Thursday, September 04, 2008

Norfolk to Oriental, NC ...

A jointly prepared log of the delivery of Alizee from Norfolk to Oriental, NC (mostly by first mate Bruce Sinclair; transcribed and added to liberally by Jim)

August 28.
We depart the Little River Marina at 07:10 in overcast weather and east winds of 15-17 knots. A roily ride downwind to the Big Bridge and Tunnel at the mouth of the James River, and as we came up into Norfolk winds clocked to the south. It always takes longer to get into Norfolk that it seems it should, so it is past 10:00 by the time we get to Mile 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and on the way we have a brief shower, but we are zipped in for it.

We were going to go via the Dismal Swamp Canal, but the timing for the lock opening wasn't good, and, besides, a friendly tug pushing two barges filled with gravel advantaged us to go through the Steel Bridge and Great Lock on his opening. So, it finally happened. And the guide books talk about it, hooking up with a commercial tug which every bridge and lock will open up for, but Bruce had never managed it until now. The downside is that the tug is a bit slower so that while we got the advantage going through he Steel Bridge and Great Bridge, we had to wait for him at the Centerville Turnpike Bridge. However, a northbound tug, Gold Coast, has to pass our guy, Buchannan 11, and they need to slow down for that, so we got through enough ahead for the North Landing Swing Bridge to let us through on schedule (14:30).

Drinking some very nice Bogle Zinfandel, along with crackers, cheddar, apple slices, and brie makes a lovely lunch. But, horreurs! The wake of a passing powerboat tips the bottle over and we lose 60%. That happened because on a prior uncorking, the screw came off the cork puller. Hellas! What to do? A screw driver, Philips of course, deftly inserted into the cork at its center, pushed firmly but not roughly down into the bottle (with a cloth around the neck, for course), and voila! But that left us without a cork with which to stopper up the bottle and the rest is sadly, history.

On the mechanical side of things, the water pump seems to have given up the job, and it awaits our examination once we are stopped for the night.

It is 16:15 and we are on the North River at the top of Currituck Sound, with its long stretches of string-straight dredged channels. This is where the autopilot really comes into its own, since the edges of the dredged channel are steeply precise and to stray offline invites trouble. Hand steering Bruce's lovely Rhodes sloop Napanee here was a real pain. After a nice bright interval, we are back into dark grey overcast, the wind on our nose, and in these shallow waters, it kicks up a short, steep little chop that sends spray all the back to the dodger for whose persona we are grateful.

Unless something dreadful happens in the next five minutes, we'll be in Coinjock at 18:45. Nothing happens and we arrive on schedule, a little over 11 and a half hours. We are burning fuel at about 1.12 gallons per hour and, except when slowed by the tug we latched on to, we've averaged about 6 knots. Total distance made today: 62 nm.

August 29. Added 1 quart of oil to the engine. Fresh water pump is not susceptible to repair by the likes of us, it appears, so we'll rely on the foot pump for water.

Leaving Coinjock at 07:55 under 7/8ths cloud cover, warm and a bit humid. One storm cell to the west, but otherwise high clouds and the promise of clearing. (What is this man saying? There is weather, and plenty of it, now apparent in the west and closing on us.)

Mile marker 55 at 08:40 = 48 minutes per 5 statute miles.
Mile marker 60 at 09:28.
Mile marker 65 at 10:01 = 32 minutes.

Our weather forecast is for 40% chance of rain and occasional thundershowers, and one of those is just ahead of us as we enter Albemarle Sound. But it is moving off to the left and while we feel its wind, we may miss its worst effects. Otherwise blue patches of bright sunshine.

We pass the Coasties, working on green light marker 173. Some of us say Bellhaven by 17:00, others are not so sanguine (and do better math). The 1700 estimate will be far from correct.

11:10 - on Albemarle Sound in bright sunlight. Light wind and too close to sail. So, we motor on, but with charming Vodka Bloody Marys in our hands. Pas mal.

Mile marker 80 at 12:08.

Through the Alligator River Bridge at 12:45 and mile marker 85 at 12:50. So 20 miles in 2 hours and 50 minutes. Or, since Bellhaven is at mile 136, we have 51 miles to go at 8.5 mph, which should equal about an 18:00 arrival.

Mile marker 90 at 13:30. Bruce listens to Desmond Dekker and the Aces on his Ipod.

Mile marker 95 at 14:13.

Warm and humid, and it looks like afternoon thundershowers may be in our future.

We take turns watching the chartplotter display, such is full of wonderful (and to some) mysterious tricks. And now we are coming to the bottom of that long, straight stretch down the Alligator River, where it gets narrower, turns, gets more winding, and where we leave it for the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal ... another long straight stretch - 22 miles of it - before we are emptied into the Pungo River.

Mile marker 100 at 14:57.

At 15:00 we hoist the staysail and gain .3 knots over ground to 6.5. Coming up to the entrance of the Alligator/Pungo canal and mile marker 105 at 15:38. Had to roll up the sail as the wind drew down on our nose.

Mile marker 110 at 16:14. A big weather cell to starboard 5 miles or so will pass us by.
Mile marker 115 at 16.58 = 5 miles in 42 minutes.
Mile marker 120 at 17:33.
Mile marker 125 at 18.13 = 5 miles in 40 minutes.

We seem to be missing the weather cells that come our way, driving out of them or not quite into them. It looks now as though one is parked and awaiting our arrival at the Wilkerson Bridge (mile 126).

This is turning out to be a long day. Probably 13 hours, but we will make Bellhaven.

Lovely company though. Bruce and I seem to have an endless number of things to talk about and its never dull. He's a great sailing mate.

Mile 130 at 18:54 = 41 minutes.

Having a destination in mind, and rather looked forward to, plays havoc with judgment. Discretion argues we should have anchored after coming out of the Alligator/Pungo canal - big bad weather on the right, and in front of us too, and the sun already down. Maybe a little foolhardy to press on, to arrive in wind and dark. But, in the event, the Gods smile on us and we come in with a gorgeous sunset, and just enough light to find our slip at the River Forest Marina, where we get good help in landing at 20:00.

A drink at the bar and take out dinner from the River Forest Restaurant, located in a classic rustic mansion. We manage to get a couple of cell phone calls in (terrible service), then devour our meals on the boat with some good wine.

August 30. Lazy morning. Hot, humid, foggy, hazy, and still air. In the face of all that the meteorological data, we decide to forgo a sail over to Okracoke, a wonderful destination on the outer banks of the Pamlico Sound. And so we walk into town on Water Street, past lots of lovely old houses with very well kept gardens, turn on Pamlico Street, pass the Ace hardware, the description of which promises over 10,000 fasteners, champagne and caviar, western union, and Cellular One service. We go on to O'Neal's for breakfast. Clearly the local hangout: pick up trucks, bib overalls, and overweight women. Bruce has eggs over easy, grits and ham; Jim has eggs over easy, bacon and biscuit and gravy - classic!

Underway at 10:00 and, as the night before, people suddenly appear to help with lines. We are headed straightaway for Oriental, Bruce looking to find a flight back to "Bedlam," and Jim to join Karl and Lucy Lichty and friends for a jazz night in New Bern.

Mile marker 140 at 10:45.
Mile marker 145 at 11:25 at 6.6 SOG.
Mile marker 150 at 12:01 at 6.8 SOG.

Passed the Reed Hammock Yacht Club anchorage, which seems an idylic spot. Jim is liking what he sees of North Carolina so far.

Mile marker 155 at 12:42 at 5.9 SOG.

Bruce has turned out to be quite the galley slave, turning out sandwiches for lunch and snacks of great variety. Today he puts together a marvelous platter of peaches, apples, cheddar, and goat brie served with a pleasantly chilled Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely!

Past Hobucken and into the Bay River, with houses on stilts and guys armpit deep in the water, who started fishing and ended washing off.

Mile marker 160 at 13:26 at 6.4 SOG. Always at 3,000 rpm.

Looks like Bruce wins the pool. He guessed a 16:45 arrival time; I guessed 17:15. But I put out the sails - genoa and staysail - and we kicked up to 7 knots SOG. If I wasn't such a competent skipper, I'd have won the pool. Damn spit!

Mile marker 180 at 16:51. Arrival in Oriental at 17:05. Harbor master Ross helps us tie up. Drinks and snacks at the deli/restaurant, served ably by Jennifer and Vicki (with whom we flirt shamelessly) and cooked up by David. Since the skipper has not provided oil or butter, Bruce cannot do a stir fry, but, ah ha! Maybe he'll just serve up the cooked chicken and pork with vegies. What an idea! And good.

August 31. We take an early taxi (07:30) into the Craven County Regional Airport, where Bruce hops on a 09:00 flight back to Bethlehem and Jim rents a car from Hertz. A wonderful trip, which we both regret had to be so rushed.

Altogether, from Annapolis to Oriental, Alizee has
performed wonderfully. We've put 40 hours on the engine during the entire trip and averaged 1.12 gallons of fuel per hour. The water pump turns out to be nothing ... just sediment plugging up the faucets, and it's soon working fine. There's a whistle between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, which I think is the shaft, either the cutlass bearing or an alignment problem. I hope to get it worked out before I return to California.

I drive back to Oriental after seeing Bruce off, and later that afternoon I return to New Bern and join Karl and Lucy Lichty on Lu Sea for a visit, which morphs into a party as they invite their friends Mary and Glen, Melissa and Craig, Caroline and Steve, and Steve and Jana Tyson. It turns out Melissa and Steve (of Caroline) are brother and sister, and Karl's sister (I think I have this right) is married to their other brother, which explains in part why Karl and Lucy are here at all. It's a great party that migrates up to the outside deck of the Sheraton Hotel Marina (where Lu Sea is docked temporarily), and where a jazz band is playing standards. Karl and a couple of others in the group know the guitar player, who once played with Boz Scaggs. Turns out the band leader is Bob Tyson, related to Steve and Jana, and before long I have been invited to sit in. Great fun ... played four or five tunes with a really great band. More to come, I'm sure.

Welcome to Oriental, North Carolina.

More photos


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