Friday, October 31, 2008

October 30, 2008.

We ended up sitting in the south end of the Alligator River on Tuesday. The wind was still very strong and blowing straight out of the west. We were fine and the anchorage was okay, it’s just that we were apprehensive about taking the boat through the Alligator-Pungo Canal with 20 to 30 knots of wind dead on the nose. Its narrow, full of snags and probably the birthplace of the Bogeyman. Nobody else in our little group left either so I felt a little bit better about sitting.

On Wednesday morning we awoke to the sound of anchors being raised. I poked my head upstairs to find the wind was still from the west but considerably lighter. We decided to go for it. As I was raising the 2nd anchor I signaled to Christy to put the boat into gear, and guess what? We didn’t have “forward”. Crap. I went below to check the transmission fluid level, and guess what? No fluid. Double crap. This is definitely not good news, the professional “repair” that we just had done, had failed. I refilled the transmission and off we went. This meant that we would have to motor for at least 4 hours with a damper plate that is breaking up and a leaking transmission.

Due to the tenderness of our damper plate we opted to turn just enough RPM’s to make 5 knots over the ground. We actually even passed a few boats including a catamaran, Don’t Look Back, which stopped to take another sailboat in tow. The poor guy pulled up a huge snag that he couldn't free from his anchor and then had his propeller fall off just as he was entering the canal. They came by and took his line and towed him the entire 22 mile length of the canal.

We set a schedule and I checked the transmission fluid level every 30 minutes and added as needed until we shut the engine down. The wind did once again build to about 20 knots on the nose for the rest of the day so it was slow going.

About 1300 hours we reached the south end of the canal and had had enough. There’s a nice anchorage there that we’ve used before so we turned in and dropped the hook.

An hour later the Don’t Look Back pulled in still towing the sailboat. They’re just another example of the type of extraordinary people that we’ve come across in our travels. As the afternoon went on another half dozen boats tucked in to share our anchorage.

The winds for Thursday were supposed to be lighter than we’ve had lately, but out of the north, so we were up early to take a shot at sailing the 48 miles to Oriental. We raised the mainsail and sailed off the anchor in the predawn darkness. The wind was light but we made about 4 knots as we headed south.

After a few miles we turned due west and our boat speed picked up to 5 ½ knots. After another 6 miles we once again turned due south and went wing and wing for the length of the Pungo River. When we reached the Pamlico River we were able to turn to a more advantageous point of sail and were soon picking off the few boats that had passed us while they were motor sailing.

Once across the Pamlico we entered Goose Creek. Fortunately, the wind had once again built enabling us to continue sailing even through the confines of the creek. I had a timeline in my head of where I wanted to be at a certain time and we seemed to be about an hour ahead of schedule.

There's an expression that people use when a boat is underway with fenders still hanging over the side. They say "his fly is down". Fly down?; evidently this guy wasn't even wearing pants. Once free of the wind blocking trees of the creek it was off to the races. The winds were between 15 and 20 knots and we flew along between 7 and 8 knots for most of the remaining 20 miles.

We were able to sail right up to the number 1 channel marker at Whitaker Creek where we would have to start the engine for the very first time all day. Which brought us to challenge number 2 for the day, the engine wouldn’t start. I’m pretty sure that the problem is with the preheat switch. So close, yet still so far. We called Towboat US and requested a tow, but fortunately I was able to start the boat and cancel the tow within a couple of minutes. Once the engine was running we were pleased to discover that the creek had a few more inches of water than we usually find when we’re here.

We have never been so happy to arrive anywhere as we were to land in Oriental. We are safely tied to the dock of our good friends, Ken & Carol and boy does it feel good. We were not here for 1 hour when we got a call from our friends on Sapphire & Fine Lion offering to come and pick us up and take us away. We had a great evening with old friends and even made some new friends. We love Oriental!

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