Day started out normally but early. We were underway before 7:00 as we wanted to make Elizabeth City, NC. The winds were moderate but no problem getting off the dock and underway.
About 1/2 way thru the Pungo River/Alligator River Cut the winds were starting to blow a little harder with more gusts. As we approached the Alligator River we heard on the radio that the swing bridge was closed because of the winds. They had been measured at 28 and 32 mph. This was probably around 11:00 and we still had another 15 to 20 miles to go to get to the bridge. The bridge has a clearance of 14′ and we need 12′-6″ to get under.
The Alligator River runs pretty much from Northeast to Southwest, It ranges form 6′ to 12′ deep and is 2 to 3 miles wide. The wind was blowing out of the Northeast right down the river. Waves were about 2′ to 3’+ but the real problem was the wind as it would blow the sheets of water over the boat when the boat went thru a wave, We found out that zippers are not necessarily watertight.
We arrived at the bridge and talked to the bridge tender. He said the actual clearance was 14′-9″. I looked at the water under the bridge and it did not look too bad. The bridge has fender boards to protect the piers and I thought they would act to break the waves and calm the water under the bridge. We slowly moved toward the bridge and Lenore is the lookout for the height clearance and she said it did not look good. Also the water under the bridge was not as calm as I had hoped so we turned around. We went back about 3 miles and anchored off the east shore at Bay Point. We were 1/4 mile offshore but the waves were about 1′ and the wind was moving us around so the boat was rocking.
We were anchored there for about 4 hours when we received a call from the boat we had been traveling with for the day, Rock Chalk, Marc and Shelley from Texas. They had looked for an anchorage as soon as they heard the bridge was closed because they needed 15′ clearance. They were anchored in a small creek off the west shore about 6 miles back. The wind was blowing but the water was fairly calm. We did not debate this too long and headed for their location. We found the unmarked channel and made our way in thru the dead trees and stumps (what would we do without chart plotters) and after Bay Point anchorage this water was like glass.
We had not been able to find a spot for Candy to go ashore because it was all swamp area with cypress trees. I tried coaxing here to go on the swim platform on a piece of carpet but no luck. She just hung in there.
The word from the bridge tender was that the bridge would not reopen until the winds had subsided to less than 25 mph for a period of time. He said with their current forecasts that they might not open until Sunday and this was Friday. The bridge is open 24 hours a day and usually opens on request so there is always someone in the bridge house. In talking with Rock Chalk we decided to call the bridge tender in the morning and get an update.