31. Something Something Social Distancing Something

I spent a couple of gray, rainy, and windy nights at Morehead City. When the second morning rolled around, things were looking much more gooderer. I decided to shake a leg, and make some more miles. By the time Perkins was warm, and I’d finished swearing at my new and still obnoxious fresh water hose, we got underway at around 10.

About two miles down the road, I found myself gaining on a tug pushing a barge. This is always a rare treat aboard a boat as slow as Sylphide. I don’t often get to feel smug and superior in the speed department. My smugness and superiority were quickly replaced by mild confusion, however. The tug was going really slowly. Was it even moving at all? It was also making odd and erratic course changes, swinging all over the place. I couldn’t quite figure out what he was up to. I thought maybe he was trying to turn around, or maybe maneuver toward a dock somewhere, but there was none I could see. Once I got closer, I realized that he was aground, and trying to work himself free.

I’ve been there before, and it’s a shit way to spend a day. I didn’t want to bother the fella, but I did want to get past him. I wanted to talk to him before I did so, just to make sure I wasn’t going to be in his way, and to be sure he knew I was there. I tried several times to contact him, but got no answer. Eventually I just said ‘to hell with it’ and went. I got around him just fine, sticking to the outside edge of the channel, and continued on my way. He was still stuck when I lost sight of him.

I made my way up the Newport River to Core Creek, which turned into Adams Creek Canal, which then deposited me into the wide open Neuse River. I was relieved to see the Neuse as docile as it was. These big North Carolina sounds can get pretty snotty, but thankfully I wouldn’t be needing my windshield wipers for this crossing.

I spent my time on the Neuse trying out a new audiobook. I’d never read Dune before, and I’d never seen the movie(s?) but I’d encountered enough references to it over the years, that I felt like I should give it a shot. I’ve got more than my fair share of Sci Fi nerd DNA, but even still, I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know if it was the ridiculous 80’s synth music, or the super cheesy and cliche characters, or the super cheesy and cliche dialogue, or the super cheesy and cliche plot, but I found the whole thing to be pretty cheesy and cliche. If I had just two words to describe it, they would be ‘Rhombus’ and ‘Equestrian.’

On the other side of the Neuse River, I made my way into the Goose Creek Cut. Another mostly straight and fairly narrow man made canal. At the top end of the long cut, Goose Creek opens out into it’s more natural shape, with several other creeks joining up with it. I chose a nice wide open spot where Snode creek meets Goose creek, and nestled in amongst the horde of crab pots. I had the anchor set by around 6:30, having covered another 44 Miles.

The anchorage was fairly remote. Cell service was scant. There were a handful of expensive looking houses on the shoreline, and one other boat anchored nearby, but otherwise the horizon was wilderness. It was a very calm and quiet night, and I was very comfortable there. It was an ideal way to practice social distancing.

I got an earlier start the next morning, and had the anchor up and hosed off by around 8:30. A short while later Sylphide and I splashed our way out into the Pamlico Sound. We were again greeted by friendly conditions, so I set the autopilot and made some breakfast. Looking out over my fresh cuppa coffee, I spotted another vessel on the horizon and recognized it immediately. This was Eleohn, and she was hard to mistake for anything else. She was southbound, and being piloted by a friend from Trawler Forum. We’d been keeping in touch, and expected to cross paths at some point. We had a nice chat on the radio, and a small photo shoot as we passed significantly more than six feet apart. Captain Rich made fun of me for having my fenders (hooters) out, as is customary.

Eleohn Southbound
Sylphide heading north

I’d covered several miles by the time our friendly radio banter had finished, and soon rounded the corner into the Pungo River. We passed Belhaven, where we’d spent a few days on the way south, and carried on toward the Alligator Pungo Canal.

Once up inside the canal, it being a long straight stretch, I could see a long way ahead. I noticed there was some traffic coming the other way. A tug pushing a couple of barges, by the looks of it. He’s still a long way out yet. Nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of room. Eventually, somewhere around mile 121, I started working my way slowly to the right side of the channel to stay out of his way.

Somewhere just below mile marker 120, Sylphide came to a fairly abrupt, but strangely gentle halt. I took her out of gear right away, expecting to hear horrible crunching sounds. I didn’t hear anything, and never felt any bumps like I had with all of the other objects I’d previously plowed into. The sounder still showed three meters under us, and it didn’t feel like I’d run aground. I took a quick look around the boat to see what there was to see, but the water was the color of root beer, and there was nothing visible. The tug was still slowly coming my way, and I wasn’t quite as far over as I would have liked, so I clutched the engine astern, hoping to ease her off the snag. There were no horrible crunching sounds or vibrations, the wash was normal, and there was no mud being kicked up. We were definitely not moving, though. Whatever it was we were hung up in felt… springy and bouncy. It absorbed the force of my thrusts, and held onto us. It felt like I was stuck in the branches of a tree.

I tried a few more times to break her free, but without any luck. I got on the radio to let the tug driver know what I was up to, and thankfully he said he had plenty of room to get around me.

Actual photo of the situation

When the tug was clear, I gave Perkins about half throttle astern, and walked back and forth across the aft deck. The strategic relocation of my big ass was enough for her to wiggle her big ass free. I backed up a couple of boat lengths, then as slowly as possible, started her ahead and back toward the center of the channel. We missed the snag this time, and were on our merry way again.

The rest of the day was quiet and pleasant. I don’t think we saw more than one or two other boats all day. I’m not sure how busy it normally is this time of year, but I suspect it was a lot quieter than usual.

We anchored at Deep Point, at the south end of the Alligator river, having put another 44 miles behind us. It was the same place we’d anchored back on January 20th. It’s likely the most remote place Sylphide and I have anchored in our travels. No cell service at all. Nothing on the horizon but low, wind swept marsh land. The only signs of civilization being a few small, forlorn looking red and green lights, flashing meekly against the heavy darkness. It was quite a bit warmer this time, but just as windy. We had the place to ourselves that night. The crew of the International Space Station were less isolated.

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