The After-Life

Approximately 30 nautical miles separate Chesapeake, VA and Coinjock, NC, which translates into about a 4-hour trip for us. We took one more walk around to look for Pokemon and left the marina around 11, taking our shiny new engine with us. Or rather, the other way around.

We usually leave right around the ass-crack of dawn, but, considering the short trip, we decided to leave later and avoid the busiest time for commercial vessels, because as fun as this adventure has been, I’m pretty sure if we got stuck on another stump my mom would feed herself to an alligator.

So, compulsively checking the AIS [a system that commercial vessels and some pleasure crafts use to broadcast their current location, speed, and course—super helpful in the narrow waters of the ICW—would have been sweet if the barge that almost sunk our boat had been using it], we all took a big breath and headed back out into the waters which, to us, were as to the boogey man is to a 4 year old.

I don’t know that tensions could have been higher. We had all definitely lost a bit of our pirate mojo since StumpGate, not to mention that the [kind of mostly sometimes] oiled machine that was our crew dynamic could’ve used a little WD-40.

Every eye was looking for evil stump monsters beneath the dark water; we barely spoke but to point out these dream-killing, havoc-wreaking, life ruiners. Sweat poured down our faces as, if we weren’t already convinced we were in the bowels of Hell, it was literally 105 degrees out and there was little breeze. [Photos below are the kinda BS you have to deal with in the Virginia Cut.]

An hour away would be the infamously-now-titled Black Powder Landing, with our stump lurking beneath, and we’d have to once again idle in front of the troll bridge, where this all began.

A mere ten minutes into our day, traveling nearly at idle speed in order to avoid a tricky spot, the starboard engine oil pressure alarm goes off. My mom runs down to the engine room to find that oil pressure is normal, and concludes that, as happens occasionally with this engine, the alarm was tripped because of our low speed.

Crisis averted. Tensions up. Sweat sweating forth.

A few minutes later. Alarm again. This time, the port and starboard alarms go off, my mom once again runs down to check the pressure to find everything is normal… when the port engine cut out. Completely.

Cue panic at the disco.

Engine starts right back up, no smoke, nothing too scary except that THE PORT ENGINE JUST CUT OUT AND WE JUST LEFT CHESAPEAKE 10 MINUTES AGO. WTEFFINGF.

We make the decision to turn around and go back to Chesapeake, our souls slowing breaking into pieces and drowning in the black water as we make the turn. The most heartbreaking 15 minutes of our lives to this point commences, as my mom calls our mechanic, Jim, and AYB to inform them that, yes, we missed them so much that we just have to see them again.

As we pull up to the dock, A starts to turn around in the channel and the port engine cuts out AGAIN. We get tied up and Jim arrives instantly cause he’s a boss. He checks everything down below, and we spend the next 30 minutes or so working the engine at the dock, and of COURSE we cannot recreate the alarms, the cutting out, anything because obviously the entire sea is out to destroy us.

He adjusts the idle speed on the port engine [which apparently makes sense to people who know things], saying that that could have been the problem, but he doesn’t really have any idea because we couldn’t recreate it when he was there.

Cool, cool.

We head back out into the black waters of death, hoping that this was one last prank being played on us because of our banana faux pas. [HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO APOLOGIZE?]

Photo Jul 14, 1 40 12 PM

This is what Black Powder Landing looks like, sans Black Powder… seemingly innocuous, right?

If tensions were high before… now they were threatening to bust through the ozone. Not even my spontaneous choruses of “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” or my hilarious dad jokes could elicit a smile as we once again approached Black Powder Landing. [I don’t understand why no one was in the mood for humor.]

As if things weren’t bad enough, we wound up five minutes late for the opening at First Landing Bridge, and of course the troll who lives there wouldn’t hold it for us [EVEN THOUGH NO OTHER BOATS WENT THROUGH AT THE PREVIOUS OPENING TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLLLLLLLL].

So we spent the most agonizing 25 minutes of our lives idling directly next to the small little cove that started all of these problems to begin with. I mean, what a cruel, cruel joke.

Once we finally went through the bridge and I flipped the troll the bird [like any grown

Photo Jul 14, 6 29 53 PM

Heaven.

adult would do], we spent the next three hours scanning the waters in silence, praying to–of all things– make it to Coinjock.

And make it we did. We were finally out of Virginia. Finally to the capital city of the ICW. We hadn’t eaten all day for fear of immediate regurgitation, and so we ate canned green beans at the restaurant and marveled at the fact that we actually made it.

Cautiously optimistic, we went to bed early, knowing we were not out of the woods stumps yet.

The next day, we left bright and early for Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, a long day that was made longer by the fact that we still had to keep an eye out for stumps until we reached the more open waters of Albermarle Sound, and then again after.

We headed back out into the murky waters, as anxious as the day before as we scanned the surface and then—BUMP.

SILENCE.

WE HIT SOMETHING.

WE WERE ALL WATCHING THE WATER HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

We quickly turned around to see if anything popped up behind us, and listened for any possible engine disturbance. When none came, we took deep breaths in and out, and held each other as we cried, realizing that this trip was never going to contain even one crisis-free day.

This time of year, a pop-up afternoon thunderstorm is more likely than not, and we kept a close eye on the radar and some suspicious looking clouds onshore as we came out of Alligator River [where we, disappointingly saw ZERO alligators] and into Pungo River.

When we arrived at adorable Dowry Creek Marina, it was still 102 degrees and so we decided we would take a quick dip in the pool [score!] before the thunderstorm, which was rapidly approaching, actually hit. The pool was a balmy bath of 94 degrees and it started thundering nearly immediately so, you know, that was not nearly as rewarding as it could have been.

Saturday, we headed down into Pamlico Sound, where, again, suspicious clouds on shore threatened us. Although the radar originally put the storm out of our path, our lives suck, so suddenly more storms were popping up around us and we cut our day early to head for Oriental, NC, still almost 10 miles away.

We made a break for it, battened down the hatches, got out foul weather gear, and headed parallel to the storm, which was rapidly approaching from shore. Winds picked up and rain pelted us in the face as the once-clear horizon behind us was covered in a blanket of gray. Wind gusts brought startling temperature changes that were not unwelcome in the heat, but made it clear we had little time to make it to shore.

[I quickly put on my eye-patch and grabbed my sword, pointing it up to the sky while swinging from the side-rail, maniacally laughing into the face of the storm as lighting flashed and I loudly sang “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”]

I was apparently the only one who was having any fun with this. The rain picked up and the storm came closer, as evidenced by my counting on my fingers in between every flash and boom just like in 2nd grade.

Finally, we arrived in Oriental, soaking wet and tired, just in time for the sun to come out, obviously. It was still early, and there was a tiki bar, so. [I made a rule that if we ever stop at a marina with a tiki bar we are required to go.]

It was even better than I expected, with approximately 15 seats and a bartender who smoked at least a pack of cigarettes behind the bar just during our first round. Small plastic cups abounded and we sat next to a hanging bug catcher, the bag of which should have probably been changed years ago. A mullet that put the 80s to shame sat next to my mom and I almost got caught staring too long. [WHY ARE MULLETS STILL A THING]

Sunday, we headed to Swansboro, NC–thankfully a fairly uneventful trip that ended with strong current while docking. The 13-year old dockhands struggled to catch our lines, probably because #1 was distracted by the 85 hickeys on #2’s neck. [WHY ARE HICKEYS STILL A THING] #2 had our bowline and #1 wandered aimlessly back and forth on the dock, ignoring our instructions to catch the spring line.

In order to avoid the boat pulling one of those little twerps [who were trying to hold the boat with their bare hands] into the water, I bided my time, stepped over the rail, and jumped 4 feet down and 2 feet horizontally, misjudging the distance and the width of the decking, and found myself teetering on the opposite edge of the dock, staring into the water. Yo-ho.

My mom and I both passed out before the sun went down and A, while walking Galen, discovered a public concert in town, coming back to get us only to realize we were 85 years old and fast asleep.

Marine navigation is harder than you might think. Especially along the ICW, markers need to be closely heeded, and it’s necessary to obtain local information as well to make sure there hasn’t been any recent shoaling that could put you aground, even when you are following the plotted markers.

Generally, our operation consists of A piloting, while my mom and I navigate using both an electronic chart with our course mapped out, and a large traditional chart which shows most of the markers along the way. Our charts are a little outdated, so we really just follow them to get the big picture of the course, while the electronic chart gives us a more up-to-date course with more accurate plot points.

We also received some very recent, local information from our good friends on Turas, who we met while commiserating in Chesapeake. They are currently heading North, and we got to swap some vital information with each other. [Thanks guys!]

So, there are a lot of sources of a lot of information [sometimes conflicting], in addition to using your actual eyes and brain and watching the depth sounder. As you can imagine, it can get pretty overwhelming. [Definitely compounding our stress levels are our regular night terrors about going aground again.]

A team effort like ours is definitely preferable, but also has its downside, as it means that the pilot very rarely knows all of the information, and has to rely on her mates, which is especially scary when I am one of them.

The trip from Swansboro to Southport was a long day, with a 6am departure time, but the course was fairly straight-forward for a while. I decided I would take my turn at the helm, mainly because I really wanted my mom to have 18 heart attacks, and of course she did not disappoint. The route was a little tricky with some shoaling, and the whole day was spent keeping a close eye and maneuvering tricky areas.

As the day was long, we had plotted out several other stops along the way in case we needed to ditch plan A because of a thunderstorm. We started heading into a very narrow cut called Snows Cut, infested with millions of jet-skis and power boats towing 5 year olds when thunder clouds popped up to our North.

We had a decision to make. It was still close to 15 miles to Southport, into the Cape Fear River. We had just passed a marina on the other side of the cut, but it was a private club. Both of our ditch ports were 7-10 miles behind us, back through the cut and, seemingly, into the storm.

Guys. You know I don’t lie here. I am a gushing, overflowing FOUNTAIN of truth. The Lady Pirates will corroborate the story because I have them on video saying it and they know I won’t hesitate to embarrass them. But I TOTALLY SAVED THE DAY.

A and my mom were going back and forth about where to go, searching for a marina between there and Southport [there were none]. A needed to get a better handle on where we were and started looking at the charts and watching the radar, so I took the helm.

The wind picked up as we headed into the wide open, deep waters of Cape Fear River, but the previous confusion had A looking at the following page of the chart, which has a similar bay that dumps into the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a very visual memory, and I had already mapped out the course in my head, so I KNEW this was not going into the ocean. But, like a child trying to point out something to her parents that would solve the problem they are arguing about, no one wanted to listen to or trust little old me ohhhhhh noooooooo.

Photo Jul 19, 8 12 33 AM

We got here thanks to me, obv.

Realizing I was essentially committing mutiny,but deciding the risk was worth it, I usurped control, righted the chart, took control of the boat and the girl with all the anxiety problems was the only calm one on board for the first time in literally ever. I was totes calm and rational. LOLOLOLOL

WIN.

After our 10½-hour day from [sea-horse] sea Hell, we decided shorter days were best for a while. So, on Tuesday we headed for Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, just a brief little popover to an adorable seaside stop with shopping and randomly a place to take pictures with TIGERS cause that makes so much sense! Unfortunately it was a million degrees and the tigers looked sad and tired and smelly and the line was stupid so there were enough reasons not to participate.

As Cruise Director, I insisted that we go and have a lady pirate night out. So we all put on real clothes and I even put on makeup and we headed out happy hour hopping to an outdoor restaurant near the boat that allowed the pups, and then to the House of Blues only to realize that it was only 6PM. We sat on the empty deck waiting for the band to start at 7, and barely kept awake OMG YOU GUYS OUR LADY PIRATE NIGHT OUT WAS SO RAUCOUS.

The band started and was actually pretty fun and then oh that’s interesting look at those huge dark clouds behind us.

A looked at us and said, “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”

LISTEN. This is the woman who was swimming in the water with me in Virginia Beach and got stung by a jellyfish TWICE and DIDN’T TELL ME because she didn’t want me to “panic.” So, instead, she let me swim in jellyfish infested waters. NOW, she sees a massive storm approaching from behind us and once again—doesn’t tell us.

[Payback is on the way, Cap’n.]

It starts to sprinkle, then rain, the band is covered and so is the bar so we hang out under there for a while until the thunder and lightning and DOWNPOUR AND HAIL start, and they have to shut down the show until it passes.

Now, we still have about a 5-minute walk back to the boat, NBD except that none of us are prepared for a DOWNPOUR.

We duck into the House of Blues gift shop, hoping that the storm would die in the process, and when it didn’t, we decided to brave the storm except—wait a minute, what is that beacon of light coming from that corner of the store?

Photo Jul 19, 8 01 16 PM

You know you’re jealous.

A HOUSE OF BLUES EFFING PONCHO.

Neither of my fellow lady pirates thought it was worth the $5 but I put on mascara that day and actually brushed my hair and now this magical garbage bag with the House of Blues logo on it just shows up and somehow I don’t think it’s a coincidence, so, heels and poncho, we head into the monsoon.

I gotta tell you, the people standing at the doors of their shops watching us run by had quite the show—A, followed by my mom, shoes in hand, and then finally me, WAY behind, RUNNING in a poncho and heels. I didn’t fall [sorry] and they were both super jealous when I got back and I was dry so whatever.

Yesterday, we had another short ride through what lived up to its has description as the most beautiful stretch of the ICW, the Wacamaw River [lovingly referred to by the Lady Pirates as WakkaWakka because it obviously gives us a chance to do our best Fozzy Bear impressions.]

We arrived at WakkaWakka Marina [Wacca Wache], nestled in a calm and serene passage along the ICW, and went to the cute little restaurant for happy hour, where we were forced to drink a rum concoction known as a “Suck-It Bucket.” As it turns out, the owner is from Worcester, MA, and so the bar was adorned with Boston fan gear and we felt right at home.

Today, dolphins surfed our wake and I almost jumped in and made them my BFFLAEAEAEAEs, shrieking the entire time like a very small child. [Idk what it is about dolphins, guys, but I would totally drown trying to befriend them.]

After a 6-hour run we arrived here in McClellenville, which may possibly be Coinjock’s SC rival for most scary awesome desolate back-woods country, and our dockhand has the sweetest handlebar mustache I have ever seen in my life.

Apparently there is one restaurant in town and it looks super fancy so we’ll be heading there in a bit and I’m certain I’ll have a story to tell.

Off to Charleston tomorrow for a Saturday way-lay!

More to come.

xo

Photo Jul 21, 3 28 17 PM

My new besties.

2 thoughts on “The After-Life

  1. Meghan says:

    This was probably the coolest and most fun read I have had in a long time! Alyssa, your husband extended your blog to me on Facebook when I inquired what the “lady pirates” were. So as I clicked the link and started to read I was immediately hooked. Your writing is impeccable and had me hooked from the first two sentences! I now will continue to follow this blog to embark on this crazy journey! I felt like I was on the boat with you guys and slightly jealous that I am not! I feel like I could potentially be your videographer blogger, haha, just kidding… anyway, Bon voyage lady pirates, until next time! Safe travels!!!

    Like

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