Monday, June 19, 2017

day three - a warning in the night

A windy, warm night anchored on Silver Lake.  Southwest winds 20 to 25 mph, Spartina shuddering in the stronger gusts, swerving back and forth at anchor.  I knew the winds would swing in the early morning hours, blowing just as strong, and worried about bumping into the larger boat anchored nearby. 

I wake before dawn, fold up the boom tent as the sun comes up over the fish house on shore.  The wind did indeed swing and the forecast says it will continue to blow until mid-morning when it will drop to 15 mph.  Having paid for the overnight stay at the park service docks I motor across Silver Lake, tie up to wait the wind out.  I walk down the street along Silver Lake but cannot find anything for breakfast.  I return to the docks and visit with a sailor on a very large ketch out of Oriental.

The morning car ferry leaves the docks and the wind falls off.  Just after 8:00 I cast off, raise mizzen, jib and a single reefed main to sail out of the narrow entrance channel onto Pamlico Sound.  We sail up Big Foot Slough Channel then, tracing my track from yesterday, fall off into into Nine Foot Shoal Channel.  Before 10:00 we pass the last marker in the channel, I round up and shake out the reef in the making, 5.4 kts.  

Approaching Royal Shoals the winds begin to fall off - this is just where I found the winds yesterday - and the water is still lumpy from last nights gusts.  Making 3 kts on very rough water along the shoal.  

Away from the shoals our speed drops to 2 kts and we motorsail on calm water.  Blue skies and getting hot already.  If the wind had stayed with me I would have headed for the Neuse River and Oriental.  

With what little wind there is disappearing I turn south towards West Bay and Cedar Island.  Just after noon I stop to refuel the outboard and bring down the main and the jib.

A little wind at 12:30 and then enough to sail at 3.5 kts.  Approaching the west end of Cedar Island the wind fails and we motor towards the white beaches, sting rays swimming in groups of two or three just below the surface.  

In West Bay at 2:45 motoring to Old Canal, the narrow canal that connects West Bay to Turnagain Bay.  

Looking to the west I can see warning signs at the edge of the marsh - another military range.  In the past I have seen helicopters flying over the range at night using lasers.  I stop to refuel at the mouth of the canal and suddenly wind out of the east finds us.  Sails up and making almost 5 kts into the canal with the wind at my back.

The shores of the canal are overgrown with bushes and wild flowers, small black snakes swim from one side to the other and wriggle up the muddy bank.  Less wind in the canal, we move gently to the west at a couple of knots or sometimes less.  Out of the canal and inn Turnagain Bay I sail south to a wide expanse of calm water, out of sight of the range and even out of sign of "no trespassing" signs.  Anchor down at 5:25.

A high pitched siren wakes me from a deep, deep sleep.  I'm confused and disoriented.  I think of the military range then confuse that with accidentally sailing into the edge of the other range a couple of days earlier.  Did I anchor in the range?  A loud voice booms out over a speaker:  "Warning! Warning!" and then something more about something is about to happen, but I can't tell what.  I sit up - no boom tent on a clear night - to look around.  My heart is pounding.  I can see the point of land to the NW and know that the canal is right around the corner, I look south and see Turnagain Bay tailing away.  Our evening arrival comes back to me quickly, I know Spartina is anchored well clear of the range.  I lay back down and take a deep breath, close my eyes.  A hollow sounding automatic weapon fires a burst of rounds.  It reminds me of a machine gun but sounds much larger than that.  And then a second burst.  As the firing ends there is an explosion.  Then a second explosion.  Silence.  I close my eyes, go to sleep.


Anonymous said...

Steve, when I sailed in Turnagain Bay and took the Old Canal, I made the mistake of anchoring in West Bay on the east side. The Mos-kittos were waiting for me to settle in, and then "pounded" on the netting over the hatch opening all night.

Not wanting to leave without drawing blood, they attacked me in the morning while raising anchor.

Did I mention I almost could see numbers on their wings? ;-)

Steve said...

Yes, in the past I've associated mosquitoes with specific areas but lately I am connecting it more to the weather. What weather I'm not sure but I do know I have had bug free evenings in one spot then on the next visit to the exact same place I've been swarmed all night. On this trip I lucked out. steve