Today was the day of frustrating swing bridges. There were three of them, two opened on the hour, one every half hour. The first bridge was an hourly opening. A group of boats had left around 7:30 and around 9 we all started to slow down so as to reach the first bridge at 10 but not much earlier as we’d all have to bob around, avoiding each other, waiting for the opening, in other words, being stuck in a holding pattern, in a narrow bit of water!
There is protocol about the bridges where you have to request an opening. Even though they are to open on a schedule if there are boats waiting, you must contact the bridge master on VHF to ask for an opening and identify your boat name. The bridge master acknowledges with something like “roger captain, we’ll get you through on the 10 o’clock opening. Then, as one is going through the opening, most boats will say something like “Finnish Line clear, thank you for the opening” and usually they will reply with a “have a good day”. We read in a guide that at some bridges if you don’t ask for the swing, they don’t open even if it’s scheduled.
So, back to today. We got through the 10 am swing, and the next bridge opened every 30 minutes. We started picking up speed as the current was pushing us into the high 7s and we thought we might be able to make 12 pm swing. Bob throttled up to higher rpm’s than our normal cruising speed to try to make the 12pm opening but after a while the current dropped and we knew we wouldn’t make it. So then we slowed down for the 12:30 opening at the Figure Eight Bridge.
Unfortunately the next bridge was on the hour, 4.8 nm away and there was no way we could do it in 30 minutes for the 1pm opening, meaning we’d be stuck waiting for the 2pm opening. This meant we had to cover 4.8nm in 90 minutes in order to not to be doing the bob & avoid dance at the bridge for very long. If one thinks that’s easy, it’s not. Trying to move at not much more than two knots with a 1+ knot current behind us, meant we were often at not much more than 1,000 rpms and sometimes in neutral. We achieved a whole new level of patience and at least it was a lovely sunny day.
The turn to the anchorage at Wrightsville Beach was shortly after this bridge and we achieved another first for this trip. We anchored in a large area where there were already quite a few boats but lots of room. We dropped the anchor but after watching the boat settle didn’t feel comfortable about how close we were to one of the boats. Up came the hook and we went to choice number two with the same result, didn’t feel comfortable after a while so we moved again but it was third time lucky. We dinghied over to the town dock with the plan to pick up some groceries. The pickings at the grocery we’re pretty slim, they didn’t have meat of any kind so we bought some salad fixings with the plan of having a light snack at a restaurant we’d seen near the dinghy dock and have salad for supper.
Karma was very kind to us, we figure thanking us for our bridge and anchoring patience. We ended up eating very early, food arrived shortly after 5pm and was one of the best meals of the trip so far. I had Flounder Francaise and Bob had an eggplant & shrimp stack – both really really good, we forgot about the light snack and will have the salad for lunch tomorrow.
A number of boats had arrived at the anchorage while we gone, including a boat from Quebec City we’d chatted with at Oriental. It really is nice running into boaters we meet along the way.