Saturday, November 02, 2013

ICW: Alligator-Pungo

[Kyle]We were the first boat to pull up anchor in the almost light of morning. Within a half mile, we were motoring through the Alligator-Pungo canal which connects the two rivers of respective names. The Alligator-Pungo canal is similar to the Dismal Swamp canal in that it is dead straight for two and a half hours on each end with a nine-degree turn in the middle that actually is huge excitement by the time it arrives. This canal is much wider than the last, though, with room enough for six boats abreast instead of the almost two on the Dismal Swamp. Well, maybe four; there were a lot of partially exposed stumps by the banks.

Sunrise in the Alligator River

About an hour or so in, we started spotting other sailboats behind through the binoculars. Since we travel at about 4.5 knots with one engine and most of the other boats seemed to be going 6 to 6 1/2, our main entertainment was watching them all pass us over the course of the day.

There was also plenty of chatter on the radio amongst what sounded like two or three groups travelling together, the main participant being a boat called Just Desserts. We never actually saw him as I think he was one anchorage ahead of us the whole time. He seemed to fancy himself the leader of his particular group and he obviously loved the sound of his own voice, so he would not shut up about anything that crossed his mind. I exercised restraint by not actually doing so, but I was always right on the verge of saying, “Hey, don’t you people have cell phones?”

The canal itself was actually kind of pretty. It went through swamp and grassland, and had a few Cypress trees with big, buttress roots, so there were lots of cranes and herons to be seen as well as the occasional eagle. The big wildlife spot of the day looked initially like a duck crossing the canal ahead, except it looked like it was swimming backwards – the tall, skinny part was at the back. A look through the binoculars showed it to be a head. The skinny part was stubby antlers. At the other bank a big deer clambered out of the canal and quickly disappeared into the reeds. Two more followed, the last of which we almost had to slow down to keep from hitting.

Although the canals are a quiet affair; there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy

Once we exited the canal into the Pungo River, things got really boring. The river widened until the banks were far enough away to be a thin, dark strip in the windless haze. With nothing going by, it felt like we had slowed even further down. It didn’t start to get interesting again until we made it to Campbell creek several hours later. There, the river narrowed and got prettier until we were tucked up in our anchorage in the shallows past many of the boats that had passed us during the day.

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