03/30/2008: "Spring Break"
Spring break started on Friday (Good Friday) and Dale had the next week off. Cori took Friday off also and we made the trip with another boat to Ocracoke Island. Ocracoke is part of the Outer Banks and is about eight hours away by boat. We got an early start to take advantage of the winds and had a good three hour sail until the wind started to shift and we had to settle for motoring the rest of the way. This time we chose to stay at the marina rather then anchor out since we didnít bring a dinghy and the price difference between the Park Service docks and the marina is not that much in the off-season. We rented bicycles this time and peddled all over the village and out to the shore. Not an easy task against 20 mph winds, but the ride back with the wind was easier. We had to closely monitor the weather to plan our trip back, which we hoped would be on Monday. The forecast kept changing, as far as when the rain would arrive, so we opted for a Sunday return. The winds were forecast for Northeast at 15-20 knots on Monday but there was a good chance of rain in the afternoon. Also the temps were supposed to be in the 50ís. We decided we didnít like getting cold and wet so we headed out in 20-25 knot winds out of the north but under clear skies. The worst part of the trip was following the channel straight into the wind before we could turn and set our course home. The water is thin, as they say here, and the waves build quickly with very little time between each one. This makes for a pounding ride heading into them with a lot of waves washing the deck. At the end of the channel we turned with the wind on the beam and set the mizzen sail and pulled out about 2/3rds of the headsail. She seemed to be well balanced with this combination and picked up speed for a fast and fun ride. After a couple of hours we ran out the rest of the headsail since the winds were letting up a bit. At the mouth of the Neuse River we make a course change that put the wind on our port quarter and we decided to play with the mizzen staysail. This is a sail that goes between the main mast and the mizzen mast. Technically it attaches to the deck just behind the main mast, it is hoisted by a halyard on the mizzen mast and the sheet is run through a block at the end of the mizzen boom. It is not as complicated as it sounds but it sort of looks like an asymmetrical spinnaker in the back half of the boat instead of at the bow. With this we kept our speed around 6 knots and had a long run up the river without having to make a course change until we got to the entrance of our creek. Being brave (aka not too bright) we decided to sail through the channel and up the creek as close to the marina as we could get. Needless to say we managed to draw some attention.
Tuesday we were scheduled to be in Oriental for some work on the boat so Dale got started around 8:00 am for a morning sail down river. Oriental is about two hours by water so I just put out the headsail and enjoyed the ride. Once there I spent the day watching the rigger in a cherrypicker replace the tri-color light with a new LED tri-color and anchor combination. Of course, we had to run new wires but were able to do this without removing the mast. While there he inspected everything, replaced the antenna and topping lift. After paying the bill I headed to Oriental Harbor and tied up for the night. We had plans to meet with a couple that also have a Pearson 424 for dinner and I would not make it back to the marina and take the ferry back in time for dinner. Cori met us for drinks and dinner then stayed the night making the long drive to work in the morning.
Wednesday morning the winds had shifted around to the southwest. I had to hurry to get back to the marina since winds from the southwest push the water out of the creek and I may not get into the slip if I wait too long. I just made it, sort of. I knew I was going to have trouble when I started dragging in the channel leading up to the marina. Once at the slip I tried to turn around and back into the slip. At that point I could barely make way forward or backward. By attaching a line on one of the poles and backing hard I was able to pivot so I was better lined up to back in. At this time it didnít matter how hard the wind blew, I was aground for all practical purposes. By attaching lines to posts and back to the winch and cranking on the winch I was able to get better lined up with the slip as I continued to try to back up. With the help of Al, our dockmaster, I finally made it in and got the lines set. By the end of the day we were sitting firmly on the bottom. I donít worry about dragging the bottom since it is very fine soft mud and we can, with enough power, push through it, up to a certain point, and then you will just have to wait for the winds to turn and the water to come back.
This cycle of high/low water has been going on for the last month. About every four days a front will come through with the winds switching back and forth between north/northeast and south/southwest. When the wind blows for a day or so from the southwest the water in Pamlico Sound gets push north and the creeks in the southern half drops several feet. The opposite happens when the winds blow for a day or more from the north. Two weeks ago the winds blew from the Southwest for several days and the water dropped the lowest I have seen, it was down at least four feet. Everyone except a few of the powerboats was on the bottom with one section high and dry. Eventually the weather patterns will change and we wonít have this problem as often. It is just a part of living on the waters connecting to Pamlico Sound.