Engine Type – Horsepower Yanmar 6 cylinder 480 HP
Economical Cruising Speed 18 knots
Starting location Key Largo, Florida
Final destination Portsmouth, Rhode Island
This was a great trip full of surprises and unexpected pleasures. We arrived aboard the boat Friday evening to inventory spares and supplies. Rushed to the grocery store to stock up on food and turn in the rental car before they closed at 5pm. The Keys are still the Keys. Saturday morning we arrived at the fuel dock at 645 a.m. As the sign read “Open 7 – 5”, we were surprised that the dock attendant arrived a little after 8 AM. We also noticed the sign “self serve fuel dock”. Well, the Keys are still the Keys.
After fueling we headed out to Hawks Channel to start our delivery to Rhode Island, a distance of about 1600 miles. Our first day was a heavenly trip through the clear waters of the Keys and up the East Coast past Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Palm Beach and into Fort Pierce for the first evening. Great shakedown trip for us as everything was running fine and the weather was terrific.
Day two the weather started changing but it looked good enough for another day in the ocean. Murphy was waiting for us though, and in the early afternoon it became too rough for running outside. Ponce Inlet is well marked and fortunately the winds were in the right direction for us to dart in between the jetties. We ran the rest of the afternoon in the ICW from just below Daytona Beach to St. Augustine, FL. As the weather deteriorated we kept a close ear to the VHF and overheard a boat that lost a SCUBA Diver off Cape Canaveral. We were too far away to assist in the search but later heard the diver was found and was OK. The wind and currents surely played a role in that escapade.
Day three and the ocean was still too bouncy so we continued up the ICW. Even the inside route was rough. A tornado touched down near us amid wicked wind and thunderstorms. We did not actually see the twister but heard about it on the radio so we headed to Brunswick Landing Marina (GA) hoping for shelter from the high winds. We were protected somewhat but it was still blowing 25-30kts in the marina basin. We discussed plans with an 85 ft Motor Cruiser and agreed the following day should improve according to NOAA. It did, a little bit. We had another Big Boy join our northbound fleet and our parade headed into the ocean, working our throttle constantly to maneuver in the steep seas. We were all getting pounded but the True North 38 was handling things better than we were. Anticipating that the winds would lessen and the seas would be on our bow, we plowed on. A few miles up ahead we watched as the two large yachts gave up and turned around- so we did too- surfing all the way back in. The hull design of the True North was perfect for this type of following sea. But it was too rough 3 miles out of the inlet to risk a full day of getting beat up. NOAA was more optimistic than we were.
Day four, five and six and then some… the howling winds would not let up. Hilton Head, SC, Charleston Harbor and the Waccamaw River brought us past Georgetown to Wacca Wache Landing marina where we stumbled into BIKE WEEK. Myrtle Beach had their annual bike week and a lot of sharp Harleys were in the parking lot at the marina restaurant. Aside from being crowded we were able to tour all the custom painted bikes in the parking lot. Nice treat after a long day at the helm!
As we cruise farther up the ICW we hear a radio alert of a tug and barge broken down and tied up to the bridge fender system of the Ocean Isles 65 ft bridge. I didn’t have my tape measure but there wasn’t much open space available for us to pass between the barge and the opposite fender system. (see attached photo). We set out fenders on both sides of the boat just in case we needed them. Fortunately we had no problems. This True North steers like a dream. Later we passed under the Figure Eight Draw Bridge and noticed a sign on the fender boards stating “SUBTRACT 2 FEET”. Never saw that before. The bridge tender said the construction crew forgot to remove that sign when they hung a safety net during maintenance.
Onslow Bridge at Camp LeJune only opens on the hour so we had 40 minutes to sit and wait. As we idled along we heard rotary noises on the eastern shore. I assumed the marines were playing with an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) but I got a terrific surprise when I saw an OSPREY jump up and fly off. Then a second OSPREY- no, not the birds. (see photos) These are the tilt wing-rotor STOL aircraft the Marines use. Very exciting to be so close to see and feel them fly.
We finally ran out of daylight, stopping in Swansboro, NC at Dudley’s Marina. This is a real country place. Great friendly people eager to help in any way they can. In fact they drove us 2 miles to the closest restaurant and the restaurant drove us back to the boat. The food was great and the southern hospitality is something we miss in the modern world. Of course they had sweet tea to beat the band!
Up the Bogue Sound, through Morehead City, around Beaufort, NC to the commercial docks where we see a 30ft sportfisherman leaving the ICW heading to sea. The winds are relentless but maybe he knows something about the forecast that we don’t. After seeing him head out we hear a sailboat asking the Town Creek bridge for an opening and was told they could not operate the bridge in 45 knot winds. Wow, was it that bad? Thank goodness for the protection of the ICW.
Heading north from Adams Creek, past Oriental and into the Neuse River you can take a shortcut through Croatan Sound (Manteo) that will save you half a day in a trawler and is easy to navigate. You can completely miss the Alligator Pungo Canal and of course, the Alligater River bridge. This will take you right into Camden Point back in the ICW on the way to Coinjock, NC. As we cruise along the short cut listening to the VHF we learned a 30ft foot sportfisherman ran hard aground in Hatteras Inlet. We recognized the boat’s name as the same one we saw earlier heading out of Beaufort Inlet. Once again, we made the right choice in staying inside.
Another VHF alert announcing a truck was in the Dismal Swamp canal at the VA/NC State line and was blocking the channel. How did it get there? Arriving at Coinjock, we wait our turn to fuel. This is a very popular location because of the 32 oz Prime Rib Steak for Two. Yes it was GREAT and we had leftovers for another 2 nights aboard.
Optimistic for an overdue change in the forecast, we head north through the Great Bridge Lock and into Norfolk Harbor. Things looked to be settling, so we raced out into the ocean and up to Ocean City Maryland for the evening. It was still quite bumpy but nothing this ol’ girl can’t handle. We arrived near dusk, fueled the boat, hosed her down and heard loud engine noises nearby. The “Cruisin 2008” was in town. This was a Hot Rod Convention driving thought the main streets in parade fashion. We were treated to a few Funny Car Dragsters and a lot of old American Graffiti style cars. 50s and 60s vintage Ford Fairlanes, Falcons, Mustangs and Shelbys. Chevy Cameros, BeLairs (55, 56, & yes the 57), Nomad wagons and Chrysler too with a Dodge Dart, Swinger,Fury III and the Barracuda. A car I have never seen before was a Chrysler 300 D Convertible in Turquoise. If you read Clive Cussler this is like the car on the back cover of the Black Wind novel. We even saw two VW Beetles with the small oval rear window. Wished we could’ve been there before dark to really appreciate the paint jobs.
Back in the ocean and north to NYC. We had a one day respite from the weather gods and today we’ll pay the piper. What do you know? It’s windy and rough. Unable to make NYC before the weather gets worse or darkness, we ducked into Barnegat Light NJ and spent the evening at a commercial fishing dock surrounded by scallopers and long line fisherman. As we sat in the boat watching the front come from the West, funnel clouds dropped down to start water spouts. Time to adjust the lines and check the fenders one more time. Luckily the front passed quickly with no problems to us other than a lot of wind. A LOT of wind!
Day ten – back in the ocean. Winds were forecast to be strong from the West – and that’s different HOW?- so we planned to run the shoreline to NYC passing Manasquan, Shark Inlet and Sandy Hook. All went well until we lost the advantage of the mainland reducing the wind fetch. We got hit with the full force of the west wind, large seas on the port bow and then directly on the bow until we could make the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. With seas breaking over the roof, the windshield wipers had a hard time keeping up with the water on the glass. We were very grateful for 3 working wiper blades with fast speed so we could catch site of the buoys and commercial traffic in between the deluge of sea water. Successfully through this choke point, “Lady Liberty” welcomed us into the NY Harbor. The East River commercial traffic was light as we pushed on toward Long Island Sound. The ripping tide at Hellsgate was no problem as we traveled at 18kts to compensate for the confused surface. Passing Rikers Island (jail) and JFK Airport we enjoyed the last of the protected waters.
Long Island Sound was our next open body of water. As we passed Stepping Stones and Execution Rock the seas clocked to our stern and we started surfing towards New London. Our goal was to get close to Rhode Island so we would have a short run for our last day but the weather got us again. Seas were close, steep and pushing us from the stern so we decided to head to another port of safe haven, this time Port Jefferson, NY. During the night we pitched and rolled with the 30+ knot westerly winds blowing seas into the port and our marina. NOAA finally got it right for the next day’s forecast and the seas calmed after midnight.
We cast off at 4.30 AM, taking advantage of a 5.35 a.m. sunrise with visible light 30 minutes earlier. The seas were manageable for our early morning run in the Sound but we could see the seas would build later in the day. We ran as fast as possible to reach The Race as the winds picked up. We adjusted course for Block Island and then Newport. Neptune was watching over us today, we arrived at the dock in Portsmouth just before lunch. For the remainder of our day we cleaned the boat, wrote our reports and met the owner to review systems and brief him about the trip.
Although this was a routine delivery, the weather was a definite challenge. The True North 38 Flybridge is certainly up to the challenge. The hull design is great for the rough seas we experienced, she is powered properly and handled anything we humans could stand,….and then some!