Second week cruising the ICW

I’m a little backlogged – we are currently in Titusville, Florida. It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the boat for over a month now. It has been exhausting to cruise 40-60 miles a day, hunker down for bad weather, learn all the boat things, fix all the boat things, and figure out where we’re going the next day. We’ve finally made it far enough south that we can slow down a bit without shivering.

I’m gonna try to share some of the pictures I’ve taken over the past three weeks and catch you all up in the next couple of posts. Onward – to week two!

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A whale of shells

The second weekend on the boat we decided to hunker down in Surf City, North Carolina to ride out the coming storm in the relative comfort of a sheltered marina.  We got ahead of the storm and enjoyed a nice afternoon in Surf City before the rain and wind hit.

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I felt lucky that we had found such a sheltered place for the gale force winds – our boat only rocked a little bit. We’ve been on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) long enough to make friends, and we’ve already started bumping into familiar faces at the docks as we all head south. Eric and I would escape the closed quarters and walk around town every day, even though it poured rain.

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A view under the pier at Surf City, NC

Once the weather cleared up, we hammered south again. That afternoon we tucked into Carolina Beach State Park. The channel was shallow with a rocky bottom, we barely managed to fit our catamaran in the small basin – we were by far the biggest boat around. This was one of the cheapest marinas we’ve found throughout our entire cruise down the ICW, and I loved it.  That afternoon we walked through the State Park and eventually found our way to Carolina Beach where I found a sushi restaurant with my name on it (literally).

We woke up early the next morning to find the fabled venus fly traps that are native to this area. The hunt, and the reward, were pretty awesome.

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The venus fly trap was so small! The insane amount of rain that has hammered the East Coast submerged most of the marsh with flood waters.

After that early morning hike, we left the state park and fought the currents of the Cape Fear River. We could not figure out how tides and currents function, and it would take several frustrating days before we finally got a feel for timing it.

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We watched this behemoth stacked with shipping containers pass by while on the Cape Fear River.

That freaking cold night I went to bed at 7:30pm. Due to the tight and popular anchorage we found, our anchor alarm app kept waking us up with false alarms and neither of us got much sleep.

For the next two days we woke up to a thick layer of frost on the deck as we hoisted the anchor. My ski jacket, most glorious fur hat, and snow boots are my most prized possessions.

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And we continued to press on.

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The Ditch as the ICW is called by some, has been very shallow in places, and we were grateful that our catamaran sits on the water with only 3 feet beneath the surface. One moment in particular stands out clearly in my mind as we watched the depth sounder read “9” feet… “7” feet … “5” feet… we struggled from side to side in an attempt to find the channel that had shoaled in front of us, panic set in then “3.5” feet … “2.5” feet, and finally “LAST 2.5” feet as we scraped our boat’s bottom through the mud.  We managed to push through the sandbar without any issue, and the two of us stood there, trying to calm our nerves over something that had such little consequence. Many people we’ve spoken with have run aground in the ICW – you just have to wait for the tide to rise to get off the bottom.

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After a particularly long day of trying not to run aground, we ended up in a shallow marsh as our only option for anchoring. By this point we’d made it 451 miles south from Norfolk, Virginia.  While we were cooking dinner we heard a strange noise. Nervous, we poked our heads out but the entire marsh was calm – no other boats in sight. Then again, when that strange blowing noise Eric said, “I think that’s a dolphin.”

“No way.”

But when we stepped back outside and watched the surface of the water, eventually we heard the dolphin as it surfaced for air and then dove back under our boat where it hunted for fish. That dolphin hung around our boat for almost an hour while we ate dinner and enjoyed a sun downer.

Next post – We make it to Charleston, SC!

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