We leave our next home running to escape thunderstorms. Wait for days for rain and then when we next leave? It rains.
Our timing is impeccable. On Tuesday, as we leave paradise and head north on the water, the forecast for Wed, Thurs, Friday and for as long as we can see on the 10 day calendar, is for rain and thunderstorms of biblical proportions. Epic lightening. Thunder. High winds. Hail. Frogs falling from the heavens. End of days shit going down. We decide to head north for nice long(ish) day, find a marina and hunker down until the bad winds/rain/thunder passes. We don’t like thunderstorms as a general rule, but we REALLY don’t like thunderstorms when we have a 40’ lightening rod on top o’ our house.
We hop on active captain and find a marina just east of Belhaven (yes, one ‘l’ in Bel. Must be a North Carolina thing) on Dowry creek. We call, they have space. It becomes our destination.
We leave our anchorage at 0640. Wave bye-bye to Steve/Wendy as we pass by their house, though they are probably still in bed and can’t see us. Turn to the north, wave bye-bye to Dave and it turns out he is awake and waving at us, but because we are MILES away from each other, it is impossible to see.
The trip is as we like it. Benign. We motor sail like a champ and just after 2pm make the turn into the marina. The wind is honking pretty good (15 knots) as we pull into the fuel dock, but the dockhands make the landing look good; we top off with fuel and then flip to the other side of the dock, parking just behind four power boats. Little duckies in a row. Two of the boats are loopers (first forty and state of bliss), and two (we would find out later) are trawlers from North Carolina on a week or two vacation. All of them came into get out of the storm. And as the afternoon went on, the small marina filled up with boats escaping the apocalypse.
We did our normal thing (cleaned the boat and hit the showers) and then checked in. The Dowry Creek Marina has recently been bought by a family. Dad is retired Army and he and mom bought it with the intent to get it running and profitable and turn it over to their kids. The kids work (and live) on site and have a keen understanding that they are looking at their inheritance. If it works, they get something! If not? Not so much. They certainly we’re rocking it while we were there! Our first night we head into the boaters lounge with dinner in hand and watch ‘The Voice.’
Day two of our stay dawns and we see sun. Which is surprising. We expected towering thunder heads. Darkness lit only by the flash of lightening. Doom. Gloom. But, it turns out, the forecasters were just a bit wrong. There was exactly zero precipitation during the day. No rain. No lightening. No thunder. But TOMORROW, they assured us, would be HORRIBLE! Rain, thunder, etc, etc.
At the marina will filled the time with projects because there are always projects to do. Jan and AJ went in for a marathon school day. I changed the oil in the upper unit of the outboards, topped off the batteries and changed the fuel filters.1The chores done, we four headed off to the tennis courts to play a couple of games (if you have two legs) and chase the tennis ball (if you have four legs) and then to the pool to cool down. The weather certainly was begging for some thunder–it was hot and humid. Fortunately we had the air conditioning rocking on the boat!
At 5pm the adults from the boats adjourned to the boaters lounge for happy hour while the child (singular) from the boats adjourned to the salon on S/V Serenity to play Xbox. This would become the place to be this day and tomorrow. The boaters waiting for the weather to ‘turn’ all met, exchanged stories and hung out for an hour or two.
Short side note. We continue to be amazed by the generosity of the boating/cruising community. We talked to one sailboat couple (Bill and Deb) and told them that we were heading Norfolk way. They are from that area, recommended marinas to stay at2, called the marinas to see if they had space for our boat, gave us a POC at each place AND offered to let us use their car while we were in town! Holy cats!
Thursday morning arrives and we have actual rain! Light sprinkles are hitting the top of the boat and a line of storms heading our way. Some of the boats at the marina left, some were going to leave and changed their minds. We looked at the forecast and decided we were out. Another day at the marina. And it went very similar to the previous day. Chores/school. Fun. No rain after 10am. 5pm happy hour attended by about 15 people which included food provided by the marina. A nice day all around.
But by now there was a consensus across the community that the forecasters were idiots and that the chance of rain/thunder tomorrow was MUCH less than they were saying. I mean we just had two days in a row when they got the forecast abjectly incorrect. We all decided that short of a tornado, we were leaving.
Which is really not the brightest thing. AJ and I are studying probability. If you are in vegas, sitting in the vicinity of the roulette wheel and see two reds come up in a row, you may be tempted to bet your house on black. Because ‘it is due!’ But the odd of black are exactly the same as the odds of red (slightly less than 50% thanks to those pesky 0/00) and they are the same each and every time you spin the wheel. So we should not expect that just because there are two days of ‘forecast rain/no rain’ that the next day will be the same.
Shockingly enough, the next day, Thursday, the day we decide to leave come hell or high water, proves the point. We arise at 0630 and are heading out by 0720. We have cell phones that are in fact hand held computers. Which show us that we are surrounded by rain. And we have eyes that tell us the exact same thing. There are grey clouds everywhere, laden with water, waiting for us to make our move out of the marina. And when we do? Whammo. We get rain.
Fortunately it is just rain. No thunder, nor lightening. And the wind associated with the storms is at our back. So the waves and the wind are pushing us along to our next destination. Alligator river marina.
The trip is a mixture of open water (big rivers) and a long narrow canal. The canal part is extremely pleasant. It is lined with trees, which breaks up the wind and rain and turns what could have been miserable into something bordering on enjoyable. Heck–if it is going to rain, we might as well be underway! The last portion of the trip was along the Alligator river, which sounds scary. No ‘gators were seen. The river runs north/south and is pretty wide and long. We entered from the southern end of the river and had about two hours heading north to a swing bridge and the marina. By the time we got to the bridge the waves had picked up a bit. Nothing like the big bad atlantic. These are small 1-2 foot waves, but their period (the time between waves) was like two seconds. Mini-jack hammers hitting your boat if you are unfortunate enough to be going into them. Which we were not. But. After we got to the bridge, we took a 90 degree left turn and now they waves were hitting us directly off the beam and bullying us around for the 10 minutes it took to get to the marina.
And the marina was a first. It is in a basin just off the river which is not unusual. It is also part of a gas station on the side of the road. Which is. We got a helping hand at the dock and then went to the gas station to pay. You could also get some hamburgers/fried chicken/crab cakes from the gas station to take back to your boat. We declined.
1And holy crap we got some dirt in some fuel someplace. The filters at some point were white, but now more black. There was sludge at the bottoms of the cups. It was ugly.
2Once again, a sign of my depression and general malaise in that I didn’t fight against a marina; rolled over. Caved. I am broken. We will have power, AC, wifi and pay out the wazoo for the rest of the trip.