Monday, May 21, 2007

Across Albemarle Sound, a big step

The day starts early on the waterway. There were three sailboats nearby. We had the engine started and were pulling up the anchor before 7am, still we were not the first boat out of the anchorage (and another trawler left just before we did). We were well rested, especially Hank who slept soundly on his bed which yesterday Pamela brought to us from our home.

After that, we had a long stretch of straight canal, bordered by tangled swampy wilderness. Traffic was occasionally a problem, as much bigger & faster boats are not always careful with their wakes. We talked on ham & VHF radios with fellow cruisers. There is also cell phone coverage much of the way. So the time went by as we ventured out of the Alligator-Pungo Canal into the Alligator River, which was glassy calm. It's also a long river, and it was noon as we approached the Highway 64 bridge. The wind was starting to build.

The bridgekeeper opened promptly for us, wishing us a good journey. We needed the luck, as the wind continued to strengthen as we zig-zagged out the channel of the mouth of the Alligator River (which is guarded by serious shoals) into the open Albemarle Sound.

Photos of rough seas usually do little to capture their size & power. Despite that, here is a dashboard view:

By now the wind was 25 knots out of the North-East. Waves were rolling along; fortunately our course took us almost straight into the seas instead of taking us on the beam. I realized at once we would have to slow down, as the bow dropped behind the crest of the first big wave and a waterfall burst over our windshield. Reducing RPMs so that the boat was averaging about 4 1/2 knots instead of our usual 7, the hull was not slamming but the motion was not pleasant. It's that 'elevator dropping from under your feet' feeling every few seconds, followed by bracing yourself against the surge. It was tiring, too.

Fortunately we only had to go about 12 miles until we'd be in the sheltered entrance of the North River, leading up to Coinjock. So all hands, including Hank, got a grip and waited for calmer water.

The North River is very pretty, bordered with marshes, wetland forest, cypress, and of course lots of wildlife. The photo is taken at the end of the river & the beginning of a short canal at Coinjock, where there is also a highway bridge taking thousands of vacationers to North Carolina's Outer Banks. This canal connects to the upper Currituck Sound, which is being developed rapidly. Here marshes & cypress give way to condos & McMansions.

The final part of our day's voyage took us into another canal leading to Norfolk, where we again had to open several low bridges... like the meeting of separate worlds, where commuters in their cars see us splashing along and we see them hurrying to the next stoplight.

As I'm typing this, Kathie is piloting the boat along the canal, as we still have some miles to go to the Great Bridge lock just south of Norfolk. We plan to tie up to the wharf just above (before) the lock, so we can make tomorrow's first opening and start putting more miles behind us.

Best wishes to all,
Doug & Kathie


Anonymous said...

This is SO COOL you guys. I'm really enjoying this vicarious trip. Glad Hank settled in but I bet there will be big adventures for him in the future.

Your starting place reminded me of one of our great camping stays which was several late fall days at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.

Yesterday I looked at a Kiwi built 65' cutter rigged pilothouse sloop. Beautiful boat which the owner can actually single hand. But with a 7' draft he's not going anywhere that you are going!!

Anonymous said...

Kathie and Doug,

You are truly under way now! Bon Voyage; hope it will be a great year for you.

Merrie & Mike
s/v Adagio