Thursday, October 31, 2013

Now THAT was a day

The sun rose on Styron Creek this morning to find most of the boats with crew already on deck and prepping for departure. The weather gurus have been saying that Friday is going to be an ugly one for sailors. Everyone seemed of the same mind; get a scoot on to put in as many miles as quickly as possible.

The 16 mile run down the Pungo River starts out heading south west, then turns west, then south east. More boats joined in the line as we went along, with the line itself clumping up in small groups of 4 or 5; the groups stringing out for miles. It was a repeat of the last few days, the “V” shaped wakes gently rolling the placid, unruffled surface.

The water on the Pamlico River hinted at a bit of wind. Head sails blossomed on all four of the boats in our little group as we made the turn onto the river. Kintala heeled to starboard just a bit and picked up a knot of speed. (Every bit helps when one is in a hurry on a sailboat.) It didn't last long though. The route crosses the Pamlico into Goose Creek. The breeze was flowing directly out of the inlet so all the sails were rolled back in as the boats came head to the wind and started down the creek.

Goose Creek leads to another canal (this one not as ugly as yesterday's), which leads to Gale Creek. The total run is about 10 miles and it was a pure motor parade the whole way. The breeze didn't fade as expected though and, in fact, seem to pick up a little; perhaps from a sort of funnel affect. I started to think that the weather guessers had called this one wrong.

Gale Creek empties into the Neuse River. Head sails bloomed once again as boats made the turn south east on the Neuse, but this time they snapped open, filled with a solid breeze. We left about one third of Kintala's head sail on the roller as we were too close to the wind to sail without help from our old Westerbeke. Boats near by who put out more sail heeled hard in the wind, struggling to hold the course. Boats a few miles out ahead of us disappeared into a rain curtain. The weather guessers were clearly hours behind what the weather was doing.

It is a five mile sail down the Neuse River and into the Pamlico sound. The wind built the whole way and would once again be right on the bow when we made the turn south west. At the mark we rolled the head sail back in and swung the bow to starboard. It is hard to describe what happened next. The wind increased rapidly and soon more than 30 knots hummed in the rigging. The waves weren't that big, four foot or so. But the biggest ones formed into groups of three and the combined assault stopped Kintala nearly dead in her tracks. (That's 25,000 pounds of boat getting stopped cold in less than a boat length.) With her speed gone it was impossible to steer; the bow would fall off the wind putting us broadside to the waves. The old Westerbeke never missed a beat, but it was clearly over matched.

We eased just a whisper of the head sail back out and fell off the wind. It helped. With the added speed and lift on her bow Kintala was now a match for the waves; shouldering the water aside and keeping some momentum. The deck was nearly constantly awash; spray off the bow blew aft in sheets of water that soaked the helm. It was impossible to tell if it was raining or not.


Just to add to the fun our new Mantis anchor, which never really fit in the bow roller very well, started to bounce and rattle as we pitched our way over the waves. It didn't help any that it was also getting completely buried in the short coupled mounds of water. After one particularly hard thump the pin securing the chain fell free; the only thing holding the anchor on board was the clutch in the gypsy. Losing the anchor overboard at that moment wouldn't help so going forward to secure it seemed the sailorly thing to do. It was a wet and wild ride. I couldn't help but laugh when I got back to the cockpit, yelling to Deb (talking was useless in the howl of the wind) …

Now THIS is a day!

It took more than 3 hours to pound down the 15 miles of the Pamlico Sound, but eventually we made the turn to enter the harbor at Oriental. Deb got her own ride on the bow having to go forward to fix lines. It only took me three tries to get Kintala into her slip in the 20 knots of wind ruffling the harbor. I even managed to avoid bumping into anything.

This is what a dodger looks like after a day in heavy weather
The weather gurus claim the that real weather will be here tomorrow. We have pushed pretty hard to get this far and Oriental is a place we have wanted to visit ever since we learned about sailing. Kintala needs some attention.

I think we will stay here a few days.

Oriental Harbor Marina

(Ed note: I liked all these pictures of the sunrise so much I just decided to put them all in. Hey, we have free wifi :)


Latitude 43 said...

Fun ride :)

S/V Veranda said... is the local Oriental website. A wealth of info. Theres even a harbor cam where you can go stand on the dock and wave to the people back home....

Unknown said...

Awesome, just awesome. I'm reading this Fri at 2:20 your time, I checked the harborcam, can't tell if that's y'all or not but the flag on the pole is whipping pretty hard. We got it last night in Alabama so welcom to the South y'all try and stay dry, bless your hearts.

Unknown said...

Sorry for the second comment, but from the website I came across the story about the NOAA not printing maps anymore. No mor Gov printing but privte will still go on.
But you can download PDF's of charts.
Don't know if this will help y'all or any other readers.

Now back to your original programming.

Capt. Mike said...

Hey Guys, enjoying your adventure. I am curious about the water depths you have encountered. Zoe draws 6 ft and I've read that there is serious shoaling in the ICW. They look ok on paper but nothing tops experience.

TJ said...

Mike, so far shoaling has not been a problem in the ICW itself. There have been some places where staying in the middle of the channel was prudent, but most of the time we have seen depths of 10 feet or more. Anchoring and marinas are a different issue. We have about 2 inches of water under us at this end of Oriental Marina. In Centerville Water Marina we were sitting in the mud. We have had to pick anchoring spots with care as well. But we have talked with several people who are in boats drawing 6 feet and, other than being a bit careful like us, haven't had any problems.

Deb said...

@Bill - I've been reading the for a couple years. It was what put this town on my cruising bucket list. It's a neat paper.