No problem.

The other change was the more dramatic. Once we passed through Cape Fear river and got on the ICW north of Cape Fear, someone, somewhere flipped a switch. Two major differences.

First was the surroundings. We have now entered the North Carolina barrier islands. To the right of our boat (ocean side) are the islands themselves. Flat(ish) sand and grass islands with small rivers/inlets running between. White(ish) sand beaches. And a ton of people on a gorgeous Friday afternoon on those beaches. On the left side are the beach houses. Three or four stories with porches and windows over looking the ocean. Docks in front. Big targets for the next hurricane. No big trees anywhere. No Spanish moss. No historic homes.

The second change was on the ICW itself. The type and population of boats changed. Up to today the ICW population consisted of widely dispersed trawlers and sailboats, some fishing boats and a handful of commercial traffic . And now we have an absolute ton of pontoons, wave runners and speedboats with the occasional trawler and sailboat thrown in to keep it interesting. These little boats are everywhere. And I mean everywhere…like a cloud of mosquitoes or gnats that are buzzing all around. They are not going slow–they are, almost without exception, SCREAMING up and down the ICW. And the channel is pretty darn narrow. Which led to our quote of the day uttered (screamed, really) by Jan: “Why are there so many boats?!?!” Because we think that the ICW was made exclusively for us.

We had two distinct reactions to the boats. One of us went on red alert trying to dodge and weave around all the little boats, expecting the boats to follow the rules of the road and when they don’t, screaming and cursing up a streak at the inconsiderate bastards. The other went zen, parked the boat on a course on the right side of the ICW, held the line and assumed that none of the small boats wanted to die by throwing themselves on our bow or stern. Went to his (whoops! Spoiler) happy place. You see if you can figure out who is who. It was not un-stressful.

All of which cemented our answer on what to do tomorrow. We have two alternatives–fighting current and dodging boats for 2 days on the way to Beaufort (on a weekend to boot), or head out with no current, potentially put up a sail and enjoy a long day on the water. Looks like we are heading out into the Big Bad Atlantic and cutting off the ICW.

We arrived at our anchorage late afternoon. We were in the Masonboro creek between the two islands that make up the Masonboro Island Estuary Reserve–a state park. We were one turn, or about a half mile from the Masonboro Inlet–our exit into the BBA for tomorrow morning. The creek between the islands is shallow close to the islands, with some ‘deep’ water (5-6 feet) between them. We made our way slowly in to the creek and noticed that while there were no boats anchored in the middle of the creek–that was wide open for us–there were a ton of small boat anchored next to the shores of the two islands and even more buzzing up and down the creek. Wrightsville, the city, was only about a mile and a half directly north of us (we could see it clearly) and apparently everyone got off work early on a nice Friday, packed up their families, filled the cooler with beer and headed our to our little slice of paradise. We were not going to enjoy this by ourselves.1

We anchored. And that in itself was a major victory. Little drama, little fuss. Maybe we are getting a bit of the mojo back. Dropped the dinghy and went to explore the island. And pronounced it very nice; sand, grass and beach–what more can you ask for?  We dropped dinghy, took dog to shore and hiked across the island to the Atlantic side to walk along the beach.  Lucky got some quality off leash dog time and Jan scored a couple of shells.  Then back to the boat to wait until sundown until all the little boats left because the wakes they were throwing up were no joke. By sunset we had the place to ourselves and stayed that way until dawn, when the fishermen returned.

Tomorrow we head back into the Atlantic for (we hope) a quick day.

1It appeared that there was some sort of ‘chicken’ like game that the boats/runabouts/skiffs/waverunners were playing. In which they all tried to get as close to us as they could, the winner being the one that was closest to us and rocked our boat the most. If I had to guess I would say they shored points for speed (faster is better), wake (bigger is better), proximity to boat (closer is better), spray onto our boat (more is better), music volume (louder is better). And it appears that a requirement for playing the game is that you have to give us a jaunty wave as you blow the doors off our boat.