Monday, March 18, 2013

Even Winter Has Her Charms

Bonner Bay Sunset

Eric and I have been having a discussion about how cold is too cold to enjoy being on the boat.  He seems to have more tolerance for it than I do.  There are factors other than temperature too, like cloud cover, wind and how far we want to go.  This week was on the edge.  It was barely fifty degrees and blowing 20-25kts, but the clear skies and sunshine made it bearable, that and the fact that we were finally going to try to make Oriental, some forty miles from our home base in North Creek.

But winter has her charms too, like no mosquitoes and when the hot flashes hit, I just strip off a few layers and feel the blessed coolness.  It’s also migration time for the sea birds and we were treated to many a swooping gannet, and a few new birds, like the dashing red-breasted mergansers that greeted us in Oriental harbor.  Their wild hairdos reminded me of the black-crowned night heron we saw in Morehead City a few weeks ago, perched on a piling right there on the wharf.

The wind in winter is both a blessing and a curse.  In summer, the wind is more variable, gusting like crazy around thunderstorms and dead calm in between.  In winter, it tends to be steadier and also stronger, such as the 20-25kts we had this weekend.  A steady breeze like this means we can set a course and sail like crazy at four or even five knots in a given direction.  And the NW wind this weekend was perfect to blow us right down to Oriental.  Well, except for when we made the turn to go up the Neuse, directly into the wind.  But that’s what we have Trusty for, he got us there, no problem.

In Oriental we were greeted at D and Don’s private dock by D, Don, our friend Anne and Mo, who with her partner, Drake, were preparing to venture north, eventually to Iceland and Ireland.  (Check Mo’s blog here.)  We missed the going-away party, but delighted to give her a hug and wish her fair winds and following seas.  Then we were treated to a marvelous hot pot roast, which let me tell you, after freezing our tails off sailing south all day in fifty degree weather and a biting twenty knot wind, was about as good as it gets.  There was wine too and a rousing game of dominoes afterwards.  Oh, so fun.

Sunrise at D and Don's

The next morning we enjoyed further treats of taking a row in the little dingy named Enid, for British author Enid Blyton, which our friend Anne Siddons (no relation to the author Anne Rivers Siddons) built with her own two hands, something she had never done before, nor will again.  She’s a sweet little craft, much like her maker, and we had fun rowing around the frosty docks of the marina.  Afterwards, her husband Doug made us espressos before we cast off.  Ah, the good life.

Somewhat miraculously, the wind shifted around to the south as predicted, and we sailed downwind and then a fine reach back into Bay River.  In the ICW, we watched a loon go fishing and warmed up as the trees blocked most of the wind. Neither of us minded motoring at this point, I was just happy to feel my feet again.  As soon as we got through the cut, we explored Upper Spring Creek and anchored far back in, a very solitary anchorage, just like we like.  The sunset was yet another wonder and the smiley eyelash moon seemed happy for the company of all those stars.  Eric carefully scanned the sky for a comet that is supposedly visible to the naked eye, but never found it.  What a pleasure to bundle up, lie back in the cockpit, and watch the stars come out without being tormented by mosquitoes.  In the cabin we cranked up the little propane heater and were soon toasty warm.  Thank you, Eric!

All those amazing sunsets, fine sailing weather, the company of such amazing friends and a shooting star every night might seem hard to top, but what a surprise we found waiting for us back at our little marina in North Creek.  We were considering supper when we heard the sound of heavy machinery behind the marina-owners’ house.  We postulated a few theories about the source of the noise until one of Eric’s theories came true and a gigantic Trac-hoe came crashing through the trees toward the house.

They had come for a forty-seven foot party barge that had been washed up in the yard by Hurricane Irene, some eighteen months prior.  We watched in abject amazement as they attached a rope bigger than Eric’s arm to the boat and proceeded to drag her toward the water.  A small crowd gathered and we all cringed at the terrible sound of crinkling aluminum accompanied the dragging.  Small trees were cast aside.  The men put the rope on her stern and we gasped as they succeeded in turning her bow toward the water.

Supper was forgotten as the boat owner and the marina owners joined us to watch in horrified fascination as the boat neared the creek.  The Trac-hoe driver backed toward the water’s edge as it pulled the boat closer.  The skids came right to the edge.  We held our breath.  The driver moved forward again to more solid ground.  We breathed.  Then he got hold of the rope again in prehistoric-looking metal  jaws and pulled again, backing toward the water.  We held our breath as he backed down, right to the edge of the marsh grass and just a little further and then the skids began to sink in the mud.  We breathed a collective, “Oh, crap.”

After a tense few minutes of digging himself in even deeper, the driver realized his folly and abandoned the machine.  An hour later a bulldozer arrived in the darkness, and after some ado, managed to pull the boat out of the way and pulled the very muddy Trac-hoe free of the marsh.  The bulldozer pushed the boat right to the edge of the water and there it stayed.  But what a show we’d had.  We are sorry to miss seeing her hit the water, but apparently, that has to wait for a towboat.
So we managed to have our usual fine time, in spite of the cold.  I think I’d rather have the mosquitoes, myself.  But it was worth it.  So worth it.

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