Elizabeth City, NC

3/31 Sunday, Mid-Atlantic Christian University Free Dock, 1296.4, 60’s/32, mostly cloudy with periods of rain in the afternoon, SW15>W20-25>WNW15-20 - We made it! We were tying up to the dock at Mid-Atlantic Christian University at 4pm after a long, exhausting day. Again we were up at 5am and underway before dawn. We’d loaded the dinghy back on the foredeck last evening, after determining that there was no practical place to row Murphy ashore in the morning.

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We set sail as soon as we were out into the Alligator River, broad-reaching north. Gone Away was perhaps a half-hour behind us - we could see her upping anchor as we turned the bend. A steady 15 knot breeze from the southwest carried us to Alligator River Bridge.

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We doused our sails to go through the bridge and continued under motor through the channel at Middle Ground shoal. Next up was crossing the Albemarle Sound, roughly a 10 mile sail. The wind took on a more westerly bent and we could feel hints of icy cold now and then. I set the first reef; then the second. The waves were steep with a short period, cross-hatched at times and white-capping and occasionally breaking in a roar and hiss. Those sent Grace into a deep shoulder roll, but the outboard end of the boom always remained several feet above the water. It was a lively Carolina sleigh ride.

Approaching the Pasquotank River entrance, I had to shake out all the reefs because the wind suddenly faded away - the start of its turn to the northwest. We came up close-hauled, pointing for Elizabeth City, about 15 miles away. The new breeze steadily freshened; I set the first reef. It built some more; I set the second reef. This is not the first time we’ve done the “reef in/reef out/repeat” on this stretch of water. Dobbs helmed almost the entire day, not only keeping Grace on her toes but also dodging crab pots and navigating through rain squalls.

We were relieved to reach the drawbridge, except that when the operator tried to lift it, there was a malfunction and it wouldn’t open! He suggested it could be awhile. We motored back to Mariner’s Wharf and temporarily tucked into a slip so Murphy could visit the grass. Just then, the bridge tender hailed us on the radio to say he’d gotten things sorted and we could pass through, so as soon as Murphy was ready, we motored back out and did just that. The college dock is beyond the bridge. We chose it for this evening because it’s much better protected than the Mariner’s Wharf slips and also because the bridge could end up closed in the event of strong winds tomorrow.

We have the oil lamps lit and are bundled up against the cold. I made grilled cheese and minestrone for dinner and we will be shamelessly going to bed at seven o’clock.