We are both excited and a little apprehensive about our next leg of cruising. We will be doing two back to back overnights as we run offshore from Brunswick to Bald Head Island. The overnighter’s are always special as nighttime out on the ocean seems so peaceful. We are however always aware that traveling in the dark adds some increased risk. One must always respect the ocean. With both radar and our FLIR night vision monocular we should be able to see whatever comes our way. We slip away from the dock at 1:30 PM for our 40 plus hour run. The weather forecast is OK but not great. Afternoon storms are forecast for both days as a cold front moves through the area. Seas are forecast to be between 2-4 feet. The winds are forecast to be out of the south west so we will have a following sea. It should be a pretty comfortable run.
Before leaving Brunswick, we make a stop in town at Fox’s Pizza for some 1/2 pound burgers. Jeff had spied these while having dinner here a few nights ago and has not forgotten about them. Next stop was the Pam Pam Cupcake store. With a variety of six really yummy cupcakes in our bag, we head back to the boat. We are now set for dinner tonight.
One hour after leaving, we reach the channel entrance with the St. Simmons lighthouse standing tall. The entrance channel buoys guide us through the shallow sandbars flanking both sides of the inlet. Being 11 miles long, this is one of the longer inlets. A humongous freighter from Japan, the Jinsei Maru, is heading into port. Needless to say, we move well out of the ship channel to stay out of her way.
4 PM finds us in deep enough waters to exit the ship channel and make our turn north. The fishing lines are soon deployed as we continue our search for the big ones. The 2-4 ft. Seas make for a lumpy ride. Being on our stern quarter, IT handles them well. Storms are to the north of us but for now none are in our vicinity. Let’s hope that continues overnight. We fished for several hours catching nothing but weeds.
Our navigation and Weather WXWORK computer programs continue to give us problems. Ever since installing our new computer they have not worked correctly. We switch to our backup navigation program but there is no backup for our weather. We are now out of range for Internet and cell service so it looks like we will be without our weather radar for this trip. Oh well, not much we can do about it now. As nightfall approaches, the seas increase to four feet. We settle in for the night alternating watch duty with some sleep time between watches. Relieving Jeff at 3:00 AM, it is nice to see that the seas have calmed down some. Lighting continues to light up the sky, but it seems to be a good distance away.
Dolphins escort daylight in as they give us an acrobatic show off the bow. Our fishing lines are again in the water at 8:00 AM. We are now 20 miles offshore in 70 feet of water. I suspect most of the fish are still further offshore but we will give it a try. IT is running good and all is well aboard the boat. 9:00 AM and we are both in the pilot house enjoying breakfast as we pass Charleston. The fishing rod soon starts zinging. Fish on!! It’s a Mahi, but only a baby so we let it go. A few minutes later and our line is zinging again. This time it is a 15 lb. tuna. Yahoo! Within a few minutes, Jeff has it cleaned and in the freezer. The seas calm down this afternoon to 1-2 ft. with light winds. It is a pleasant day on the ocean. There has been very little ship traffic and no other private boats out.
It is a little bumpy overnight as the winds have again picked up. Seas are now 2-3 feet with an occasional 4 thrown in. Still very little ship traffic as we settle in to our watch rotation. The stars are out in full force tonight, no thunderstorms this evening. 6:10 AM finds us at the outer sea buoy to the Cape Fear Inlet. The sun is just peaking over the horizon. It is a welcome sight as it is nice to be able to see where we are going. Cape Fear is a busy shipping port with many cargo ships heading up to Wilmington, NC. We follow one cargo ship as it enters the seven mile long channel. The Bahri Abah is on our stern. At 740 feet long, she is a big one. We should be able to reach our marina entrance before she catches us. The entrance into Bald Head Island is a little tricky with a two knot cross current. Being only 7:00 AM, the Marina staff are not yet on the island. The first ferry from the mainland is at 7:20. Not a problem as we had called ahead and gotten our slip assignment.
The first task after getting IT secure in her slip is to rinse the salt off the boat, then a nap to catch up on some sleep. A few hours later and the bikes are down to explore the island.
Bald Head Island is unique among islands as there are no cars here, everyone gets around by golf cart or bike. The island is 3 miles long and one mile wide. The Harbor Village surrounds the Marina with New England style cottages and homes. Being only two miles from Southport, the ferry shuttles people back and forth every hour. Most of the passengers are families vacationing on the island. The big draw here are the 14 miles of pristine beaches. Many homes lining the beach front are rental homes as well as homes and condos along the golf course just inland. About 200 families live here year round but the summer population swells to over 2000.
We spend our three days here biking all around the island covering over 30 miles while exploring most every road. In addition to the wonderful beaches, the island has several distinct ecosystems. The coastal marshes are a nursery for many aquatic and terrestrial species. These marshes can be explored by either kayak or on elevated wooden walkways. We spied an 8 foot alligator in one of the ponds. Separating the ocean and the marshes is a maritime forrest with primarily a live oak canopy with dense hardwood shrubs beneath. The Bald Head Island Nature Conservancy is a research and educational facility that offers guided nature tours as well as protection of nesting sea turtles. The island is a prime habitat for loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs. The Conservancy tags the nesting females and also puts cages around the nest to protect the eggs from predators. The two hour island tour visited all three major zones on the island and was very informative. Our two college interns gave us a fabulous tour. Our final exploration on the island was to Old Baldy, the lighthouse overlooking the Harbor. Built in 1817 it is one of the oldest standing lighthouses. Climbing its 109 steps, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the island and surrounding waters.
This little island has lots of charm and is a special place. We have fallen in love with Bald Head. Our reservations have already been made to return here in the fall.
Total Miles: 300
Total Miles This Year: 1677