The Trip that Went South: Here We Go!

We had wind and current in our favor as we began down the Intracoastal Waterway from Wrightsville Beach, NC toward the Cape Fear River. The sun was shining but it was no mask for the chilly air whisking our faces. We were happy to be headed south! BMac helped me to raise the jib and we continued motor sailing.




BMac was willing and eager to learn and do as much as possible. He soon took the tiller and assigned Brian to dolphin watch.


While the guys were occupied, I did my last email/internet check. Woah! There was big news in the cruising world… Firstly, the largest typhoon to ever strike was wrecking havoc in the Philippines. I shared this story with the guys and we dared to imagine 200 knot winds comprising a storm stretching from Boston to Philadelphia. This would certainly be a tragic event! Secondly, the US Coast Guard had reported assisting five sailing vessels within the past two days. FIVE! In addition, Brian and I were already aware of a cruiser who required rescuing from the Northern Atlantic earlier this week. Hmmm… I shared these situations with the guys. Four of the sailboats were traveling with the Salty Dog Rally; a group of sailors who depart Hampton Roads, VA together bound for the Eastern Caribbean. Two were demasted, one was taking on water, and one had a medical emergency that was later declared not an emergency. The fifth was not associated with the rally and was headed toward Bermuda, however there was no emergency rather a faulty EPIRB. What was happening out there!? Was the universe showing us a sign!? Again, we downloaded our weather forecast while we still had connectivity. Yup, still good. Did I mention we were departing on a Friday…but sailors aren’t superstitious!

While BMac drove, Brian and I were able to rig our starboard side spinnaker pole for the very first time. We poled out the jib, not only giving us a nice boost but also keeping the jib from flapping with any shifty wind as we motored the waterway. Fabulous!


Brian did spot some dolphins (he’s always has the first keen eye) and took the tiller while BMac and I moved about the deck to watch the dolphins more closely. We were also treated to quite the maneuver from a tug with a barge on the Cape Fear River. There it was, just moving along parallel to us traveling in the opposite direction when suddenly the tug dropped the chain, pulled a reverse, and swung along the side of the barge! It was then pushing the barge sideways down the river, while turning it around. This was certainly a first for us, and certainly a first for BMac to see a tug in action and realize that the barge has no power of its own!





Kayakers playing chicken with the passing waterway traffic in the Cape Fear River.


After nearly five hours motoring along the Intracoastal Waterway, we were briskly exiting the Cape Fear River with the outgoing tide into the Atlantic Ocean. The late afternoon sun warmed us as BMac steered while he and Brian navigated the channel. Ah, we were free! We motored for some time until beyond the point of Cape Fear which seemed to be shielding us from the wind. The waves built as we got farther and farther from the coastline. The wind built too. We set the main with one reef, added the staysail, and let the spinnaker pole down from the jib. Soon we were cruising along at 5.2 knots in 10-15 knots of wind with 2-4 foot following seas. It was glorious! In the cockpit at sunset, we dined on Brian’s homemade macaroni and cheese while we planned the overnight watch schedule. We’d do three hour watches and for this first night we’d buddy with BMac. As the night folded in around us, BMac was getting a quick and dirty lesson in developing his sea legs. Outside, he was able to hold his own. But inside, the motion of the ocean got the better of him. During his first watch he scampered topside and had a good, close look at the dark water below while bidding farewell to his supper. Brian kept watch with BMac, who was most comfortable in fetal position on the bunk. It was a rolly night but Rode Trip was screamin’ along and we were loving the sail!

The next morning, I began day two on watch with BMac. Buttered toast aided in renewing BMac’s energy. He sat topside getting his bearings now that daylight had returned and he was starting to feel better. The wind was tapering as the forecast had predicted. Mid-morning, we shook out the reef on the main and continued to make south as best we could. By the afternoon, we were becalmed. And so as we had pre-planned, it was time for the iron sail.

The Cape Fear River, NC

Rode Trip set sail from Oriental…well, we fired up the Perkins and motored from Oriental to Beaufort via the good ‘ol Intracoastal Waterway.  We had a light wind forecast with 5-10 knot northwest winds.  Right on schedule, at sunset, we exited the Beaufort Inlet and set our sails for an overnight trip approximately 60 nm south to the Masonboro Inlet.  It was a cloudy, rainy night.  It was however calm and the forecast held true with light winds.  We set all the sails; full main, jib, and stay sail kept us moving at an average of 4 knots through the night.  At dawn the next morning we approached the Masonboro Inlet.

IMG_6706On a Saturday morning, the inlet was bustling with fishermen buzzing about in skiffs and fishing from the shoreline.

IMG_6707Once again we hopped onto the Intracoastal Waterway and motored into the Cape Fear River.  We had traveled for 25 hours, 100nm before we finally dropped the hook in the Brunswick River, a tributary, just prior to passing through Wilmington, NC.  We made sure to be well rested because the following day would be very exciting…

Our friends, Ren, Ashley, and their beautiful newborn baby girl, Ani were to meet us in Wilmington to guide Rode Trip up the Northeast Cape Fear River to their home.  We’d met Ren and Ashley (s/v Nila Girl) in Long Island, Bahamas and sailed along with them to Jamaica.  We were looking forward to our reunion and to meeting baby Ani.  We enjoyed the sights along Wilmington’s Cape Fear River waterway along the way to our rendezvous location.

State Port

State Port


Tugs at the ready for big ships' arrivals

Tugs at the ready for big ships’ arrivals.


Cape Fear Memorial Bridge

Cape Fear Memorial Bridge



Battleship North Carolina

Battleship North Carolina



Market Street Landing City Docks

Market Street Landing City Docks

Isabelle Stellings Holmes Bridge

Isabelle Stellings Holmes Bridge

We were the only boat in waiting for the 1400 opening of the Holmes Bridge (seen above). Rode Trip caused quite a stir to this bridge-tender’s day; he was relaying messages to us via the VHF from Ren, directing us to our rendezvous site, asking when we’d be passing through again…it’s not often that sailboats venture past this bridge.  The Northeast Cape Fear River is uncharted.  Aside from minimal commercial traffic and local fishermen this part of the river doesn’t get much action.  Once through the bridge we welcomed aboard Ren, Ashley, and Ani.

IMG_6736When we weren’t chattering away, catching up on our respective adventures, we were admiring the beautiful scenery along the river.  And, of course, admiring Ani experiencing her very first boat ride!  She even took a turn at the tiller.


Ren guided us along the winding river with his local knowledge and use of an Army Corps of Engineers chart of recorded shoaling.  The river was plenty deep for Rode Trip; 30 feet in most areas.  We traveled 22 miles through wilderness.  This route is s/v Nila Girl’s home stretch when returning from the sea.  We anchored Rode Trip right in Ren and Ashley’s backyard (or I should say back river) and settled into our peaceful new resting place.