December 8. Well those predicted high winds showed up just after midnight last night. They were expecting gusts to 40 knots and it sure seemed as if we got them. The rigging was howling and the floating docks were groaning. Our dock lines were complaining quite a bit so it was out into the cold wind for me so I could double up our dock lines. We were really protected on our dock and it was still a horrible night to try and sleep.
Morning came and there were still gale warnings until 1000 hours. We left the dock at 0830 with about a 20 knot steady wind and a temperature of 28 degrees. We had to motor north and out of the marina and turn west into Snow’s Cut which is a short pass very similar to the Point Pleasant Canal. Upon exiting the Cut we turned south into the Cape Fear River, we had a steady 20 knots of wind straight over the stern and the tide coming straight up the river against us. It was like being in a washing machine for 10 miles. We couldn’t use either the main or genoa as the wind was over the port quarter then the starboard quarter and back again, it was a mess that we had to just grin and bear.
After our 10 miles in the Maytag we were able to roll out the genoa as we turned west to head into the James River. It smoothed out the ride and became a very nice sail. We were in a fairly narrow channel when a freighter came into view so Christy maneuvered us out of the channel to pass well clear of this monster and his wake. There were 2 coast guard boats escorting the freighter and one came out to challenge us and stayed between us and his charge. I guess they were afraid we might be out on our own personal jihad and were going to sail into the side of this behemoth and scratch his paint. He’s safe for now, another time perhaps.
We now enter a narrow part of the ICW for the next 30 miles or so. We are able to motor sail most of the way. The only bridge that we have to have opened for us is a pontoon bridge. The operator uses winches to actually pull the center floating section of the bridge aside allowing us to pass. We have to wait to be signaled through after he’s got the bridge aside and the cables sink to the bottom. After we pass he raises the cables and pulls the bridge back into place, its like Civil War technology. It’s crazy
The homes along the waterway here are absolutely beautiful. Nothing huge but nice large homes with beautiful yards and private docks, really nice. We’re following a 50 foot wooden ketch through this section. He’s got his masts down on deck and there appear to be 4 or 5 people aboard. We’re tooling along when Christy says “I think their aground!”. I’ve noticed that their helmsman has been a little lazy about staying in the marked channel. They’re at a place called the Crossroads by the locals. It’s a tight bend in the river where several channels come together and all the markers can be very confusing. We slow to a crawl and coast up along side and try to hail them on the VHF, they’ve attempted to back off and are unable to do so. We hail again, again with no response, I show one of their crewmen our mic in my hand and he doesn’t seemed interested in our help. They are deploying their dinghy to row out their kedge anchor so we leave them behind. I’m surprised that they didn’t want help, it’s a couple hours to dark with record lows predicted and the area is fairly desolate with no other boat traffic.
Christy heard them on the VHF calling Tow Boat US just about dusk, we were snug in our slip for the night.
We have developed a nasty drip out the front of our engine driven raw water pump. I take the pump apart and it’s going to have to be replaced as the bearing has failed and doomed the pump to the scrap pile. It’s off to West Marine in the morning.