We Haven’t The Foggiest Idea

We decided yesterday to leave our anchorage in Broad Creek, North Carolina and try and make it to Dowry Creek Marina on the Pungo River. 60 some odd nautical miles. At 7 knots, it is a very full day in winter. We want to be stopped by 4 pm, so that meant a 7 am start. We “wanted” to do a bit longer day as there is supposed to be weather on Monday and we wanted to get to New Bern by Monday. Iffy as best as Monday is supposed to be fairly windy. If we do two long days and all goes well, we can get there Sunday. Pulled anchor, motored out of our beautiful little cove on Broad Creek, and, we are in fog. We’ve boated in rain, wind and waves, but what do we do in fog? You get the gist of the post…, we don’t have the foggiest…

The night before. Clear with a light breeze. Gorgeous. In the morning. A light drizzle. Chippy, chippy as they say in Guatemala. Cloudy, but we did not realize it was foggy until we left the creek.

Well, we have electronic charts, we have GPS, we have AIS (that is so we can see other boats with AIS and they can see us if they have AIS), and we have radar, so we can see little blobs that could be markers, land, boats, weather, etc. We should use our fog horn. How do we do this? Jim gets out the radio manual and gets our fog horn going. This puts one 20 second blast over our loud haler every 2 minutes. Oh, and turn on our running lights. So, on we go, we can do this.

You can sense the horizon and could tell it was surface fog. Blue sky above! But, amazingly hard to see anything. It was much thicker in some spots.

It was very smooth, so one had no idea of movement or direction. Oh! I see two boats on AIS. We are still heading for the channel. They are both in the channel, going opposite directions. One is a pleasure craft, the other is a barge. We are all lining up for a three way meet up. This is in the fog, so one has to trust their instruments. Finally, in the distance, I can see the TOP of the tug. So, the fog is maybe 30 feet high. Small power boat motors by on the starboard side of the barge which is hugging the port side of the channel. I know this from watching AIS. This is all open water, about 10 feet deep in most places, so we SHOULD fine with our 5 foot draft. But, there are channels for a purpose. They are dredged and known quantities. It is foolish to go in front of the barge to get to the far side of the channel, so I pass him on his port side outside of the channel. Not a huge risk. No radio talk as none was necessary. Check, that went well.

This is what we are searching for as “visible” queues to follow the ICW. We are within a few hundred feet before we could see them. One HAD to rely on electronics. Or… use old fashion compass and mapping as the earlier mariners did. A skill we have not mastered.

We just keep motoring along and all seems to be going fine. Mid day and still foggy; maybe ¼ mile visibility given when we can see the day marks s we approach them. Jim has taken over driving and sees a blog on the radar. What is it? A boat maybe? But, it is getting no closer. A nautical mile away. We see nothing on AIS. I look with my binoculars and keep watching. We need nothing. We power back a bit, but it is the same distance away. Finally, with constant scanning, I see the mast of a sail boat, bot only a mast. Slowly the radar blip had been getting closer. But, he has no AIS.

I call him on the radio that we are going to pass. As we don’t know his name, we call something like, “Sailing vessel southbound in the Alligator River in the Fog, Sailing vessel southbound in the Alligator River in the Fog, this is Motor Yacht Rincon Feliz. We would like to pass on your starboard side.” No response, so I repeat. Nothing. We can now see his whole boat, so we are pretty close. Ok, what next? We want to pass. We use our horn to let him know our intentions. The rules say one long blast to pass on our port side. I blast the horn. I can see him look. And wham! Gotcha!

That blob on the radar. We were on it before we saw it. Hailing on the radio failed. No AIS. We would have had no idea it was there without radar. It is useful to have a good selection of tools.

Our electronics; our AIS, GPS, radar, electronic charts, all go dead in a flash. We are still motoring ahead in the fog, passing this boat, but that boat is all we can see. We are blind! You can imagine our expletives. I rush to the panel, but tell Jim I’ll take the helm and he diagnose. Use our best skills to our advantage. Turns out all the navigation electronics and the horn, which has a compressor to make it blast are one one circuit. Apparently, compressors are energy hogs. Reset the breaker and everything powers back up…. within a few minutes. Get back on course now that we an see and proceed on our way. All in a days sail.

Clear hear, but not ahead. There is a long causeway with a small swing bridge to go through. Electronics tell you where it is.

What we Learned

We have an older boat that has had electronic added. Jut like older houses, they sometimes need an electrical upgrade to handle all the new energy loads we ask them to handle. Therefore, we need split the electronics AND we need charting and GPS that does not rely on the boat DC electronics in a pinch. We do have two electronic charts, one on a laptop and the other fixed in the boat, but both were relying on GPS powered by the boat. That part is easy to fix, splitting the circuits needs some research. We were proud of ourselves though in that we think we handled the situation well.

It cleared later in the day. Beautiful, calm, warmer.

We made it to Dowry Creek Marina with plenty of time to spare. Bought fuel, some of the cheapest diesel around at $1.74/gallon. When you are buying 250 gallons, every nickle makes a difference. Pumped out tanks and filled out water. None were critical, but convenient.

What Next?

I know this post is getting long, but to finish up…. the weather is supposed to turn a bit ugly on Monday. Not horrible, but fair winds. We have not relished getting into New Bern late afternoon and docking in the wind. Been there, did not do too well. And, there could be reasonable weather on the way in. we so much prefer fair weather boating. It would be a very long haul today from Dowry Creek to New Bern. Not really wanting two long days and starting to wonder, why? We are supposed to be enjoying where we are. So, have decided to stay put in Dowry Creek until we have fair weather. Maybe Tuesday, we’ll head out again. We’ll see.

Forced to hold up for weather. My view while I write. Oh, and it is just a bit warmer. Washed the boat today, we hate that chore. And, there are mosquitos! Yikes, those screens are needed now.


We Haven’t The Foggiest Idea — 4 Comments

  1. Excellent post. I found myself holding my breath wondering what would happen next. Glad you’re choosing to be safe. Relax and enjoy. I think boating is like flying a plane. You have to change plans based on the weather.

  2. Yes Jimmy, very true. One has to constantly watch the weather and be willing to just stay put. When we came up from Florida, we had some big waves and are glad we experienced it and know our boat can handle it. But, I do not want to knowingly go out in that. it was not tons of fun.

  3. WHEW! You made it through the fog! As I read your entry, I was reminded of my sailing days on Lake Superior in the fog (before all of the fancy electronics) where I had to have two crew sitting at the bow watching with eagle eyes as I motored carefully. Quite scary then and my hair raised even reading your report! Safe journey ahead and glad Niki is warming up to the new lifestyle.

  4. I can only imagine how hard it would be without electronics. It is EASY now compared to paper charts. Or, being the person doing the charting hundreds of years ago. A different breed.