25 October 2014 | Alligator River to Oriental
Bob / Calm
I woke up early this morning and it was very cold. I warmed up the cabin with the space heater which I had turned off about midnight last night. Made some coffee on the stove and the cabin warmed up pretty quick. I was thinking I would be one of the first out today but it seems others wanted to get a head start as well and I was about fourth. Today would be a lot of ICW time and I hate being behind other boats. I can steam at about 7.1 knots and it seems a lot of others are running about 6.5 or so.
I was going to pull the anchor and realized I am going to need to clean the fogged up cockpit windows. After wiping them all down and raising the anchor I headed toward the mouth of the canal. I was about fourth in line entering so I would be behind and wasn’t real happy about this right up until we hit the fog bank on the river. The fog was so thick I could barely see the boat in front of me. We motored at about six knots in the fog following the magenta line on the chart plotter. The river here is full of dead trees and stumps on either shore. As I work my way down the river I am glad that we decided to anchor before this part of the trip. I was also glad to be in the back for a change and not leading this pack down the foggy river.
As the sun began to rise above the trees the fog burned off fairly quick and the ride got less nerve racking. I noticed the boat to my front was only running about 6 knots and the others were pulling away. I called them on the radio and asked if they minded me passing them. They said no problem and I went around them on their port side.
We would continue on the river for three more hours and Spencer slept most all of this way. We cruised on the motor and I enjoyed the scenery. I think the motor running at a steady speed probably helps Spencer sleep because he sure enjoys it. I made myself some bagels for breakfast and ate in the cockpit while I drank a whole pot of coffee and a glass of orange juice. As luck would have it, the boat behind me had caught up some and the coffee and OJ were ready to leave my body. Hmmmmmmm. What to do? Spencer is asleep, the auto pilot can’t navigate this narrow channel and with company so close I can’t really utilize the back of the boat. Just as I was getting a little uncomfortable Spencer woke up and was able to take the helm while I took a needed break. It was about 10:30 when we cleared the Wilkerson Creek bridge and could see the opening to the Pungo River. In about an hour, we turned to the southeast and down the Pungo to the Pamlico River. We passed by some marinas here and some old fisheries that didn’t appear to be in business but it was Saturday so who knows, they might just be closed. As we made the turn, I of course, had a slight brush with the bottom. I have got to watch that depth gauge closer. It was gentle and muddy and I backed up off it real easily and we were back on our way.
The wind is very light and no real sailing is going to happen right now. I remembered that Dave told me that I may want to unfurl the mainsail during times like this just for some stability if nothing else. I put out the main and trimmed it as best as i could for this reach and light air but left the motor running and we motor sailed for about the next hour.
I am being cautious but also taking advantage of the fact that Alibi’s draft is only five feet and “shortcutting” the route where I can. I am really trying to stay on plan and should be able to make Oriental by around 1930 (7:30 PM).
On the radio, I heard someone talking about the boat that had passed by me without any warning or slowing down and rocked us. Some one reported them as being a hazard to the waterway.
The radio chatter is kind of fun to listen to. Even when you can’t see another boat around, which is seldom on this trip due to the migration of snowbirds, you can hear them and talk to them. I use the radio a lot to pass the time. I talk to other boaters and listen as well. I heard “Had Hammer” earlier today but couldn’t raise him when I tried to call.
As we made the turn to the south west that sail I had up started to work so I shut down the motor and unfurled the jib. I love the sound of the motor shutting off and the water going by when your under sail power alone. We are making about six knots which is slow but still a half a knot faster than the five and a half I have been using for my planning purposes. The peaceful calm of sailing is worth the loss of speed for now since we have shortened the trip significantly so far today.
As we start approaching the Goose Creek entrance it was again time to start the diesel and drop the sails. I say “raise” and “drop” a lot but really on this boat you are unfurling and furling. The sails are “rolled up” around a furling device in the mast and on the headstay. There is a large ship off to our starboard and I am watching it on the radar and plotting its speed and course against ours to be sure we are safe and not on a collision course. It is looking tight so I bump up the rpm’s a bit. Right about that time the two boats in front of me start talking on the radio about the same thing I have been doing and decide to speed up. I had really hoped I could pass them before the river entrance but the container ship is more important right now.
We enter the channel well ahead of the big ship and the two boats in front of me are doing about 6.6 knots. I have to back down on the RPM’s to stay at their speed. As we continue up the river, the lead boat goes aground and we pass her. The captain calls on the radio and says all is fine and he recovered quickly. We are approaching a bridge where the horizontal clearance is constrained so I ride along behind a snowbird for a while. After we get through, I called them on the radio and asked if they minded me going around? They were fine and we passed them. As soon as we passed them, I went back up to 2650 RPMs and 7.1 knots. We started to pull away from them and as the waterway opened up into the Pamlico Sound we raised sails and sped away. The sail on the Pamlico was great and our first of many as this will be our playground for the next few years. It is an exciting feeling to be in your new backyard. I am starting to hear a lot of talk on the radio between boats and Oriental Marina. We are almost home. Time for some dinner.
Since we are celebrating our successful trip I make some steaks on the grill and baked potatoes. It’s not officially over yet but I went ahead and had a beer with my dinner.
We made it into the harbor fine and we turned into the channel to Pecan Grove Marina. My mind is racing imagining how often I will make this trip down our new “driveway”. The sun is in my eyes and I completely miss the last marker into the Pecan Grove channel and you guessed it, hit the bottom. Luckily, this is really soft mud and all I have to do is back up a bit to get off. The sun drops behind the tree line and I see the mark that I missed completely. I chuckle thinking that is surely the last time I will run aground on this trip.
Spencer starts getting the lines ready and we work through the marina to our new slip. We go in bow first and then decide back out and spin around to make it better for Evelyn to get on the boat when she sees it for the first time. Spencer ties us off and we shut down.
I am glad to be in for the evening and happy we made it with no real trouble. I am totally satisfied with the experience I gained and am really excited to have sailed over 230 miles. Wow! This was such an amazing trip. Spencer and I had some really good times together and I am really glad he was on this trip with me. His brownies and sandwiches were great! I know Rob wanted to go and I am sure Jenny is going to love this boat as well. I wish they all could have been along for this trip. I am looking forward to many more trips with the whole family but for now I am anxiously waiting for Evelyn to get here to finally see our new boat and our future home. She arrived about thirty minutes after we did and is very excited to see Alibi for the first time in person. I think it is all she thought it was and more but I will leave that for her to describe. Now it is time to settle in for the night and get prepped to go sailing tomorrow!