After our unforgettable stay at Cape Lookout, we decided to hang around for a bit. In an attempt to navigate Beaufort’s exorbitant slip costs, we looked for a little nook to dock The Frog in for an extended period.
We considered continuing to go south, but after speaking to various sailors, it sounded like the ocean access is less convenient and the conditions get pretty hairy until you get to Florida. Not to mention the slip costs don’t really go down any, it seemed like they get more expensive the further south we checked. The tide in Beaufort is 3 feet, and it continues to increase until it maxes out somewhere in Georgia at over double what it is here. And as the tidal fluctuations increase, so does the force that the water carries with it. That could make it impossible to oppose the tide with our motor, which can barely go against a 3 foot fluctuation.
Places like the Cape Fear River can be treacherous if traversing against the tide. It was sounding like the further south we planned to go, the more freedom we would be relinquishing to the steady and fierce moods of the tides.
That was one reason we decided to stick around. A few others included the close vicinity to the ocean, and the sailing playground that is lookout bight.
In the meantime, we hung around Taylor Creek and did our best to survive the heat, the sun, and the bugs.
I want to clarify something before I go on a grieving rampage full of complaints and discomforts: Learning to sail has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, it has forced me to accept things that are beyond my control, and taught me to find courage within myself when turning away from a terrifying situation just wasn’t an option. It has been a personal journey that helped me to discover a strength that lies deep within the foundations of all humanity. I dig it… most of the time.
That said: Oh my god the bugs were murder, sleep was impossible, and the heat was literally suffocating.
I actually tried to tie an umbrella to my hat in an attempt to escape the sun. At night, at anchor on Taylor creek, we had no electricity and therefore could not run a fan. The wind was absent, as is common during this time of year. The bugs were a force of nature that I have vastly underestimated until now. We had to close all the hatches to keep them out, essentially enclosing ourselves in an airtight sweatbox, with the bugs eating us alive. It was torcher.
I am open to any suggestions on how to stay cool AND keep the bugs out while at anchor.
All the while we heard rumors from the live aboards on both sides of us that the previous tenant of the mooring we were on wanted his spot back! I guess we ‘stole’ his mooring. Unfortunately for him, the moorings aren’t technically legal, and therefore belong to no one/belong to everyone. We kept our little spot for the next few days, and marveled at the tenacious stuff that these live aboards must be made of. They are actually fighting over who gets to suffer this terrible fate throughout the brutal summer months.
During our battle against the elements, we looked for an affordable place to keep the boat.
To no avail!
I’m embarrassed to say that in all my preparations for this trip, I did not anticipate the obvious costs that would accompany the perfect place to leave The Frog.
In addition to the costly slips, the location would leave us vulnerable to hurricanes, which is something else that the local marinas capitalize on. Some of them wanted upwards of 1000$ to pull a boat in the event of a hurricane.
So we waited and debated.. and fished, checked out the beaches, and went to a cute little farmers market where adam got this amazing orange hat
and biked around, and waited out a hurricane, and met the locals; this guy below is called ‘Red Beard,’ and he makes cute little things on his boat, like miniature crab pots, and whale cork boards etc…
Until we decided to make a move.
We opted to go north. We planned to head towards New Bern, only 40 miles away from Beaufort, and much much more affordable. New Bern sits on a northern piece of the Neuse River.
We got up at 530am so that we could make the only bridge opening until after rush hour traffic. We had dropped an anchor as an additional backup to the mooring since hurricane Harvey kicked up some winds on Taylor Creek. The anchor line was tangled as hell in the mooring, but we managed to get loose just in time to make the bridge opening. I called the tender as we were approaching only to be informed that the opening was in fact at 6am, not 630. We had to either wait until 830 or go around.
So we went around.
The tide was against us and oh my god two hours later (we could have just waited and made the same time) we made it to the other side of the bridge.
I timed our passing up Core Creek to go with the tide, but as the hours passed and the tide shifted, we weren’t really going any faster. We went from a painful 1.5 knots motoring against the tide, to a whopping 2 knots going along with it.
9 hours later, we made it back to oriental, half way to New Bern. I was convinced something happened to our engine to make us go so slow. But after speaking with a local about it, we were informed that Core Creek has an unpredictable current and our speed didn’t surprise him at all.
Our second stop in Oriental was quite different than the first. We were showered with local sailing knowledge, and met quite a few interesting sailing individuals that I hope to see more of in the future.
The unsavory encounters we had on our first trip were easily forgiven by all the kindness we were met with this go around. We were also really excited by its close proximity to Ocracoke Island, a day’s sail away, Cape lookout, also a days sail away, and New Bern, just a few hours sail north.
We spent the next day just pleasure cruising on the Neuse. This river is the widest in the country, and a major sailing destination. It has a comfortable depth across almost the entire River, so you can sail all over it without worrying about running aground.
Later that afternoon someone gave us a tip on a cheap slip rental in Oriental; and after a little research we found the perfect thing for us. It was right off the Neuse, and the most affordable marina we had found yet. The owner is a treasure trove of sailing knowledge, and was the most trustworthy seeming individual we had met thus far. No need to continue north to New Bern!
We just had to determine if we would fit under the Oriental bridge.
We knew generally that our mast was somewhere under 50 feet. But the bridge was an inconvenient 43 ½ feet. We couldn’t find our mast height anywhere online or in our boat manual.
So we pulled a line up our halyard, and measured exactly 41 feet. But the halyard only goes up to the pulley, which is short of the wind vane, and the antenna.
We made an educated guess on that one. You can imagine how we crossed our fingers while we passed under. But pass we did! A fellow boater came along side and held his hands a few inches apart showing us about how much clearance we had.
The worst case scenario would be that our antenna gets bumped, but its flexible, so the stakes weren’t really that high. It was still nerve wracking though. The previous night we heard a story about someone going under that bridge who didn’t have enough clearance and his mast tore off and broke his leg on its way down.
We breathed a sigh of relief and made our way to the first channel marker. It was a green, and we should have kept it to our left, but the local fisherman littered the only space to pass it with about a dozen crab pots. So I looked at the chart and decided keep it on our right, where it appeared to be deep enough and free of crab pots.
I’m sure you can guess what came next.
We were about 200 yards away from our final destination, after a month of sailing, and we ran aground. Not a shock really, I was actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
Unlike our last experience running aground, we did not have to wait 12 hours for the tide to push us off. We waited about 15 minutes and somehow just sort of floated off the mud. I stayed on the correct side of the channel markers after that.
After we docked the boat, we packed up and hit the road the following morning! Back to the mountains! Not a moment to soon. I’m ready for some cool air.
We hope to make it out to Cape Lookout at least one more time this fall, but if not, we will have to wait till after January, when we will have a little nugget in tow! We will be a family of 3!