Running Aground

Today was quite the memorable day of sailing. We left Oriental, NC, and sailed all the way down to Moorhead City, NC. We saw dolphins, sailed by amazing houses, and ran aground three times! 

The day started out aground. We had been anchored in Oriental for about 3 weeks, and the bottom there consists of a very soft mud. The keel was close to the bottom in the harbor and then the wind pushed us onto a small shoal. It seems that the keel worked its way deep into the mud during those three weeks and didn't want to let go! 

We motored a bunch in forward and reverse, with the propeller acting more like a dredger than a propulsion method. The prop churned up the water and sent the silt flying away. Soon we had dug a hole that we could spin around in, and with a full power blast, made it out of our shallow prison and into the channel!  This method only worked without penalty because we have a full keel with attached rudder and an electric motor. If we had fin appendages, we would have to worry about structural damage to the hull. A diesel motor would become quickly clogged with all the silt and overheat in short order. The electric motor is air cooled and spins as long as there is power supplied to it.

That was grounding number one. 

Grounding number two occurred not in the narrow Adam's Creek, but in the wide open section of the Newport River. I deviated from the course a little bit and was quickly reprimanded with a sudden stop on the sandy bottom. While we were aground, a pod of bottlenose dolphins came by to see what was going on and then left to resume their fishing activities. We tried using the sails to heel us over and motoring forward and reverse, even turning hard to rock the keel off the bottom! Nothing worked so we called Boat US and had a tow boat come grab us.  

These types of tows make me think of beached whales. They come by to help and pull you into deeper water, then they set you free again! He made short work of the dilemma and pulled us off the bottom and out into the deeper channel in a heartbeat. 

We continued sailing along well as we rounded Moorhead City at the entrance to the Bogue Sound.  This sound is a long and narrow passage that you need to complete in a day or you will regret your life choices (or so I have been told). Since it was now 5pm, and the sun was rather low on the horizon, we chose to drop the hook for the night on a shoal.

The tide in this area is rather dramatic in my opinion, rising several feet each day and with a very strong current of water flowing past. We proceeded out of the channel and into what was supposed to be 8-9 feet of water and promptly ran aground again! This was grounding number three. 

Once again, we tried the motoring, and the sails, and then decided that this was fine, we were out of the channel and we would simply wait for high tide. It turns out the tide was not all the way out when we grounded, and as I type this, we are tipped bow down and slightly to port as the water rushes away from our hull and is leaving us high and dry. 

The tide tomorrow at 8am is supposed to be 2.5 feet higher than when we ran aground, so we will certainly float off at that time and will simply raise the anchor and proceed on our way down the Bogue Sound. 

Cruising always has its memorable moments. We had the day of perfect sailing, we have had days with dolphins, and we have had days when we sailed into places that sailboats are not meant to enter. Today will be remembered as the day we ran aground, three times.