Friday, April 20, 2012

Surf City - We're boarded by the Coast Guard!

The fish market has its own fleet - market is aft of the marina
Along this stretch of the ICW are two very inconvenient bridges. They only open at the top of the hour so if you miss one opening, you have to wait another hour for the next one! They are the only bridges on the ICW that have the once per hour openings. I guess that North Carolina doesn't care all that much for boaters going south, seeing that they are just passing through the state and don't make allowances for them.

Surf City Beach - rather chilly though at 70F
We made the first of the top of the hour bridges by the skin of our teeth and was headed for the next one when we saw a Coast Guard boat zoom past us and circle behind. Ann called on the VHF and asked what they wanted and they replied that we were going to do an inspection and would we slow down some. We had the diesel cranked up to make the next bridge but when we were asked to slow down, we knew we had an hour wait ahead of us.

The fish market - basic but fresh!
First they asked over the VHF if we had been boarded recently by the Coast Guard and we replied that we had never been boarded. With that they drew up alongside and two came aboard. They were very polite as we were and they asked to see:
- A copy of the documentation papers
- A demonstration of our horn
- Our life jackets
- Our man overboard throw ring
- Our three fire extinguishers (three are required for our size boat)
- My ID for which I used my NY driver's license
Nothing else was asked for other than information on the boat:
- Make (Beneteau)
- Model (423)
- Engine type and HP (Diesel and 55 hp)

With that they were off and running but we figured we had an hour wait ahead of us since their boarding caused us to miss the top of the hour bridge opening. However, pretty soon we got a call from the Coast Guard on channel 16 saying that the bridge would open for us when we got there, about 15 minutes past the hour, a non-scheduled opening. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge and asked for an opening, the bridge operator promptly raised the bridge and we passed through. I guess the Coast Guard has some pull in the area!

All this did not help with the next "top of the hour" bridge which we missed by 5 minutes. The bridge was in sight as we saw it being lowered, ugh! We puttered around for the next hour, round and round until the next scheduled opening. The bridges are hard to figure in this section since there are so many inlets that sometimes you are running against the tide and sometimes with it. 6.3 kts vs 8.0 kts depending on where you are relative to the nearest inlet - and there are no current tables to help you out along this stretch.

Now we are in Surf City at Beach House Marina. It's a typical beach town with places to eat and many condos. They also have a decent grocery store where we bought a few items and an excellent fish market where we bought dinner. grouper for dinner.

Saturday we are headed for Swansboro before a front arrives with thunderstorms predicted.