SURF CITY TO SOUTHPORT, NC
We pulled off the dock early, anxious to get going. We were restricted only by the 9:00 scheduled opening of the half century old Surf City Swing Bridge. Once through the bridge it was another typical day on the Intracoastal passing even more beautiful homes than yesterday and a lot more docks requiring slow motoring so we didn't wake them too much. The trip was going to be short today as we planned to stop in Southport, NC. It should be a pretty easy day with only one known shallow area to get through and that was the stretch coming out of the ICW and merging into Cape Fear River. The cut is called Snow's Cut.
"ANCIENT SAND DUNE"
Ah, I remember it well, coming through here three years ago. It WAS very shallow in areas and hard to decipher the markers from one channel to the other and somehow I managed to ground the boat on what the cruising guide called an "ancient sand dune". It said to watch out for the ancient sand dune and since I had no idea what that meant, I was watching out for something that I thought was above the water's surface. I failed to realize that the ancient sand dune was invisible down under. We grounded quickly. Our grounding location was just opposite the inlet from the ocean which was bringing with it an onrush of incoming tide and wash starting pushing the boat making it lean to one side.
It all happened so quickly. Larry responded immediately, by backing her and rocking her off the dune. I never did figure out what an ancient sand dune was but knowing we had to go through the same area again today it definitely was in the back of my mind. I had some trepidation about it this morning as we journeyed south.
It was a pretty non event day as we continued down the waterway. The houses were even nicer today than yesterday. As we get further south we see a stretch of land in the distance with the Baldhead Light silhouetted far off in the distance on the outer coast.
As we approached the area of the ancient sand dune, we both were suddenly alert. Of course, we have a much different boat now which somehow we keep forgetting. It's like a permanent mind set that we can't shake. We keep forgetting we have less draft and smaller beam and therefore it's so much easier to get through places like this but habits are hard to shake. Larry was standing stiffly at my side. I gave the turn lots of room in case that same deadly corner was still shoaled in. "You have to conquer your fears," I thought to myself "so just go through this area again and do it right this time."
We glided nicely by, with no current from the ocean to push or pull us. There's plenty of room below us and had not even a hint of shallow water or a problem. It was like it had been dredged or the ghost that lay beneath was gone this time.
We maneuvered up the ever changing, ever shoaling channel that leads from the Intracoastal into Cape Fear River. You can tell it is ever changing because most of the markers don't match the charts and the markers are all temporary markers (easily moved from one place to another) since they have to move them frequently to mark the constantly changing shoals. It was like manuevering through a river with the strong flow heading out to the ocean. We made our way finally to the straight channel marked by more permanent markers which dumped us safely in the immense Cape Fear River.
How can anyone not be intrigued with the name Cape Fear? But today nothing was intriguing about it. It was a strange grey day, making everything look washed out. Big container ships come and go down this river now days. It's hard to imagine this river lined with beautiful old plantations lost to the ruins and devastation of the Civil War. Now it looks very industrial. And there's nothing here that resembles that great chiller of a movie Cape Fear either. Nope, there's no quaint little swampy river where you can rent that funny house boat that both Robert Mitchem and Robert De Niro both climbed up and over the rail to scare the heck out of me. They surfaced miraculously from the swampy water like a sea monster. Naw it just looks huge and wide as a big seaway.
We kept pace with a ferry boat on our portside. Not sure where he was headed so I slowed to give him some room. He just kept the same pace so we put the pedal to the metal and passed her. Sea spray is washing over the bow again as we near the inlet to the open ocean where we will make our turn again back into the Intracoastal. We can see the lighthouse again on Bald Head Island.
This trip we wanted to see Southport, as we'd heard it was a quaint colonial town not on most people's itinerary, well that is until they got their new fancy marina.
There's some bad weather a brewin' again. You could tell by the funny haze in the sky and the water was restless coming in from the inlet. Finally down the long stretch of Cape Fear River, we made our turn back into the protection of the narrow Intracostal and got a quick but brief glimpse of the old Southport's waterfront.
The marina is just a clip beyond the pier and the old sea captain's house that is a prominent fixture, still peering out towards the ocean with its cupola and widow's walk. Several colonial houses face the ocean's inlet, some like watch towers as their living was made off being a watchful eye on who came and went through the ocean's inlet. A small pier dock jets out slightly, with benches occupied by people fishing or others just watching the boats go by.
THE FANCY MARINA
The marina is nestled in the marsh grasses and it certainly is a beautiful marina. It's quite a contrast from some of the places weíve been the last few weeks. They have brand new teak docks, lined with concrete pavers, and lovely "cleats" to easily tie your lines up to but wait, you don't have to because the friendly well trained dock guys in navy polo shirts are their to help you like valets at a nice hotel, even asking if you need your trash taken away.
They have a West Indies style club house with nice showers and a handy laundry. The only drawback was that they are just a few blocks from the main street of town and because we were going to have some crummy weather we didn't feel like hoofing it to dinner. No problem as there's a decent restaurant right across the street in what used to be a service station. The food was good and the prices we thought were inexpensive. In fact restaurants in general on this whole trip seem so inexpensive to what we've been used to on the West Coast. We can't figure it out.
DARE I BE OPTOMISTIC?
Anyway, we were in a nice place and were going to take a little break here while the weather was stirring up. This is a good place to clean up after the bugs and just rest. I didnít want to jinx ourselves by thinking too optimistically about the bugs but we were starting to believe that there were fewer bugs on the boat. Larry said we'll see as "We still might have to get the boat fumigated down the way." What a terrible thought.
We got the bikes out and road all over town. Larry was on a mission to find a NAPA store to get some screws to fix a drawer front that fell off during the rough seas a few days back. We squeezed fat little Ziggy in the basket in front of the handle bars and I thought to myself how he's gained a few extra pounds on this trip like the rest of us. We found a little place for breakfast and thought this is more like it.
Southport is a really an interesting charming town, frozen in time I'd say, many houses dating to around the late 1890ís early 1900's which is kind of a different time frame than some of the other old towns we've visited. I was amazed at all the very itsy bitsy tinsy summer cottage type houses, salt box in shape and not much bigger, with tin roofs and big screened in porches.
The streets were dramatically wrapped and cuddled in the most the most magnificent old oak trees that's I've ever seen. I can't describe it but somehow arriving here you just felt like you crossed some sort of temperate zone. I know we were only a few hours by boat from our last stop but the change was dramatic and noticeable.
Other houses, located more down by the waterfront, were older and more traditionally colonial. They were multi story and patterned after ship captain's houses, white with black shutters and widow's walks on the roofs.
The tourist masses haven't quite discovered this place yet and so the neighborhoods and buildings are still nicely intact historically.
Back at the boat we were ecstatic to find that really and truly the bugs had finally croaked. I don't know whether it was the weather, the temperature or just their just life span but what ever it was we were ecstatic. I happily vacuumed and wiped up their carcasses. We cleaned the boat completely, including all the bedding and our clothes and finally felt miraculously bug free! It was such a nice feeling crazy as it sounds.
A GREAT STOP
This was a really pleasant stop. I spent a lot of time during our stay just riding around the residential streets looking at the really great neighborhoods. It was like going back in time, little streets without curbs where the grass rolls right out to the road's edge and the sidewalks are not by the street but cut across people's properties up by their houses. It was a time when people were friendly and would take strolls and visit neighbors. I loved the huge mature oak trees that cradled everything and they weren't cut down if they were right in the path of something, not even a side walk as the sidewalk or building would be rerouted or built around it.
The marina but full and bustling as now were back on the regular Intracoastal route with lots of boats heading south, many of them being captained by professional delivery captains who run long days, from the crack of dawn to the evening dusk, coming in with running lights on. They do this everyday all the way down the Intracostal until they reach Florida. They are like well oiled machines these guys. There's no time for rest and play as time is money. Many go on the outside to make better time but this time many were stuck at the dock as the seas outside were too rough and the Intracostal south of here too shallow for some of the bigger boats. That was the same with us when we came through before in the Nordhavn as we made our transit on the outside and came in through the Cape Fear Shoals and in for a few nights at Bald Head.
TIME TO GO
It was time to go though. Enough rest. In the morning we were heading out and our next stop would be Georgetown, SC another favorite place.