Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Southport to Cape Lookout Bight...via Beaufort

July 10k
Cape Lookout Bight
We're anchored in Cape Lookout Bight, a beautiful undeveloped natural anchorage about six miles east of Beaufort Inlet. The bight is formed by land that hooks behind the cape sticking out into the ocean, forming an almost circular basin of calm, protected water. We arrived here tired this afternoon so haven't explored much; we'll do that tomorrow and I'll provide more of a description of the place. This post is about getting here.
We left Southport at 0800 and proceeded up the Cape Fear River, the route of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) north. It was cloudy but pleasant morning and we motored against an ebb current enjoying the scenery of elegant waterfront houses along the west bank and natural wetlands along the east bank.
We left the river after traveling about nine miles, where the ICW diverts northeast along narrow Snow's Cut to join a channel that runs parallel to the coast of the ocean, less than a mile inland. Snow's Cut presented us with the first test to confirm that Intermezzo's mast fits under the ICW's 65 foot standard fixed bridge overhead clearance. Our mast is 62.5 feet above the water, plus our 18" VHF antenna us at 64 feet. Only one foot to spare at high water!
I timed our passage under the Snow's Cut bridge to be between low and high tide, which theoretically would give us about 67 feet under the bridge. Just before the bridge are overhead telephone and power lines with an "authorized" clearance of 68 feet at high water.
Mathematically  speaking and on paper, everything was fine for us to pass under both the cables and the bridge. Of course, there is always a possibility that actual conditions are different than what's stated on paper. But more dramatic is the optical illusion that occurs when looking up the mast as one approaches something overhead. Regardless of how high a structure is above you, it looks the mast will hit it. Even going under the giant Golden Gate Bridge, your eye can fool you into thinking it's not high enough. With only a couple of feet clearance as in our case, it is a nail biting experience.
As we approached the overhead cables, I looked up and my eyes told me that the telephone line would hit the mast about halfway up and all four power lines would hit the top half of the mast. We passed under them with several feet to spare below the telephone line. Likewise, my eyes told me to brace for impact as the mast drew close to the soffit of the bridge. We passed under with a couple feet to spare, although I did need to jog a little to starboard to be sure I didn't touch a navigation light that marked the center of the span and extended a foot or so lower than than the bridge. It was a relief to get through both these obstacles and also to know that Intermezzo can proceed along the ICW without worrying too much about bridges.
From Snow's Cut we proceeded north to the Masonboro Inlet, our path to the ocean and onwards to Cape Lookout. We arrived at the inlet at 1300 and since the ocean passage would take about 12 hours and we want to arrive at our destination during daylight, dropped anchor to wait until evening to depart on an overnight passage.
Lisa and I took the dinghy to shore to walk along the beautiful sandy beach in unsettled weather, lightning and thunderstorms off in the distance all around us, while Amy watched over Intermezzo. When we returned to the boat, the water was so clear that I donned diving gear to change the propeller anodes, a task long overdue. When I got in the water I discovered that the current from the changing tide was so strong that it was difficult to hold myself in position to do the work, so I just did one prop. I'll do the other one here.
We weighed anchor at 1800 and headed through the inlet into the ocean. The forecast was for light easterly winds and calm seas. Instead we got a 15 knot northeasterly on the nose with steep wind chop compounded by an opposing southeasterly swell. Bashing again! Not the greatest experience for Amy's first overnight passage, but she handled it well. Lisa go seasick on her watch an chowdered over the side several times. I suffered the punishment in silence.
At 0800 I was entering the inlet to Cape Lookout Bight, thinking about dropping the hook, a nice cup of coffee, some breakfast and some sleep. Lisa came up on deck and after admiring the remote natural beauty of the place asked, "How will Amy get to her flight from here tomorrow?" I replied in astonishment, "What flight?"
Clearly some miscommunication between me and the crew with respect to navigation and schedules.
I made a quick U-turn and headed to Beaufort Inlet. We headed up to Town Center Marina in Beaufort where we took on diesel at the fuel dock and bid farewell to Amy who is heading off to participate in a surfing clinic for wounded veterans on Long Island, NY. Then Lisa and I headed back to Cape Lookout Bight, arriving here just before 3 pm.
After 31 hours on the move, I needed a rum drink, a shower, and a nap. I enjoyed all three.