Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

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We pass the Oriental Shrimp Docks as we leave in the morning

Tuesday, June 12
Oriental to Alligator River Anchorage
79.8 miles, 9 hours 49 minutes
We started the day with a trip across the street to the bean to get lattes and sweets to go.  The locals don't get their coffee to go -- they stay and drink it on the the little front porch, and when the porch furniture is full, they sit on the wooden front steps.  When we got there at a little after 7 a.m., the porch was overflowing with dogs and their human companions, and to allow us to pass a man on the steps had to rouse his dog, who was taking up a full step laid out for a nap.  The dog seemed a bit put out -- maybe the locals just climb over him.
Our day started off swell.  It was sunny and a bit breezy with a comfortable temperature in the mid-70s.  We not only had coffee and sweet treats on the flybridge, but, thanks to the bean, we also had a copy of this past Sunday's New York Times.  It was so clear that we could use our binoculars to see navigation marks seven miles away.
Then at 10:30, we heard that familiar cough in our starboard engine, and Dick realized he had to do an emergency filter change again.  We are accustomed to getting over 100 engine hours between filter changes, and this one lasted us 12.  By now, we have our system down.  While Dick searches for a safe place to pull out of the channel, I go below to prepare the anchor, and gather the plastic bags and latex gloves Dick needs to do the change.  After we drop anchor, Dick pulls up a couple sections of the floor in the salon to expose the engine room, and he sets up a big fan pointed at the spot where he has to squat to change the filters.  When the engine has been running a few hours, the temperature in the engine room is easily over 100 degrees.
When he's done, with the change, he puts the floor back in place, I wash down the anchor chain while hoisting the anchor, and Dick steers us back on course.  This time, it took us just fifteen minutes to complete the maneuver. 
A weather system is approaching that will froth up the waves in Albemarle Sound.  We decided to try to get to the sound before the system does, by putting in a very long day today, anchoring out about 20 miles from the sound, and then getting up early tomorrow to traverse the sound before the wind and waves build.
We put the anchor down in a deep spot off the channel on the Alligator River.  It was a serenely beautiful spot, with cypress trees, and sleketons of flooded trees, lining the shore -- no crab traps to dodge, and not a sign of human habitation in sight.  It would have been pleasant to sit up on the flybridge in the breeze and read our books, except for one thing -- MAN-EATING DEERFLIES!
We had been swatting them throughout the afternoon as we cruised, but once we stopped, they honed in on our location (we were probably the only humans for miles and miles), and they arrived in swarms with voracious appetites for flesh.
We barricaded ourselves inside the cabin, with all the windows with screens open to let in the air.  Frustrated flies perched on the screens and buzzed menacingly, as we sat and read our books trying to ignore them.  Then a horde of fighter jets, shaped kind of like very big deerflies, began passing low overhead.  Their roaring continued for hours.  There were either about 100 jets, or a very long practice session that involved lots of taking off and landing with minuscule periods of flight inbetween.
Suffice it to say that we were grievously mistaken in our initial assessment of this anchorage as a serene spot.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Alligator River Anchorage to Alligator River Marina, the Long Way
We hauled anchor at 6:50, following our plan to leave early in an attempt to beat the weather to Albemarle Sound.  We weren't optimistic, though.  When we listened to the weather radio this morning, the wind at the Alligator River Bridge, which is just south of the Sound, was blowing at 19 mph.  The waves were predicted at two to three feet.
As we neared the sound the river chop turned  to one to two foot waves, with a few bigger ones thrown in, sometimes sending spray up as high as our flybridge, but nothing we couldn't handle.
We weren't prepared for the big slap we got when we got past all land and into the sound.  Suddenly the waves got higher and the space between them got shorter.  When we were going straight into them, Starsong's bow would slam into the crest of a wave, then fall down into the cliff of its trough, only to be slapped by the next wave, before she could recover.  When our anchor pulpit was completely submerged, we both looked at each other and needed no discussion of whether or not we should turn back.
Getting out of the sound was a much smoother ride, because we were surfing the waves most of the time, although steering with big following waves is no easy task.  The worst part of the ride came in a section where we had to stay in a dog-leg channel to avoid shoals, and we rocked with whip-cracking ferocity as the waves slapped us from the side.
This is the kind of day that makes Alligator River Marina an attractive stop.
Alligator River Marina is just a bunch of docks behind a Shell Service Station.  The owner of the marina is often absent, and surly when present.  You can only get someone to answer your radio call to the marina if the women at the gas station cash registers are not busy with other customers.  They aren't much help anyway.  When we were at the register to check in, they got a radio call from an arriving boat asking for a slip with a port side tie, and the woman with the radio dropped the microphone on the floor and asked the other woman behind the counter which side was port.  When they finally figured that out, they didn't know which of their docks had a port side tie, even though there was a diagram of the dock set-up on the wall in front of them.  (They also didn't know which docks were vacant, even though just three or four were occupied, but that's pretty advanced marina management skills.)
None of that is really the problem with Alligator River Marina.  The problem is that it is twelve miles from the nearest town, on a narrow two lane road with no shoulders.  You can't ride your bicycles on the road, and you can hardly walk along the side of it, for all the broken glass and overgrwon weeds harboring chiggers.  There's no loaner car. 
A big sign in front of the gas station promises "world acclaimed hamburgers," but the state of the grill (behind the cash registers) does not inspire confidence.  I also noted that the soap dispenser in the gas station ladies room is broken, and unless I have overlooked the executive washroom for the staff, I am not eager to eat any food they prepare.
So, how did we occupy our time here -- a looong time, since we arrived at 10:15?  We started by cleaning up the mess of broken glass in our galley from two wine glasses that were wrenched from the glass rack and rolled about the counter and floor, leaving shards in their wake all over the place.  We know lots of people with "no glass" rules on their boats, for just this reason, but in over 10,000 miles of cruising, we have had only three wine glasses break in rough weather, and we (or, more precisely, I) find wine drunk from a real wine glass so much more satisfying than wine from a plastic cup that the cost/benefit analysis is a slam dunk.
We got a lot of the New York Times read and discussed.  Dick finished his book (Freakonomics) and I started reading it, as well as getting most of the way through my beach read, The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve.  Dick did laundry and helped other boaters coming in to dock, while I caught up on this log. We are amazed that this remote location has a great internet signal -- we spent hours catching up on our e-mail and favorite game sites, doing jigsaw puzzles on Jigzone, Nurikabes on the Logic Game site, and crosswords and Sudokus on the AARP site (I refuse to join the AARP, but I am a loyal visitor to their site -- I worry that if the site content appeals to me so much, I must be in their target audience, but I don't want to be, and then I think that if I use their site, I should support it, but if I do, that would be admitting that I am old -- such a dilemma.)
Thursday, June 14  Trapped by Wind and Waves at Alligator River Marina
After the internet signal conked out here and we spent hours perusing the remains of last Sunday's New York Times, the thought entered my mind that this would be an ideal spot for a maximum security prison. 
Tonight our prayers included an ardent plea for a break in the weather.
Friday, June 15, 2007 Alligator River to Coinjock, NC
36.5 miles
The weather radio promised that the 15-20 mph winds we woke to would diminish as the day went on, and that as the wind diminished, so would the waves.  We had a leisurely morning, watching the waves on the river for signs of calming (none apparent), and radioing boats that left before us to check their observations.
While we were waiting around, we had a brush with greatness.  We met John Moffat, who set the Jetski distance world record in 2000, when he did the Great Loop on a Jetski, traveling 5,604 miles in 80 days.  His record has been broken, by someone who traveled 10,000 miles on a Jetski, so he is going for the gold once again.  This time, he has planned a very Loopy route that will pile on 13,000 miles, which he hopes will be enough to hold his place in the record books for a while longer.
John left Miami June 8.  He is holed up here due to weather, just like us.  He has no support team.  He just travels light on his Jetski, and hopes that he can find a motel and a restaurant, or a friendly boater with a spare bunk wherever he stops at the end of the day.  He's also pretty media savvy -- he is a former associate producer of the hit television show, "Full House," and he has planned his route to hit every top media market anywhere near water.  I think he also has a publicist that lines up interviews for him in those markets.  (Need I note that Alligator River is not one of those aforementioned markets?)

A rustic (and rusty) Coinjock view from our docked boat.

We finally pushed off from the dock at 11:30, and true to the weather prediction, the longer we cruised, the more settled Albemarle Sound became.  When we began, I was donning my motion sickness pressure point wrist bands, and wearing a life jacket to safely move about the boat, but by the time we got to the north end of the sound, I was busy doing Sudokus (when not on call to spot crab traps). 
We arrived at Coinjock at 3:45.  Coinjock's distinguishing feature is that it sits at the foot of the only bridge to Nags Head.  The beach is 30 miles away.  We aren't sure what the city center of Coinjock looks like.  Although we took a pretty long walk from the Marina, we were in a residential neighborhood, predominately comprised of trailer homes.  We did pass the American Legion Hall, which was hopping -- the sign out front promised BINGO with a $300 pot. 
We hadn't planned to geocache here, but we ran into a geocacher along the road, and helped her find the cache she was looking for, so we got to call it, too. 
All our walking worked up an appetite, so we headed to the marina restaurant, where we enjoyed a great Friday Fish Fry (a massive piece of haddock in beer batter hanging off both ends of the plate, just like they do it in Rochester), and we ended the day in the warmer of the marina's two hot tubs.  (The marina also has a pool, but since this is the first day of the whole journey that we have worn long pants and sweat shirts all day, use of the pool was out of the question.)