Sail off anchor 6:00, clouds to the east glowing with the coming sunrise. Double reefed main, mizzen and jib, 3.6 headed north on the Alligator River. Across the river I can see a tug pushing a barge up the ICW.
Making 4.3 at 6:30 to the Alligator River Bridge, then 4.8 by 7:00 with the wind coming over the port quarter. Low overcast hides the sun. More wind and at 7:25 drop the main, 4.4 under mizzen and jib. Slip on foul weather gear as waves build on the stern , 4.8 to 5.2 with the swells and it feels like it might rain.
Bridge in sight at 8:00, less wind and raise the double reefed main. Over the vhf I hear a sailboat captain ask the bridge tender for a wind check, 14 out of the SSW. Shake out the second reef at 8:40.
I'm outside the channel and there are three larger sailboats in the channel. We are all headed for the bridge. The bridge tender comes on the radio and asks if the boats can group together to pass through on a single opening. Each of the captains ahead of me acknowledge the request. Over the radio I tell the tender I am the smallest and slowest of the four boats and won't make their opening. He tells me he'll open for them, close the bridge to clear traffic, then open for me. He'll work with us, he says. Referring to traffic on the bridge he says "they've got breaks, you don't."
The first three boats get their opening and pass through. The bridge closes for a while then I hear the warning signal as I approach. The tender tells me to keep on coming. Then over the vhf I hear the bridge tender say "hold on captain, I've got an idiot on the bridge." I can see the problem right away, a black SUV stops immediately beside one of the traffic barriers that lowers for a bridge opening. The driver doesn't seem to know what to do and he just sits there. The tender tells me traffic is already backing up but he can't open the bridge for me. I tell him I'll stand by and begin circling about a hundred yards south of the bridge in a drizzling rain. After about 10 minutes traffic clears and the tender tells me to come on through. I hear the sirens and watch the traffic barriers drop, no idiots this time. The tender tells me the opening process takes three minutes. I motor sail through the east opening.
I sail north towards the shallows that extend out from Long Shoal Point. I'm outside the Alligator River entrance channel but duck blinds pilings to the northwest mark the thin water. The overcast goes away and suddenly it is sunny and hot, and windy too. Getting closer to Albemarle Sound I find the wind is coming out of the west directly down the south. I tuck in the second reef, then drop the main. Hard sailing under mizzen and jib.
video of crossing the mouth of Alligator River
Looking at the charts I see it is a long way across the sound and I worry that I'll be only halfway across with the building afternoon wind. Instead I turn back towards East Lake and South Lake, there are well protected anchorage there. Just then a weather alert comes across on the vhf radio. High winds, thunderstorms crossing the east coast all the way from the Gulf coast to north of Philadelphia. Maybe I made a good decision.
It's a rough downwind sail across the mouth of the Alligator River. Big waves and gusty winds. It's a narrow opening over a shoal in to East Lake where I turn south and round up into Broad Creek, dropping anchor in the early afternoon.
I put up the boom tent to get out of the sun, read, catch up on email and take a nap, periodically turning on the gps to make sure we are not dragging anchor as the afternoon winds get stronger.
More wind forecast for tomorrow, I don't think I'll be going anywhere. Spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner.