After leaving Harbor Village Marina near Topsail, we were able to give our engines a break and sail quite a ways through the Cape Fear River as we headed to Southport, NC. Once in Southport we ended up anchoring for the night with two other boats right in front of the Provision House Restaurant . A strong NW wind blew all night long and our anchor dug itself deep into the muck, and was very difficult to lift the next morning.
We then rejoined the wagon train heading south, with Myrtle Beach being our next goal. We were in a rather narrow stretch of water when we realized a barge with a large load was coming up behind us and sure enough the captain hailed us. What was disconcerting was that he asked us to identify ourselves and then wanted to know just where we were as he couldn't see us (I bet he has cataracts and drives a Buick on his days off!). We provided him with our location and then slid over to starboard as much as we could and watched him run over a big green can as he plowed on by.
We listened as he radioed other boats ahead and gave them directions on what he wanted them to do. Upon being told to please move over and let the barge go through a bridge opening first (at 65 feet it's a fixed bridge and doesn't raise but the channel was very narrow right there), one captain radioed back that he was certain he didn't need to move as he was traveling along quickly at 5 knots. The tug boat operator said too bad; he was going 7 knots and to please move over. The other captain once more said he was just fine and then the barge operator told him to KINDLY MOVE ASIDE OR I'LL RUN YOU OVER. He moved.
We ended up seeing the barge again as we approached the Swan Creek Bridge (a swinging pontoon that opens hourly unless you're a barge and then it opens up period!). We're not sure what happened but we could see all kinds of mayhem going on. The barge was almost sideways and big plumes of diesel exhaust belched from its innards as it tried to reverse, and the boats hovering around it looked like a bunch of rubber-neckers at a wreck. Someone even had the nerve to radio the bridge and ask if they could pass behind the barge. I don't think anyone even bothered to answer him.
Unfortunately we hung back too far and with the current working against us we were unable to reach the bridge in time to get through. But luck was with us because since it was an hourly bridge it had to open in ten minutes anyway.
This got me to thinking about the three mile stretch of waterway just ahead called The Rock Pile. Our cruising guide says to monitor the radio and make sure no barge traffic is coming towards you as there is not enough room to maneuver. I hope no one was heading north when that barge went through because it really is narrow with big flat rocks jutting into the water from the shore and I was very relieved to get through it with very little boat traffic.
Last night we ended up docking at Bare Foot Landing in Myrtle Beach, SC, and for the first time in a week we went out to eat because Hans wanted to watch the Raiders. The Raiders won, the wrap I ate was really good but made me sick, and we were up at 6 this morning and on our way again.
Today we are headed for Georgetown, SC, and our guide says there are some good anchorages there. If all the good spots are taken maybe we'll pretend to be a barge and tell everyone to move over.