June 5, 2009.
During the night we were hit by some heavy rain. However we awoke to a fairly decent day that even had some patches of blue showing. The day had really been forecast to be pretty shitty so we got underway with the intention of at least putting the Pungo Canal behind us.
The predicted winds of 15 to 25 were a no-show so we had to motor the entire 20 miles to get through the Pungo. As soon as we cleared the narrow confines of the canal the wind began to make an appearance.
As we turned east we found ourselves beam reaching in 20 knots of wind. Fortunately before we pulled the hook I had put a double reef in the mainsail. As we turned north up the Alligator River the winds continued to build. We once again found ourselves dealing with a myriad of differing wind directions. The only constant for the day was that the winds were continuing to build.
With the wind coming over the stern climbing past 25 knots we had to tie a preventer no matter where the mainsail was. An accidental gybe with this much wind was sure to be a gear breaker. The seas were starting to build and we were developing a high speed roll of sorts. The only viable option for us was to reduce the size of the genoa even further in an effort to slow us down a bit.
The only bridge on the Alligator River will not open if the wind exceeds 35 knots. By the time we reached the bridge we had doused the genoa altogether and were still doing 6.5 knots with a double reef in the main. Fortunately we made it through the bridge before the winds forced the closing of the bridge.
Once clear of the bridge Christy decided that we didn’t want to challenge the Albemarle Sound in the present conditions. That pretty much left us with 2 options of where to drop the hook for the evening. On the western shore, right at the mouth of the Alligator River there’s a possible anchorage of sorts. The wind is cranking, the seas have built, the entrance looks sketchy on the chart and we’ve never been in there. So we looked to the eastern shore of the river and decided to duck into an area called East Lake. It’s fairly crappy as far as anchorages go but we’ve been there before and in these conditions that was a huge factor.
On the chart East Lake looks like a great choice. The thing that’s not immediately obvious is the fact that East Lake is freaking huge. It’s deep in the center but shallows up before you can really tuck up against any of the shoreline. So no matter which way you’re facing there is a butt load of fetch. Another thing that doesn’t show up is the fact that the entire place is covered with crab pots. I’m talking thousands of crab pots. Throw in half submerged crab pot floats, 30 knot winds, rain and spray and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. Oh yeah, for the last 2 ½ miles we were beam to the seas trying to dodge all these damn pots on the way in. Oh it sucked.
But we made it into the anchorage unscathed and found a gap in the crab pots large enough for us to drop the hook. The wind finally topped out at 37 knots. There’s been some spectacular lightning and some heavy rain on all sides of us but nothing directly over us as of yet.