Years ago I sailed my Cape Dory 25 Valor into Elizabeth City, in the far northeastern corner of the state. I spent several days on the town dock, some of the best days of my years sailing. Dan Boney passed through aboard Marian Claire on his way up the Dismal Swamp Canal, and land-cruising friends Marcia and Joe aboard their Dodge conversion van visited for a couple of days. A big pilot-house schooner Charrua II sailed in from the Dismal Swamp, and I quickly got acquainted with the captain, Paul, and his able crew, Kathy. We spent most of the week sitting in the shade of the awning sheltering the main deck of Charrua II, drinking beer, talking about sailing and life.
After a few days we decided to buddy boat down to Manteo, where Paul and Kathy planned to stage for Ocracoke, and I would double back to follow the Alligator-Pungo route home to the Neuse River. We had a nice sail and spent a pleasant evening on the Manteo town dock, and then took our departures. I made it back to Matthews Point in a few days, and my friends eventually returned to their marina in Urbanna, VA.
The next two summers our cruising schedules didn't mesh, but an email sent in May 2019 elicited a reply from Paul that he and Kathy would be sailing into Edenton to attend a wedding in early June. From there they hoped to continue south to the Pamlico. Would I be interested in sailing with them? Sin duda, hombre!
I had a few boat chores to handle before I could go cruising, so I got down to Edenton in late May. The main job was to install a new alternator and make sure I was getting output, then to replace the battery. Once this was done, the engine started on the first spin and ran beautifully, so I wonder if many of the Atomic 4 problems I had been having were related to low voltage due to the old alternator not functioning properly? Whatever the reason, the old engine ran flawlessly over the next couple of weeks, and gradually I got over the feelings of dread and foreboding that had accompanied every effort to get it to start and run. With the alternator straightened out, I started work on interior painting. I have a long-term project to paint over all the fake walnut formica in white. The mahogany trim will be left bright. Nat Herreshoff specified this scheme for the boats he designed, and it is known as "Herreshoff style". In my opinion, it is the optimal decoration for the interior of a boat - all bulkheads and ceilings white, all woodwork trim bright.
Along about the 28th of May I got an email from Paul that they were anchored up behind Goat Island on the Pasquotank River, so I figured they might be on the Elizabeth City dock the next day. Around mid-day I drove down there, and found Charrua II on the dock, captain and crew drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon in the shade. I couldn't get them to try my IPAs, a theme that would recur over the following week. In fact, while Kathy is willing - willing, not eager - to drink almost any American lager, Paul is dyed in the wool PBR and almost would rather not drink than drink anything else. So be it, he was well supplied, so I didn't worry about it.
The following day, mid-afternoon, I drove down to the Edenton town dock and spied Charrua II turning in to the bay. Half an hour later they entered the dock with the wind abaft. Their assigned slip was on the lee side of the dock, and when they tried to round up to enter it, the wind caught the boat and griped it up against the breakwater. We set some fenders and tied off to give us time to think about a way to get the bow across the wind and into the slip. My suggestion was to drop the bow line and try to spring off the stern line, which we tried, to no avail. Then Paul decided to carry a line over to the slip in the tender and winch the boat across on the electric anchor windlass. With Paul at the wheel and Kathy on the bow operating the windlass, they made short work of it. I helped the dockmaster (more of a park attendant, no real expertise at dock operations) get lines made fast, and Charrua II was safely moored.
The next day Paul's wife Loi drove down from their home deep in the mountains west of Charlottesville, and I had the pleasure of meeting her. In the afternoon, Loi and the mother of the groom enjoyed the shopping scene in Edenton. Meanwhile, the captain and crew of Charrua II dinghied up Pembroke Creek for a visit aboard Terry Ann and tour of the marina. I was happy to have the opportunity to introduce them to my friends Bill, Jo and Dan, all of them experienced sailors. That phrase is relative. Bill and Dan have done quite a bit of coastal cruising and tours of the Bahamas. Jo, in an earlier life, served as professional crew with her former husband aboard the 55 foot Alden schooner owned by the founder of Land's End, criss-crossing the Atlantic and making a tour of the Pacific.
Paul, Loi and Kathy enjoyed the wedding festivities over the next couple of days, despite the violent storm with high winds, rain and lightning that interrupted the rehearsal dinner, held under a tent on the waterfront. The forecast for the coming week called for a change from the unsettled progression of warm fronts that had prevailed over the last few days, with high pressure and settled weather, so we decided to cast off for points east and south on Monday. I spent Sunday getting Terry Ann ready for a trip while Paul fought a hangover from the reception and said goodbye to his wife, who was driving home to the mountains. The Atomic 4 gas tank was close to full, but I topped it off. The Fortress anchor that I keep below deck when the boat is at the marina, so as not to offer temptation to the weak-willed, was carried through the boat from its storage point in the forepeak and shackled onto the chain on deck. The galley was stocked, the working jib was bent. All the loose items were stowed below deck or, if not needed for a sailing trip, packed away in the car. The rigging was inspected and the preventer was rigged. Finally, the big portside awning was struck. With everything in order, I washed of the accumulated grime and sweat in the marina shower and enjoyed one more sunset hour with Bill and Jo aboard their big Chris-Craft Buckaroo. Then I retired to my boat for dinner, followed by a can of Sierra Nevada "Hazy Little Thing" IPA (real good, I drank cases of it at Edenton and out sailing, once the anchor was down), and an early bed-time in preparation for a planned 7:30 AM departure the following morning.
I got up early, with plenty of time to cook breakfast, and even run to the Ice for Less for a final 20 pounds. I got off the dock and gingerly followed the winding, shoaling channel of Pembroke Creek down to the town waterfront, where Paul and Kathy aboard Charrua II motored out to meet me. We both set sails immediately in front of the town dock and motorsailed out the bay. The plan was to go down sound to Manteo if the wind was far enough abeam to allow for it, otherwise to put in to Columbia. The forecast was for 10-15 knots out of the northeast, with more wind down sound (in fact, a Small Craft Advisory, though the wind forecast had been declining over the last day and didn't strictly meet the criteria for an SCA).
At the mouth of the bay we shut down engines and proceeded under sail. On the sound we found good wind out of the north to northeast and set up on a beam reach. We made good speed under the power lines and down to the 32/37 bridge, when the wind faded. I thought I had enough left to sail under the bridge, but no, inertia failed me and I ended up bouncing off the bridge fender before I could get the engine started. Not that the engine gave me any trouble, I just had to dive below to turn on the key, which took a second. Charrua II had motorsailed through in front of me. The wind picked back up, but now from almost due east, and we commenced to tack down the sound. The typical nasty Albemarle chop set up, courtesy of the somewhat heavier winds to the east, and it was slow going. I passed and gradually left Charrua II behind, motorsailing in broad tacks. Later, on the dock, Paul was enthusing as to how well Terry Ann beat into the wind and what clean tacks she made. I told him the motor helped a lot, and he replied, "Oh, you had the motor on?" I thought beamy, shallow draft Charrua II did really good to almost keep up with Terry Ann without even using her 90 horse diesel. Motor or none, I could see there was no way we could get down the sound to Manteo that day, so I turned into Bull Bay and dropped sail at the mouth of the Scuppernong River with Charrua II close behind.
The only issue to navigating the Scuppernong is right at the beginning, and clearly charted. You have to go from Marker 1 straight to Marker 2, almost touching it, and then you have to stay straight on the line to Marker 2A and almost touch it too. If you stray off this line even a few feet you will be in shallow water, but if you stay on it, you will have at least 7 feet the whole way. Past Marker 2a the channel is broad and deep all the way to the Columbia town dock. That doesn't mean you can turn off your depth sounder. It is easy enough to stray out of the channel if you are not paying attention, but there is plenty of good water.
I got in one of the short slips at Columbia. For some reason the slips at the Columbia town dock are only about 25 feet long, so docking anything bigger than a Cape Dory 25 requires a lot of spring lines. There was no way Charrua II could securely tie up in one, so Paul laid her to the adjoining long face dock. We visited the town administrative office immediately adjacent to the dock, signed in and paid $5 each for shore power. I hurried off to the library to check my email and post to neuseriversailors.com before they closed at 5:00, while Paul and Kathy wandered around town, the high point being the traditional old hardware store. We got back to the dock just at 5:00 to find that someone had pushed the door to the shower room closed (ordinarily it is held open with a brick) which caused it to lock. All the city administrators had skeedadled right at 5:00 or maybe a couple minutes early so no showers for us. I proposed that we all strip down and hose off from a dock spigot to teach them a lesson, but in the end we decided to just have a beer. Later, we walked up to the gas station where I bought 4 gallons to replace what I had used motor-sailing and running up the Scuppernong River. I fashioned a strap out of a sail tie so Paul and I could each get on a side of the can and Kathy walked along in front flagging traffic at the street crossings so we didn't get run over. Paul told me that once when they were in New York Kathy saved him from maiming or death by yanking him back onto the curb as he tried to cross a street in the face of an accelerating car. In the end, a local man in a pickup truck stopped and picked us up and drove us to the dock.
Paul was eager to dinghy up the Scuppernong River. The local administrator who signed us in had waxed eloquently about the beauty of the river, the primeval forest and giant cypress trees. So, after the sun had gotten low, we all piled into the dinghy and motored under the bridge and up the river. It was clear to us all that there was no primeval forest along the banks of the Scuppernong, more like 20 year old second growth, but there were a few stately cypress trees, ospreys and an eagle to be seen. And no alligators. Kathy had wanted to see an alligator.
Back at the dock, we drank a few more beers and then Paul cooked supper for us - pork chops, cabbage and potatoes. Like most farmers, Paul can do a serviceable job at just about anything, a good job at most things, and a great job at many. He does a great job at cooking.
We probably could have gone to Manteo the next day, but we would have been bottled up there for days as the wind was forecast to shift around to the south and blow fresh. One thing you don't want to try is to run the Pamlico Sound against the prevailing wind. There is too much fetch, and the water at the lee end turns into a boiling cauldron. In general, on the sounds, it's not the wind that kills you, it is the waves. The sounds are shallow, and the waves are short and steep. Then they strike the many points and reflect back on themselves, setting up a wretched cross chop. Even Terry Ann that points fairly well is lucky to be able to tack inside 120 degrees in this kind of water, taking into account leeway.
Ever since I mentioned Ocrafolk to Paul, he had been chomping at the bit to get to Ocracoke, so we came up with another plan. We would hustle down the sound to the Alligator River, sail up it while we still had some east in the wind, and run down the sheltered Alligator-Pungo Canal. Then it would be a beam reach to Belhaven, a short stretch beating down the Pungo River, and then a long close reach down the Pamlico River and across the sound to Ocracoke. For the first day we wanted to get to the top of the Alligator River and anchor behind Marker 39, to the east of Deep Point.
We cast off lines before 7:00 in the morning and motored down the Scuppernong River. Out in the sound, we found light airs from the south and sailed slowly eastward. We put in Alligator River Marina late in the day and both refueled, then passed through the swing bridge and motor-sailed south. We found just enough west in the wind to get a slant and only had to take a couple of tacks. The wind by now was blowing 10 to 15 knots and it was a wet, blustery ride up the river. The military jets were out in force, swooping low across the river and then banking and climbing over the training range to the east. Charrua II gradually pulled out ahead and beat me to the anchorage by about an hour. When I arrived just at dark, I found her along with several other boats sheltering from the SSW winds under the lee of Deep Point. I found a spot and settled in for the night.
I got off the hook in the morning under working jib and mizzen in preparation for 15-20 knot southerly winds once I came out into the Pungo River. As I passed near Charrua II, Paul called out that he had to replace a belt on his generator and would follow me in about an hour. That suited me. A head start would help. I intended to baby the Atomic 4, even though so far it had performed flawlessly. I turned in to the north end of the canal and left the sails set, since the wind had a little east in it, enough to put me on a beam reach. As it turned out, the land shadow robbed the sails of most of their utility except for a few sections where the banks were open. Along about half-way through Charrua II motored up from behind and slowly passed. I called to Paul that I would meet them in Belhaven.
I found plenty of wind as I exited the canal into the upper Pungo River, 15 knots out of the south, gusting to 20. The first couple of miles down the river are close to south, so I motor-sailed them, tacking, taking long boards to use the broad, deep waters to best advantage. It was a slow, wet, rough ride but I knew that once I turned the corner at Marker 17 things would improve. And they did - I shut down the engine and ran jib and jigger on a beam reach, rail down and spray flying, averaging close to six knots. In an hour's time I was dropping the jib outside the Belhaven breakwater.
A comment or two regarding that mizzen sail might be in order, since most people these days are more familiar with single-masted sloops and cutters. Terry Ann is a yawl, with the mizzen stepped far aft, behind the rudder pivot. I'm pretty sure the original mizzen mast was broken or damaged in some way, and replaced with a mast and boom off a sailing dinghy. The boom was too long for me to handle, requiring a stretch over the aft railing to get the sail cover off, so I cut it down short and had a sailmaker friend recut the sail. That leaves me with a very small, controllable sail that works perfectly for a riding sail at anchor. But because it is carried so far aft, it still has enough leverage to balance well with the working jib. Together, they make a good heavy weather rig, an alternative to running under a reefed main. Another thing the mizzen is good for is heaving to. With the tiller tied to turn the boat to windward and just the mizzen set, the boat rides beautifully with the bow 60 degrees off the wind, fore-reaching very slowly. This is a perfect arrangement for sail changes or any other job that needs the boat to settle down and hold its position. With the tiller left loose, in light airs the boat will sit dead into the wind almost stopped, perfect for working the anchor. I'm very glad to have the mizzen on Terry Ann.
I motored in to the Belhaven harbor, all the way up to the Cooperage dock (the free town dock), where I found nobody tied up but several boats anchored nearby, including Charrua II. Usually there are at least a couple of boats on Cooperage, but with the strong winds evidently nobody wanted to approach it. I have stayed on it several times and if you have the local knowledge it's not hard to get on, but decided to anchor close to Charrua II out in the roads.
Paul dinghied over, we had a beer and I invited him to bring Kathy over later for dinner. I cooked a pan of ground beef, carrots and onions to eat with mashed potatoes and everyone dug in. We listened to the weather forecast and, with southeast winds of 15-20 on the rivers and 20-25 with gusts to 30 on the sound - Small Craft Advisory - we decided to stay put in Belhaven the following day.
The next morning Paul and Kathy dinghied over and picked me up for a shore excursion. I needed a few gallons of gas and a bag of ice, plus a few minutes at the library to check my email. Kathy was getting antsy cooped up on the boat and Paul was ready to act as boatswain. First stop was River Forest Marina where I put 4 gallons of ethanol-free in my gas can. From there, Kathy chose to walk to the town dinghy dock while I rode with Paul. We managed to run into some submerged pilings trying to cut a corner into the dock but the tough old Avon didn't spring a leak. At the dock we filled some water jugs and then Paul and Kathy went off to explore the town while I looked for a shower.
Belhaven Marina used to be known for offering $5 showers to transients, but under new ownership they have stopped that. The dockmaster was friendly and the marina is quite attractive, and they boast that their $1.89/foot overnight rate is the best around, but their old $5 showers made them special and now they're not. Just another marina, folks, move on.
So, no showers in Belhaven. I proceeded to the library and waited a few minutes for it to open, then enjoyed its air-conditioned comfort while I checked my email and made a post to the News and Announcements section of neuseriversailors.com. Soon afterward Paul and Kathy stopped by for me and we walked over to the hardware store for a bag of ice. From there, it was a few feet to the dinghy dock. The old hospital that used to overlook it has been torn down, probably to put an end to the local people's constant carping about reopening it. With all due respect, Belhaven cannot support a hospital. A good urgent care and quick transportation to ECU's state of the art facilities in Greenville is a much better idea. From the dock we had a wet ride back out to the boats with the wind blowing strong across the water.
In the evening Paul had a visit from friends who lived nearby, on North Creek, a tributary of the Pamlico River. We all gathered on Charrua II for a few rounds of beer, and one friend who had a dock invited us to bring both boats for a visit later in our trip. We put that in the back of our heads for the trip back.
It was time to make plans for the next few days. Paul was bound to get to Ocracoke, not just for the Ocrafolk Festival, but also because he had made arrangements for Kathy's brother and his sons to meet them there for a few days. I needed to get to Oriental to have some masthead work done. The trip down across the sound to Ocracoke on the tail end of a Small Craft Advisory would have been uncomfortable on Terry Ann, and, truth be told, the crowded anchorage and even more crowded streets of Ocracoke didn't appeal to me, so I decided to head down the Hobucken Cut and up the Neuse River to Oriental. One of our original reasons for wanting to go south by way of Manteo was the opportunity to put in to the remote and infrequently visited town of Engelhard, on the western shore of the upper Pamlico. Since we missed that on the way down, we tentatively planned to meet up again in a few days on the lower sound and go north by way of Engelhard and Manteo. Weather and schedules permitting...
In the morning Paul and Kathy set off for their long, lonely voyage across the broad Pamlico Sound and I followed out for my long but not so lonely voyage down the Pungo River, across the Pamlico River, up Goose Creek, through the Hobucken Cut, down the Bay River, across a corner of the Pamlico Sound, and up the Neuse to Oriental. A trip that I have done many times.
With a forecast for southerly winds 10-15 knots I sailed under main and genoa. That proved to be a good choice, as I sailed most of the way to Oriental, with a motor assist a couple of times, and never felt under or overcanvassed. With some west in the morning wind, I made a quick sail down the Pungo, took a couple of tacks across the Pamlico and put on the motor for assistance getting in Goose Creek. Then it was a nice sail free and by up Goose Creek. I put on the motor through the Hobucken Cut but carried sail. Just south of R.E. Mayo I ran aground briefly but was able to back off and continue. With the wind shifting into the south and then southeast I shut down the motor and beat into the wind down the Bay River and around the corner into the Neuse. From here I had a nice close reach up the river. As I approached Oriental a storm blew in from the south, and I hove to off the town waterfront to wait it out. Since I hadn't showered in days I took the opportunity to get soaked in the cockpit as a driving rain lashed the river and the boat. The storm only lasted a few minutes and then I dropped sail and motored in the Oriental channel. I continued on up the inner harbor, found a spot on the old town dock and tied up at 6:00, Friday evening, 11 1/2 hours after lifting anchor in Belhaven.
It would be Monday morning before I could contact Sailcraft and make an appointment to get my halyards rove. In the meantime I made a sunset cruise on a 50 foot Colin Archer cutter, walked miles around Oriental, drank a lot of beer and met ten wonderful people, sailors all. The first were Tom and Colleen, tied up to the new town dock aboard their 48 foot Beneteau Lazy Bonez. They had taken up sailing three years before, bought the Beneteau brand-new and sailed 7,000 miles since, mostly around the Caribbean. Now they had ambitions for bigger and better cruises, and were completely upfront that the Beneteau was not really suitable for serious bluewater work. Complete novices when they bought the boat, they were sold by the spacious and luxurious interior, but the miles had taken a toll and the boat was cracked, leaking and in general coming apart. The fittings were not of the highest quality and a broken roller furler had almost wrecked the boat. The joystick engine controls - connected to servos that worked the rudder by ethernet - had the Windows-like characteristic of needing periodic reboots. Tom told the story of coming down on a closed draw, trying to put the engine in reverse and getting no response. He quickly turned up, avoiding disaster, and motored back the way he had come while examining the manual for a way to solve this problem. The solution? Shut down the engine, wait one minute, and then restart. If all went well, this process would reset the software and allow reverse to work again. Of course, after that Tom lived in perpetual anxiety any time he approached a bridge or dock. Needing a dinghy to get ashore in the islands, they had a set of davits installed to carry their Avon, but unfortunately the stress was causing the transom to crack off. Now they were considering selling the Beneteau and looking for a second-hand Amel or Hylas. I suggested picking up a copy of John Kretschmer's Sailing a Serious Ocean, which has a section with his choice of seaworthy, bluewater boats.
Across the dock from Tom and Colleen were a young French-Canadian couple and their three sons aboard Belausa, on their way home from a year's sabbatical in the Caribbean Islands. The boys were having fun scooping up crabs from around the pilings and keeping them in their mother's pots and tupperware on the dock. I got instant cred by showing them how to hold a crab down with a foot while grabbing it behind a back fin, the only way to pick up one of these creatures in relative safety. Even the small ones can give you a nasty pinch and the big ones can draw blood.
Across the dock from me was a truly awesome boat - a steel Colin Archer 50 foot cutter, Prinses Mia - with an astonishing crew. Martijn is a 44 years old Hollander and has lived at sea since he was 18. He has crossed the Atlantic many times and makes his living salvaging wrecks in the BVIs. He had just picked up his crew, who had flown in from her home in Telluride, CO - his seven year old daughter, Mia, the namesake of his boat. Mia spent the first three years of her life on the boat, and then her mother tired of the seafaring life. She and Martijn parted amicably. Mia spends most of her time with her mother but was joining her father for the summer, to do a coastal cruise to Connecticutt. Mia has grown up without fear and lives a life of freedom, just as her parents do. Martijn is a remarkably capable person. He recently removed the engine from his boat and replaced it with a Mercedes 300D diesel automotive engine, machining the output shaft so it would mate up with the existing transmission. He did this tied up alongside the fishing boat dock. The local commercial fisherman recognize him as a waterman like themselves and take him in, not scoffing at him like they do we ordinary recreational sailors. One old fisherman, speaking with a strong accent, came looking at Prinses Mia and Martijn invited him aboard and treated him with the utmost respect, as he did with everyone who came onto the dock.
To round out our weekend group, we had Grace, a young Oriental resident who is in the process of refitting her Bristol 28 for cruising. She was a delightful part of the group, youthful but a complete adult, still free of the responsibilities of raising children, but focused on sailing. So there we had the range, from grizzled senior citizen (me), through Tom, Colleen and Martijn, the young Canadians, all in the prime of life, through Grace, in her twenties and just setting out on the sea of adult life, to the youngsters getting the chance to live life as very few children do.
Prinses Mia was a magnet for sightseers and dozens of people tromped onto the dock for a look. To my amusement, three youngsters, two boys and a girl, took a shine to my boat. I told them if they could get permission from their mother they could come aboard, and soon they were carefully crossing the lifelines and climbing down the companionway ladder. They found the below-decks of Terry Ann fascinating. The oldest, a boy of about 11, looked at me with a big smile and said "It's so messy!"
Mia wanted her own boat so Martijn found an inflatable swimming pool at the Provision Company for her to use. She tied it up alongside the dock and lounged in it for a while, until the whole troop walked around to Lazey Bonz for refreshments. After a while, Mia said she wanted something from the boat and ran off around the upper end of the inner harbor to Prinses Mia. She climbed into her boat (the inflatable swimming pool), and using a toy paddle, rowed it across the fairway to the new dock. The youngest of the Canadian boys then joined her for a trip back across to Prinses Mia for a tour, and then a third traverse of the inner harbor. Following this excitement, we trooped back to Prinses Mia for our own tour, ending up with Martijn's invitation to come back the following evening for a sail.
Everyone had things to do during the day, but late in the afternoon we gravitated to Prinses Mia. Martijn started the new Mercedes, we cast off lines and tried to back out of the slip. However, the boat was firmly in the mud bottom. We could have run a line across to the commercial dock and winched her off, but a stout towboat, tender to a Kadey Krogen trawler, approached. They were waiting to take the slip that Prinses Mia was vacating, and happily gave us a push out into the fairway. The Kady Krogen turned out to be an old friend from Elizabeth City a couple of years earlier.
Out on the river we raised sail, shut down the engine, and beam reached at about 4 knots. Martijn sat at the helm while we guests moved around the deck, marvelling at the huge sails and hardware. The kids played in the net under the bowsprit. After a while we gathered for a group picture. In not much more than an hour, we were off the mouth of South River, where we came about and ran back upriver to Oriental. As the light faded, we all gathered in the cockpit. Mia brought her fingernail polish up from below and did her nails, and then did the nails of the youngest of the Canadian boys - in yellow. Just at dark we tied up on the commercial dock next to the Oriental Yacht Club.
One more pleasant meal at M&M's with Tom, Colleen and Grace, and then, as sailors are wont to do, we scattered. Early the following morning I made arrangements to get into Sailcraft Service for masthead work and departed for Whittaker Creek. The Canadians moved off the new town dock out to the anchorage. Tom and Colleen prepared to head north to the Chesapeake, Martijn got back to work on getting his boat ready to go to Connecticutt, and Grace went back to her routine of Oriental life. Farewell friends, I hope our wakes cross another day.
The entrance to Whittaker Creek is narrow and shoal, but I made it in without touching bottom. With plenty of time before my 1:00 appointment at Sailcraft, I motored past the yard and up to the turning basin, then back down to take a spot alongside the dock just next to the bucket lift. The new rigger, Tyler, made short work of dropping halyards from the masthead using the bucket lift, and gave me good advice on setting up the mizzen shrouds. The yard looked good, neat and clean with new planking going on the docks. I made arrangements to spend a night on the yard dock, paid my surprisingly modest bill, and went about getting resupplied for a few more days on the water.
In the morning I motored out Whittaker Creek without incident and raised the main and working jib. The wind, 10 knots out of the northwest, put us on a comfortable beam reach down the river, but I knew this would end as we left the shadow of the north bank and entered the sound. My plan was to try to reach Campbell Creek, but if the winds and seas were too rough, to anchor in Lower Broad Creek and wait for better conditions. As we passed the old Neuse River lighthouse pilings and turned north, the winds picked up to 15-20 knots, still out of the northwest. The water took on a decidedly ugly chop. We were still making progress, close-hauled and gradually being forced eastward. I figured we could make it to Maw Shoal without too much trouble, but then we would have to turn dead into the wind and beat up the Bay River. That didn't sound appealing, so I jibed back to the south and ran in Lower Broad Creek.
I set anchor off the mouth of Burton Creek and congratulated myself on my fine judgment as the winds continued to blow hard and the rains came off and on through the afternoon. The Fortress set just fine although I checked it every few minutes until I was convinced that it wasn't going to drag. Other than that, the afternoon was devoted to reading and enjoying the solitude, so much in contrast to the last few days.
The last I had talked to Paul, they were in Oriental with several guests aboard and planned to leave in a few days to go back up the Pamlico River and spend a night on a friend's dock on North Creek, off the north shore of the river. I was invited to join them there, and I hoped it would be possible. The complex of creeks just upstream from the Pungo River are known to be shallow and difficult to navigate, and I thought the chances of getting Terry Ann in were slim. But if I could get on their schedule, I was willing to try. Worst case, I would have to back out and run up to Belhaven for the night. I tried to call Paul from Lower Broad, but couldn't get a signal.
The next day was more of the same - strong northerlies and rain. I could use the rain, though, because evidently I had lost one of my half-gallon water jugs and supplies were getting low. Over the course of the day, I gathered close to a half gallon, which put me in good shape. Of course, then I found the missing handle, full of water.
After another night in Lower Broad, the wind finally came around and in the morning I sailed up the sound with a fresh southerly breeze behind me. The working jib, single-reefed main and mizzen combined to make a nice, controllable rig. I finally got a signal in Goose Creek and called Paul, to find that they were in the Pungo River headed for the Cut, after spending the night on North Creek. In other words, I was a half-day behind them. Paul was in a hurry, as he had committed to meeting his daughter and grand-daughters in Hampton in three days. They were going to join Charrua II for the last lap to Urbanna. I thought it unlikely that I could make it to the head of the Alligator River that day, so I bid them adieu and promised to catch up with them in Urbanna or in the mountains later in the year. I was making good time, entering the Pungo at 11:25, but I knew I would have to go in to Belhaven and get gas which would set me back. Even if I could have made it through the Canal, it would have been late and we wouldn't have had much time to visit. I was disappointed, though, as I wanted to hear about their two trips across the Pamlico and their time in Ocracoke.
I tied up at the Cooperage dock in Belhaven at 2:00. The dock and upper anchorage were deserted, but I did see one familiar boat just inside the breakwater - Liberty Call, a husky trawler that I last saw at Edenton Marina being refitted. The afternoon was spent getting 5 gallons of ethanol-free gas from the R&S 66 Service, just across the street from the dock, and then walking out to the Food Lion, quite a bit farther, for groceries.
In the morning I cast off, leaving a dock line that jammed on a piling, and motored out past the breakwater, where I set the same combination as the day before - working jib, single-reefed main and mizzen - in deference to the predicted 20 knot gusts for later in the day. By the time I reached the upper Pungo, we were getting those gusts, but this time they were from the quarter, rather than the bow. I dropped the jib and main at the mouth of the canal and motored my way to my usual anchorage at the head of the Alligator. This time the area was deserted. I was the only boat when I dropped the hook around 5:00. Later, another sailboat anchored across the way behind Tuckahoe Point, but we were the only two. I sat out in the cockpit until well after sunset, enjoying the moon, stars and planets popping out of the darkening sky, but eventually the bugs drove me below deck.
My goal was to make Edenton the next day, so I got up early, had a quick breakfast and pulled the anchor before 7:00 in the morning. The winds were forecast to blow straight down the river, so I set up the genoa and mizzen, figuring this might be a good rig for running. With the main furled, I wouldn't have to worry about accidental jibes, and the foresail wouldn't flog in the main's wind shadow. It turned out to be a moot point, as we got next to no wind at first, then light airs, so it was slow going. Finally at the mouth of the river we got some sailable winds. Since now we would be on a beam reach, I raised the main but left the reef in, since the wind speed was forecast to increase through the day. But for the time being it was variable. Sometimes I sailed and sometimes I opted for a motor assist. Slowly we worked our way up the sound. As the day went on, the wind picked up and came around to the west a bit, so I had to make a couple of short tacks to stay away from the restricted water at Harvey Neck. Later the wind settled into the south and came on strong. The last 10 miles we blasted along, rail down, at six knots or better, on a beam reach, water coming over the bow and flooding the starboard deck. At the mouth of Edenton Bay I rounded up and dropped the genoa - no easy matter with the bow thrashing in the steep, short chop - then dropped the main and motored in with the mizzen set - which I carried all the way to the dock at Edenton Marina. That ended 13 1/2 hours on the tiller for the day, 13 days and 275 route miles for the trip.
Text and Photographs by Paul Clayton.