We debated whether we should leave Belhaven and go only to Alligator River Marina, distance of about 45nm, or continue on to Coinjock, NC, a distance of about 76nm. The NOAA forecast for the Alligator River and Albemarle Sound did not sound good on Friday night. NOAA was predicting 15 to 20k winds for the river with 1’ waves, a small craft advisory until 10am for the Sound with 15 to 20k winds, and 1’ to 2’ waves for the rest of the day. Because the Sound is relatively shallow, the high winds could easily create nasty conditions on the Sound, despite the 1’ to 2’ NOAA prediction. When we got up Saturday morning we tuned into the local weather forecast, which predicted 10 to 15kt winds. We decided to bypass Alligator River Marina and keep on cruising to Coinjock, NC. That would leave us Sunday to get to Norfolk, VA where my sister lives and we planned to spend two days.
We quickly got our act together and by 6:40am, Adrienne was steering Curiosity out of the marina. It was a grey, cold day when we left. A number of other boats had already left the marina, so at least we weren’t the only crazy ones heading out. The Pungo River was a little choppy but in a little over an hour we were in the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal – one of several man-made canals through North Carolina. The canal was calm and peaceful. Cruising here was easy with only the occasional sailboat to pass.
Exiting the canal, we entered Alligator River, which can be a nasty piece of water. Today, with winds around 15kts, there was only a moderate chop and by 11:30am, we were passing through the Alligator River Swing Bridge. Next up was the Albemarle Sound, a wide body of water with a nearly uniform depth of around 18 ft. which high winds can whip up into an ugly chop. When we entered the Sound around noon, the winds were around 15 kts and Curiosity easily cut through the moderate chop. The only problem was that Albemarle Sound was covered in crab pots that seem to be placed randomly across the route we wanted to take. The choppy water made it almost impossible to see the pots until we were practically on top of them. So, for an hour and a half, Adrienne and I were on constant “pot watch.” By 1:30pm, we were out of the Sound and into the North River. The water was a little calmer and the pots were now just lining the channel. So Adrienne and I could relax. Or could we?
Around 2pm, as we were cruising along, I felt a sudden vibration in the engines. I quickly pulled the engines back to neutral; shifted each into reverse and then into idle. After doing this a few times, we began to increase our speed very slowly. No vibration. We must have hit a pot or a floating line, but either the cutter on our props cut the line or backing up unentangle it. In any event we were back on our way and by 3pm, we were at Coinjock.
After we had tied up, washed the boat, checked to see if I could get a diver to check the props (I couldn’t – we are in the middle of nowhere), and tidied up, we walked down the dock to visit Sweet Baby Jane – another Fleming 55. We had noticed the Fleming when we were docking and the owner had shouted hello to us. However, you can’t really talk when you are docking.
Sweet Baby Jane is owned by Ken and Jane Fraser, a delightful British couple who keeps the boat in the States and periodically flies over to cruise the East Coast. We all know that the British drive on the wrong side of the road; now we also know they go the wrong direction. Every boat at the marina was heading north, except for Sweet Baby Jane – she was headed south to Daytona Beach. After chatting for a while, we decided to have dinner together at the marina restaurant.
The Coinjock Restaurant looks like it belongs on the TV show Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins. It looks like a nice dive, with an outdoor patio and a dark woody interior. However, it is well known for its prime rib and very popular with locals. In fact, the restaurant was filled with high school kids all dressed up for prom. It struck us as a very strange place to have a prom dinner and the tuxedos and prom dresses seemed very out of place at the marina. Nonetheless, the kids were having fun.
Dinner at the Coinjock Restaurant was quite good. I had the fried shrimp, which was some of the best shrimp I have had all year. Adrienne had fried chicken, which was also quite good. Even better was the conversation. We had a great time.
After dinner, we walked back to our boats and noticed that a small helicopter had landed next to the restaurant. Someone had literally flown in for dinner. Wow! Hard to believe! Dinner was good, but not that good.
Tomorrow, we are off to Norfolk.