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Leigh Woodling, Schooner Adventure
May 21, 2015
The decision of what to do in one day, and the next, and for the trip, involves so many variables. We always have to consider the “skinny spots”. Will it be deep enough? Will you be able to hit this one? On some, if you do not hit them at high or rising tide, you can, and have, a good chance of running aground. The currents. With or against? Where are you going to rest your head that evening? How many feet will the tide rise and fall for where you would like to anchor? Because of course, if the tide falls eight feet, and you anchor in twelve, and you draw six…do the math. It is what you have to figure out, and it is what you do. But preparation and using the resources you have pay off in so many ways.
For example, we are trying to make goodly miles on this trip home to Maryland. So making sure that you have the currents and tides coordinated with how far you can go and where you can stop for the night consumes a lot of conversation. We both love the puzzle. We have the large paper chart (laid out on the table below, with our parallel rules, dividers, and tools of navigation), the “flip chart’ for the waterway, Waterway Guide, Skipper Bob (marinas and anchorages), our Raymarine E80, radar and autopilot, and when we have service, the internet. Then we say, ok, if we are going to do an 80 mile day…you start looking at the pieces…just like a jigsaw puzzle, and try to match up current, and boat speed, and mile markers, and bridge openings, and realistically speaking, what is possible? Then comes the most important part of the equation. Plan B. You must always have a Plan B, and optimally, a C. We call them the bail-out spots. Because in the long and the short of it, Mother Nature pretty much makes the calls. However, now, with the advanced technology, and good common sense, you can make propitious decisions.
Being able to look at the weather radar on the cell phones is huge. We all know that. But there are times when we get ready to look at the phone and all you see is the big red X of no service. It improves all the time, and I am grateful for the service of NOAA and the marine forecasts that this organization broadcasts. There were numerous pop up storms and squalls throughout the afternoon on Wednesday, so we spent the night at Barefoot Landing Marina (Plan B) as opposed to going on to Calabash Creek, another twelve miles north. That evening, we were able to spend time at the chartplotter, using the animate key with the currents. This was a very valuable tool. While we were not able to have the best current with our time frame, we were able to plan the route so that we would not hit max current in the Cape Fear River, and with a little bit of luck we would be able to go through Snow’s Cut with enough water. Looking at the times, the forecast, etc, etc, we pulled away from the dock at 6:45 AM and moved on. As we turned into the river, we hoisted the foresail (the jib was already out, and we don't have our mainsail due to our main boom breaking in two while we were offshore, but that is a story for another time). We were facing current, but were able to make an average of about 5.5 knots initially with the wind on our aft quarter. We had service all day, so we were able to track the projected storms as they materialized. Speed went up and down as we traversed the Cape Fear River, heading for Snow’s Cut. We made the exit from the river into the cut, headed for the Carolina Beach mooring field, again, Plan B. We had hoped to make it as far as Masonboro, but the weather was dominating the decisions at this point. We had no difficulty getting through the cut, there were open moorings, and we were secured by 4:00. Dick was able tonight to track the incoming storm tonight almost to the minute, enabling us to get those last two or three hatches dogged down. Plan B worked out to a T, and we were sound and secure as the wind and rain raged around us.
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