In perfect weather, high in the low 80s, sunny with a nice steady breeze, we sail up to anchor in Abel Bay, near the Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy a lovely moonlit anchorage with only a few pesky skeeters. It's nice and cool for sleeping, so we sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
Out on the water conditions are perfect again and we fly around Pamlico Point, out into the sound, skim between the military firing range (off-limits) and the marshes, zipping across in these crazy five knot tacks, just a fantastic time, enjoying the sun and breeze and the smell of the ocean. Skirting the firing range,we pass a little open cockpit sailboat just flying downwind with a crazy spinnaker. We are too busy sailing to even take a picture, but boy, are we having some fun!
We cruise into Jones Bay and start looking for this little canal that Eric had seen on the chart. It goes right up into Middle Bay, which would have been new territory for us. From there we could cut through to Big Porpoise and then back to Mouse Harbor, a tricky inside passage we were keen to try. Since our boat only draws eighteen inches of water, we can get into these little places other boats can't. And we love to try them!
The opening is narrow, but passable.
We'd done these things before and thought nothing of it. But it gets narrower. We squeeze past a few trees overhanging the ditch. No problem, Eric says, we're almost halfway. Up ahead we spot an even larger tree leaning into the ditch with a pipe sticking up on the other side. By this time we are so tight in this little ditch, we can't even think about turning around. We have a few feet of clearance on either side, at best. Anyway, we're nearly there.
We squeeze past a pine tree and the shrouds take off a branch. I get the silly giggles as pine cones rain down on the deck. Eric keeps on motoring. The deck is littered with debris. Eric hands me the boat hook and instructs me to fend off as we pass a tree trunk jutting into our path. We clear it by one inch, the other side of the boat scraping the marsh.
A little farther and I can see the bay on the other side. We're almost there. Except the way is blocked by ten feet of brush and a substantial tree. There is almost room to turn around at the end. Almost. Eric fearlessly slips over the side and disappears up to his thighs in mud and up to his chest in water. A splash nearby and Eric crows, “Alligator!” I shiver. He pulls the bow around, dislodging a derelict crab pot on the way and releasing several large crabs, while I try to fend off the stern, now jammed in the marsh grass.
He's pulling with the boat hook, so I untie the kayak paddles and proceed to push off the marsh and paddle to move the stern around. The rudder has kicked up and is sticking out and catching on the grass, so I have to climb down the swim ladder to lift it. I do my best not to think about alligators. Finally, we're headed back out and I titter uncomforably as I realize we have to run that unbelievable gauntlet of trees and brush again. With me at the helm (since I was no use at fending) we barely make it past the tree with one inch clearance. It rubs the hull. I fail at steering too.
Delighted to see the open water of Jones Bay again, we are greeted by dolphins and more incredible weather and a perfect wind to blow us up the ICW to Goose Creek. We sail up to anchor again, get up before dawn and head out. Another perfect day, except the wind shifted 180 degrees and is now in our teeth. It's also really blowing. Willadine is heeled over and with a reefed main and a hankie of jib we're making five knots. Eric is in heaven as we tack back and forth to get out of Goose Creek. We even manage quite a bit of traffic, three big power yachts, a sailboat and a tug and barge. Whew. Close-hauled, we make one incredible tack all the way back to the mouth of North Creek. Willadine is going four and five knots steady with Eric at the helm the whole way, in sailing heaven, total bliss. He's pumped up with the thrill of such an amazing sail, but by this time, I'm exhausted. We spend a few glorious hours anchored out at Frying Pan, resting and eating lunch and then, very reluctantly head back to the dock. Our only consolation is that we get to come back next week!!