Yes friends we had quite a harrowing experience today. It only lasted less than 60 seconds but our lives flashed before us and I truly thought our insurance policy was going to be sorely tested. But I am sure you would like some background on the rest of the day instead of just diving into a story of pure terror.
When we awoke around 0700 at Dock Holiday’s the predicted weather was for high winds in the afternoon. Initially we made a joint decision to stay put and that should never have changed but we did and lived to almost regret it.
Somehow during breakfast Jan began reading about the town of Southport and it’s beauty and historical significance. Originally we were going to Wrightsville Beach which would have been a long day and would put us arriving during the predicted worst of the storm. That is why we chose to stay put. That is until we realized that we could get to Southport and see all that beauty and history by traveling a much shorter day.
So off we set at 0845 with no wind and clear skies. How deceptive Mother Nature can be.
Paddling lessons for students.
Fishermen pulling in their net. Not sure what they were getting. Probably mullet.
Gambling boats sit idle in a slow economy. Fuel costs make their profits go up in smoke.
Sailboat meets shrimp boat meets Cbay.
It was a very pretty ride going through several bridge openings, passing a lighthouse and a number of really fine homes. The purple house was thrown in just for fun. I figure the guy wanted to just irritate his neighbors. We also crossed several inlets from the Atlantic Ocean where we could see the waves breaking and building as seas would be over 5 feet before the day ended. We were even beginning to see some small chop in the ICW.
Someone had found a boat adrift in the Waccamaw River and no driver. The Coast Guard kept broadcasting a lookout all day because they must assume someone was on the boat. My guess is that someone did a poor job of tying the thing up and the high winds last night pulled it loose and set it adrift. But they cannot take the chance.
When we began our approach to Southport Marina it seems that the front that had been moving from west to east all day had finally arrived. I was on the bow and the wind just started blowing like crazy. The marina said we should turn in the channel and come straight toward the fuel dock; then turn right for approximately 50 yards and make a U-turn around the end of the fuel dock and proceed forward to the first right fairway and then dogleg right and left and into our slip. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well it was anything but and Jan is to be commended for not deserting the helm.
We made the U-turn with some difficulty and headed forward. There was a huge cruiser on our right where we needed to make the next turn and the wind was shoving us that way. Jan powered past him just fine but was worried about maintaining power toward the slip thinking she might slam the dock so she backed off and that is when the nor’easter hit with a vengeance blowing us backwards and sideways. I am shouting for more power but by the time it catches we are turned sideways from the slip and no way to get back. So we keep moving deeper into the marina because forward movement is all that it keeping us from blowing sideways into a row of boats!
The marina employees see that we are in trouble and run down the dock to another empty slip. Jan tries to turn but is too late and we are blown past this one too. We power up and go deeper into the marina.
Now I do not exaggerate when I say the wind was now blowing 29 mph and we were in a fairway between rows of boats that was only around 60 feet wide. Our boat is overall about 48 feet so you do the math. On a calm day we could spin on our own axis and easily turn around in here. But it ain’t no calm day as they say where I was raised. And I am on the bow looking for options. One, the marina has only about ten more slips to go before we run out of space. Then all we can do is try to turn sideways and slam into the wall at the end and pray the fenders I have out will save us from damage. Or two, there is only one more empty slip left six spaces from the wall and maybe we can make it. The marina guys have the same idea and are sprinting in that direction.
Now as old Larry Munson used to say before a Georgia game, “Now get the picture.” This slip is not a starboard tie that we had planned for so there are no fenders on the port side. Also there is a telephone pole size piling between that slip and a big new Sea Ray. I shout that she will have to floor it to make the turn against the wind. Jan has the picture and guns it to fight the wind force that is trying to blow us by and on to a meeting with that wall. She manages to turn it just enough to get the nose past the piling and I see we are going to hit hard. If that piling gives way when our 10 ton boat hits it then we are going to buy a Sea Ray. If it holds I may be tossed over the rail because it is like standing on the hood of a car about to hit a pole. I had better grab something fast and I do. And we did hit hard, but miracle of miracles that pole held but gave way about six feet and then sprang back catapulting us over toward the dock where the two dock guys were standing and we had no fenders. They were able to brace hard against the side and keep us from hitting and I was able to throw two lines in less than 5 seconds. I told them that’s how we do it where we come from.
We were still not out of the woods because the wind was trying to blow us backwards and Jan was fighting the controls as everyone shouted directions. The lines were straining to the breaking point but held and Jan eased it forward a foot at the time as they took up slack. Meanwhile I was racing back and forth moving fenders to cushion the port side. I tell you that 60 seconds was the longest in my life and to poor Jan it must have seemed an eternity. Her teacher Steve Cullen would have been proud. The marina staff said they had never seen anything like it.
As we were putting the finishing touches on connecting the power, two other boats were coming in. One was Ericka Lin, a trawler that had also come from Dock Holiday’s, and the other a sailboat that just wanted a haven from the storm. The trawler would not even attempt what we did and even had trouble getting to the fuel dock with front and rear thrusters working hard. The sailboat slammed the dock. As of this writing they are both still there and never got into their slips. Folks, this was the worst conditions we have yet dealt with and we survived. The only question I had for the Admiral afterward was what would she have done if this slip had not been empty? And that is a question we have no answer to though we will revisit it tomorrow.
Here we are settled in to this well appointed marina.
After showers we got out the bikes and ran to town a few blocks away. Really neat place. Jan found a Wade porcelain figure we did not have and I bought an Uncle Wiggly book from 1949 that I have always wanted to read to my grandchildren. In fact today was an Uncle Wiggly Adventure!!!
Now if the puppy dog doesn’t waggle his tail so hard that he knocks over the milk bottle when it’s trying to slide down the door mat, I shall have the pleasure, next, of telling you the story of our visit to historic downtown Southport. See that Uncle Wiggly is already paying for itself.