Monday, May 6, 2013

Alligator Marina on the alligator River - at a dock

We're at a face dock, there's many more docks to the left in slips
The night was calm and as the morning dawned, it looked calm too. Rain and thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon so we headed out early to reach our marina before they set in - and we almost made it! Things started out innocently enough with a ride up the Alligator Canal with little wind and flat water. Once we rounded out the northern exit, the wind picked up to 15 kts but that was fine. Continuing on, we rounded the corners and increasing pointed more northerly. With the wind out of the east to south east, that gave us a broad reach and even sometimes with the wind in the aft starboard quarter, ideal for making time north (the Alligator River runs north-south).

So for a couple of hours we had a great sail. As we proceeded, the wind ever so gradually started to increase. First the 15 kts became 15 to 18 and then that shifted to 16 to 19 and then it further increased to 18 to 22 kts with higher gusts. Unfortunately, we were having such a great time with a rare sail that we kept everything up, big mistake!  The winds were overpowering the boat so it was time to take in some sail. I pulled in the jib first and then tackled the mainsail. Ann pointed the bow into the wind but had a hard time maintaining the direction into the wind as the gusts went to 25 kts! I had a hard time pulling in the mainsail as the wind was lifting the aft part of the sail causing it to form a crease on the roller furler. Nevertheless, the sail was furled and we continued through the bridge which had opened for us. Fortunately, the wind limit on the bridge (above which they do not open) was 35 kts. The bridge tender reported that he was seeing 28 to 30 kts so he opened. We flew through and did a right angle turn for the Alligator Marina.n

The marina doubles as a road stop for traffic crossing the Alligator River Bridge
Fleetwing was bouncing from the wind driven waves as we aimed for the rather narrow opening. The marina has a reputation for shoaling at the entrance but the lowest we saw was 5.8 ft, plenty for our 4 ft 9 inches of draft. You have to be careful since the entrance has rather large rocks (as a breakwater) on either side of the opening and at one point I was pushed about 15 feet all at once towards one of the breakwaters by an incoming wave but I recovered in time and we're all in one piece. Somehow, we never seem to get photos of such mayhem, a video would have been great...

Once inside, it's calm. Even the wind is moderated some by the surrounding land. The big question for us is the weather for Tuesday. You simply do not want to cross the Albemarle in any winds greater than 15 kts! The shallow waters produce block-shaped waves that provide for a very rough passage in winds higher than 15 kts. So we'll listen to the Morning Lies and then decide what to do. The winds are supposed to moderate but then thunderstorms are predicted all day long so pick your poison. The large powerboat in docked in front of us (see photo) has been waiting for 5 days at the marina for a window to cross the Albemarle! We heard from John Kwak that he's planning on leaving Charleston on Tuesday now that he has a crew of three:, one of which is Dan Martin who we met at Barefoot Landing - he has been following my blog and wanted some ICW experience so I pointed him at John, knowing that he really needed crew. With these winds I would imagine he's going inside up the ICW and not out in the Atlantic but I don't know for sure.