Day: April 16, 2018

Control

 

Control is an illusion which is better preserved in my normal life than it is living aboard a boat.  Intellectually I know that control is self-delusion.  As a human, I cannot control what happens to me. I can influence it and I can set myself up for the best possible outcomes and yet still be surprised by what actually happens when push comes to shove!

In my day-to-day life I can schedule events and pretty much count on ticking the to-do items off as I work through a day, week or month.  From the first few months of this trip, I have learned that while we do have an intentionally vague idea of what we would like to accomplish as far as mileage and experience go, the reality is that we are totally subject to the weather to shape the ifs, hows and when’s of what really happens.

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Sometimes weather slows down our idealized schedule and sometimes it forces us to advance our timetables and while this can be a little stressful at times, we have learned to relax into it and trust the outcomes.  So far, as we look back, the changes in our proposed schedules have worked to our advantage later in the trip by allowing us opportunities that we would not have had if we had adhered to the original plans.

We pushed hard for a couple of days in anticipation of taking time off the boat for our pseudo-son’s wedding at the end of the month. Coming up the ICW just past Georgetown, we made a U-turn around the north end of Butler Island, near Pawley’s Island, SC and watched the sun set and wind die simultaneously as our anchor grabbed hold and we relaxed with a very refreshing drink.

The scenery had changed and we were in an area that looked more like a northern lake than the southern part of the ICW.  Lush forests of maple, oak and pine lined the waterway and birds were making the commute north.  We took that as confirmation that Spring really would arrive sometime this year as it had been unseasonably cold during the previous 3 months.  The cold had not stopped the Azaleas from blooming and we had just missed the height of their splendor in Savannah where only the white blossoms still clung to the spring greenery.  Unfortunately we have been following the height of the oak pollen season as we have moved northwards.

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The oaks were pretty much done spreading their eye-irritants at home when we left in January and were noticeably absent in the Keys but were back with the same degree of proliferation by the time we reached Melbourne and St. Augustine.  In Savannah, our berth positioning and the wind direction were such that we and our neighboring boats needed to sweep our decks twice a day in order to avoid semi-permanent staining that occurs once the pollen heads get wet.  It was a fruitless battle that we all engaged in with great zeal and a lot of laughter at how anal we all were about the appearance of our decks!

But I digress…back to our anchorage.  We enjoyed a night of star-gazing in an inky absence of city lights and slept to the music of absolute silence against our hull, lacking a strong wind or current.  We awoke with the plan of getting under way before sun-up, a luxury normally made impossible due to mine-fields of crab-traps that were noticeably absent in this area.

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As we readied the deck and helm we were awed by the absolute silence around us, there was no wind at all and the water was like glass, reflecting the stars but lightening as the sun began to crest the horizon.  The anchor came up easily and we were on our way, having to constantly clear our strata-glass of condensation so we could see to navigate.

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Mist hung in the fields and forests and the clarity and stillness of the water made it impossible to tell where the actual forest transformed into its mirror image in the water.

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The blues and greens of pre-dawn gave way to the roses and golds of sunrise and the mist cleared away leaving the mirror images on either side of the waterway.

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We moved from deep forests and farmland (that used to be rice plantations in the pre-civil war era) on either side of us into the more affluent and built up areas around Myrtle Beach.  The ICW sits much lower along this stretch and the intricate terracing and landscaping of the slopes from homes to private docks on either side was pretty impressive.

Later the view changed to dunes and we got peeks at the Atlantic as we moved further north past Calabash Creek and into North Carolina.  The current and wind were at our back, moving us along at a sprightly 10+ mph!  The sky was cloudless and it was finally warmish and gorgeous.  So, we decided to ignore our scheduled anchorage in favor of continuing on toward Cape Fear and Southport NC, our originally intended stop for the following night.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut because there are no guarantees about what will happen tomorrow.  And so, we gladly turned a 5 hour cruise into a nine hour cruise to arrive here in Southport ahead of the oak pollen and at the height of the dogwood, cherry and azalea season FINALLY!!

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We know a little about Harbor Hosts, as Herb Seaton, a Looper and the Harbor Host for Tarpon Springs won “Harbor Host of the Year” for 2017.  Harbor Hosts are folks who live in different ports and who walk the docks in the afternoons, offering tips and advice on local sights and restaurants and even trips to the grocery store, Walmart and/or West Marine to Loopers.  Our Harbor Host here, Robert Creech, knocked on our hull, offering all of the above-mentioned services and also invited us to attend a talk this evening about navigating the Cape Fear River and the ICW all the way up to Norfolk.  We thought that attending would be a pretty good idea as we have heard some of the passages can be very tricky and we don’t want to end up like some of the vessels we have seen along the way!

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What we found was beyond our wildest dreams.  Hank Pomeranz is a boating enthusiast who now commits every night of his life for two months in the spring and two months in the fall to putting on a seminar about wind, weather, tides and currents and navigating the ICW.  He volunteers his time to do this and estimates that he has had 1500+ boats represented at his talks.

He is an amazingly warm and human guy whose sole motivation is “To improve the Southport boating experience for locals and transients alike, by offering outstanding new or improved services to both.”  His talk is replete with PowerPoint slides which are printed off in hard copy for each boat to keep and the detail of the upcoming trip is amazing!  He is a meteorologist by profession and he has extensive projections of what’s coming this way in the next few days for tide, current and winds.  Hank has a warm and caring teaching style that is anything but a lecture.  He shares war stories, interlaced with facts and statistics that make us glad we have a hard copy to refer back to later.

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If we hadn’t taken advantage of the great conditions to push on up here, we might have missed this talk and that would have been unfortunate.  We got a great view of the deteriorating weather (which we did know was on the way).  With the implications of tides plus currents, added by Hank, it made our decision a no-brainer to change our plans from anchoring out to actually delaying departure and sitting tight, right here at the dock.  We are expected to have near gale force winds and severe thunderstorms around midnight tonight.  So here we sit watching and listening to the weather come at us, I doubt we will sleep but at least we are safe!

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We are so thankful that we relaxed our control and ignored our schedules for arrival and departure so that we were able to take advantage of the wisdom imparted by a fellow sea-lover.  Thanks, Hank!

As you can see by the dating of the post, we lived through the night with no damage to persons or property, not much water incursion and we even slept some, though it was a little hairy as the winds, rain and thunderstorms started to rock and roll around midnight!

 

 

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