Friday, December 19, 2008

Buzzed!

(Entry written on Thursday, 12/18/08)
Kristen here – I could go on forever about the amazing things that happen every day. Every time I do a blog entry it seems I’ve forgotten a few stories. I’ll try to remember them this time.

Yesterday morning we left Coinjock, NC. The fog was a bit less dense, and everyone was feeling good. I decided to try something different with the homeschooling. For the past week, schooling has taken at least 4-5 hours each day. It seemed that no matter how early or late we started, we were always getting done just before dinner. This is definitely not how I imagined it. It was not how the kids imagined it either. We had reached the point where everyone was dreading school time. So, I decided to try schooling each kiddo separately. It worked! We got done much faster, each kid got more individual attention, and each kid had much less school time. Win, win all around.

As we were motoring yesterday, Chris and I heard a loud noise far off. It sounded like the roar of a jet engine. Now, when you’re in the middle of a large waterway on a boat and you hear a thunderous noise, you pay attention! I looked in the direction of the noise and couldn’t see anything. After half a minute or so it stopped, and we gave up on figuring it out. Then Chris went below and Casey and I were at the helm. Right after he went below I hear the noise again but much, MUCH louder. As I look over my left shoulder, in the direction of the noise, my sight is filled with the bottom of a grey military jet plane. All we could say was WHOA! Chris came running up to the cockpit to see the tail of the jet that had just buzzed our boat. We all scouted the sky with a camera at the ready for the next hour or so. Two jets came back one more time, but never as spectacular as the first.

Yesterday evening we anchored just outside the ICW channel at the base of the Alligator River in NC. Contrary to its name, there were no alligators to be seen in the alligator river. This was our first night at anchor during this trip, and it didn’t prove to be a dull one. Our anchor setting (making sure the anchor was set and holding) went perfectly. As soon as that was done, the kids wanted to go for a dinghy ride. Well, mostly Casey wanted another test of the new superfast dinghy engine. I was eager to explore the coastline, so a-dinghy-heaving we went. We took the camera with us and got some amazing pictures of Pelican with the sunset behind her. Once again you will have to wait for Chris to post those. We discovered that the coastline was just a mass of rotted tree stumps and bug laden swampland. After seeing if the dinghy could go faster than the jet, we headed back to the boat because it was getting dark.

We had dinner and did dishes and then went up top to check out the darkness. We were in a spot that was completely desolate, and were excited to see a beautiful starry sky, unmarred by unnatural light. Unfortunately, the fog had set in and there was not a light to be seen. It was eerie. There was nothing on which to orient your position. Also a film of bubbles had appeared around the boat. (Later we realized that this was the soap from doing the dinner dishes) Not wanting to get completely freaked out, we retreated below. Later that night Chris and I went up top again. With nothing to focus on, I tried to tell whether the boat was stationary or swinging on the anchor. As I stared into the absolute darkness, I could swear we were moving at quite a rapid pace, but truth was we were completely motionless. It’s a very disorienting feeling.

Now, you would think when we finally did see an extra light it would be a relief. Not so much. Remember we were anchored just outside the channel. We allotted for swing room (making sure if the wind changed direction and we faced 100 feet in the opposite direction, we would still be outside the channel) when we set the anchor. We were most definitely certain that we were well out of the channel. But when you see a light in the darkness coming straight for you, you begin to doubt. ¼ Mile away it looked like a small fishing boat. As it moved painfully slowly closer it looked like the small fishing boat had a spotlight and was searching for his crab pots. Moving at a snail’s pace the spotlight was now a good distance above the water and we began to think this may be a tugboat. It was beginning to look and sound like a freight train floating on the water. By now everyone was on deck, and I was getting quite nervous. The spotlight had hit our boat a few times. He must have seen us. I know the channel aims right for us and then turns before our boat. I know we’re out of the channel. I’m going to go below and get our spotlight, and flash it around just in case. I flashed our spotlight in the tugs general direction. Now I can see another series of lights in front of him. Oh great, it’s pushing a barge. Now the tug has made the turn and the spotlight is aiming away from us and we’re safe. We can see the side of the tug and it looks like a floating house with each window lit up. I can even see a person inside. A collective sigh of relief was issued before finally hitting the sack.

Warble, Beep, Warble Beep. Huh? What was that? Is it time to get up? Why did Chris set an alarm? Honey, the anchor alarm went off, we’re dragging. Now, with the image of the tug fresh in my mind, how quick do you think I raced up to the cockpit to see where we were? It’s 4:30 at night and the wind has picked up a bit. The two lights we could see before going to bed (one red to the right and a green to the left), were now switched. The boat has made a 180 and we’re facing the opposite direction. Thankfully, I can see that the channel marker is still a distance away. After watching shore for a bit to determine that we were no longer dragging, and checking our swing path on the GPS we went back to sleep.

Today thankfully was relatively uneventful. We pulled up our anchor and quite a load of pitch black mud. School again went quicker and the new method has become official. Tonight we pulled up to an old shrimping/fishing dock. The guide said it was mostly commercial, but they accepted transients. We couldn’t pass up the $.40 per foot nightly rate! And that was with power! When we pulled up, it appeared that more fishing boats had rammed the dock then had tied up to it. Our first attempt brought us aside dockboards that looked like they would fall into the waterway at any moment. A bit farther down it looked a bit more solid, so we tied up there. Expecting a lively shrimp processing area where we could maybe load our freezer with fresh seafood, were surprised to find a run down ghost town littered with rusty chains and old fishing nets. Next to the abandoned looking processing area we found a small store with commercial fishing supplies, a warm wood stove, four rocking chairs and Roy. Roy entertained us for the next hour or so. We all plopped into a rocking chair in the 80 degree, dusty old store and listened to Roy.

Roy was born in 1918. He didn’t look a day over 70. He remembers the first radio, when cars first came around, and when you had to carry a shovel to get your car out of the dirt ruts. He remembers the depression. He told us of the rise and fall of fish species in the area. “I’ve seen certain species die out and come back twice, and it’s a 30 year cycle. We’re due for them to come back in a couple of years. But that is just my observation”. Most fascinating to us was his telling of when they built the ICW. “I used to live over there (pointing across the ICW), and you could take a road through the swamp to get to my house”, he would say. He described steam driven machines that sounded like today’s tunnel borers, mounted on swinging arms on a barge that dug the channel right through the woods. “Well, they cut the trees down first of course”. He loved to talk, and we soaked up every word. It was another daily affirmation of why we are doing this.

1 comment:

Poppi said...

Poppi here,
Very nice entry! I love reading it. In fact, I ran outside right after reading it to look up and see the stars. However, as you can imagine, not only couldn't I see anything, I got a wet face, frozen eyelids, and soaking wet from the 2"/hr. of snow falling! Yah, I hope you guys are happy. And, no we are not upset you left us up here in the cold (9 degrees this morning)!
Oh, by the way, if you are in the dark, and there appears a light, you will become totally disorientated. For example, go into a dark room (at night), sit for a few minutes, the shine a small (pen) light at the wall. Stare at it for a few minutes. It will start to move! Actually, it isn't moving; your mind it moving it. Watch standers aboard ships have to be aware of this all the time. Fiction or fact from Poppi's almanac.
We will catch up to you sometime after x-mas.