85 Miles. Whew.


Are we ever glad to be tied up tonight to a tiny pier in Elizabeth City at the entrance to the Great Dismal Swamp. We should celebrate this milestone, but we’re too tired after 10 hours under way.

Only two day cruises during Many Moons’ eight-month journey were longer than this one, and not by much. We made 156 miles in the last two days and a lot of them were rough. Why push it like this? To make it through the famed/feared/shallow Albemarle Sound during manageable winds. We hear that some boats wait as long as a week for favorable winds. I wouldn’t say our winds were favorable, exactly — but they were manageable. I never doubted the boat’s integrity, or our ability to stick it out. Nobody got sick (dramamine helped, again) though we did get weary.

It turns out that the Alligator River (leading into the sound) and Pamlico River and Sound (which we navigated yesterday) were rougher for us than the Albemarle because of stronger winds. Now that’s all behind us, and we can take some time in this quirky city before heading up into the swamp and our last 50 miles to Norfolk.

Last night was a cold one, just below 30 degrees, but our diesel heater kept us warm. Even Boo the Cat squished next to me in the narrow V-berth rather than in her cat bed in the salon. We were under way by 0700 to give us the best chance for the long cruise we aimed for but didn’t necessarily expect. It started out great, in the calm of a straight canal, where a parade of boats passed each other with exquisite politeness. That calm didn’t last long. Neither did the politeness. Within four hours, we were back in the whitecaps, using windshield wipers, with waves over the bow…and one extraordinarily rude driver who got his comeuppance. The story in photos and captions, below.

One other thing: I drove us through the one bridge that had to open for us today, and while that’s a small thing, it’s another milestone for me. Almost all my driving is in the open water, with clear navigation channels, so doing something that requires calculation — even a little bit — increases my driving confidence. Like driving through the lock last year, and out of the restaurant pier last week. Jeff is the master boat-handler. I’m still a neophyte, at least on this boat. (I’ve driven a waterski boat quite a bit, and many sailboats.) I don’t drive as much as I should. This is a common theme on Looper boats where the guy is typically in charge of boat operations, but both women and men on The Loop seem to agree that the woman should drive more. Why? Redundancy is good. Plus, doing anything that isn’t natural increases one’s resilience for the next challenge, whatever it may be. (Now what can I suggest Jeff do that isn’t natural to him? 😉)

We pulled out just before sunrise from our anchorage near the Upper Dowry Creek marina.
The sun rose as we pulled out into Pungo Creek and headed back to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
Within a few miles, we entered the long, calm straight-away of the intracoastal. It was stick-straight for miles and miles, reminding us of similar segments in the Gulf.
We encountered at least six boats in the channel. You can see two of them behind us. None flew the burgee of The Great Loop, but all were polite as they passed each other, calling in advance to arrange it.
This sign says “Danger-Shoals.” As elsewhere in the ICW, the navigation channel can be quite narrow even if the water is wide.
Boo wanders around the boat during the day unless it’s rocky. (Then, she’s under the couch.)
This marker tells us it’s 100 miles to Norfolk. Wow!
This 50-foot-plus yacht (picture taken through our screened window) is grounded right there. Serves him right! He had waked us badly just five minutes before. I was driving at the time and had to steer sharply into his wake to avoid getting pummeled as he drove by much too fast and too close. I called him on the radio. “Next time, consider a slow pass, ok?” (Meaning, slow down before passing in order to reduce the wake on the vessel being passed.) He didn’t answer me. A few minutes later, I understood why. He was busy calling a tow! In his haste to get wherever he was going, he drove himself into a shoal. I call that karma.
Jeff on the bow, while under way, cleaning the windshield yet again to get rid of salt-spray.
There aren’t many Looper boats this far north yet, but you can see four in this screen capture. The cool thing? Both Boomerang and Yooper Too are from Lake Superior. Just like us. We haven’t met them yet.
We were out of signal much of the day. When it came back just a few miles before Albemarle Sound, the forecast said “calm sea.” Well ok, let’s cross!
This is what counts for calm in Albemarle Sound. (It got rougher than this.) See why so many people wait days to cross?
Dramamine (less drowsy) is our friend on days like this.
It took us two hours to cross the sound — about 15 miles of nothing. It felt, at times, like crossing Lake Superior.
This sunken sailboat was right in the channel, in the Pasquotank River approaching Elizabeth City.
Tied up at the tiny finger pier at Mariner’s Wharf (free slips) in Elizabeth City.
We have to step off the bow in order to get onto this six-foot finger pier. We’ll move to something more secure tomorrow.
This city is known for its hospitality to boaters. More about its offerings in a later post.
Hehe. I do get angry when somebody tells me I can’t swim! Not that I want to today. It’s 45゚.

3 thoughts on “85 Miles. Whew.

  1. At E the folks from the town typically come down to the dock and greet the transients with flowers. Hmmmmmm . . . think that L’Anse could ever figure that doing something like this could be a way of welcoming visitors? NOT!!

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