Friday, December 22, 2006

Elizabeth City to South Lake, NC

32.4 nm
Wind: calm to SE 10 knots
Seas: one foot, building to two
Maximum speed: 6.4 knots (motor-sailing)
Maximum speed under sail: 1.4 knots
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Latitude: 35°55.51’N
Longitude: 075°54.69’W

We’re in a gorgeous anchorage tonight. Maybe the nicest of the trip. Looking around after we anchored, Karl wondered why there were no duck blinds here, when there were slews outside. He saw a white sign on a tree, we checked our chart, and sure enough, we’re anchored right in the middle of a wildlife refuge. We’re the only civilized thing in eyesight. It seems like Skipper Bob would have mentioned it, but it’s nice to be surprised by beauty, too. I don’t think either of realized how breath-taking-ly beautiful the ICW would be—we were both just disappointed we’d have to motor the whole way. People do come this way on purpose, I suppose.

I was disappointed we weren’t going to see the Outer Banks, which I bicycled up in 2002. Before I started keeping journals of my peripatetic tendencies, I bicycled from Florida to Maine with a group that included, at one time or another, every member of my immediate family. It was a wonderful experience, especially the first week when my sister and I bicycled from the tip of Key West to San Fernandino Beach, Florida. I remember it as an absolutely glorious week of sunburn, furious rain, Power Bars, the beach, pelicans, bridges over the ICW, and ice-cold orange juice from roadside stands in blazing heat. It was heaven. By the end of the week I had sunburn underneath my sunburn. I looked like a rare steak. Later on, we took a ferry from the North Carolina coast, this time with the whole group, and spent another glorious week bicycling up the entire Outer Banks. There I remember windswept white sand and sea grass, huge lighthouses, surfers, and undertow. I remember my cousin and I got pulled back into the beach for swimming in the wrong section.

So I wanted to show Karl the Outer Banks, and I thought we could just sail along the inside. Little did I realize it’s two feet on this side of the Outer Banks. No wonder everyone does the ICW. No wonder they call the outside the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” To make things worse, there’s a 45-foot tall bridge over there, so even if we could negotiate the six-foot deep channel, we couldn’t get under the bridge. I guess if you could, everyone would go out there.

But being here tonight makes me think that this anchorage is probably nicer than any on the Outer Banks. We’re all alone with the emptiness of the water. I can’t hear anything except my fingers on the keyboard and the water lapping at the dinghy. A candle burns on the table, and the Chinese food is now soup, bubbling on the stove. We’re making our own memories. It’s three days until Christmas, and I’m not with my family, but we’re having our own Christmas, here on the water. This will be the Christmas we went south.

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