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Stormy Weather

I drove down Saturday in front of an eastward moving squall line. As I left Winston-Salem shortly before noon, tornadoes were reported in Davidson County. By the time I reached Raleigh, they were in Greensboro, and when I arrived at Matthews Point I found several people in the clubhouse watching TV reports of tornadoes in the Raleigh area. The wind was howling over ominous skies, but there was no rain. As the evening progressed it got worse. Around 11:00, it began to rain and lightning flashed continuosly as the wind continued to blow. The electrical storm was a ways off and the thunder was not even audible over the wind, but it was quite a show. Then around midnight it blew through and cleared off.

In the morning Paul came in and said he sat on his porch and watched a tornado pass about a mile off, just before midnight. Jet was out of town pig hunting but the rest of the morning crew gathered in the clubhouse and watched news reports of devastating tornadoes all through North Carolina, the worst in Bertie County and Sanford.

I had a pleasant day at the marina on Sunday. David came in after noon and we made plans to take the boats to South River and anchor out.

Monday morning I dropped lines about 9:45 in company with Spotted Dog. I motor sailed out to marker 5 and watched as David set sails in the creek mouth. We proceeded down river, under light airs from the northwest which soon dropped to almost nothing. David put on the motor and disappeared into distance. I drifted down on marker 1, decided to try to round it, couldn't, and had to fend off the stern from the marker as we passed. A replica Core Banks sharpie motor sailed past and I got some pictures. Soon I was becalmed, but with about a .3 knot current carrying me down the river. David was long gone. A pod of dolphin came across the water and around the boat. There were five small ones that stayed together and three or four big bulls that roamed the perimeter. They came up to the boat and swirled just below the surface and then moved off. By now it was just past noon. The wind dropped to dead flat for about fifteen minutes, then picked up nicely from the SW and I headed down the river at a good clip, broad reaching.

I was favoring the SE side of the river, hoping to cut off a bit of distance to South River, when I saw a boat motoring upstream on the far bank that looked suspiciously like Spotted Dog. I figured David either got lost, lost heart, got an emergency phone call or forgot something so I continued down river. With a fair wind I entered the mouth of South River about 2:30, dropped the jib and motor sailed up river, pretty much into the teeth of the wind, to marker 6. I found some 6 foot water and dropped the hook, put out about 65 feet of chain and line, and settled back. The wind was still blowing pretty hard - per NOAA mid teens, gusting to 23 - but I calculated on it stopping at dark - which it did. I cooked a big dinner and then sat in the cockpit and drank rum and orange juice for a while. I set a kerosene lantern in the aft rigging, another on the foredeck, and once I turned in I put the Coleman lantern in the cockpit.

Awakening Tuesday morning from a good night's sleep, I found the Coleman dead from lack of pressure, but both kerosene lanterns still burning. There was a light breeze, so I set the main and sailed off the hook without starting the engine, setting the jib once we were out in the channel. The wind was very light, so I had plenty of time to go forward and stow the ground tackle. A good-sized ketch had anchored out in the channel so I ghosted past it on the way out - Dreamcatcher, Beaufort. (One of the dozens of Dreamcatchers that ply the sounds of North Carolina, along withe the Windcatchers, Dreamchasers, Windchasers ad nauseum.) Another boat had been anchored up river, and it came past motor sailing as I headed down river. I followed it out into the Neuse and watched it set sail and run close hauled across the river. I followed. Dreamcatcher came out behind us, set the main, and motor sailed off toward Ocracoke.

I sailed up and across the river, close hauled with a light wind, under all plain sail. I wished at this point for the genoa, but I had purposely stuck with the standard rig since I knew I would be beating all day, and the genoa can be a pain to tack. I made several boards to Oriental. By this time the wind had picked up, and the chop on the river was getting ugly. I sailed upriver in company with a small Catalina that was running jib only and getting thrashed around pretty bad. It was well-sailed though and I wondered why they didn't have at least a reefed main. When I got closer I saw why - the main was shredded. They made a valiant effort to beat up the river but eventually turned back - I hope they went in Oriental and made a phone call for a ride home because it was way too ugly out there for their situation. Another medium sized boat motored up the river and turned in Clubfoot Creek.

It was a dead beat against winds from the South and West, varying minute to minute, and I finally started the engine at marker 3 around 4:30. I dropped sail inside the creek and motored in. It was all I could do to keep the boat headed up, the wind and waves constantly throwing the bow to one side and threatening to turn the boat abeam. Wind funnels out the creek mouth on a south wind, and in on a north wind and it is not uncommon to find the strongest winds of the day right inside marker 3. I saw a boat anchored just at the entrance to the marked channel into the marina, and with glasses could see it was Spotted Dog. I made a pass by and had a hurried chat with David, as the wind was making it hard to control Valor. He said he motored up to Oriental, tried to hail me and when I didn't respond decided I had turned back, so he returned to Matthews Point. So, that mystery solved - he missed a good trip. I got back on dock, got the boat in order, got a shower, and cooked a BIG dinner. Afterward I went up to the clubhouse and met a teenager, Taylor, who came in on the boat I saw turn in Clubfoot earlier in the day. The wind was still blowing as I sat in the clubhouse at 9:00 Tuesday evening.

In the morning I sat around with the morning crew and met Taylor's father, Ron Lapine. Ron is another Wachovia refugee who now is trying to freelance. He remembered Harrison from bank days. I took my time in the morning packing and cleaning up the boat and got on the road for home around noon. I had an uneventful drive home and was in the office for first responder training Thursday morning.