On the morning of Halloween, we left Elizabeth City at 7:50 am. We thought our friends were way ahead of us as we began our journey down the Alligator River-Pungo Canal. The canal is quite narrow and sailboats are slow, so powerboats can pass us like we are standing still. Most are courteous, and give us a slow pass, and therefore a small wake. Most.
This portion of the journey changes from narrow canal, to winding river, back to narrow canal, etc. When we rounded one of the bends, we were surprised to find that our intended anchorage at Deep Point North was deserted. It was 2:30 pm and we decided to go ahead and anchor. Within an hour, a dozen boats joined us in the anchorage. Guess we got an early jump on the day after all! And yep, Ron and Sandy on S/V Adagio soon arrived and anchored a few boat lengths away. About an hour later, we heard Tyler and Doug on the radio as they rounded the bend, and their boats anchored as well. They paid us a quick visit via dinghy, and we called it an early night.
The next morning, after the end of Daylight Savings Time, every boat was out of there by 7:15 am. Yep—we may have been the first boat to arrive, but we would be the last boat to depart. We had decided to be leisurely since we didn’t have too many miles to cover. Others were trying to get some distance before anticipated rains set in. We waved goodbye to Tyler and Doug, and expect not to see them again. They have a schedule to make, and more fun awaiting them in Key West.
To be honest, it felt eerily lonely. After days of socializing and exploring small towns, it was a bit unnerving to be in the middle of nowhere. Just marshes and low vegetation. And lots of water. And an occasional passing boat. There had been no cell phone service since we arrived this anchorage, with only small pockets of connection while on the canal or rivers. We were definitely off the grid, in more ways than one.
We tried to get an update on the weather, but that internet connection thingie wouldn’t work. So we readied the boat for departure and Dudley went to the cockpit to start the engine.
Click, click, click, click. Nothing. Click, click, click, click. Nothing.
I was below and popped my head up the companionway as I heard Dudley muttering under his breath. Okay, maybe he was louder than that. His frustration confirmed that the starter wasn’t working.
Just thirty minutes ago we had access to numerous boats for assistance. Now we had nothing! We didn’t even have the internet which is Dudley’s first resource for troubleshooting of any kind.
While Dudley consulted the Westerbeke engine manual, I asked feebly if we could jump start the engine like we can jump start cars. Answer: “Yes, but I’m not sure which wires to touch.” Visions of a fried Dudley raced through my head. Now I’m really feeling isolated.
Then Dudley has a brilliant idea. Call Tyler on VHF 16. He might be able to describe which wires to connect. We try Tyler, but he can’t hear us. All of the sudden my cell phone rings. It’s Tyler. I tell him the problem but we lose connection before I can finish. I stand high on the boat, looking like the Statue of Liberty and call him back, hoping for a brief connection. Nothing.
I then wonder if text might work. And it does, for about 30 seconds. But that was long enough for us to get the answer. Here’s what he said:
Hit it with a hammer.
As soon as I repeat what he wrote, Dudley says “That’s right! I’ve heard that before.” So he hit it with a hammer as I pushed the glow plug and start button, counting down so we could strike at the precise moment. And vroom! Back in business!
Hours later, we were able to reach Tyler to thank him. We hope that our sails will cross again—we owe him a case of his favorite beer!