C & Me & our dragonly jalopy slid away from Vandemere Creek on a silky morning to reconnect with the ICW. Little Penny purred like a groomed panther. Pamlico Sound even opened up wide enough for us to raise a sail that afternoon, and we all gladly stretched our wings.
That night we poached a dock in Oriental, NC (We're sorry! But your purported anchorage was smaller than a tenement house for sardines!). Day Two: Our sometimes friend/ofttimes foe Augustus Gusty was expected, but we brushed this off since we'd be in protected manmade channels. Which was true until entering the denuded watery flats north of Beaufort where Gusty came at us with gear-grinding gusto. Salt-gray-sea-spittle-sky and churned-up-chop-waves. Walls of wind! Poor Little Penny was sweating mussel buckets down below. As we inched our wet and whipped up way to the nearest shelter in Town Creek, an invisible cross-current snuck under and grabbed Drakka by the tail. Grouchy Gusty giving us grief at 20-30 knots; underwater pressure pulling us backwards. Despite my best tiller wrestling, the bullying forces pushed us towards the shoaling that flanked our narrow route. When you lose control of your steering you lose control. Period. Running aground in chop suey seas is bad news. Frantic and helpless, with our sea dragon in a straightjacket, C got the coast guard on the radio, just as our GPS fritzed out and zoomed in on New Zealand, just as Augustus knocked us cockeyed and locked the tiller useless and we grazed the edge of the underwater shoal. Aaaaah!!!
As doom loomed upon our very heads, Gusty choked long enough for me to regain steering and Little Penny to grind ahead. Drakka crawled toward that evasive green buoy and rounded out of the current into Town Creek. We let the coast guard off the hook and attempted to anchor (to the belly laughing ridicule of A. Gusty), nigh evaded the rocky shore, and promptly radioed the parallel marina for an emergency dock. After we tied up this was the only drawing I was able to eek out, as I was clearly traumatized to the artistic level of a kindergartener:
Day three: Dawned fair and saw us through Beaufort to an anchorage at Queen's Creek where we performed on our classic hit: Two Buffoons & an Anchor: Amateur Hour with C & She. Finally we hooked the mud, slept (miraculously) soundly and woke to a shivery 34* morning. It's impressive how many articles of clothing I can wear at once. A squishy needle in a fleece haystack.
Little Penny saw us safely down the ICW to Topsail, and though we were fridgidly frozen fishes by the time we got there, got there we did, in time for shrimp dinner with the Glinka's (Elsie & James are ageless hippies and my adopted in-laws since college).
Day four: Onward! No! Just Kidding! Day four: Engine Failure! Little Penny sluggishly turned but would not fire, and left us beating our brains out against the engine block, which was icy cold. At freezing temps oil thickens, diesel can gel, and batteries may put out a measly 65% of their available oomph, making Penny harder to get out of bed than a stoned teenager after a Netflix binge. After checking her fluids, fiddling with the decompression lever, and rewiring what C discovered to be a faulty shore power cord to get the battery charger flowing, she finally opened her sleep-crusty lashes and saucily threw off her covers. But not before we'd missed the hourly bridge opening, so floop-flop-flump, we were waylaid another night, and our bellies again blessed by the bounty of James' cooking (homemade pizza!).
Day five: Onward at last! To Wrightsville Beach where friends rolled out a red carpet in the form of a complimentary dock (free docks are like winning the cruising lottery). Another bitterly head-windy day that was allllmost snagless until we bump-bump-skid, turn, bump-bump-thudded into a sandbar at Mason's Inlet. Stupid Mason, whoever he is, does not deserve an inlet cuz he clearly can't keep that shit clean. C cursed himself and every immaterial power in the universe while I took a nap (I'm remarkably forgiving of myself for boating mistakes as long as they're not fatal. SO MUCH goes wrong anyway that I just blame the water sprites).
Unlimited Tow Insurance: #worthit.
"Don't feel bad", the bearded local with twin props assured us half an hour later, "You're about the 100th boat to run aground here this year".
A few hours later we arrived at the glowing Dean family dock (it might as well have been carpeted in pearls we were so pleased) where Liza & Ross helped us tie up and had us over for salmon dinner (are we belly-spoiled or what??). Though we've not had fair winds this week, we've had a bounty of fair friends, as we left the arms of the Martin's in Mesic, fell into the Glinka embrace in Topsail, and sailed into smooches at Wrightsville Beach. Not literally. I mean, Liza & Ross are happily married separately from C & Me. You know what I mean (But they are awfully cute).
Day something later: Tick-tock-waiting for winds. Oh fickle winds! Fair you ill to our favor! Drakka had hoped to sail offshore, since she was weary of motoring all day, but the winds were poop for our unlucky sloop, so continue down the ICW we did.
Bundled to the eyeballs, we cheerily waved goodbye to Wrightsville Beach and idled away from the dock. As I put Little Penny in gear, an odd sparky noise clack-clacketed below, followed by a putrid smoke. C leapt below, tore off the stairs and bellowed, "TURN IT OFF!" And there we floated, mouths agape, nostrils assaulted, wondering what the heck is wrong this time? The wind (blast you, wind!) would not allow me to maneuver back to the dock (which was a mere 10 yards away), but scooted us towards a fancy powerboat instead. Balls in a beluga! We had to start the engine to get back. Vroom-vroom clackety-sparkety smoke-wafting and then, just as I'd lined us up and smacked her off, a horrible mushroom of grim reaper smoke billowed from the engine. We coasted in, petrified, C with fire extinguisher in hand.
Turns out a juicy plump electrical wire had dropped onto the drive shaft of our propeller, so when that shaft spun the heat melted the casing and burned through the wires, leaving behind an object that looked like the entrails of a demon dying in a barbecue pit. Thank all the angel fish and the demon fish (that's a thing, I googled it) it did not catch fire! C replaced the crispy, stinking wires with shiny new ones, and we scurried down the Cape Fear river to Southport to anchor before sunset.
The Next Four Days: NOTHING WENT WRONG. We didn't realize it at the time, because of course we are still nervous narwhals about anchoring, and engine trouble, and running aground...but in retrospect, there was no smashery or bashery for four days. This is the evidence I've been waiting for. It is possible to reduce your sailing heart attacks to twice a week. Down the ICW, through shoaled inlets and narrow rocky channels, under numerous bridges, in and out of marinas and anchorages, in and out of spats and tiffs: Long stretches with the diesel rumble rubbing our rumps, listening to the news, the winds, and pocked with the awkward dance moves one invents when trying to boogie whilst steering the tiller.
My friends and family, I leave you in Georgetown, where it was finally warm enough to sit outdoors and draw. We waited out a small craft advisory (i.e. gusts strong enough to blow your bloomers off), bought some fresh shrimp, oggled the magnolia trees, and fixed our sink drain which was leaking into the wastebasket. There's never not something.
Next: Charleston! And sea monkeys!