It was the right decision not to paddle across Albermarle Sound in the high winds on Wednesday.
As I rode across the bridge over the Alligator River, and looked down on the waves, they did not look too bad. But I spent a few productive hours at the Alligator River Marina as I waited for my Thanksgiving ride. The local fishermen said it was too crazy out there for them to even consider heading out. A sailboat, Dragonfly, pulled into the marina. The young couple onboard had sold all of their possessions, built their 34 foot homemade wooden sail boat, and were now sailing down to the Bahamas. As they crossed the Arbermarle Sound they recorded their top speed at 18 knots, under full sail! They said the area around the shoal had huge waves kicked up. They had to pull into the marina, because the bridge would not open to allow them up into the Alligator River. When they contacted the bridge operator, he said the winds were too high (up to 35 knots) to open the bridge and he had no idea when the wind would subside to the level where he could open. The couple asked me if I had been cold the past week or so. They seemed disappointed when I said I was pretty toasty out there in my woolens and dry suit. I get to sleep in a dry warm house each night, unlike them in their unheated, damp sailboat.
The time at the marina allowed me to learn a lot about the route ahead from the locals. I thought the name for the river and sound (Alligator) came from it's shape. But no, there are actually lots of alligators there! That will be fun to see as I paddle along. The locals showed me lots of photos of alligators and black bears. I hope I don't see the bears.
The watermen also pointed out two possible landings I didn't know about over the next 60 miles. That gives me a total of four possible places to land in this otherwise swampy terrain. In this case a "landing" means there is a bit of "land" there, not just swamp water. This is going to be a very challenging section to paddle since I will have no choice but to paddle very long distances. Fortunately the long range forecast for Monday and Tuesday look good for these sections, with only light winds.