|(Is it a marina or a gas station?)|
Stats: Total 8:40 hours, total mileage 44.6 nm, avg speed 5.1 kts (sailed length of Albemarle)
The ICW guidebook says the Alligator River is a "22.4 mile area with extremely limited shore access in deep muck and cypress swamp...Insects and snakes (some poisonous) abound and help is not readily available." Sounds like fun.
Alligator River Marina (ICW) to Belhaven, NC: (Our first back to back day of moving) As we pulled out of the marina at the base of the bridge, we rejoin the ICW southbound. We maneuvered around a few crab pots, and called the bridge tender on the radio. I point out that the vehicle traffic has stopped, which is a sign the bridge is about to open. The Captain looks up and begins to align us for the opening. As the bridge begins to swing for us, we hit a crab pot. Captain shut that engine down and turned the boat over to me, so he could pull the engine up and take a look. Crab pot confirmed. We drug it through the bridge and cut it loose on the other side. Tempted to keep the buoy as a souvenir, we take a pic and throw it back in. It's a criminal offense to have a buoy that isn't registered to you (and no we didn't get to see if there was any crab in the trap! I'm still waiting for my big plate of Crab Imperial in exchange for negotiating crab pots).
I was surprised the Alligator River is a wide, beautiful river. The fun part of "going the wrong way," is the parade of boats we pass. A beautiful ketch, a nordic trawler, a Lagoon power cat. The bad part is the constant parade of boats. Most of the sailboats are friendly and wave. Many of the powerboats are friendly, calling us on the radio and waving, and a few power boats wake us so hard that a few things are found on the floor. Otherwise, the water was smooth as glass. You could go down below and think you were still at the dock. We left a few hatches open and a fan on for the cat and it stayed pretty comfortable down below. We share the helm off an on throughout the day as we navigate the canal connecting the Alligator River and Pungo river.
As we exit the canal and enter the Pungo, a few rain showers start to form around us and we get everything closed up and rain jackets on just in time. We were hoping for the free docks in Belhaven but due to some confusion and lack of information, we end up paying $1.00/ft or $41 for the night with electricity and water (but no bathrooms, showers, laundry or wifi). We share the dock with another sailboat, crank up the A/C and make chop salad for dinner. A local, former cruiser stops by to give us a gift bag and offer us a ride to the store. A few more thunderstorms roll through and AT&T cell phone service is nil, so we start planning for our trip to Oriental (another first, we decided to keep moving for three days in a row).
Stats: Total 8.49 hours, 47.4 miles, average 5.4 kts (motored)
Belhaven to Ocracoke: We have a weather window to make it across the Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke Island instead of Oriental. It will be "our most ambitious leg yet." We realized, as we left the dock, that it is Memorial Day weekend, but wherever we go will be busy. It's a nice morning. We're up early and leave the dock right behind the monohull for a parade of 6 boats heading back to the ICW. To our surprise, 2 of the boats turn south with us. We unfurl the genoa and motorsail downwind for 2 hours (Captain ran the genoa line outside the lifelines, back to a pulley and up onto a winch, so we have a half-ass spinnaker set up) until we make the turn into Pamlico River/Sound. We raise the main and take up a course of 130 that should take us all the way to Ocracoke.
We start with a quartering tailwind, then beam reach to barely holding a close reach as the winds shift to an unforecast easterly wind. We do a few tacks off course, and finally give up--motoring the last 2 1/2 hours and negotiate the narrow entrance, complete with the biggest ferries you've ever seen! I was informed later that a hat was lost overboard).
The anchorage is moderately crowded--but the most crowded we've done! The anchor has a good set the first time and we swing between the two boats on either side, one of which is a 65 monohull (Mystique)--yes, that would be a "yacht." The next morning, we start an engine to move forward so the guy behind us can raise his anchor--which is under our boat. This is our most entertaining anchorage yet. I can't begin to explain, but the Captain yells, down, more than once, "you got to see this." We have also developed a nervous tick about ferries and watching them arrive and depart becomes a new obsession.
Stats: Total 8:50 hrs, total miles 47.2, avg speed 5.3 (motor sail 1/4, sail 1/2, motored 1/4)