We left Wilmington yesterday morning, not really sure where we’d end up that night. As we proceeded south down the Cape Fear river, we passed by two new HUGE cranes on the Zhen Hua, a boat specially built just to transport them. The cranes must’ve been shipped from China thru the Panama Canal all the way to tiny Wilmington.
The entire river, from Southport up to Wilmington Port, was closed to river traffic and mooring for about 12 hours last week while they transported them. What a mammoth undertaking.
We made the turn into the ICW without incident. David saw a “shortcut” he was dying to try in order to save us about 30 minutes of boating, but luckily asked a local who talked him out of it; otherwise I might’ve been writing this from Davy Jones locker. The weather was, as usual, incredibly blustery with temps in the high 50’s. We are starting to mention once in awhile how nice it would be if the weather were a bit warmer. OK, we are bitching and moaning constantly—you would too.
We are not making great time, mostly because we have had to wait for several bridges to open. Many don’t open except on the hour, if we’re lucky on the half hour too. Here’s a video of getting ready to pass through a swing bridge:
Finally got to what looked on our charts, and described in “Active Captain”, to be a good anchorage. Our criteria are pretty strict–has to be out of the ICW so minimal wake from idiots, I mean speedboats, protected from strong winds/currents, enough depth so we won’t go aground, enough room to swing around the anchor line so we won’t smash into anything nearby (like another boat) and, unfortunately and primarily, a good place to get Hunny off the boat to relieve herself. (No she still hasn’t learned to go on the bow). This was our first attempt on anchoring Golden, so we were a bit nervous. We motored into what looked like a good spot–close enough for dinghy to get to beach but out of way of ubiquitous crab pots and boat traffic. While David made sure the boat stayed in position, I lowered the anchor using the “windlass”, essentially a motor which raises or lowers the anchor and chain, until it became clear it was resting on the bottom. Then David SLOWLY backed the boat while I simultaneously let out more chain. The idea is to lay the chain on the bottom in a line from the anchor to the boat rather than piling it in a huge jumble in one place. After we had let out about 90 feet of chain, we stopped the boat and drifted to see if we moved at all. I knew exactly how much chain and line I’d let out because while we were in Stuart, FL, I’d laid all of it out on the lawn and marked it in 25 foot increments with different colors of spray paint. Clever, eh? Not my idea. We noticed that Golden stayed in place even with the wind and current, so that indicated that the weight of the anchor and the chain were sufficient to hold us in place. David and I then attached the “bridle”–a yoke of 2 lines which attaches to cleats on either side of the boat and then join at the anchor’s chain; the bridle therefore does the bulk of the work holding a massive boat steady in the current and wind, rather than depending on the puny and expensive windlass. After the bridle was attached, David put the boat in reverse, an action which “sets” the anchor deeply into whatever’s on the bottom. When we were SURE we weren’t moving an inch even in strong reverse, we were done.
Except we still had to get Hunny taken care of. David lowered the Doodle from its perch on davits into the water, then lugged the 30 pound engine mounted on one of our stern railings over to the dinghy and attached it securely to the transom. Then we ran around gathering some necessities which meant getting in and out of the dinghy several times because we forgot multiple items. Finally we were headed towards shore with Hunny crossing her legs in frustration. I forced David to take some pictures (I’d forgotten my phone) of Golden at anchor to prove to everyone we actually did it:
When we were about 15 feet from the shore, the propeller hit the (luckily soft) bottom, so we all had to get out and slog into shore. So much for being warm and dry. Hunny however LOVED being off–after she pee’d, she spent the next several minutes running like a maniac around the small beach. We found there was no good place to tie up, couldn’t leave the boat, and so, after letting her quickly urinate, dragged her back to the Doodle for the return trip. Boy was she mad–she sulked the remainder of the evening. I will take a picture next time because Hunny is a master at making one feel guilty.
After we returned to Golden, we then had to secure the doodle, rinse ourselves with fresh water, change clothes, dry Hunny off, hang everything up to dry, and start the generator and dinner. Relaxing anchorage, eh?
The next morning we awoke to find something had gone seriously wrong with the weather. There was no wind!! It was warm! The sun was shining!!! Yahoo!!! To celebrate, we decided to stay at this really very scenic anchorage for a few more hours. David spied what looked like a boat ramp and public dock, and we headed for it.
It turned out to be a great place to land. We whistled nonchalantly past the sign stating that use of the docks was limited to those of residents and their guests on to a short block of a well-kept neighborhood. Here’s picture:
A couple of hundred yards later, we crossed a highway, and were suddenly on Topsail Beach.
It was then we discovered why this area was called “Topsail”. Apparently during the 17 and 1800’s, pirates used to hang out in the channel between the islands and the mainland and rob passing merchant ships. Wary sailors learned that the only part of the pirate ships that could be seen ahead of time was their “top sail”; hence the name. We spent the next hour or two walking (us) and playing with other dogs (Hunny) and looking for fossilized shark’s teeth. We were told by some locals that this particular beach is known for offering plenty of them–apparently sharks grow and lose their teeth constantly, and minerals in the water turn them black. Who knew?
Had a wonderful time playing on the beach:
Saw some paddleboarders in the surf:
Hunny and David played in the water a bit:
We then headed back to the dinghy Doodle and then onto Golden. Hunny is now exhausted and happy. We were able to get the anchor up without too much trouble, and were on our way by noon. It is amazing how much more fun boating is when it’s warm.