Buck Island, North River
Date: Tuesday 17th June 2014
Position: 36:16.030N 75:57.498W
I was up early and ready to leave just after 7:00am. I decided to leave the water cans on the deck but ready to be deployed once I reached the bridge. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the bridge and the markers under the bridge confirmed a height close to 64 feet. But the channel before the bridge was narrow and there was a breeze blowing from behind me pushing me towards the bridge. I soon realised that even though everything was prepared it would not be possible to hold the boat at station and deploy my water cans at the same time. I would have to anchor in the channel, but the guide books advised against this as the bottom could be covered with large tree trunks that could foul my anchor, and being stuck in the middle of the channel whilst a commercial barge was trying to pass by would almost certainly get me in to trouble with the authorities.
What should I do? I decided to approach the bridge as slowly as I could and judge how close the antenna would be to the structure. Just a couple of feet away I was sure that I was going to make contact and put the engine into reverse, but it was not enough to stop the boat moving slowly forwards. By some sort of miracle no contact was made, although it must have been as close as it was possible to be. As I emerged from under the bridge there was a distinct whistling sound as my sphincters relaxed.
There then followed a few hours motoring through the canal that would take me to the Alligator River. The banks on either side were quite wild, sometimes forested, sometimes with fresh growth where there had been a forest fire and sometimes marshy swamp. At one time I saw a group of four deer cautiously standing at the edge of the forest and ready to take a drink of water. Someone in Oriental had told me that the area around supports a pack of wolves. I saw several ospreys, a bald eagle, many egrets and herons, buzzards and vultures.
It was a bit of a shock as the enclosed canal gave way to the openness of the Alligator River. As the river widened and straightened the passage became quite tedious following the buoys through the open expanse of brown water with low lying river banks in the far distance. Eventually the river joined Albermarle Sound, an ever larger body of water. Interestingly the charts had a definite and potentially dangerous error in this area. A red buoy had been placed to the east of an area of recent shoaling. The chart showed the channel as passing to the west of this buoy whereas it actually passed to the east.
To add extra spice to the day for most of the afternoon squadrons of orange bodied flies invaded the cockpit and took it in turns to try to take bites at my flesh. They must have been Suarez flies. Anyone watching my progress from above would have seen me following an irregular zig zagging pattern as I took my hand off the wheel to try to swat a fly then transfer my concentration to getting back on course.
It took about 90 minutes to cross the sound and the route then lead into North River. By the time I had got to the top of the river it was around 7:00pm and it was time to stop for the evening. Fortunately there was an anchorage close by behind Buck Island although it was very shallow again with just a few inches under the keel. But I was in desperate need for a rest so I wasn’t going to spend time looking for somewhere more suitable, if such a place existed.
It had been another difficult day with 12 hours non-stop hand steering in the open sun and with continuous concentration required.