Bald Head Island, NC

Friday, November 11 - Sunday November 13th

We've been lingering in Carolina Beach, but the days are getting shorter, it's getting colder, and our ICW friends are arriving, staying the night, and departing first thing, making us feel like slackers. So, do we continue down the ICW or attempt another passage? 

Looking at the weather, it seemed we would have a weather window open up on Sunday, November 13th. We wanted to stage our exit as near Cape Fear inlet as possible, and Southport seemed like the obvious choice. It’s supposedly a cruisers paradise with many marinas etc. The one marina that could accommodate us was $1.95 a night, and we just couldn’t get excited about it. The truth is, we’ve become curmudgeons about the ICW curmudgeons and prefer out of the way places rather than the “you must stop here or else” places. So we set our sights on Bald Head Island, just a few miles from Southport and directly on the Cape Fear Inlet.

The area between Carolina Beach and Southport is a little tricky. If there is a favorable current in "Snow's Cut", the current will be against you in Cape Fear River. We chose a favorable current in Cape Fear River - last time we had the current against us here and it slowed us to 3 knots for hours! 

We have a system for the ICW. I helm. Matt downloads the Army Corp of Engineers reports, Active Captain reports, and enters waypoints if necessary. He then reads off the info - "hug this green and then go straight to the red." "The next red shoals completely, so keep your distance." "This is where we change from ICW to Inlet markers so the colors reverse."
The Corp keep the surveys up to date - this one was completed 2 days before we transited! 
Army Corp of Engineers Snow's Cut data

We conquered the shoals and currents (getting 9 knots down Cape Fear River with the current!), arrived at our marina, got diesel and had the slowest pump out ever. 20 minutes to pump maybe 30% of our tank; yes, everyone gave up. We wanted to see the town and not just say "We went to Bald Head Island and watched our crap flow for 3 days. It was fun." 

Bald Head Island is only accessible by private boat or a ferry from Southport. It’s a summer vacation and golf spot where most of the residents and visitors use golf carts to drive the 3 mile long road. “Old Baldy” - the 1817 lighthouse - is the town’s mascot. The marina had space for us on a very nice floating dock and was only $1.50 a night. We planned on staying 2 nights (we find that one night isn’t enough to get to know a new place) but ended up staying 3 when a coastal low decided to linger.

Again, there were some restaurants that were open, some had limited hours, and some were closed for the season. We had a great meal at the Cuban restaurant at the marina, and walked to the grocery store. A very friendly local saw us walking and gave us a lift in her golf cart. The Carolinas sure are friendly. We stocked up on passage snacks and pre-cooked all our passage meals. Previously we have been un-energetic about cooking underway, so I wanted to make sure we had food to eat and not just granola bars!

It was pretty cold during our stay - and very windy - so we did not get to explore all the creeks on the island. We did get plenty of walking in and met a few friendly fellow boaters at the marina.

Bald Head Island North Carolina Boardwalk
Boardwalk - one side for walkers, one for golf carts
Bald Head Island North Carolina Boardwalk
Old Baldy lighthouse overlooking the salt water marsh
Bald Head Island Old Baldy Lighthouse
Old Baldy 
Bald Head Island Chapel
Bald Head Island Chapel
Bald Head Island Marina at sunset
Bald Head Island Marina
How Floridians cope with winter - stay in bed and hog the heater! 
We're wearing all our clothes!
Supermoon over the marina
Bald Head Island Marina - note the golf cart!
Hastings is blatantly nosey and was super interested in our friends docking. He even barked out helpful instructions!
Passage Prep!
Do you like visiting islands "in season" when everything is open or prefer the quieter off season vibe? 

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  1. I've got four things for you today: (1) you guys should start a rally team -- your navigation work is awesome! (2) I love how you say "only" $1.50 per foot. (3) My grandmother, who's now 98, worked at the original Vornado factory in Wichita, Kansas after WWII (she was also a Rosy the Riveter for Boeing and Beechcraft during the war) and has one of the original fans (still works). (4) I definitely prefer visiting places off-season.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    1. 1. Some days we do great. Some days we grind off our gel coat on concrete walls. 2. Hey the other place wanted $1.95 a foot and some places in South Florida charge up to $3.50 a foot! 3. That's awesome! We love our Vornado, even though it's now retired. 4. I agree - except for the lack of donut shops. I haven't had a donut in at least 6 months!

    2. $3.50 a foot? Wow. That's pricey even for high-season. How does it work for catamarans? Do you have to pay double or is it one set price per foot?

    3. When we had a yearly contract, we paid for a 50 ft spot even though we are only 38 ft because it was the only spot that we would fit in. For transient dockage, we have always just paid per foot; however there are some marinas that don't have alongside side dockage or wide slips, so it can be limiting.

  2. Bald Head Island looks like a nice place. I love the name of the lighthouse! We would prefer off season, off the beaten track places, but... there is a season (read: climate) for everything and a reason for why some places are popular! So, whenever warm weather and no crowds prevail, that would be for us - except during hurricane season on a boat. :-)

    1. Sure wish there could be a hurricane season with no hurricanes - we love summer in South Florida - the weather is hot, there are no crowds, the winds are light- great snorkeling-but hate how vulnerable we'd be to hurricanes. There's no winning sometimes!

  3. Wow - what was up with that pumpout? I like the picture of Hastings helping folks out with docking :-) I definitely like out of the way places and exploring things in the off season when it's less crowded.

    1. The dockmaster said it only worked once a day. I think it only had the ability to pump a gallon an hour! Hastings is super interested in monitoring everyone's activities!


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