Thursday morning came and we got our bikes back down off of the boat to make the trip back to the Bald Head Island Conservancy for our guided tour. It was an overcast day with predictions of rain in advance of tropical storm Andrea. At this time she was still in the Gulf of Mexico on track to hit the Florida panhandle right about the area that the Gulf crossing is made. Reports were coming in from Tampa Bay and they were not good. High sustained winds and lots and lots of rain. The track of the storm would head in a northeasterly direction right across the state and on a beeline up the coast. For us up in North Carolina the main part of the storm would arrive Friday morning with predicted sustained winds of thirty to forty miles per hour with gusts up to fifty...with lots and lots and lots of rain. But Thursday was still looking good if we didn't mind the high probability that we would get a little wet.
The Bald Head Island Conservancy is a very modern facility that appears to do a lot of work. As this is a vacation island they were holding a summer day camp for the vacationing island kids. But they also to research and rescue work. Our tour guides for the morning was a very funny and friendly pair of young adults. Zach, a young man from Ohio and working as an intern, reminded us a lot of son-number-two, Kevin. He was tall with a very bright and friendly personality, just like Kevin. Kendall, a young lady who was a paid staff member is a New Jersey transplant. Her thing is birds. Along with two other couples we loaded onto some golf carts and started our tour.
The tour consisted of stopping at several points all over the island. First was a fresh water pond well known for its turtle population and a few alligators. The turtles apparently are conditioned to people throwing treats at them so they swam right up to the observation deck with their little heads looking up at us looking for a handout. The resident alligator was not to be seen. We then went along a long deck into the salt water marsh. The variety of flora and wildlife is remarkable here. I asked about the mix of hardwood trees and palm trees and Kendall said that this was about as far north as palm trees are to be found. We then walked a ways on a path into the forest where we stopped at the biggest and widest oak tree I have ever seen. If you have seen the movie Avatar you will recall the tree of life (or whatever its called) that the natives lived in. Picture that tree and bring it down in scale a bunch and you'll know what this oak tree was like. The last stop was a bit of a drive to the next island north of Bald Head Island to a secured and secluded area. This range is set aside as a bird sanctuary and it was lush and full of birds. Kendall was able to rattle off the names with little effort. "Oh look. There's a Yellow Breasted Squirrel Killer...and there's a Great Blue Brain Sucker!" or whatever they were called. But she knew them all.
I know that I have used the word "beautiful" a lot in my descriptions of Bald Head Island. It just works.
Then Andrea showed up and put a damper (pun intended) on things.
Friday 5:30 am - Tropical Storm Andrea finally rolled into the Cape Fear area overnight Thursday into Friday. There was some rain overnight but not as much as we would have thought. It is getting windy though. The updated predictions are still for sustained winds in the thirty miles per hour area with gusts in the high forties. Fortunately Bald Head Island Marina is very well protected. It is a man-made basin that is rectangular in shape dug out of a relatively high terrain area of the island. Plus there are houses and other buildings all around. We are tied up well to a t-head dock towards the more enclosed end, so while we certainly will get some motion during the storm's passing we do not expect to get rocked.
9:00 am - The winds accelerated. According to the dockmaster the largest gust they had on their weather station was thirty-four miles per hour. Gusty would be the way to describe the winds. We seriously thought of ditching the boat to the shoreside buildings as the boat was getting jolted around on the dock lines pretty hard. But we have a good set of lines on Why Knot and so we stood pat.
2:00 pm - All during the morning and early afternoon the gusts died down a bit to the point that the winds were mostly of the straight line variety. I measured the winds several times on our anemometer and they were showing to be fifteen to twenty miles per hour with only an occasional gusty burst to thirty-five. There has been less jerking on the lines as the gusts have been replaced by steady winds. The boat has settled into her lines well so the motion on the boat is pretty normal. I was even able to take a nap.
Our plans are to leave on Sunday. The wind speeds on Saturday will still be outside of our mission rules. Sunday looks better. Besides there is a rule of thumb to let things have a day to settle down after a storm. Our next route ends at an anchorage at Hammock Bay at Camp Lajeune.