Mile Hammock Bay
We left Swansboro a bit later this morning around 11:30 am since we didn’t have very far to go and we wanted to have a favorable tide leaving the dock. It is only about 20 miles to Mile Hammock Bay where we will anchor for the night.
Today’s challenges on our journey is one swing bridge that we need to have opened in order to go through. This is the Onslow Beach Bridge and it’s vertical clearance is 12 feet when the bridge is closed. With our mast, we are about 58 feet and would clearly not make it under a 12 foot bridge. Being a swing bridge, when it is in the open position, we have all the clearance we need to go through. This particular bridge opens on a schedule. It opens on the hour and on the half hour 24/7. So we need to time our approach so that we can make the opening either on the hour or half hour.
Generally with our aquamaps app, we will pick a point say 1000 feet before the bridge and set a route. Then we are able to adjust our speed to hit that point at either the top of the hour or the half hour. This strategy puts us still far enough from the bridge to allow them time to open and have some space to turn the boat around if necessary should the bridge unexpectedly not open for whatever reason. Hitting a bridge would be bad.
When we are within sight of the bridge we will call the bridge tender to let them know we are waiting for an opening. Even if the bridge is on a schedule, the bridge tender still wants to know your intention. So it goes something like this:
Onslow Beach Bridge, Onslow Beach Bridge, this is sailing vessel Painkiller
They will respond usually
Onslow Beach Bridge we are southbound, looking to come through at your 1 pm opening. They will generally respond ok/roger. They may give more information like other boats waiting on the other side, or tell you information about when they are opening.
Then we get out the binoculars and wait and continue our approach. Through the binoculars we are looking for traffic to stop crossing the bridge, the gate arms to go down that prevents traffic from proceeding and finally the bridge starting to open. Sometimes I swear this process seems to take forever as you are still inching closer to the bridge. This is the nerve wracking part.
Sometimes the bridge tenders are good about announcing on the VHF that they are starting the opening process that is always helpful and appreciated.
Once we see the bridge is open enough to allow us to pass, it is full steam ahead so we can pass through as quickly as possible. No one likes to sit in their car on a bridge waiting for it to close so it is nice to move along as quickly as possible. Once we are through the bridge, we call the bridge tender on the radio and thank them for the opening and to have a good day. Bridge tenders do talk to one another and you don’t want to be the one that they are talking about. Better to be polite and appreciate them for their work.
Today we are feeling proud of how we made it through this bridge and how we timed our approach. It’s the little wins when traveling by boat.
Our second challenge today is passing by Camp Lejeune. Camp Lejeune’s area includes a portion of the ICW and the land on both sides, including the beaches on the oceanside. Camp Lejeune frequently does live firing exercises that impact traffic on the ICW. If they are doing live firing exercises then they will close the ICW to all boat traffic during this time. Boats are then not allowed to go through and this could be for several hours.
I did some research online to see if I could find out if they were doing any live firing today, but information was hard to find. I did find a phone number that another boater had posted to call the base to find out but the information was about 5 years old so I wasn’t sure it was still accurate. I decided to call the number just to find out. The guy who answered the phone answered as the range commander. I guess I got directly to the right person. I just asked if they were doing any live firing today and he said no. I also asked if it was ok to anchor in Mile Hammock Bay. Mile Hammock Bay in located entirely within Camp Lejeune and owned by the marines and as such sometimes it is closed to boaters. He said it is open and fine. Great thanks!
If you don’t call ahead to check on any live firing in the area, there is a sign on the ICW with flashing lights that will tell you, you can’t move beyond here.
The coastline is starting to change from wooded and marshy to beaches.
We anchored in a nice little corner of Mile Hammock Bay with just 3 other boats that joined us for the evening. Plenty of room for lots more boats in here. We had some marines who were also doing some training with black inflatable ribs in the bay. There were a couple of them, no clue what they were really doing.
We played a couple of games of cribbage and cooked dinner and then settled in for a movie night in the cockpit. We put up the new movie screen I made and watched Top Gun until to got too cold and chased us inside for the night.