Temperatures drop into the thirties overnight, leaving a thin coating of frost on the deck of Cutter Loose at daybreak. The morning sun makes short work of eliminating the skating rink as we sail downwind along the Pasquatank River. The river is wide and shallow with tree-lined banks that protect us from the full force of the northerly winds.
At 11 AM, we leave the relative protection of the Pasquatank and enter the wide open waters of Albemarle Sound. Although the crossing is only 12 miles, the Sound is notorious for short, steep waves. But today, the wind is blowing a steady 14 knots from the north and our downwind sail in 2 to 3 foot waves is uneventful.
At 1 PM, we enter the Alligator River. At this point, the Dismal Swamp Route comes to an end and re-joins the primary flow of ICW traffic traveling south through the Virginia Cut. Similar to the Pasquatank, the Alligator River is wide with a well-marked channel along its centerline. Cutter Loose continues to sail dead downwind under headsail alone.
Twenty miles from its mouth, the Alligator River bends sharply to the east and narrows considerably. After this turn, there are a few small pockets of deep water alongside the ICW channel that are protected from northerly winds by a scraggy wooded area and marshland. We decide to call it a day and drop the hook in the company of about 20 other cruising boats.
This is a remote area…no Internet hotspots, no cellphone coverage and no television. But as darkness blankets the anchorage, the clear night sky stages an incredible star show. Being positioned to appreciate gorgeous sunrises and sunsets is one of the most enjoyable aspects of living on the water.