I recently had the amazing opportunity to assist a good friend in sailing his boat, Chaos, from Wrightsville Beach to Marthas Vineyard. Now if you knew my friend, the name Chaos is a perfect fit. Heres how the trip started. I was running errands when I received a phone call. “I’m in Carolina Beach headed up the ICW on my way to Marthas Vineyard. I was going to call, but I knew you had a wedding this week end.” “No Smitty, actually thats next week end.” Oh, well you want to go to Marthas Vineyard, Tim (the other friend) and I will be in Wrightsville Beach in about 45 minutes. Pack, pick me up at Bluewater and after we run a few errands we’ll leave.”
They had started in Charleston and thats how my end of the trip started. I packed a small bag, grabbed some camera gear and Smitty and I actually jumped in his launch to catch Tim who continued North while we ran those errands. In less than 90 minutes I went from running errands with my wife to heading North on a boat. It was just short of being shanghied! But I went willingly. We caught Tim near Topsail and the journey began. We passed Camp Lejeune and all that one expects along the coast of a military base. My buddy, being an ex-Marine pilot, filled us in on some of the target and practice areas that encompass this vast compound. That night we stopped in Swansboro, where the owner of the local restaurant, picked us up at the marina and took us to his establishment to eat. Not a bad start.
The next day we continued on with the idea of docking at the Alligator River marina, which is just north of the Alligator River Swing Bridge. It was a pleasant ride until we got to the bridge area. The wind had picked up, it was 11:30 and there was a barge in front of the bridge. We were shining lights at the bridge house and trying to raise the guy in charge on the radio, but were having no luck. So here we were, far from anywhere and the marina is on the other side of the bridge. After going in a few circles, did we panic? Nope. We did what what any high tech sailor would do. We pulled out our Iphones and called the Coast Guard to see if there were any reports of the bridge being closed. They gave us the number of the bridge tender and once we finally reached him, he swore he never heard our radio, and that he was there all the time. We weren’t buying it as we had spot lights shining in his windows. Our guess is he was at the marina grabbing some coffee or whatever. So, saved by Apple, we finally docked at the marina in crazy wind and bedded down for the early start the next morning.
On Friday we reached the Tidewater area. That was the biggest time suck of the trip. First we had to enter the locks where the attendant was not at all accomodating. While we were there we had to avert a disaster when a sailboat behind us lost his thrusters and couldn’t control his boat, so Tim and I had to jump up on the wall of the lock(not legal unless you are wearing a flotation device) and grab his lines so he wouldn’t hit our boat and smash his against the lock wall. Then after that episode we had to wait over two hours for a bridge. We arrived in Portsmouth, finally, and went into town for a late dinner. We had hoped to get farther, but………..
So the plan changed and we decided to get off the ICW and go outside and run all night. We arrived in Ocean City, Maryland around 7pm, refueled, went to a store to replenish our food and water supply and left with a thunder storm behind us. We took turns with two awake and one sleeping as we cruised through the night. The seas were amazingly calm and we reached Atlantic City as the sun was coming up. That afternoon we reached New York harbor. As you come into the harbor you enter the area known as Hells Gate where the rivers come together. The traffic is intense and the current just as bad. We docked in Red Hook, New Jersey, fueled and Tim and I went to the marina restaurant to grab a quick dinner. Then we thought it would be cool to grab a picture of Chaos with the Statue of Liberty in the background. So Tim and I took the launch and followed Smitty back out into the harbor. It was crazy choppy and it was all I could do to keep me and the camera in the launch. No mishaps though and we got the shot and quickly got back aboard and headed up the East River with the idea of stopping somewhere on Long Island Sound.
Once we got on the Sound it was so calm and since that was the longest part of the final leg, we decided once again to go all night to make up time. It was like a lake. I had been on both sides of Long Island Sound, but had never really spent any time on it on a boat. It is one large body of water, and has some huge depth. We cruised out of the Sound, passing Fisher Island light house at around 7:30 am. We were excited, because we knew now that we would get to Marthas Vineyard later that day, as scheduled. We had hoped to see some big fish on that leg of the trip, maybe a whale or Great White, but that didn’t happen. We did see a blue shark of about 7 feet in length come up on the side of the boat, but no Jaws!
As we came into Edgartown harbor, our final destination, Mike (Tim’s brother), of Classic Aviators biplanes, buzzed us in his plane, shouting, doing aerials and all those crazy things people do in a bi-plane when they welcome you home! If you ever get to the Vineyard, go to Katama Air Field and Mike will gladly put you through the paces. Once we were there we broke bread with friends, commandeered Tims and his wife Joanies house to do laundry, and prepared for the return home on Wednesday. Smitty and his girlfriend Linda will spend the summer on Chaos, along with Linda’s sweet Mastiff, Grace. Getting Grace into and out of the launch every day is a story for another time.
It was a great trip and I’m glad I made the split second decision, with encouragement from my wife, to jump on board. It was a memorable time, spent with friends. I may have to make the return trip in the Fall! Here are a few pics from the trip. I have compiled a slide show and you may go and view Chaos, From Wrightsville Beach to Marthas Vineyard. Enjoy.