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Weathering a Blow on the ICW in North Carolina

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Ed. Note: The following article was written in real-time during the couple’s cruise north on the ICW in the fall of 2011.

Our adventure on the M/V Ruby Slipper was one that entailed doing many things for the first time. It would have been too easy ‘doing the ICW’ the same old way. So we made a concerted effort to get out of our comfort zone and the last week really epitomizes that – including navigating in fog with zero visibility through some of North Carolina’s more challenging inlets, weathering a monster storm at anchor and venturing ‘offshore’ to the remote Outer Banks of North Carolina to little-visited Ocracoke.

Three days ago, we anticipated a severe cold front and elected to anchor out rather than go into an exposed, uncomfortable marina. After lots of research we opted for the best protection we could find while still at anchor. Southwest Creek on the South River, off the Neuse River in North Carolina was the winner. Expecting a big blow, we found eight feet of water that was protected from southerly winds (the worst of what was anticipated). Holding was said to be excellent but we still put out 150′ of chain with our 44-lb Delta anchor. This is considered a ‘storm scope’ of 10:1. We felt snug. Not smug though, as we never take Mother Nature for granted!

Besides the strong to severe thunderstorms we had tornado warnings – this was going to be a ‘fun’ night!

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So, we took the pups – Trapper and Murphy – ashore to the only place we could, a seemingly abandoned property with ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted. But we decided to go for it, as we didn’t know when we could get off the boat with the dogs for the next two to three days. We crawled up and over a severely wrecked dock with boards missing and stumbled into overgrown grasses that was tick heaven. All was well as we found a road to walk. It was a good 45-minutes, and that would have to do for a while.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Murphy and Trapper are both trained to do their ‘business’ on AstroTurf on the boat – they are great boat dogs! But we like them to have regular exercise. At home they get about two to three miles per day. On the boat it’s feast or famine. Same for us, too!

Back on Ruby Slipper we hunkered down for a long afternoon and evening. We had our PFDs out and a plan to abandon ship, if necessary. As the winds increased and the seas swelled, Bill cranked on the engine (a 370 H.P. Cummins diesel) just in case we had to take the pressure off the anchor. The lightening show was spectacular! I would have enjoyed it more if I knew it were benign. We simply didn’t know what to expect. Added to our discomfort, we were the only ones out here and had no connectivity. We had the VHF to listen to weather updates and any nearby radio chatter. But I felt so alone during this frightening time. Just the voices of other cruisers are comforting, but there were none. On the VHF we heard about the tornados and now we were in a tornado watch. Frankly, I was scared. I sat on the cabin floor with the dogs and I admit it, the dogs and I had our life vests on. Cap’n Bill, thankfully, was cool and calculating. He needed to be manning the helm and keeping a look out.

The worst winds we saw got up to 45 knots, which was enough for us. Seas were choppy and just about two feet. Overall, not too bad. At midnight the tornado warning and severe thunderstorms were over and we could crawl into bed (after we each had a big drink).

Next morning we waited for the seas to settle and headed out for Ocracoke. While underway we finally got connectivity back and heard 45 people had died during the storm that crashed across the nation spawning hundreds of tornadoes. Scary indeed.

Now we’re safe in Ocracoke. It is a place very few cruisers travel to as it is so far off the beaten path and requires an ‘offshore’ passage through open waters. We made it successfully and were happy to find a National Park Seashore Dock for us. Great to get off the boat and enjoy this very charming and quaint, independent village that one can only get to by boat! We’ll be here until the next cold front passes.



  1. Sometimes you have to leave home to find it.
  2. Follow the ‘Yellow Brick Road’, but always be ready for a detour.
  3. Faith, hope & love can work wonders; but ruby slippers couldn’t hurt either.
  4. When friends stick together, they can work miracles.
  5. Having the courage to ask for what you want is half the battle.
  6. Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable.
  7. The grass is always greener on the other side of the rainbow.
  8. All you need is right there inside you.
  9. Keep home in your heart & you can always return to it.
  10. When you go out into the world, remember stand up for yourself, but always be kind to the little guys!

Bill & Linda Hughes and their ‘salty dogs’ Trapper and Murphy have been cruising aboard their American Tug Ruby Slipper since 2010.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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