A comfortable, quiet night, lights glowing on a shrimp boat anchored in the wide entrance to Juniper. A heavy layer of dew covers Spartina in the morning. Anchor up and it is perfectly clean, no need to rinse the mud off. Must have been a sand bottom. Full sail with a north wind carrying us south to Juniper Point then east towards Bluff Point. Clouds ahead of us with shafts of light breaking through, blue skies to our stern.
Dampness everywhere. Moisture fogs the lcd screens on the gps and the "waterproof" camera, drops of water hang inside the clear plastic that covers the radio dial.
Reached Bluff Point at 8:25, a northwest wind carrying us around the point just yards off the marsh. Heading northeast along shore towards North Bluff Point and Hog Island, we make over five knots with the escort of a single dolphin. Points of land appear on the horizon, edging us farther to the east. The water is calm, the wind perfect for a close reach. I wonder how long the wind will last. Clouds fall away, the sun warms and dries us we crossing the mouth of Wysocking Bay. I stand and look with binoculars but cannot pick out Browns Island and Mt Pleasant Bay, favorite anchorages from past journeys, memories of of ibises on shore and schools of tailing puppy drum.
We pass Long Point a little after 10:00, then skirt the shoreline near Middletown Creek with Gibbs Point in the distance. Skipping across the shoals at Gibbs Point we enter Far Creek to turn west. A crabber is hauling in pots, a yellow crop duster making hard angled turns over a field to the south as we approach the little town of Englehard.
No cars are parked outside of the diner at Big Trout Marina, I can't see any lights on inside but maybe see a figure walk by the window. Motoring downwind of the diner, though, I catch the smell of burgers and fries. I wonder if I just missed lunch. We circle back to tie up at the little dock. Still not sure the place is open, I hop over a railing, walk up and open the door to find a packed restaurant. My eyes connect instantly with the disapproving look of an elderly woman, she being dressed in her Sunday best - though it is Monday - hair done up, cheeks rosied by make-up, jewelry, a pretty purple sweater and gold lame´ purse. Sitting with her friends at a table, she looks from my face - sunburned, windburned and unshaven - directly to my oh-so-bare feet. Her feelings are quite clear. "Back in a minute," I say, closing the door.
I return, wearing sandals, to see Edna coming out from behind the counter. "Do you remember me?" I ask. She smiles, says "Of course," as if we had not seen each other for a few weeks though it has probably five years since I had sat down for a Trout Burger at the restaurant she and her husband run. "Where's Hot Dog?" I ask, using her husband's nick name. "Out fishing" she says, bringing me napkins and silverware. I order a Trout Burger - which is really a hamburger - with fries and a glass of unsweet tea. She brings both a glass of tea and a pitcher. I must look thirsty.
Back down Far Creek into Pamlico Sound a little after 2:00, grey clouds and a strong breeze. Making 5.5 knots we pass Shad Point then cross Pingleton Shoal on our way to Long Shoal Point. The water is deep right off the edge of the marsh and I enjoy the white sand beaches sprinkled along the shoreline.
Approaching Long Shoal Point we are exposed to the wind-built waves rolling down Pamlico Sound. The wind is increasing and we point up into the waves and then crash down into the trough. It is fun sailing and I keep full sail up as I watch the water sliding up over the side decks to the coaming, salt spray running down off the jib. The shoal runs out into the sound for nearly two miles, much of it being from one to three feet deep, shallower than I like for the rough conditions. Looking at the gps I see in close to the point, very close to the rigging of a sunken shrimp boat, there is a gap in the shoal marked with a depth of five feet. I turn back towards the shrimper, one eye on the gps and the other on the waves. The wind is perfect and we slide right through the gap, saving ourselves a healthy sail out into the sound.
Clear of the shoal we turn west into Parched Corn Bay, following the shoreline to a little notch that holds calm, peaceful water.
I stay up late listening to a football game. No moon and the stars are bright. I stand up to look around and see the lights of three villages - Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo - glowing across Pamlico Sound on Hatteras Island. Then something catches my eye to the southeast. I watch for a while, check the charts, then look back again to see the beacon of Cape Hatteras Light, flashing every 7.5 seconds nearly 20 miles away.