Sunday, June 30, 2013

Storms in Alligator River

June 27, 2013
Around 8 am this morning, we left Oriental.  Charlie was not happy with the weather pattern.  Thunderstorms and strong winds were forecasted in the area over the next few days so he wanted to head north.  We considered skipping Belhaven and make the long trip to Alligator River. We planned to take the Virginia Cut back to Norfolk, since we had experienced the Dismal Swamp route going south.  We traveled through the chop of the Neuse River into the Bay River.  The canal after Bay River was very calm and we passed the fishing boats at Hobucken Marina on a hot, lazy day.  
  We crossed the Pamlico River, then the Pungo River and made the final decision to skip Belhaven and headed on to Alligator River Marina. The weather was windy, there was a small storm to the east, but all seemed fine on radar.  We entered the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal. This canal was also very calm and scenic.  Charlie and I began testing our speed at different RPM’s.  At certain RPM’s, the difference in speed is negligent and not gas efficient. We were trying to find the optimal RPM.  All of a sudden we felt a very strong jolt.  There is a famous saying about boaters: Either you run aground or you are lying.

Well, we are not lying.  We had run aground.  The one other time we ran aground, we needed a tow. This time, after measuring the depths around the boat, Charlie decided to use the bow thrusters to get Rainshadow moving again toward the center of the channel.  The head on current helped also.  It worked! So we continued up the canal. Soon, however, we lost all internet access. For a long time. We still had our charts, but no weather and no phone.  A few boats were passing us in the canal and one of them was Sorrento.  They called us on the radio to let us know they were passing, but for some reason we could not talk to each other.  But they passed with no issues.

Finally, we turned out of the canal into Alligator River and what we saw made our hearts sink. There was a large storm approaching and the water was very agitated.  The internet came back on and we pulled up the weather radar. 
Weather Radar
  Charlie said we had no choice. There was no way out of it, we were going to get caught in it.  Rainshadow was getting tossed around in the waves. We saw lightning hitting in front of us and we saw the storm front approaching fast.  I put a life preserver on myself, Bella and Sarah.  I brought a life preserver in the helm for Charlie. We had Sarah go into the berth which is a few steps below the helm, just in case we were hit by lightning.  She was reading a book (The Knife of Never Letting Go) and it would keep her mind off the storm.  I was desperately looking for the red markers and reading the chart to help Charlie stay on course while he battled the wind and waves. Every time we passed a marker, I yelled it out and  put a red sticky next to the marker number on the chart so I could remember the next marker number.  I wanted to get to that marina so bad!  The rain began to pour and we could not see anything in front of us, though the tugs radar would help us see what's ahead.  Items not put away were being thrown about the boat. We were trying to hold on as the boat was getting hit with waves.  I sent an email to my family that we were heading into a storm, but I did not want them to know how scared I was.  I felt like we should be telling someone else what was going on.   All of a sudden, I received a text from my admin at work.  I decided she would be the one I would communicate our location.   But I didn’t tell Charlie.   He radioed to the marina and the Alligator Swing Bridge that we were heading into the storm.   I kept searching for markers, letting him know when I saw one and then typing it into the phone. Here are screen shots the conversation with my admin.  I think it paints the picture quite well. My conversation is in the blue, she is in the gray. She is trying to calm my anxiety.

Thanks to Charlie’s expert handling, we made it through the storm and into Alligator River Marina, which as Sarah described it, is a car place in the front and a boat place in the back.  Already docked was Sorrento, who was also stuck in the storm.   Ocean Magic who we had met in Beaufort was also at the marina.

Once we secured our boat. We heard outside, “Bella!”  We looked outside and Sorrento’s dog had gotten loose. We guessed her name was Bella too.  She was a yellow labradoodle. She was running like the wind chasing birds and ignoring her owners. At one point, she headed to the highway.  Her owners went running down to the highway. I could only imagine their panic.  I saw her go around a small hill. So I went outside with a dog treat and called her name. She looked at me, looked at the birds and then decided I was a better bet. I grabbed her collar and all ended well. 

We were beat from the long trip and the storm.  The dockmaster told us we had to put our order in the grill in the station by 6:30 because they close by 8.  That was not problem.  We ate a good dinner and went to bed!

Alligator River Marina

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