Top: Our Duffy 37’s numerous windows provide good visibility
but present a challenge when it comes to storage space. A
little creativity and some minor modifications helped make
living aboard for four months easier. Above: Other alterations
to Ebb Tide II included a new mast, a shorepower cable
holder, a hoist and davits, and a 6k W generator. Later, we
added a aft cockpit bimini.
VIOLENT WEATHER IN CHARLESTON
Charleston’s City Marina was supposed to be a one-night stop, but heavy thunderstorms were predicted for
the next day. Wisely, we stayed alongside the marina’s
concrete Mega Dock for another night.
When the evening storm hit, Ebb Tide II was pelted
with 50-knot winds, heavy rain, and dime-size hail.
Several tornadoes touched down, and one was predicted
to form in southwest Charleston—where we were
staying. Knowing the boat wouldn’t survive a tornado,
we stuffed our foul-weather gear with wallets, flashlights,
medicines, and cell phones and were ready to dash for
shelter in a 235-foot steel coastal cruise ship moored
halfway down the dock.
The tornado did touch down a few miles away,
causing serious damage. But we didn’t have to abandon
From Charleston northward, the tide cycle was against
us, with high tides near dusk and dawn. Unlike our
southbound trip, a midday low tide led us through the
Carolinas. We passed Shallotte and Lockwood Folly
Inlets with 2 feet of keel clearance and then approached
shoal-filled New River Inlet an hour after low tide. Idling
through carefully, with less than a foot of clearance, we
squeezed past a fishing boat hard aground to starboard.
At low tide, we would have grounded.
ALLIGATOR RIVER BRIDGE
There were 3-foot waves and strong winds as we left
North Carolina’s Alligator River/Pungo River Canal.
Twenty miles ahead was the Alligator River swing
bridge. Three miles out, I called the bridge tender on the
VHF. He advised that he could not open the bridge in
more than 35 knots of wind, adding that he was nearly
at that limit. Then, he said, “Keep ’er coming, captain.”
We closed the bridge at full throttle. I didn’t want to
have to turn back and seek shelter 25 miles away.
At nearly the last moment, the bridge was partially
opened, giving us just enough room to get through while
bouncing and rocking in the roiling water. The bridge
tender told us the winds were predicted to reach
55 knots, and he suggested we stop at the marina
at the base of the bridge, which we did. A half hour
later, I doubled our mooring lines as the winds blew
past 50 knots.
A WILD RIDE IN ALBEMARLE SOUND
After being pummeled by the wind and pelted by
rain overnight, we awoke to a quiet morning. The
winds had calmed, and it looked like we had a good
weather window for the 12-mile Albemarle Sound
crossing, so we were under way before 7: 30 a.m.
The lull lasted about 4 miles. Winds, often stronger
than 35 knots, pushed steep 4-foot and occasional 5-foot
waves at our port bow. Our Duffy likes rough water and
proved her seaworthiness by plowing ahead at 15 knots
through heavy spray and wildly churning water for
nearly 50 minutes. The autopilot steered our boat far
better than I could have.
Leaving the Albemarle, we entered the semi-protected
North River. Two hours later, passing through Coinjock’s
land cut, we lit off the genset to make coffee and warm
the boat. In Currituck Sound, wind and waves returned,