The time had come to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people at Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern. As much as we would have liked to stay there permanently, the daily 2 ½ hr round trip commute to Camp Lejeune for Conor just wasn’t sustainable. We had to wait until the middle of September for many reasons, mostly because Conor had so many field ops this summer that we didn’t have enough time to make the three day trip. The good news was that because we waited, Conor’s parents were able to fly out from Washington state and help us make the journey!
We left our marina around 8am on Saturday, Sept 16. The bimini and headsail were back up (thanks for the scare, Hurricane Irma), the water and diesel tanks were filled, our fridge was stocked, and our course was plotted. We were as ready as we were ever going to be! Not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. This was our first big trip with a destination, not just going out to sail around the Neuse River in familiar territory.
We said our goodbyes and cast off, heading south to Oriental. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, with 8-10 knots of wind and not a cloud in sight. The trip was going to take around five hours, and we just had to get to our transient slip for the night before five, so we put up the sails and enjoyed the day. This was my in-laws’ first time on a sailboat, and I think they caught the bug 🙂
The wind and chop started picking up around noon, so we pulled in the sails and motored the rest of the way to our spot. It was an adorable little marina called Whittaker point, the dockhouse is below:
As you all know, docking completely stresses me out, but with four people instead of two, it made a world of difference! The transient slip ended up being $1.50 per foot, so around $60 for us to stay the night (with power hookup). Like staying in a hotel, only you get to sleep in your own bed!
This was our longest travel day, about nine hours. We needed to motor along the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) for over 30 NM and make it to Swansboro by 5pm. This was our first time on the ICW, and although we prefer sailing to motoring, it was an awesome way to see the Carolina coastline. And let me say, traveling by boat for 9 hours is wayyyyy different than traveling by car. The time flies when there is so much to see! At one point we were surrounded by a pod of at least twenty dolphins enjoying their morning feed, even little baby ones! I caught this cute moment of my in-laws that morning:
The channel markers were super easy to follow, though it did get a little tricky around Morehead City. There was a ton of boat traffic and giant shipyards we had to navigate around. The channel also gets pretty narrow in some spots, and you have to always have an eye on your depth meter and the nav system. We didn’t run into any problems until we were in sight of Casper’s Marina, the dock we were staying at for the night. It finally happened: we ran aground. Whoops! There is a saying among boaters that there are two types of people: sailors who have run aground, and sailors who lie about having run aground. It is an inevitable consequence of boating, and I, for one, will openly admit to it!
In our case, there was an unmarked shoal closer to the ICW channel markers than we knew about. As we were heading in, we got a radio call from Casper’s Marina telling us about it, but by then it was too late! We got stuck. BUT my amazing husband, the ‘boat whisperer’ got us free somehow with a combination of reversing and wiggling. Although it was a stressful five minutes, it is just one more boating experience we can check off the list.
The last day dawned early, because we needed to enter New River before the tide dipped too low. We left Casper’s at 6:30 am as the sun was coming up. Today was the day we would see our new home!
Thanks to our friend/previous owner of the boat, Bob, we knew that there were a few tricky spots to navigate through as we left the ICW and motored up New River.
Tricky spot 1: “You WILL run out of water if you don’t enter the intersection of New River and the ICW at high tide.” Yep, even though we made it to the junction with plenty of time to spare, I still nervously watched the meter drop to as little as .5 ft of water underneath our keel at one point! But we didn’t run aground, yay!
Tricky spot 2: Stone’s Bay: Just after going under the Snead’s Ferry Bridge, there is a giant shoal you have to go alllll the way around before going north. Know what else doesn’t help? 20-25 knot winds and massive chop on the water. It is really no wonder why we were the only boat out that day.
Surprise tricky spot: This one couldn’t have been planned for. The Onslow bridge decided to malfunction just as we got to it, and it wouldn’t open. Do you know how hard it is to try to keep a boat in one place while you wait? The channel was narrow, the current was pulling the boat forward, and the wind was NOT our friend. Again, Conor the hero did an AMAZING job as we waited an extra half an hour for the problem to be fixed and the bridge to open. I’m seriously in awe of his captain skills, and his calm under pressure. I need to practice my steering a bit more to get on his level.
After all of this, the feeling of arriving at Gottschalk Marina was indescribable. I felt SO proud of us and happy we made it in one piece. It is crazy to think that back in June we hardly had any idea what we were doing when we bought the boat. Now, we’ve completed a multi-day journey all on our own! The best thing we ever did was jump right into this with both feet, and be okay with being outside of our comfort zones. There is really no better teacher than experience.
And as we navigate this great adventure, we will also be adding another crew member soon 🙂
Taylor and Conor