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Monday, June 22, 2020

Belhaven (EXTREEEEEME Docking!)

Today's long journey involved a number of open water crossings; the Neuse River, the Bay River, the Pamlico River, and the Pungo River (which still sounds like something "African" in an old British movie -- "We're trying to located the elusive white rhino along the Pungo River!") In fact quite recently while discussing our "worst crossing" experiences with other loopers, one couple said the Neuse... twice! Checking the weather the winds would be up a bit, so we braced for a bumpy ride.

Which did NOT happen. In fact most of the day was as flat as a pancake. We spend hours under blue skies and wind so slight that no sailboats had their sails hoisted. It was a glorious day.

...until... (duhn-duhn-duuuuuuun!)

Just as we made the turn onto the Pungo we noticed the density of clouds forming south of us. Within minutes (and I cannot stress enough just how fast it happened), dark clouds were bearing down on us. On the radio (the marine VHF) came the announcement that severe thunderstorms were moving north, complete with lots of rain, gusts up to 50 mph, and hail. Over the next 30 minutes lightning flashed around us, some strikes within a mile. The winds picked up significantly, making the water equally turbulent. We were in 2 - 3 foot seas most of the way to the marina, but because it was on our stern our ride wasn't rough at all. Although Russ, who piloted the last bit, had a hard time keeping her straight.

A boat a couple of miles ahead of us called to dock at the same marina. We listened as they gave him instructions. We'd been there before, so we knew the layout of the place and how to get in. But it was handy to know how they were handling the weather. At that time, still about 20 minutes out ourselves, the one storm raced past us. We thought, great timing! We missed it completely.

Before you turn into River Forest (our marina) you cross a breakwall, which you'd  think would have an impact on the waves. Apparently, once they crest 3 feet, it does not. We made the turn, and started down the very narrow channel to the marina, out of nowhere we were hit by a second storm. The dockmaster later told us the winds were over 40 mph, and probably 50. They hit us sideways making the navigation to the dock really difficult. Russ got on the bow and over headsets I heard him exclaim about how stiff the wind was. Thankfully -- and this was the only reason any of this
Look at these amazing, calm waters!!!
worked -- they wanted us to come along the pier on the right side (the windward side), which made the wind an ally to lay us onto the dock. To the left was the dock, to the right pilings and a rock wall. I kept moving her up and to the rocks, making sure we didn't get too close, then just let the wind do the work. I struggled a bit since inQuest wanted to spin, but I kept her parallel until we made solid contact (and by that I mean we whacked hard!) with the pier.

Quickly lines were attached and secured, but the wind pushed us so hard that we couldn't get fenders in between us and the dock. Moreover, the waves were so crazy that our bouncing rubbed wood shavings off the pilings. While still working to get the boat tied the dockmaster called the installer of the new 2x6s on the pilings, complaining about the damage we were doing. Not a lot we could do. As the wind died down we stuffed fenders in.

Uh oh!
Within an hour the winds were slack and the sea back to flat. Like nothing ever happened.

After all that we needed a good meal. Thankfully, there is an amazing restaurant here in Belhaven (to be honest that's why we came). It did not disappoint. Fabulous food and a couple of good stiff drinks!

Docked her like the boss!!!

We bounced like crazy!

Shavings from the 2x6 protecting the piling

Behold, Spoon River Artworks and Market.
Amazing place. Put it on your maps. You wanna come here someday.

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