Today we welcome a special guest aboard Cutter Loose. Popeye the Sailor Man has graciously agreed to join us for today’s leg from the Alligator River to Belhaven, NC, a distance of 34 miles.
We are awake before dawn to welcome this iconic seaman aboard. We weigh anchor and enter the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal. This ditch is approximately 200 feet in width…much wider than the Dismal Swamp Canal and lacking the overhanging branches that collide with the rigging.
At 10:30 AM, we pass under the Wilkerson Bridge at ICW milepost 126. We have been anxious about this bridge for several months because its vertical clearance is 64 feet, slightly less than the 65 foot controlling bridge clearance for the ICW. The masthead of Cutter Loose is 62 feet above waterline, plus an additional 18 inches for antennas. It is a close fit, but we pass under the bridge without incident. We attribute our success to the additional displacement resulting from Popeye’s presence aboard Cutter Loose today. In any event, it feels good to leave this bridge astern.
As we enter the Pungo River, the sun gives way to thickening clouds. Rain is in the forecast. We enter the channel to the small town of Belhaven, NC. Cutter Loose is anchored just off the town’s waterfront. We dinghy ashore to explore the town with Popeye at the helm and friends Hayden and Radeen in tow. We bid a fond farewell to our seafaring friend and return to Cutter Loose to assess the weather forecast and plan for tomorrow’s journey along the ICW.
Several of the vessels anchored nearby are flying the Canadian flag. We have been listening to their conversations in French on the VHF for the last few days. These cruising families have apparently organized a Halloween party, as the harbor is active with Canadian dinghies shuttling costumed children to the designated party boat anchored just upwind from Cutter Loose. Unfortunately, we are not invited. Perhaps the language barrier is insurmountable? Or maybe Popeye is alien to the Canadian culture?