I arrived in Elizabeth City with plans to stay for a few days. Some of my sailing friends were there, and I was excited for the reunion and the following days that would likely be a three boat convoy. Benji aboard Elizabeth, Chad and Nicole aboard Sabbatical, and Dory and I aboard Daphne. A trio of sailboats rafting up for dinner parties, deciding anchorages via the radio, seeing who would sail more and motor less, and all bound for warmer weather.
The Intercoastal Waterway is to sailing like the Apalachain Trail is to hiking. It’s a great place to start, establish your routines, learn from others, and join a network of fellow wandering sailors that will serve as a dynamic community and safety net. This, however, is not my kind of “sailing” where the canals are so narrow that the only way to make progress is to motor.
As a single-handed sailor, it becomes even less interesting and more of a chore when constant attention at the helm is required. The canals were so narrow and curvy that I couldn’t even step away long enough to go to the bathroom. Instead, I darted down for a second to grab my boom box. Then ran back to the tiller. Re-adjusted my steering and darted down again for an apple, and again to plug in the boom box, and again for a jug of water. Back and forth I darted. My salvation came when I turned on the music, the only time I have listened to music underway. I turned it up loud and danced at the helm for hours. Dory was my audience ad sometimes my dance partner. I am eager to get past this part of the trip, but not without stopping in Elizabeth City, the home of the Rose Buddies. Here is where every woman gets a rose, every sailor gets a ride to the grocery store, and every boat gets free dock space for a night.
Elizabeth City, also known as the “harbor of hospitality” hosts a welcome party for the sailors in the evenings. Wine and cheese. Some northbound folks said that there were at least fifty sailors at the last party. Perhaps our little convoy would grow to be four or five boats. But I wasn’t holding my breath. It was hard enough keeping up with the others and their larger, faster boats, and I didn’t see any other sailors on the waterway who were single-handed sailing a boat as small as mine.