Sunday 11/13/11 - The long-range forecast was for moderate winds from the SW for the first part of the week, then north winds later. That suggested a trip to the Pamlico River, perhaps all the way to little Washington. Sunday morning, I got a cup of coffee, chatted with Paul and Jet, and was off dock at 9:50 am with calm winds. Motored out of creek and set sail, main and genoa. Beat to windward in light N winds, this with a forecast of SW 5-10. Midday the winds came around to SW 10-15 and I made progress downriver, though with no chance of making Bonner Bay. Turned in Lower Broad Creek and joined a procession of south bounders entering the creek. On anchor at mouth of Burton Creek, at 4:10. Picked up anchor and reset a little more out of the channel at 4:20. The sun was setting, so I hung the anchor light from the aft stay and cooked dinner. By 5:30 it was completely dark.
Monday - Off anchor at 7:30, motored out to river and set up wing and wing main and genoa to run before SW winds to Bay River. Cut the corner at Maw Point, came over on the port tack and headed directly for marker 1 (Neuse River Junction is unnumbered). I never saw less than 12 feet of water. Entered Gales Creek at 11:30 and sailed through Hobucken Cut on a broad reach. Continued out Goose Creek and into Pamlico River, then turned in to South Creek. More or less dead into the wind at this point so put on motor and dropped genoa. Entered Bond Creek and followed to just upstream of green marker and dropped anchor at 4:15 in 7 feet of water. Decent protection from all but northerly winds.
Tuesday - Sailed off anchor at 7:15 under main, set genoa and proceeded wing and wing out Bond Creek. Sailed back down South Creek and out into Pamlico River, though it looks like there might be a cut through behind Indian Island to get straight out to river. Didn't want to chance it, and the detour only added about 45 minutes. With a forecast of SW 10-15 I was carrying main and genoa, but in fact the wind piped up from the S and I spent much of the day wrestling the helm to keep the boat from rounding up. This made for good speed, though, and I was on dock in Washington at 3:15. Filled out paperwork with the friendly dockmaster who then gave me a ride in his golf cart to show me around the waterfront. I got on the free dock but there is a pay dock for people who need hookups. Even the free dock gets use of their spotless restroom and shower facilities, so Washington goes the extra mile to welcome visitors. I had dinner at a local restaurant, "Down on Main Street." Afterward I walked around looking at the old houses and downtown buildings.
Wednesday - The train came through to work the south side so the bridge was closed in the morning. I bought some pastries at the panaderia and had a cup of coffee at a waterfront coffee house. The dockmaster said that the train always finished work by noon so I didn't bother the bridgemaster to open for me. With a forecast of freshening winds in the afternoon I swapped out the genoa for the jib and tied a reef in the main. The bridge opened about 10:30 and I was off dock at 10:50. I sailed downriver under SW 10-15 winds at 3 knots and after a while considered shaking out the reef, but checked the weather first. Greenville was reporting gusts to 29 and Washington to 23, and I was only five miles east of Washington so I figured the wind would be on me soon. Almost immediately it picked up and I had a nice reach in to Bath. At the entrance to Bath Creek there was a large sloop well up on the bank - no doubt a remnant from Irene. I tied up on the free State dock at 4:00. Al and Marge on Artemis were docked there as well and I had dinner with them at the local Italian restaurant - only thing going in Bath. We had a pleasant chat and I found out that they docked at Pecan Landing and had bought Artemis out of Matthews Point. They are avid cruisers and have been all over the Pamlico Sound area. After dinner we met the other dock resident, Rob, who was cruising with his dog Snafu. He was just in from an epic 36 hour journey from Manteo. During the night the winds came in strong and veered to the north. Lightning flashed on the horizon and the rain came down.
Thursday - I got off dock at 7:30 and made a good run down the river to N winds 15-20. Passing Indian Island I saw a barge tow coming out of the ICW and hailed him to find his intentions. He was heading up the Pamlico River so I was able to pass inside of him heading for the entrance to the ICW. However, before I could reach the mouth of Goose Creek, the rain came down along with fog and the winds got up to 30-35 knot range. I could not see the markers at the creek entrance so I turned off and ran beam on to the wind to the east. My sea room was north or east, and the winds were far too strong to come into them close hauled. As it was, even with heavily eased main, the boat was rail down and running six knots in heavy seas for 10 minutes or so. I saw a larger boat coming SW motoring under jib, and figured he was following a chart plotter into the creek, so I came around and followed him, and the fog picked up as well so I was able to spot the markers at the creek mouth. Even so, it was no joke getting in the mouth of Goose Creek with the waves crashing into the shallows and echoing back, and the wind still gusting up around 30. Once I made the turn at marker 6, the waves quietened down but the wind was still howling. I ran mostly wing and wing at 6+ knots up the creek and turned in to Hobucken Cut. With the water funneling down to the cut, there was a ripping current, and sailing wing and wing with strong winds and current, saw 7.9 knots on the gps once and averaged over 7. At Jones Bay most of the current dumped down the bay and my speed dropped off to 3.5, so I put on the motor to help the rest of the way down the cut. I turned out into Bay River at 2:15, killed the motor and figured with the good wind I might as well go on at least to Lower Broad and maybe all the way in. With the big rollers on the aft quarter and the high winds, it was brutal running down the river and out into the sound, but very fast. I passed Broad Creek and could see the sky clearing ahead, so decided to push on, figuring I knew the Neuse well enough to get in the last couple of hours after dark. I watched the sun set over Oriental. With lightening winds, though still strong enough to run 3.5-4 knots, I put on the motor to help, and soon picked up the flasher on marker 3 at the mouth of Clubfoot Creek. I dropped sail there and picked out the rest of the markers with my new 500,000 candle power death ray, bought specifically for this purpose. On dock at 7:30.