Sunday, October 31, 2010


Swansboro, NC  34°41.07N | 77°7.289W
Steam rising off the water at sunrise in Swansboro, NC.
It was a bitter cold dawn in Swansboro. Dozens of small fishing boats buzzed around us on our way out of the harbor where we immediately fell behind an enchanting little catamaran named simply Ming. The boat was moving so slowly and deliberately, that we hailed him on the radio to see if perhaps he had timed his pace to make the bridge opening.

"No, I'll get there when I get there," said the disembodied voice.

It was tempting to pass Ming, but as we watched his movement, like some aquatic Pied Piper, we fell under his spell. All morning we kept pace, very slowly, just on Ming's stern as he moved left and right of the channel, seeking and usually finding the best route.

Our brush with the Ming dynasty.
Late morning, I was at the helm, sounding the depths with our two depth meters, a modern Mark Twain-ing that's tedious and nervewracking, keeping an eye on Ming's deliberate movement and keeping my own counsel, my goal always to avoid the shallows and a potential grounding, the fate of two boats we passed today. 

At one point, I was tense and tired from staring at the depth meter and referring to the GPS when I looked up at the vista before me.

I realized that with my nose down I was missing some of the Earth's great splendor. The moon overhead, marshes sprawling just off to port, stately Southern homes to starboard.

But nose down is how I've spent a lot of my life. These panoramas are no less stunning than the ones I left behind in the Outer Banks but how often have I failed to enjoy them. Our planet does not tuck her magnificence under a bushel. It takes some real effort to miss it, and yet ...

A few minutes ago, Chip said, "Sunrises and sunsets are ridiculously beautiful. I feel stupid for missing them most of my life. What was I thinking?"

Midafternoon I passed Ming in hopes of timing the last two bridges just right. We missed the first one by 10 minutes and had to wait another hour. Just as the bridge was about to open, I looked back to see Ming ghost up and respectfully take his place in line behind a row of sailboats waiting to pass.

Our day ended with a harrowing 30-minute wait at the Figure Eight Island Bridge, a wait that seemed much longer, in a strong current pushing us toward the bridge in heavy traffic. I throttled back, did a couple of 180s, pirouetted, did a pas de deux with another sailboat, backtracked and finally went through in a nail-biting rush of little recreational boats flitting under my bow, too close on the heels of a slow-moving sailboat ahead, straight into an unexpectedly shallow channel leading to our destination.

Exhausted after an 11 hour day, we anchored on our third try in a sketchy current running opposite a stiff wind in Wrightsville Beach, sending all the boats at anchor willy nilly -- and one bumping right into another upwind, its owners frantically trying to intervene.

As we were settling in, we looked up to see Ming tooling slowly into the now-calm anchorage, quietly dropping his hook in the glory of a technicolor sunset.

Wrightsville Beach, NC 34º12.39N | 77º48W


  1. This was a stellar post! Life's lessons...

  2. Thanks, John. Lessons from the Ming dynasty. ;-)

  3. "our planet doesn't tuck her magnificence under a bushel." so true.

    We had a rough day yesterday; damage to the boat, and subsequent sour send off for good friends. I was brooding for hours, I think the turning point came when Victoria pointed out the sunset. Nature's beauty is as powerfully catalytic as it is ubiquitous.

  4. And that's true whether you live on land or sea! I'll go to your blog to find out the rest of the story.

    Thanks for checking in Tucker. How did you find us?