The rest of the afternoon in Elizabeth City was spent grocery shopping and visiting the local museum.  Suzi (Kanau) called the Farm Fresh store and they sent someone over to pick us up – what a great service!  I didn’t need much…just some green things, milk and OJ. 

The Museum of the Albemarle is housed in a beautiful new building and, best of all, it’s free!  We learned all about the history of the area and about duck hunting.  Larry and Suzi visited our boat and vice-versa so we could show off our innovations.  They live aboard and their boat has tons of storage built into every nook and cranny.  Larry worked at Hartge’s for the past few years and knew a lot of our Sabre friends’ boats because he worked on them!  When he told me he did the varnishing on Pleiades, I was impressed!

Red sky morning in Elizabeth City, NC
Red sky morning in Elizabeth City, NC

We left Elizabeth City early Monday morning under a red-streaked sky.  I think it’s true about ‘red sky in the morning, sailors take warning’ because it did rain later in the afternoon.  We put the sails up as we entered the Albemarle Sound and quickly put in a reef as the wind built on our beam.  It was a lively sail across the sound.  We rolled up the headsail as we headed into the Alligator River.  Here’s where the story might sound different from a “he said, she said” perspective.  Skip would say “We went aground and we got off.” This is my version:

OMG, we were heading into the Alligator River and hit the bottom.  We were following a large power boat that also went aground at the same time.  The chart shows a bend in the course just past the entrance to miss a shoal.  Well, the shoal isn’t there any more and if you turn according to the chart—boom!  I rushed up to lower the mail sail as the wind and waves were pushing us further into the shallows.  The keel was pounding in the mud and shaking the entire rig.  Bailey was running around the deck so I threw him down below and tethered him out of the way.  Skip tried to back us out and we eventually turned into the wind but couldn’t get loose.  I called BoatUS to request a tow (we have unlimited towing with them) and they said it would take 2 hours for someone to get there – yikes!  We kept working our way around with the motor and put the sails back up once we were facing the right direction.  The boat was heeled over almost on its side and my eyes were glued to the depth gauge and a nearby crab float to see if we were moving.  We bounced in the waves an inch at a time and all the sudden we were free!  It felt like hours but I think it took about ½ hour.  I cancelled the call to the towboat and we motored towards the Alligator River Bridge.  I think my hands were still shaking an hour later.  We checked everything down below and nothing seemed to be damaged—no water coming in and no unusual noise from the prop or engine.  Nothing damaged but our egos!!

About 2 ½ hours later, we dropped the anchor off Deep Point near the entrance to the Alligator/Pungo canal.  Light rain was falling so we tucked in, fired up the grill and cooked our favorite comfort food – cheese burgers!

Alligator/Pungo River Canal
Alligator/Pungo River Canal

Today (Tuesday), we motored through the canal which is long, straight and lined with cypress swamp but not nearly as narrow as the Dismal Swamp canal.  Around noon, we tied up at the Belhaven Waterway marina for a few days.  We stayed here last year and enjoyed it.  Bailey liked seeing his girlfriend – a mini schnauzer named Marina.  Unfortunately, there’s no much left in the town of Belhaven.  Most of the stores are closed.  The restaurant we really liked is not open for dinner during the week…maybe we’ll have lunch there tomorrow.

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