After a relatively damp few days in the Dismal Swamp, the weather and wind has been working to our advantage the past few days. We anchored off of Goat Island in the canal, then planned for a crossing of the Albemarle Sound with light to fair winds at 10 to 20 knots, waves 1 to 3′ and sunny skies heading south through the Alligator River. Although the name would have you solely believe that there were plentiful alligators in it, we deduced that its namesake was merely an indicator of how anchor unfriendly it is (frequent warnings that it could damage your anchor system). Needless to say, no alligators there. We did however get to see some wildlife we weren’t expecting! It was dusk and we were coming upon our anchorage, but could see something swimming through the canal to land and about ready to come ashore. What we thought was a possible loose dog, turned out to be a black bear! Yes folks, black bears do exist in the southeast. I can now chalk that one down as fact rather than folklore 🙂 Although the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was somewhat amazing to see the bear relatively close and unbarred (You may need to zoom in).
We got a night of excellent sleep and took advantage of daylight, continuing through the Alligator/ Pungo River Canal and into the Pamlico Sound. The conditions didn’t favor use of any wind, so we motored roughly the entire day, continuing south into our next passage staging area of Morehead City. Again we saw dolphins as we got closer to the city swimming near/ around us enjoying the beautiful weather as well. As we were negotiating the heavy tide and lack of wind coverage in the available anchorages, we brought up the option of a possible overnight passage as the forecasted conditions over our passage route were winds ranging from less than 10 to fifteen knots and virtually little off shore waves. So after verification from multiple sources, we all felt good about continuing on and passing by the not so favorable anchorage in Beufort to the next stop: Wrightsville Beach, NC.
The excitement from the kids was unmistakeable as even cold cereal was the dinner of choice and they all were quick to volunteer for watch. We reviewed the safety protocol, man over board procedures and duties of night watch before we began the shifts. I had the chance to take first watch with the little girls until 11. Malia assisted me at the helm while Madeline held down the cockpit hunkered under a blanket and on a nice soft pad. Needless to say, she didn’t last too long before sleep overtook her. Malia and I had a great time visiting, shared some of our embarrassing moments and funny stories. One of my goals for this trip was to continue to spend quality time with each of the kids, building our relationships and hopefully creating stronger ties together. Sharing helm duties on night watch certainly aided that last night as we had some great conversation and memories together. Samuel came out shortly after 10 indicating that he never really went to sleep, so he got on all of his warm stuff and joined us. Thankful for his addition to the group, both of the little girls headed to bed and I got that highly desirable one on one time. He was excited to use his night vision goggles outside and they did help a bit, but more so they took care of the wind vs. increase his vision. Either way, we had some great conversations as well and got closer in heart and mind. We woke Travis up at 11 and I headed to bed, knowing that I would assist him with the anchorage at sunrise. When Samantha joined him @ 1, they decided to drop the engine and just sail as we were making good time. When five o’clock arrived, I relieved Samantha and we awaited for sunrise to enter the channel. Again we were pleased to hear first, then see dolphins accompanying the boat as we passed the 3 mile mark heading into shore. With sunrise and the accompanying noises of dropping the sails, the little girls woke up refreshed and accompanied us in the cockpit, none the worse for the little sleep they missed. I think I fall into that category as well as I am not tired and the rest of the kids and Travis are now sleeping.
That pretty much sums up our first night sailing experience… uneventful, but with remarkable starry sky views and one on one time with the kiddos. So yes, I do think this training run was a great experience for future passages, we’re thankful all went well with the boat and we arrived just in time to see the swim leg of the BeachtoBattleship Triathlon (not that Travis wanted to do it THIS morning, but it definitely struck his interest as he wanted to go see the race despite his lack of sleep 🙂