24 October 2011
We arrived in Elizabeth City around 10:30A after passing through the Elizabeth City bridge and tied up at the free docks. The city does not charge for their docks - however, they do not have electricity nor facilities (other than a porta-potty). The docks are short finger docks with large pilings to hold your lines around. We quickly learned that boat neighbors help by grabbing your lines, using boat hooks, and send them back to you so that you are attached to the pilings. The winds, unfortunately continued from the Southeast, and as we mentioned in our last blog - this is not a good thing. The boat rocked up and down at the dock. It would raise up 3 feet at the bow and drop the same at the stern and rock back and forth constantly. This required "crocheting" the boat to the pilings and figuring out a way to step off the bow of the boat on to the small finger dock - which was sometimes a drop of 4-6 feet. It also meant that we would not be staying on the boat while it was on the dock until the wind shifted - which it was suppose to happen later in the day. We jumped at the chance to walk around the city - checked out the local book store, wine shop, and restaurants. A lovely wine, coffee, and sandwich shop had free WiFi and allowed us an opportunity to charge our computer/ cellphone/ and handheld radio. Elizabeth City has a "Rose Buddies tradition". This tradition started by Fred Fearing in honor of his deceased wife and with some friends that came to be known as the Rose Buddies. Fred and his friends would cut roses from their personal rose gardens and bring them down to the docks where they were presented to each lady who arrived on a boat. The sailors would then be invited to a wine and cheese party at Fred's house. Fred died some years ago, but the tradition continues and this little town hosts a wine and cheese party for the transient boaters whenever there are at least 5 boats. Roses from Fred's garden have been transplanted to the water front near the free docks where they grow today. There is also a beautiful stone monument with a picture of a rose on it in memory of Fred Fearing and his Rose Buddies. We wish we could have gotten to know him. However, we did not miss the Rose party and this one was very special because the honor guest was the Colonel of the Army Corp of Engineers who is in charge of the whole district, including the Dismal Swamp Canal. He arrived in splendid fashion on an army corp of engineers boat along with his entire staff. Wiley got to talk to him 1-1 for a about 20 minutes, with of course, Wiley doing most of the talking. He is young, smart, and a very nice guy. The first evening on the boat in Elizabeth City was much like trying to sleep inside a running washing machine that includes a loud bang every now and then when a wave hits the stern of the boat. However, at about 2:00A the winds shifted to the west, a cold front came through, and the boat settled allowing some sleep. We stayed an extra day in Elizabeth City because crossing the Albemare Sound can be treacherous if the wind is strong. We waited, along with all the other boaters for the calm to come on Friday before we would leave early in the morning to cross the sound to Alligator River Marina.