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Author Topic:   Trip Report: Cape Fear River, NC
jimh posted 10-25-2002 12:33 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I am working on a longer article, but I thought I would share this tidbit with my fellow Whaler boaters:

We were recently in North Carolina in the Cape Fear River area. One Thursday afternoon found us cruising northward up the Cape Fear River, several miles above Southport. On the western shore there was a large military port installation, and many signs warning that the area was restricted--keep out.

After we thought we had passed the restricted area, the buoyed channel jogged westward and we began to follow it toward the western shore. At about 400-yds of progress up this channel, we here suddenly halted by the presence of a battleship-gray 32-foot Fountain patrol boat, with three Marines aboard (in camo) and carrying machine guns.

It seems we had missed the main channel and were sailing up the entrance channel to the second and third set of port facilities that stretched for a couple of miles along the shoreline. The military fellows detained us briefly while they checked our registration numbers (I think they were were surprised to see a Michigan outboard boat in NC).

Ultimately, I think the gray hair on the skipper, a smile from my extremely attractive wife, and the Boston Whaler logo on the hull all worked in our favor, and the guys escorted us out of there and back to the main channel, where we found the proper buoys (about a mile away and hard to spot).

I think if I had been a 16-year old kid on a jet ski I might still be in North Carolina explaining my navigation error!

In addition to the usual cautions since 9-11 at any military installation, the Army is rather protective of this facility since it is the Military Ocean Transport Sunny Point, the major military shipping port on the Atlantic. The boat we saw was most likely loaded with several million pounds of munitions and headed for Diego Garcia to pre-stage material for any Middle East military action.

The restricted area, which we interpreted incorrectly as applying only to the first wharf that we could see, in fact applied to several miles of the western shoreline.

See for more details on the facility.

Once we passed examination, we were escorted out of the area. The skipper of the patrol boat point ahead and told me to just follow the buoys back to the main channel. I went ahead at slow speed, but after a few minutes the military guys gave us a wave to speed up. I heard this great, low-pitched growl from the inboards on that Fountain, and I shoved the throttles on my puny Yamaha outboards ahead to increase speed to match.

The military guys were all business and no smiles, but very professional.

Latter examiniation of the NOAA Chart we had aboard (with a magnifying glass) revealed a thin magenta line defining the restricted area and showing its perimeter.


tabasco posted 10-25-2002 09:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for tabasco  Send Email to tabasco     
Jim- Glad you had some excitement on your trip. Little things like your experience make great cocktail stories.

Love to see a photo of that Fountain. Did it have a step hull?

Hope you had a great well deserved vacation.I'm sure your good looking wife had a lot to do with them not escorting you to the base. Although I agree that your gray hair did help. How was the weather? Hope to hear more of your trip and see some photos especially of the military installation ;-)

Bobby posted 10-27-2002 08:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bobby  Send Email to Bobby     
Great story! Whalers and USA, nothing better.
TheSkipper posted 01-29-2003 04:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for TheSkipper    
Jim, do you have any idea when we can expect to see your full trip report? As you may recall, when I first came to this forum, I asked for information about taking my freshwater Whaler to this area. Unfortunately, I was not able to take my boat on my trip. I do, however, plan to take it in the future, and I am interested to see your report.
David Jenkins posted 01-29-2003 08:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
Were there many boats on the river, Jim? How far upriver did you travel? Was the scenery pretty? Waterfront houses? Wildlife? Was the water polluted? Were there enough hotels and restaurants? Would you recommend it? Thanks!!!!!
K Albus posted 09-10-2009 02:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
I know this is an old thread, but I had experience a few days ago that was somewhat similar to Jim's reported experience. I was on the return leg of a Carolina Beach to Southport trip, and I was cruising north up the Cape Fear River, in the marked channel, just outside of the Sunny Point military facility. A Sunny Point Habor Police boat was idling along in the channel. When I passed the Habor Police boat, its blue flashers lit up and the chase was on. I slowed down, and the police boat pulled up next to me. I was not ordered to stop. Instead, I was ordered to proceed on my way outside of the marked channel. In the this particular location, the marked channel comes very close to the restriced zone around Sunny Point, but it was definitely outside of the restricted zone which is clearly marked. Although I was a visitor to the area, with very little local knowledge, I continued on my way, outside of the channel, and experienced no problems.
jimh posted 09-10-2009 07:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for the update from Kevin. I guess I never did get a proper trip report written on this adventure. But the area has lots of boating potential. We might get back there some day.

Kevin--I am glad you were let go without shots fired.


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