Dragged a Mile


Leaving Oriental we planned to anchor in late afternoon on a lake by the Alligator River Bridge.  We’d hang there the next day letting forecasted high east winds on Albemarle Sound blow through.  Flat conditions prompted a discussion and change in plans.  Soon we were crossing a mirror smooth Albemarle Sound with a dusty orange sun working down toward the horizon.  The tow we’d passed earlier wrinkled the smooth water a few miles astern.  Knowing we’d be tired after our long running day Ruth started cooking fresh Red Drum  We held our plates in our laps enjoying a wonderful dinner as we watched the view forward at dusk.  The autopilot continued steering as Odyssey entered the wide mouth of the North River.

Hours later, standing out on deck in the cold with our portable spotlight I scanned the water forward lighting up crab trap floats for Ruth to avoid as we worked our way in toward shore.  With 6’ of water under the boat the anchor went down and set hard.  I took a long look studying the outline of the black shore forward, shut down the electronic charts on the computer, set a GPS anchor waypoint and headed for bed.  Our 123 mile run had been smooth and delightful but had tired us out.  We were asleep in minutes.

Anchored point is green dot by anchor symbol. We dragged to the black dot in the boat triangle.

Boat motion woke us up.  The wind was up and we were rocking.  A blinking green mark just off our starboard bow made it painfully evident we’d dragged over a mile back to and across the ICW channel.  The wind was now blowing the forecasted 15 knots from the east and Odyssey was making steady progress dragging west but fortunately was not in any danger of running aground or hitting anything now except crab trap floats.


My first thought was: this will be an interesting challenge.  Ruth started the engines as I checked the paper chart as the computer brought up the electronic charts and connected to the GPS.  We briefly talked about heading east and north and anchoring closer to shore with more scope out.  It was probably the prudent choice, but logic works differently when we are rousted by bumpy water in the middle of the night  We opted instead to head north on the ICW toward another anchorage we knew about.


Back outside I turned on the spotlight and we worked our way out into the channel.  The cold was getting to me and I headed inside to put on a couple of layers against the cold and check our position on the chart.

S Curve on the North River. Charts shown are NOAA vector charts with text turned off.


Just as we were entering the S curve of the North River the moon set taking away the water surface reflections that helped us see stuff in the water and unlit marks.  On the chart we knew in the first two miles of the S curve there were 3 lit green, 2 unlit reds and 3 unlit green marks.  Looking out the cockpit window the 3 lit greens blinked brightly in the crisp clear air all looking about the same distance away.  On radar all the marks showed up, but we knew that when Odyssey was turning the radar image lags behind due to radar antenna rotation making it extremely difficult to know where the boat is pointing when turning working only by radar.  While Ruth steered I’d watch the chart and then go out and light up the next approaching mark as we began to turn, then come back in, watch the chart, warm up a bit and head back out to pop the next mark out of the darkness.  We even lighted the blinking lights since the spotlights beam and reflection made it easier to judge distance.


The anchorage didn’t work out, it was shallower than we expected.  We decided we’d head for Coinjock usually an hour away beyond the S curve.  The challenge had each of us concentrating on what we were doing and had a bit of adrenalin flowing.  We both were absorbed and seemed to sense what needed to happen without having to say anything.  Time flew and it didn’t feel like any time at all had passed before we saw the lights marking the Coinjock Bridge.   Our tracking information indicated we been running for just over 3 hours.


Lights at Coinjock made docking a bit easier.  Ruth eased Odyssey along side and I secured the lines.  We slept soundly and spent the next day poking around Coinjock listening to the wind in the trees.



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