Sunday, December 1, 2013

A 39 mile GPS approach

Back in my old life we used to find runways shrouded in ugly weather using various land and satellite based systems; NDB, VOR, ILS, LOC, Back Course, and the latest and greatest LVP/GPS.  Though we might start setting up for one of these 100 miles or more from the airport the hard part, that bit where we worked extra hard at having everything exactly right (because Mother Earth was near by and going past at a very high rate of speed) was usually less than 10 miles long and was finished in just a couple of minutes.

Today we left the anchorage at Taylor Creek in Beaufort at 0800, heading for a place called Mile Hammock Bay.  The bay actually belongs to the military and lies within the confines of Camp Lejeune.  Word has it various units use this place for loud and impressive practice at all hours of the day and night though the cruising community thinks of it as a good anchorage.  And it is.  This night there are 5 sailboats here, all resting peacefully in the mist and rain.  Getting here wasn't as peaceful.

The short days and changeable winter weather have Kintala still in the ICW, and this part of the ICW is tight, convoluted, and beset with currents; an easy place to lose one's way.  Bogue Sound is a large expanse of water just a couple of feet deep except for the channel gouged out by the dredgers.  That channel is barely 100 feet wide and, after passing through the sound convolutes its way, first around the Bogue Inlet, then zigging and zagging through the Bear and Brown inlets, and finally winding its way into the New River inlet where lies the cut into Mile Hammock Bay.  It was like shooting a 5 hour, 38.2 mile long GPS approach.

There were a couple of other chapters adding to the fun today.  Being lake sailors we never dipped very far into Kintala's fuel tank.  I have done some basic math of fuel burns and a bit less than 1 gal per hour of engine time has been the answer.  We left this morning with a estimated 1/2 tank; a number echoed by the fuel gauge ... kind of.  Let us just say the average of its bounces seemed to be around 1/2.  But a routine engine gauges check just as we got into the Bogue Sound provoked a crass claim from yours truly, the gage was bouncing on ZERO, EMPTY, about to cough an engine  and face bleeding the air from the Wester-Beast again.  Fortunately Spooner's Creek Marina was near at hand.  Quick communications by Deb had us in and at the fuel dock where Kintala took almost exactly 1/2 tank of gas.  Add "fuel gage" to the list of things that don't work very well.

And then there was the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge.  East of the Bridge a tug had grounded its tow against the bank; deliberately or by bone-bone headed driving.  Either way the thing swung out and nearly blocked the entire width of the narrow channel.  As we eased by the stern Kintala was nearly shoved aground by the wake of the tows still spinning engines.  Ugly.  (That tow had already run one boat aground, we heard the Captain getting help from Tow Boat US and, in fact, he is in the anchorage with us tonight.)  Just a couple of miles after having survived the towboat of Thrash we noticed what looked like a large industrial complex in the middle of the still narrow channel.  That turned out to be one towboat dragging a dredging platform and hundreds of feet of pipe all being helped along by a second towboat pushing on the whole rig.  Four sailboats, including Kintala, were soon stacked up behind this assembly as it slowly approached the bridge.  I mean slowly like less than 2 knots, a bit of a trick since the current was about 2 knots.  A boat moving two knots in a two knot current is actually not moving in the water, which means it can't be steered either.  The four of us were doing quite a dance.  It all worked though and eventually the whole entourage of tows and barge and pipes and sailboats cleared the bridge and went about our business.

We saw some more dolphins.

It was an interesting day.


Sabrina and Tom said...

The ICW takes SO much attention ALL the time. It's exhausting!!

s/v Honey Ryder Caliber 40 LRC

Latitude 43 said...

I agree, exhausting at times. The dance of boats waiting for a bridge to open is the worst. There was always one boat that would jam his way up front and screw us all up.

The Florida portion of the ICW south of Jax is a dream in comparison.