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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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The Gale is over :)
05/20/2009, Alligator River Bridge, NC

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well the winds died down last night and we were able to get some sleep. As the sun came up the winds started again but they didn't feel as strong. I think they're about 20 knots now and the bridge will again be able to open for boat traffic. It's nice to see all the boats moving through the bridge. We could have left today to cross the Sound but Wayne wants to wait until tomorrow when the waves are a bit more calmed. I definitely won't argue about that. I don't much like confused waves and I don't really care at this point, if we leave a day later, since there's no way I'll be home for graduation. I can polish off my Micheal Crichton book after I make breakfast (ham, scrambled eggs and potatoes).

It's kind of funny to think about, but I was thinking of graduation and how nobody ever got back to me from school about it. After being a teacher there 14 years it felt like home/family to me but I realize that I don't belong there anymore. Even though I told a couple of the kids that I'd be there for them at graduation, I hadn't heard from either of them for several months - which doesn't bode well since these had been cherubs I'd been trying to help It just always felt like quite a few of the kids were mine.

Amy, Matt, and Chris - if any of you are still reading this, I hope you graduate. Three days laying about gives one time to think... I guess it's time to quit worrying about everyone else's kids.

Since the skies cleared I went up top to plot a route into the chart plotter to get us to Virginia (where we'll let Kolibrie rest for the summer). It takes me a while to put in the waypoints but I really enjoy working with the chart plotter. Wayne worked below changing the fuel filters and air filter. When he pulled them out - they were quite dirty. Hopefully this will do the trick and we'll no longer feel the engine bogging down!

Still Gale force winds
Gale force winds but the rains have stopped somewhat...
05/19/2009, Alligator River Swing Bridge, NC

Monday&Tuesday, May 18th and 19th 2009

Well the Gale continues. Oatmeal for breakfast both days to make sure Wayne's stomach is okay... He's much better now even if the water keeps bucking us. My aloe plant fell over again - poor thing. Will it make it back home?

The bridge tender opened the bridge at 4:30pm for ½ an hour on Monday night, Then again after midnight. But it was still choppy and winds were between 20-25 knots so at 4:30pm we decided that since the anchor was still holding so well, we'd stay put. At midnight when I heard him come on the radio I was so groggy and it was dark, so who cared... We hoped that in the morning that he'd still be open but at 5am Tuesday morning he closed the bridge again. I'm getting used to the rocking and rolling and Wayne is too. Normally he can't read in a rocking boat without getting sick, but he's doing fine. Made Beef Birmingham for dinner Monday - modified it since I didn't have all the ingredients but it was tasty my way too. Tuesday night I made a modified BBQ chicken/pork cowboy stir fry over mashed potatoes with baked beans on the side. It's called how to start using up all the stray meat in the freezer. I'm not sure how I came up with uneven numbers of meat, but it makes for interesting, sometimes innovative meals LOL.

The gusts continue to go above 30-35 and the waves are still capping and falling over. The sound of the chain and snubber are loud in the V-berth but when we check, they're still holding good. It makes me wonder what on earth we managed to hook onto below the water. We've not moved more than 7-15 feet since the anchor caught. When we finally try to haul up anchor it will be interesting to see if we can actually get it up or if it's firmly taken root. According the weather on the Internet, the winds are supposed to start letting up tomorrow evening (Wednesday) so depending, we may be able to get out of here tomorrow or Thursday. It always amazes me how even though the cell phones don't work, I can sometimes access the Internet with the broadband card. So Wayne was checking out rental cars most of the day (Tuesday) online so we can cart stuff from the boat to home once we finally put the boat on the hard for the summer.

I found another Micheal Crichton book in my reading material "Prey". I shouldn't have picked it up because I'd started another book "One False Move" by Harlan Coben that will now have to wait. Crichton always manages to hook me. I will be glad when the boat stops slopping us around like a wash machine though... It's easier to spend the days in bed than being thrown around in the boat. Wind chill is cold out there. High in the 50's and low in the 40s. Time to throw another blanket on the bed and stop the drips from the ports onto our heads from the condensation...

Stormy weather...
05/17/2009, The Pungo River, NC (N35*33.715 W76*28.557) to Alligator Swing Bridge, NC (N35*53.874 W76*02.024)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The day started out cloudy but then cleared. We're headed for South/East Lake to anchor today. Tomorrow they're calling for a gale with 35 mph winds, which means we want to be in a protected anchorage tonight to wait it out for our crossing of Albemarle Sound. That's a wide open expanse of water with plenty of fetch to build uncomfortable and actually dangerous seas, so we don't want to cross it in high winds... South Lake was one that we'd anchored in when on the way down, and it offers good protection from the winds.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it to South Lake or East Lake. The Alligator Bridge closed due to the high winds and weather that we ran into. Boy did we run into it - it was not fun...

We saw clouds building again but they tend to do that in the afternoon. I had to take pictures - of course - we had some beginning to tower (I should know - beware of pretty clouds that begin to tower...) At 1:30pm I gave the helm to Wayne under the assumption that I was going to go and take a nap. I should know better than to do that... Close to 2pm a weather bulletin came on warning of damaging gale force winds, waves, and lightening - Mariners take shelter... Um, right- where? We're following a channel that's 12 ft deep with maybe 6-3 feet on both sides of the channel, even though it looks wide open... The heavens opened up, rains came down, and winds buffeted us around. Wayne couldn't see (glasses fogged and rained up) so I was back at the helm trying to get on and stay on course.

We were running at 2500 rpms, which gives us a cruising speed close to 6 knots - normally. We were now doing between 0 and 2 knots - top speed, and sometimes actually moving backwards like we were in reverse - not good. It was all I could do to keep us in the channel and trying to face the correct way. Normally fronts last maybe ½ hour and then let up. At 4:30pm I was still gripping the wheel with all my might. The winds were really something and I kept watching the bow lift high into the air and then braced even tighter as it would come slamming down again. The depth sounder bounced from 8-13 ft depending on where on the wave our little boat was... That meant possibly 5-foot waves in this shallow water! I did not want to leave the channel and end up pounding on the 3 ft banks. I was holding my own pretty good. Was I scared? Yes... then I felt the engine back down on me like I was letting up on the throttle (like I'd do that on purpose and lose control in these waves and winds). Okay, did I say scared? Yes? Make that terrified now... My eyes went wide and I looked at Wayne. Wayne yelled over the wind, "its probably clogged fuel filters" caused by stirring up any dirt that might have settled in the fuel tank. I now had visions of the engine conking out on me in a gale, with our nose rising up and diving down, and no engine... Do we send Wayne up to drop an anchor? Not in these conditions... Okay, terrified is probably a mild word to how I was feeling... Especially when the engine kept doing that, each time the bow rose high out of the water and came slamming down into the next wave. Wayne laughed at me and said he'd tell me why later. I couldn't believe how long these winds n waves were lasting... a powerboat going the opposite direction was trying to signal/warn us off saying to turn around that there was 6 ft waves in the sound. We told them there were the same in their direction. They said this was nice compared to where they'd just been but then they were running with the wind and waves and we were slamming against them. How could I explain that where they'd come from just came roaring at us... Around 5pm the winds/waves started letting up a little and we finally made it to the Alligator Swing Bridge close to 6pm... only to be told that it would not open. They don't open when the winds reach 30-35mph and they'd be up there until midnight, at least... with gusts to 40mph. We could go back the way we came and run with the waves, or drop anchor here near the bridge for the night. We decided to drop anchor. We'd run along the bridge toward land and then swing with the waves, until Wayne got up and got the anchor ready, then I'd head back into the wind and we let go of the anchor.

It worked, and the anchor dug in. Wayne set the snubber, I set the anchor alarm and we both huddled under the dodger. Shivering... Wet... Cold... Bone tired... would the anchor hold? Would the engine keep running? If we shut it off, would it start again (we'd had problems the last couple times where you turn the key and nothing happens, then it would start)? We finally decided the anchor was holding and went below to strip off all the wet foul weather gear and clothing... The boat was sloshing us around down below like soup swirling in a bowl... I mentioned dinner and Wayne was green around the gills and said not to mention any kind of food. Okay, no dinner. Dramamine for Wayne, peanut butter crackers for Pat. Time for bed, just to lay down instead of getting slammed around in the boat. While lying there, I asked Wayne "Okay so why were you laughing?" He replied, "you looked terrified". "Hands clenched on the wheel". "Teeth gritted." "Soaking wet with a string of hair dripping water down your face." "It seemed worse than what it probably was." "The boat was going to be all right." Jeez oh Pete... did he see me bring up that other life jacket and hide it under the table? He must have... Hey, you can't have to many floaties in a gale... remember - I'm not totallllly comfortable in the water. The other life vest was a security blanket for me. This was the first time that I'd ever been caught in a gale and had to stay alert each moment... Wayne said "you adrenaline junky you" as the Dramamine kicked in and he went to sleep.

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