After two days on the Waccamaw, the weather cleared up enough to get under way again. I was a little concerned, because the next 40 mile stretch sported no anchorages, and a lot of bridges. Several of the bridges won't open in 25 knots of wind or more, and it had been blowing that hard for the last two days. I did not want to get stuck in some cannel between two bridges that won't open in a storm. This was only the least of our concern, the foremost was a short stretch affectionately named "the rock pile," renowned for submerged rocky outcroppings lining the channel, waiting to sink the unwary boater. We were fastidious in our navigation. Of course, our fancy new GPS was off all day, and showed that our boat was actually traveling on shore instead of in the canal. Back to the old paper chart.
It was chilly, overcast, and dreary but we made it through bridge after bridge without a problem. After passing through the worst of the rock pile, we relaxed a bit, which allowed us to notice how exhausted we were. While passing through the last couple of bridges, we became nominally acquainted with a couple just behind us on another cape dory. We heard each other hailing the bridges tenders over and over, and then finally, they pulled up next to us, and the captain Kevin initiated a conversation with Patrick. It turned out that they were from Eastport, not too far south of Baltimore, and were on their way home. Kevin told us about a nice anchorage only 5 miles away, so we pulled over for the night.
A little more chatting on the VHF revealed that Kevin and Jan were on approximately the same schedule as we were, so we began setting off the same time every morning, and sojourning at the same anchorages. We were finally in North Carolina!!
After only a few days, our VHF radio courtship culminated in their inviting us aboard for dinner. We had a lovely time with them, and Ashley was certainly happy for the mix of company.
Thus began our latest sailing friendship with Kevin and Jan on Pearl of Eastport. Kevin had made the trip up and down "the ditch" several times, and his advice was invaluable. One afternoon, he and Jan clued us in to a free dock in the quaint town Southport. It was the first time we had been off the boat in almost a week.
From Southport we made the arduous trip up the Cape Fear River, making about 2-3 knots the whole way. It took us 8 hours to go 20 miles, and by the time we pulled over in Wrightsville beach were too tired and grumpy to explore.
The next day we made a longer trip to a relatively nondescript anchorage where we took the opportunity to raft after our boats began to wander restlessly on the hook during slack water. Swift Ranger had drifted so close to Pearl we only needed to reach out and grab her to tie up. Every night is different on the hook.