An hour before sunrise, we pulled away from the Elizabeth City Free Dock to make our way down the Pasquotank River toward the Albemarle Sound. Our stay in Elizabeth City was brief, but pleasant. The first night we were able to get caught up on sleep, not waking until eleven hours had passed. Tuesday, we walked 1.3 miles to McDonald’s for lunch and wifi, visited the mall across the street, and took a taxi to the Walmart 4 miles out of town. After Cindy restocked her yarn supplies and we had dinner (yes, at McDonald’s again), we called a taxi. While we were waiting, the sweetest little lady named Margaret Pace refused to let us wait for the taxi and insisted she give us a ride back to the waterfront. This did nothing but strengthen our impression of Elizabeth City as one of the nicest places on earth. I called the taxi to see if the taxi was close to our location yet, as I hated to cancel if he was already near. The taxi owner basically said it doesn’t matter how close he is and that if I had an offer of a free ride, I should take it! Nice! Sadly, we were derelict in our duty of photo-taking while in Elizabeth City. Uncharacteristically, I’m not sure if we took any photos. I think we were just happy to have a place to recover from our trip through Hampton Roads. Plus, we had been here back in late June.
At this juncture of our trip southward, we had a big decision to make. The vertical clearance beneath many of the bridges in the Carolinas are reduced at this time due to the high waters from the recent deluges. If we continued down the ICW from Elizabeth City, it would necessitate going beneath the 64’ Wilkinson Bridge that we barely squeaked under on our way north. Many of the bridge clearances in South Carolina are reported to be greatly reduced, to even 61-63’. Our 64.5’ mast would not like this. So, despite some anxiety of going off the beaten path, we decided to head across the Albemarle Sound to the Outer Banks, rounding the eastern side of Roanoke Island (with one 65’ bridge), and head down the Pamlico Sound. These two bodies of water are noted to be quite rough in bad weather, but the forecast for the next two days was for calm. We would go for it.
The next decision would be whether or not we would sail all the way across the sound from east to west and rejoin the ICW down to Beaufort, NC or would we exit the Okracoke Inlet in the Outer Banks. The ICW route would require passing beneath a couple of more bridges. The Okracoke Inlet route would require navigation through a narrow, winding channel with frequently shifting sandbars. What to do?!
The day on Wednesday, October 14, was gorgeous. Bright sunshine, warm temperatures in the 70’s and almost no wind. It looked as if a thousand diamonds were scattered along the water as the sun’s rays reflected on it’s surface. The seas were flat as we motored along at over 7 knots. As we rounded the north end of Roanoke Island, I could see many familiar sights from our visit to the outer banks with family back in July. The Wright Bro’s Memorial was visible from our vessel, as were the sand dunes of Kill Devils Hill on which I took my hang gliding lessons. I enjoyed seeing this area that I had already enjoyed from the land, from the water. We motored through a narrow channel down the east side of Roanoke Island, famed for the location of the ill-fated “lost colony” of Sir. Walter Raleigh, established in the 1580s. Passing through the one bridge required on this roundabout route made me thankful we had not taken the ICW route. The 65’ bridge was more like 64’ and a few inches, and we barely squeaked under with a handsbreadth to spare.
After rounding the southern end of Roanoke we were joined for the first time in months by several dolphins frolicking in the water. Aaah! It was good to be back in warmer waters… speaking of which, the water temperature increased from the upper 60s in the Chesapeake to about 75° where we anchored for the night. Nice! We pulled into the Long Shoal River anchorage on the north side of Pamlico sound and dropped anchor in about 9 ft. of water around 4:30. It was a large, open anchorage in which we were the only boat. I don’t think this area is often frequented by other cruisers, who tend to stay on the well-worn path of the ICW. By evening, although large, the anchorage had calmed and we enjoyed a good night’s rest all by ourselves.