Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Snowbirds?

We have officially been engulfed by the wave of cruisers heading south. Snowbirds. Never really thought of us as snowbirds. But we look like snowbirds and act like snowbirds sooo...

We are running into more and more folks that we have met previously. Some, we met last week, some we met last year. We have seen people we recognize by boat name, blogs and just a vague familiarity. A lot of them look like us. While we were in the boatyard a short time ago, the yard owners' wife saw us walking down the street and offered us a ride (which we declined because we were almost to the store). Later, when I mentioned this to Alan, the owner, he said that his wife had told him that she offered a ride to a couple - retired looking, she had straight hair, he had a beard - and wondered if that matched anyone in the yard. Alan said, sure, everybody!

But, we are OK with being part of a crowd headed south for warm weather and clear water. Sometimes you do have to remind yourself that not everybody gets this opportunity or is interested in doing this. It just seems that way to us because everyone we meet is doing this.

Back to the adventure. We were up early Sunday morning, before daylight, and ready to head out of Cape Lookout Bight. It was still dark (as expected), still very windy (also, as expected) and we were a little slow and out of practice at leaving in the dark (predictable). We took our time and ended up, after washing the mud off of the anchor chain for 25 minutes, leaving at 7:00 am as the sky lightened.

The forecast called for 20 -25 knot winds, gusting to 30 with 4 -5 foot seas for the first half of our run from Lookout to Masonboro Inlet. As such, we were not surprised at the conditions as we cleared the entrance and turned south. A glorious morning on a beautiful, if somewhat chunky, ocean. It took us a while to dial in our sails. We put up our double-reefed mainsail and our staysail then searched for the angle where SeaClearly seemed happiest. Once we got it right, we settled into a nice rhythm making good speed in the right direction. How unusual!

The waves were, of course, bigger than forecast and the winds were rarely below 20 knots. SeaClearly does very well in this weather so we just kicked back and rode the ride. We skirted the 'Danger Zone' marked on the charts where the U.S. Marines play with their toys. The list includes 'military exercises, naval gunfire, stinger missles'. Yeah - let's avoid that. That put our furthest point offshore at about 15 miles. We tracked several other boats moving the same direction. One of them was very close to shore trying to avoid the bigger waves that we were seeing. The other two were further offshore and, apparently, aiming to go out around Cape Fear's Frying Pan Shoal - a long way since the shoal extends for almost 20 miles off the point.

Quiet anchorage sunset at Wrightsville Beach
We made our entrance to Masonboro Inlet at 5:00 pm which left us plenty of daylight to get to an anchorage just to the north of the inlet at Wrightsville Beach. We cruised up the channel towards the bridge to the main anchorage where we found - all the other snowbirds! There must have been 50 boats in the two main areas. We tooled around for a few minutes, I rejected several potential spots because I don't like being too close. We spotted a few boats we knew (Hello 'Stella'!). We finally cruised back down the channel to a quiet little location where there was only one boat. Two dolphins showed up to verify that we were choosing the correct spot. Sure, it was nowhere near any restaurants, people or stores but it was isolated, deep and wide. We dropped the anchor and a bunch of chain and declared ourselves landed. We were both pretty tired. Junie whipped up a delicious chicken breast-green beans-mashed potatoes dinner while I cleaned up the deck.


We had already decided to sit here for two nights and that worked out well. On Monday, we had to revisit the water-maker issue because it was not delivering the quality we expected. Our TDS meter was reading about 585 when it should be way below 500. So, we took it apart again - which is always easier the fourth or fifth time - found that the brine seal was on the wrong end (that's what you get for hiring cheap technicians), switched it around and restarted. After working the pressure control for a while, we got water flowing at a reading of 314 - good enough. Better than our tap water at home ever gets. We directed it into our tanks and made enough water to get showers on Monday night. Showers are so nice.

Maybe movie crew?
Throughout the day, this group of crazy power-boaters kept zipping back and forth. Several boats loaded with people, many in wet-suits, one actually being drug, at high speed, behind a jet-ski. We were guessing military operation or something. One boat had a large boom crane and we finally decided that we may be looking at some sort of movie filming crew working out in the waters just inside the inlet. We need to investigate. Maybe SeaClearly will be an extra in a movie!





Sunrise heading south towards Carolina Beach



Early on Tuesday, we were up before the sun and hauling up the anchor. This time, it came up out of sand, very little washing required. This is a good sign of things to come as we move south. We only had a short trip this morning down the ICW to Southport Marina. We need to get some laundry done. And we think there is a good weather window coming up Thursday or Friday to leap offshore all the way to Florida. We need to stop to prep for that, as well.

This short section of the ICW is pretty nice. Then, you turn through Snow's Cut, under a bridge, deal with up to 3 knots of current in your face, miss the shoaling on the other side and, finally, turn into the Cape Fear River for the ride south. We had timed it such that, once we made that turn, the ebbing tide gave us a 2 knot lift riding down the river.


We also noticed a boat pop up on our AIS. Bejay and Michael on 'Carolina Moon' were gaining on us from behind. They had taken us under their wing last year and we re-met them at several stops down the east coast. This day, they followed us into Southport Marina, intending to stop for diesel only, ending up staying the night across the dock from us. 'Free Spirit' called us on the radio to say 'hello' just as we were docking. I was a little distracted and we didn't get to talk so 'Hi! to Chad, Marsha and the kids. Hope you guys are doing well!

We went to the weather update offered here at Southport by Hank Pomeranz. He is a retired Navy meteorologist and gives a great synopsis of offshore and ICW weather. We caught one of his sessions last spring and really enjoyed it. The little room was getting full as more people moving south are hearing about his presentations. Then, we treated ourselves to dinner at The Pharmacy here in Southport. Great food, ate too much.

We will check and re-check the weather but it looks like either Thursday or Friday we run south. Probably a two night sail all the way to St. Mary's Inlet at the Georgia-Florida border. It looks like the weather may even hold long enough for us to keep going further but I don't think our insurance company will give us dispensation to go beyond the Florida line until November 1. I am sure that there are many other boats just waiting for this opportunity to move. The ocean may be crowded with flocking snowbirds.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Duane and June - Have been getting caught up on the blog. Great reads as usual. This one gave me an idea for a seasonal business: selling Halloween supplies to snowbirds at St. Mary's. I mean, captive audience, right? They must have some money, yes? And just killing time ...

    Best wishes for a great trip down to the Virgin Islands.

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    1. Hi Randy!
      I have some bad news for your business plan. One of the first lessons that cruisers seem to learn is that you can never have too many snacks onboard. Our lockers look like we have already gone trick-or-treating:)
      We just arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida after a 3 day offshore run so I have some blogging to catch up.
      Duane

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