From the time we pulled into our slip at River Dunes on the evening of Good Friday, until Monday at noon, it poured and blew…and blew hard! It was a great place to be for this weather event, since about 15 boats didn’t have the option to go anywhere. The marina has an exercise room, nice shower and steam room, hot tub, great restaurant and courtesy car. During the cold, rainy nights we snuggled into our bunks with good books and movies downloaded on our laptops. We were able to reserve the courtesy car to go to church on Easter Sunday and then find a grocer store to stock up on provisions that we knew we would need for upcoming anchorages. On Monday morning, the sun finally broke through the clouds and people actually started to poke their heads out of their boats, giving us the opportunity to meet some fellow boaters and attend a cruiser’s dinner on Monday night. After a great dinner, there was a bonfire and some musical entertainment thanks to John from Sloop John Dee! Everybody was looking forward to getting back at their helms in the morning with the anticipation of making about 30 miles of progress and then possibly meeting up again in the Pungo River. By the time we pulled out of our slip on Tuesday morning, we had spent 4 unplanned nights at River Dunes Marina thanks to this crazy spring weather!
Everybody was looking forward to getting back at their Helms in the morning with the anticipation of making at least 30 miles of progress toward the entrance to Albermarle sound. We were looking for some relief from the marina fees, so we anchored in Dowry Creek for two nights, enjoying some time doing boat projects and reading. At this particular location there was no cellular signal nor Wi-Fi, so we went back to the basics and had the opportunity to enjoy solitude and simple living. Stel worked on making some jewelry and I installed a new light fixture and added some links to my anchor line.
On Friday, we had a nice crossing of the Albemarle, with the exception of the exit from Alligator River, where there was a slight conflict between my charts and my chart plotter. I was cruising along with a number of boats behind me and about fourteen feet between me and the river floor, when bump! My props hit the bottom, which immediately takes your stomach into your throat. I pulled back into an idle and slowly but surely eased my way back into the channel. Fortunately, no vibration, so no obvious damage done. Humility has a way of finding its way back into your life on a frequent basis out here.
We approached Elizabeth City at about 2 pm and found some free dockage at Jeanette Brothers, a boat friendly food processing plant right in the middle of the little town. Stel and I were anxious to do some sightseeing, so we tied up securely and ventured out on foot. Thunderstorms were expected later in the afternoon, so we kept an eye on the radar with our phones. The local theater company was opening a performance called “8 -Track Music of the 70s” that evening, so we purchased tickets and then went out to dinner at the Cypress Creek Grill. There were many friendly town folks (obviously products of the 70s) at the restaurant, excited about going to the show just a few blocks away, so we finished our great pasta and salad dinners and away we went with the crowd. Only 20 minutes into a great production, the power went out and warnings were given, announcing incoming tornadoes! The staff ushered everyone to the bottom floor for safety. We were about five blocks from our home on the water, so needless to say, we were getting a little anxious about the Estrellita. At least two tornadoes tore up surrounding neighborhoods and the damage to boats of fellow loopers, but the storms finally passed enough to allow us to make a run to the boat through the remaining rain. We ran down darkened streets through ankle deep water and finally made it back to the dock, only to find out that the entry area had been locked up tight. We faced climbing over a 10-foot fence, but Stel wasn’t ready to face handcuffs and jail time this early in the trip. We sloshed back to town and found the Carolina Restaurant still open end with people huddled around candles and trying to get the status of their loved ones. We discovered why they named this town the Hharbor of Hospitality. Even in midst of the storm, with these town people dealing with their own storm issues, they were as helpful as they could be to our effort to get back to our boat. With local help and creative fence entry techniques, we eventually got back into the dock area at midnight and found the Estrellita had weathered the storm pretty well. God is Good!
We are presently making preparations to pull the lines and head north through the Dismal Swamp Canal. More to come with hopes of calmer weather!