April 28, 2011.
Thank God we decided to get through the Alligator River swing bridge because it’s closed for the day due to high winds.
NOAA (Not Overly Accurate Assessment) has convinced us to stay put for the day so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
But not everybody sails from the same playbook. Just after noon we heard a Mayday broadcast. It seems a zany pair of Frenadians decided that today would be a fine day to cross the Albemarle Sound. Actually he was probably the zany one, she was sounding pretty distraught, pleading with the Coast Guard for some help as she was in fear for her life.
From what we were able to piece together they had run aground and were helped off earlier in the day. Even so, they decided to continue on. She said that their anchor had fallen off the boat, the bilge pump was running constantly, the water was “on her feet” but that the captain was insisting that they weren’t taking on any water. The depth sounder had quit and the winds were driving them onto the lee shore.
She was reporting 40 knots of wind with 6 foot seas. The Sound is only 20 feet deep and when you get big seas like that it can be a nasty, nasty chop. When I fired up the laptop and put in their coordinates they were only 4 miles off our bow. Of course we were anchored at the mouth of Broad Creek behind Camden Point while they were out in the Albemarle Sound.
We entered the North River yesterday with a lot of wind blowing up our skirt and it was not too much fun. They had even more wind, no depth sounder so they were headed for the Pasquotank River. Its wider, a littler deeper and has a more forgiving an entrance. Once inside the seas should abate and make their trip more manageable.
The Coast Guard dispatched a small boat to guide them in. The woman said they were attempting to get in to Elizabeth City for the night. They either didn’t check or chose to ignore the weather forecast and now they’re headed for Elizabeth City which is on the route to the Dismal Swamp. Which has a mean controlling depth of 6 feet; they have a 7 foot keel. You might be able to scrape through but I’m seeing some backtracking in their future.
They guarantee you 6 feet of water; there might be more but there might not. No depth sounder, 6 feet of water and a 7 foot keel. I’m not sure how that works out when you convert it all to the metric system but I’m thinkin’ 7’s always gonna be bigger than 6. They seem to really be going out of their way to make this a memorable trip. Viva La Frenadians…..
PS They did make it safely into a marina in Elizabeth City with a Coast Guard small boat escort.