Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making Headway

Days on Cruise: 34

Today’s mileage:  61.1

Time cruising:  7 hrs 24 mins

Total odometer:  971 statute miles

It was cold, cloudy and calm (yes! no wind!) this morning, so we cast off at 7:45 after spending 15 minutes rinsing down our anchor chain as it came up out of the thick MUD bottom where we’d anchored. Secure stuff, but messy!


We were pleased to finish the remaining stretch of the Pungo River and enter the Alligator-Pungo Canal, a 20-mile man-made canal that connects the Pungo and Alligator Rivers, under calm conditions.


We found the Canal to be more interesting than we expected. It’s only 75 yards wide, and both shores are shallow with lots of stumps and snags where trees used to grow but the shoreline has been eroded by boat wakes. Staying to the center of the narrow dredged channel is essential. We had no trouble in this stretch.

Next up: The Alligator River does not strike us as a “river”. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, all rivers other than the Columbia are long, narrow things in which the water usually runs fast and canyons are often on both sides. Not so in this part of the country. The Alligator River is 3-5 miles wide on average, and shallow enough that winds over 15 mph make it uncomfortable to travel in a trawler.


Emerging from the Canal into the very wide Alligator River, where the ICW markers change sides (red and green colors on opposite sides from where they’ve been the past day or two), plus day markers set 2-3 miles apart, meant we had to both peer through binoculars and work on navigating as we made our way. The wind came up as the day wore on, and in the end we were back to wallowing, with 25-degree swings in orientation even on autopilot. If you try to walk around the boat under these conditions, you feel drunk at best; or at worst you take a fall, but fortunately when this happened to Cathryn she fell into a cushy chair on the sundeck, so no damage done. Does this look like a river to you?


After completing the 20 miles on the Alligator River, we asked for an opening of the 14-foot clearance Alligator River Bridge, then headed for the Little Alligator River/Sandy Point anchorage. During the 30 minutes it took us to get there, the wind came up and shifted to the west, so by the time we got there we couldn’t imagine anchoring, as it was so wild, with no protection against winds from the west! But we enjoyed seeing the duck blinds on the route to the anchorage.


Deciding to back-track a mile and head for the Alligator River Marina, Cathryn donned a life vest while she went on deck to put out 4 dock lines and fenders on each side, not being certain whether we’d be heading into a starboard or port tie. This was the first time either of us put on a life vest to go on deck, but the conditions were sufficiently rough that we considered the possibility of a “man” overboard. We were very happy to enter the calm basin of the Alligator River Marina where we’re tied up for the night at another inexpensive marina, hoping the winds will cooperate tomorrow and allow us to make the Albemarle Sound crossing, one of the five crossings on the Great Loop route that can pose a challenge for all cruisers, depending on the weather.

At 9:30 pm all is calm, so we’re hopeful about tomorrow.

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