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Mud, sand dunes, night navigation and other nightmares

May 25, 2011

May 20 Chincoteague

I woke up in Quinby with a clear sense that I should get going. My stuff was spread out all over the place. The day before, I had worked on the boat. One of the elastics holding one of the outriggers had to be shortened. The compass had to be glued to the boat. The bungee holding the sail while sailing back wind was replaced. Most importantly, the centreboard was completely delaminated. I laminated it with 5 minute epoxy and created some protection from further damage.

I left the shore at 9 but it took me an hour and a half to get out of the bay because of the southern wind. Once I got out of the bay, I needed to monitor the GPS closely to find my way. I had to cross two large bays and there were a lot of twisted little canals between them. I did not get as far as fast as I wanted. By the time I got to the second large bay, it was already 3 in the afternoon. I still had close to 20 miles to go.

Unfortunately, not only was it late, the waterway post was missing and so was the waterway. Instead I faced a hundred yard of mud followed by a sand dune. The waterway had not been surveyed in 30 years and nature had decided that a sand dune would replace it.

30 years of waterway neglect

I set my boat in the mud and walked across the sand to see how far that barrier extended and more importantly, if the waterway resumed on the other side of this unfortunate obstacle. It took me 15 minutes to walk to the quicksand that led to the remainder of the waterway. I still had no way of knowing if the waterway continued a long or a short way beyond the next bend. I knew that moving the boat across this obstacle would take considerable time and energy.

I decided to go for it. There was no sense in waiting for the next high tide. It was obvious that this obstacle was dry as bone even though we had had record high tides two nights in a row. I was not going to turn around either.

I unclipped one outrigger; carried it 100 yards to some dry patch of ground. I undid the arms and the tramp; I carried those also. I then took the dry bags and carried them to another dry patch. It was obvious that I could not carry the boat a quarter mile without wheels. Installing them while the boat was stuck in the mud presented a challenge. The boat was full of stuff so I could not lift it and there was no water deep enough to put the wheels on. So I pushed the boat on its side to install the wheels. It worked great but the stuff that fell over was covered in mud.

I started pulling like a mule to move the boat through the mud. The wheels were not turning as much as dragging. They caked with mud to the point of becoming unrecognizable. My feet were slipping and I had to use my toes to try to get some grip in the mud. Getting to dryer land away from the worse mud took me about 15 minutes. I had done about 100 yards. I took the other outrigger off and took some more weight off the boat. I began a game of carrying one pile of gear a little further every time I took a break from pulling the boat in the mud. I gave myself an objective. I wanted to get that boat across before 5; in a hour. I had no idea how long it would take but at least it gave me an objective and it turned this nightmare into a game. By now I get my kicks where I can find them. Pretty soon I was running from pile to pile and pulling the boat in furious stretches. I got the hull to the beginning the water by 5 but I was truly across and set to go at 5:30. I was covered in mud and sweat.

I was surprised by how deep the waterway got. I barely touched bottom from there on. Unfortunately, the amount of twists and turns was unimaginable and time passed faster than the miles. By that time I knew I would not get to Chincoteague by daylight.

I was now seeing the NASA and NAVY missile testing facilities. Here the NAVY launches missiles at boats from to test defenses and NASA launches satellites.

It’s pretty remote and since the waterway is blocked there is no boat traffic at all. All those twists led to the Inlet of Chincoteague. By that time there was no light. I was so relieved to see that some buoy were illuminated I almost shouted. I thought I was all set to make it to the campground.

I got to the delta at the mouth of the inlet. My GPS showed that the campground was right in front of me: only a mile and a half. A storm was closing in so I hoped I would make it there fast. Unfortunately it was pitch black and I ran directly into an island. The GPS did not show the island. I turned right after walking the boat away from the island. By then I could not see a thing in the rain and I felt pretty disoriented. I went another 100 yard only to run into marsh. None of this was on the GPS map. I was in trouble.

During one of my short travels between obstacles, my baseball cap and frontal light fell the water. They were irretrievable.

Since my GPS was useless, I decided that I would go to the campground in a straight line and cross whatever land, marsh or mudflats in my way. I only had a mile to go. I would carry the boat if I needed to. Fortunately I only had to cross about 50 yards of marsh before finding enough water to make it to the marina.

It turned out that there was no campground, only a marina. I took my boat out of the water and pitched my tent in the parking lot behind my boat. I was very happy to be there.

I woke up and settled everything with the owner. I went for breakfast and managed to have someone pickup my stuff and my tent in a pickup. The marina owner was wonderful.

captain bobs marina

I stayed in Chincoteague for the day. Taking pictures and updating my blog. I used the internet connection at a dairy shop. I hate two huge strawberry sorbets in waffle cones, followed by coffee. Anyone interacting with me in the minutes that followed must have thought I was on some form of amphetamines.

One Comment
  1. CAVENDISH62 permalink

    what a nightmare! keep going. You are showing to be very strong. Greetings from Canary Islands, Spain

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