Baird Creek Adventure, Upper Neuse River, off the AICW near New Bern, NC
Baird Creek, charted as Beard Creek,liess on the north shore of the upper Neuse River north of Wilkinson Point. As Cat. Ben points out, it is marked by a single marker #1. All of us who have done any gunk-holing will enjoy this delightful tale of keel versus bottom, which will also explain why this particular creek is NOT in our North Carolina Anchorage Directory. Thanks for sharing, Capt. Ben.
The long keel, forever hallowed be its name.
I may not lay claim to being the dumbest boater, but I strive for the top-five.
In North Carolina, we have three types of bottoms, pecan-sandy, chocolate-pudding mud, and occasionally rocky-road-oyster shoal. Hungry yet? We love to gunk hole. It’s almost not an adventure if I cannot jump out of the boat and pull it along with the rope or kedge the anchor. Where’s the fun in being sensible? Markers in our waters are usually inaccurate because last month’s hurricane made a shoal where the channel used to be. Soft groundings come with the territory.
What has saved us in our limitless search for shallow waters and low-cost barnacle scrapings has been our beloved full keel. That and our craft tops out at about eight knots. With a wind. In shallow waters I have the deep sagacity to reduce speed to around 3 knots, so as not to bump anything too hard. One day, I hope to be a smarter captain, but our current mode of gunk-holing has provided hours of adventure, angst, and amusement to my first mate, and I for one refuse to deprive her of the joys of seeing mud churn off our stern. She’s become quite the expert at spotting it.
On our last adventure, we decided to explore the deep reaches of the Northern Neuse River on Baird Creek just after Thanksgiving. It is marked by a single green “1” daymark and a smattering of private PVC pipes with colored tape jammed in the ground. If you were a golfer, you would call this one hazard-filled course. For a boater it generally tracks around 5 feet deep if you are mostly lucky and very careful. Ours is a single-screw trawler with the aforementioned full keel. Believe me, this captain needs it. Drawing a hair over 42 inches of water, I make it a point to scout out sailboat masts in any unfamiliar harbor, because it’s a good bet that that captain will need a full five feet to knock around in there. Seeing a few masts, we gingerly entered Baird Creek in the afternoon, threw out anchor and proceeded to lounge a bit. I had some minor wiring repairs to do with the generator, so went about that a little after some engine cooling.\
Around dusk we fired up the generator, only to realize the repairs made did not fix the root problem, which was the transmission of current from the output leads to the rest of our craft. Including the Two-cycle AC (It’s November and a little chilly. After some mutual frowning and head-scratching, my first mate advises me that with the low temperature forecast, we might do better comfort-wise back at our slip, about 10 miles up the Neuse. So after some long deep breaths, inhale/exhale style – to draw in air for the work ahead of course, I agreed with my mate and decided to get about hoisting the anchor.
Now, this is where the real adventure begins – Anchor, up, no worries. Despite scrubbing and rinsing we still brought a good amount of chocolate pudding aboard as we pulled chain in the dark. In addition, what I failed to notice upon coming into little Baird Creek, was that the wind had shifted to the North, blowing water up the Pamilco Sound and draining the Neuse a bit – lowering the water with one of the Neuse’s famous – or infamous – wind-tides. Our depth finder gets psychotic under 4 feet and we start showing about 700 feet of water whenever this happens – so 700 feet showing usually means we’re near a touch-point, and we were seeing this. We get going about a hundred yards and feel the slow, gentle shudder of bottom. OK- no good. Adrenaline and dismay. We back off a little, free ourselves, and try in a different direction. OK, not so bad, but not for long. We find bottom again. Gentle shudder. Chocolate pudding again. It’s pitch black out except for the small lights of the relatively few homes on Baird Creek. So we back off again and track slowly and surely very close to some of the homes with modest piers. This seems to work. Eventually, gingerly, and nervously we were able to exit Baird Creek with our running gear and some portion of our wits intact. But I can assure the reader any future trip there – in or out – will be in daylight and with a south wind keeping the water high in the Neuse. For Baird Creek – boater beware!
Thanks once again to King Neptune for providence and our long keel for its patience – it’s saved us from ourselves many a time.
M/V Sand Castle