Sunday, April 14, 2019

Crewing to Annapolis: Fort Pierce to Morehead City

We departed the Fort Pierce City Marina at 8:07 AM on Friday, March 29 and headed north on the ICW.

Departing Fort Pierce City Marina
Our goal was to spend the day on the ICW and then, at Cape Canaveral, head east on the barge canal to return to the Atlantic. This strategy would allow approximately 12 hours for the seas to diminish. This proved to a good move.

We reached the Barge Canal around 3:53 PM and turned east. Minutes later (4:00 PM) we arrived at the Christa McAuliffe Bridge only to learn that the next opening was at 6:00 PM. No problem. We threw out an anchor and waited for the opening.

Heading east in the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal

Christa McAuliffe Bridge opening at 6:00 PM
Now clear of the bridge we proceeded down the canal, This route includes a lock and another rather impressive bridge (the Highway 401 bridge). We reached the lock at 6:48 PM. This lock has, maybe, a 1 foot lift. However, the lock master required we put on - give me a break - PFDs. Note: I've been through over 100 locks as a result of the Great Loop adventure and was rarely required to wear a PFD.

The Cape Canaveral Barge Canal Lock
They required us to wear PFDs.

Impressive Highway 401 Bridge
Now clear of the lock and the Highway 401 Bridge (above) we headed down the canal to the Atlantic Ocean. Here's a few of the sights we saw along the way.

We head out toward the Atlantic
At 7:05 PM we departed the commercial channel and headed into the Atlantic. The seas were initially 4 to 6 feet on the nose as we dialed in the route from Stuart Florida to Morehead City.

we catch another great si\unset
Just after midnight on Saturday and five hours after exiting the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal we recorded seas of 2 to 3 feet which by eight o'clock the next morning were 1 to 2 feet with a residual swell. Our strategy of running the ICW on Friday had paid off with favorable seas.

At 8:41 AM we were abeam of St Augustine with winds out of the west northwest at three knots and visibility of 1 mile in haze. Shortly thereafter we took a direct shot to Morehead City, which at that point was about 350 NM away. We recorded a four foot swell with an interval greater than 10 seconds. This 10 second interval produced a smooth ride.

We make for Morehead City on a direct route
Here are some photos of the crew enjoying the favorable conditions.

David at the helm

Brad and Sarah playing cards

Captain Wayne enjoying the calm seas
Life is good when the seas are cooperative.

At 3:00 AM on Sunday morning we were 77 NM east of Hilton Head (i.e., the Savannah area), which put us into the Gulf Stream. At this point we were averaging 9.0 knots (which, as readers know is .6 knots above our optimum cruise speed of 8.4 knots).  Winds by this time had shifted to the southwest and were blowing 20 knots. I noted in my log that the winds had been trending up in the past 6 hours. However, we were in a following sea with a smooth ride.

We are catching the western edge of the Gulf Stream as we proceed toward Morehead City.
The dark red indicates the Gulf Stream
However, the weather was about to change with the approach of a cold frontal passage (see photo below).

A cold front approaches from the west.

We encounter a naval vessel crossing our course. They requested we alter our course

This is how the naval vessel appeared on the chartplotter as an AIS return
 At 7:20 AM on Sunday we were 52 NM southeast of Charleston with winds west southwest at 20 to 25 knots. We now had a 4 to 6 feet following sea. I recorded air temperature of 67 degrees and water temperature of 70 degrees indicating that were still effected by the Gulf Stream. 

At 8:08 AM we encountered a pod of at least 6 dolphins who then proceeded to accompany us for the the next 20 (unusual) minutes. They put on a spectacular show. At 2:30 we encountered a second pod and were treated to another 30 minute show.

Explanatory Note: Two interesting facts. Number 1. I have a new iPhone 10X (a gift from a friend). Number 2. I captured these photos by aiming the camera and rapidly squeezing the shutter.

Later that morning, at 9:31 AM, I recorded following seas of 5 to 7 with an occasional 8 footer.  The higher seas continued for the rest of the day due to thunderstorms associated with a passing cold front. The rough seas continued for the rest of the trip to Morehead City, although they began to diminish as we got closer to shore.

We reached Morehead City approach at 2:45 AM on Monday morning and headed up the channel reaching Morehead City Yacht Basin at 3:50 AM. Fortunately, there was room on the face dock right by the fuel pumps.

Explanatory Note: Because we were out to sea beyond cell phone range and due to the lateness of the hour, we took a bit of a gamble heading into Morehead City that there would be room on their face dock.  Lady luck was with us. Not only was there room but we were able to tie up right at the fuel pumps.

At 8:00 AM the folks from the marina arrived and we took on 1038 gallons at a very favorable price of $2.70 per gallon. We had covered 553 NM since Fort Pierce and recorded a total distance covered since leaving Sarasota on Monday of 956 NM.

Written by Les

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