2 November, 2015
We pulled off the wall at Atlantic Yacht Basin under a crimson red predawn sky. As we edged down through the marshy lowland of the Virginia Cut, the wisps of mist swirling around us made for a mystical early morning passage. As the sun rose higher, the mists evaporated, and Alizann glided along through the sunny Fall day. The Albemarle Sound was benign, with winds under 10 knots. (Due to its’ shallow depths and long fetch, on a windy day the Sound can often be an uncomfortable trip, with steep, closely spaced waves). The Girl continued to forge south through the North River, crossing Currituck Sound. We entered the Alligator River a bit before dusk, and 14 hours after leaving AYB, we were anchor down at Deep Point Cove in complete darkness. Our radar showed around 17 boats in the anchorage, and from the height of their anchor lights, almost all were sailboats. We vowed to be out by O’Dark-thirty so that we didn’t have to pass them all in the narrow, long Alligator-Pungo Canal. We watched the Michigan-Minnesota football game that evening all the way to the crazy end (sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good), as the Gophers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with my Wolverines first-string quarterback injured and on the bench.
With our hook up at 05h47, we entered the canal around dawn as the VHF started to light up with chatter from the anchored sailboat fleet. For the next 3 hours, the Admiral (a.k.a. Swamp Girl) was in her element as we motored through the swampy lowland that the canal transits. She regaled me with “rat facts”, recalled from her studies of marine biology and fresh water ecology at The University of North Carolina. She spent a lot of time tromping around swamps and marshes back then, collecting water samples and tiny critters, and remembers those days fondly. We were happy that we had made an early start, as there was no one ahead of us, and we heard the clot of boats a couple of miles behind us fussin’ on the VHF most of the day. Eleven hours later, we had crossed the Neuse River and anchored in Hardy Creek, just south of Oriental, NC.
November 2nd. Even though we planned on a short hop through Beaufort (that’s pronounced Bowfort in NC, whereas Beaufort, SC is pronounced Bewfort) we got going early. Bill and Lisa (aboard “Changing Course”) had anchored in Lookout Bight on the ocean side of the Beaufort inlet, and told us that it was really pretty, making it our destination for today. We figured that after a couple of long days of travel we would enjoy getting in early and exploring around Shackleford Banks with the dinghy, snappin’ a few of the wild horses there. Well……….the anchorage was pretty, comprised of a nearly circular basin surrounded by low-lying sand dunes. On our way in, we spied half dozen wild horses on the Shackleford Bank off to our port side. We got the hook down, and the wind immediately came up to 25 knots with gusts into the 30’s. The gray skies turned black and the lightning started cracklin’ from the storm front that we thought would miss us to the north. Long story short, line after line of storms passed overhead throughout the day, and we were never able to get the dink into the water. Between (and during) the rain drops, I finally figured out what was wrong with our balky, off again, on again wind generator. Strippin’, crimpin’ and wiring in a new hull inlet brought music to my ears, the generator blasting along in the high winds. Suzanne took the opportunity to cook up some grub for future consumption. Toward evening, the rain slowed, the wind changed direction and abated slightly, indicating the passage of the front. We hoped the change signaled the opening of the weather window for our 26 hour offshore passage to Bald Head Island the following day.