South of the Border

Saturday, October 19: Birds and Bridges

Yesterday, we left Morehead City and motored through Bogue Sound. The waterway is really narrow there, even though the sound is wide. It is literally 1 foot deep on either side of the dredged channel.

We passed a motor yacht going the other direction, and watched it run aground just after we passed. A sailboat behind us stopped to help, but couldn’t drag them off the shoal. Poor captain had to sit and wait (maybe 5 or 6 hours) for high tide to float his boat. We heard him say on the radio that his depth gauge read 1.5 feet. He probably needed 5 feet to float.

When we arrived at Surf City, I called the bridge myself. I believe it’s not safe to be on a boat and not be able to use the radio. Calling the bridge is a good way to get over my radio shyness.

“Surf City Bridge, Surf City Bridge, southbound sailing vessel Catmandu.”

“Go ahay-ed cap’n.” Captain? Oh, me!

“Requesting southbound passage at your 11 o’clock opening. Over. ”

“Okay cap’n. See you at 11.”

It’s polite to acknowledge the bridge tender’s service. “Thank you for the opening. Catmandu out.”

“Safe trip, cap’n.”

We made it to Wrightsville Beach Bridge just as it was closing. It’s an hour wait, so we were disappointed to have to circle around waiting for 3 o’clock to come. But we did see this cute little palm tree, a lone palm on a little sandy island:



It’s a little scrawny, but it’s our first real palm tree sighting.

We made a long day of it, and anchored for the night at Camp Lejeune. An osprey flew by several times, doing “touch and go” landings. You thought I was talking about birds again? This was an osprey helicopter-airplane, which can land like a helicopter and fly like a plane.

There, at Mile Hammock Bay, as we were anchoring, I saw two dolphins wander into the anchorage while two more waited outside in the channel. They were pretty far away, but I attempted a photo again. Now I think I will give up.



.There are two dolphins swimming just in front of the sailboat in Mile Hammock Bay. Really. Dolphins.

For those who thought I’d return to work all tanned and blond, there is little chance of that. Today we have our “foulies” on and motor through hours of rain and drizzle. We are really close to the Atlantic Ocean now, and can smell the beach. We are just inside the Outer Banks, and the landscape is marsh grass, sand and dunes.



The Pink House, a landmark on this section of the ICW.

We are seeing lots of Great Egrets in the tall marsh grasses at the water’s edge. These lanky white birds must be the top of the food chain. They are easily spotted and slow to take off — good prey if they had predators. We see Great Blue Herons too, sometimes perched in trees.


Great Egrets in the marsh grasses.

Great Egrets in the marsh grasses.


The gulls are everywhere. Laughing gulls are my favorite but they can get really loud. One of our neighbors at Belhaven scared us half to death when he stepped out of his boat with a rifle and shot at them. It did shut them up for a time. Phil likes to yell back at them, “Stop laughing at me! I’m sensitive!”

We notice that gulls sit on pilings one bird to a perch, and only one. It’s the same with navigation aids and mile markers. “Mile marker 270,” I announce. “With a cormorant on top!”

Pelicans and cormorants on pilings, one bird only.

Pelicans and cormorants on pilings, one bird only.


Sunday, October 20: No Fear

Last night, we came through a narrow, very deep passage called “Snow’s Cut.” A huge motor yacht came toward us going very fast and sending up huge waves in its wake. It did not slow down to pass us, and six-foot waves towered over our cockpit as it went by. To the delight of passengers having drinks on the top deck, Phil made the sign of the cross as Catmandu bobbed and tipped into the waves. That was scarier than the Cape Fear River, which we were taught to fear.

Poor broken sailboat. Probably got waked by a giant motor yacht.

Poor broken sailboat. Probably got waked by a giant motor yacht.

We left the Carolina Beach State Park Marina and headed down the Cape Fear River. The river is fast, deep and busy. We timed our departure to be with the tide, but not too close to the maximum current. It was a wild ride, but not because of the river. The boat traffic was daunting. We were waked several times by giant motor yachts, but made it safely into the ICW and went calmly on our way.

At the marina last night, we met Bob, on the Bonnie Kay. He is single-handing a trip to the Bahamas and has a very cute barking dog named Lester. He apologized for all the noise. We would hear him on the radio calling tow boat, but he was at the Calabash River anchorage, along with Lester, when we arrived tonight. I think whenever we hear a barking dog on this trip, we will be saying, “Shut up, Lester.”

The way is shallow and very near the beach. At one spot, a Sea Tow boat is directing boats around a shallow shoal. We see 4-foot depths and steer around them to find the deepest passage. Later on, I am napping in the cockpit when Phil wakes me up. “What are those?” he asks.

Lying on the beach are four large animals. At first, I thought, “Camels?” They are shaggy and have long curved horns that point backwards. “Llamas?” Here is a picture:


North Carolina's feral goats. And, note the dolphins in the foreground.

North Carolina’s feral goats. And, note the dolphins in the foreground.


I think maybe they are goats, so I look up “wild goats of North Carolina” and there are herds of feral goats here. The website explains how people want to protect the goats, and the state wants to relocate them.

Our anchorage on the Calabash River is small, wild and incredibly beautiful. The boat faces the sunset, and Phil points out a sun dog. It’s a tiny segment of rainbow at the same altitude as the sun, made by reflection off of ice crystals. I love that he knows these things. We watch the sunset, drinking the last of our rum. It is movie night tonight and we look forward to Matt Damon and Jiffy Pop. We are south of the border, in South Carolina. Check off another state.

Our private, secluded anchorage on the Calabash River, South of the Border.

Our private, secluded anchorage on the Calabash River, South of the Border.



3 thoughts on “South of the Border

  1. It is so much fun reading your logs! Barb and I have had many experiences canoeing on the Mississippi River and encountering fast moving boats. When their wake hits us, they’re a half mile up river and oblivious to what we have to deal with. Your logs are terrific. Thanks so much.

  2. I also enjoy your blogs hoping someday I’ll be able to tag along with someone needing an extra ‘novice’ hand. Sounds like a fun time. Did I miss somewhere the details behinds your trip other than heading to warmer climates? Duration, etc.?

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