August 11, 2015
First day awake in a new port, an anchorage near the little cemetery of Lukens, an island on the Pamlico Sound. Long ago, the story goes, a hurricane wiped out the town and the entire surviving community packed up and moved inland to Oriental, North Carolina. Our journey started in that city, population 898, where Ryan used to keep his old boat, Zenobia. Sophia is renting a slip for three months in the main harbor, steps away from the coffee shop, M&M’s restaurant, the Tiki Bar, the Toucan, the art gallery, and, perhaps unfortunately, the fishing boats. The shrimpers shine bright lights on board 24 hours a day and regularly waft strong fishy smells in our general direction. Otherwise, the anchorage is safe, quiet, and clean. We have access to super nice showers and laundry facilities, and there’s an excellent restaurant and bar onsite where you can have a glass while waiting for the dryer to finish. We’ve been known to spend hours doing one load of laundry.
But today, finally, we here we are in the South River, the sole boat in a peaceful lagoon where the water ripples gentle gray and pink as the sun rises. We had bananas, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, and watermelon for breakfast. It’s so nice to be underway, finally, after a week and a half of repairs at the blisteringly hot dock. We have finally turned off the air conditioning and opened all the hatches, and finally been able to look up and see stars from our bed in the V-berth. Last night we saw lots of meteors, the prelude to the grand astral symphony, the Perseides, which will riot the heavens for the next three days without the interference of moonlight. Here’s a link from the New York Times of the show that we also saw, although for us the sky was darker.
Why are these meteors called the Perseides? Perhaps because they are so numerous. Did you know that the Perseides are the descendants of Perseus and Andromeda? Perseus, the founder of Mycenae, slayer of the Medusa and Cetus, the monster who assailed the Ethiopian Princess Andromeda, daughter of Cassiopeia, as she was lashed to the rock. Andromeda is the matriarch of the family that brought forth Hercules and the Persians. So, last night we saw the offspring of demi-gods shooting across the sky, amongst innumerable constellations, known and unrecognized. We argued about whether the cloud we discerned behind the other light clouds was the Milky Way.
Finally we have freed ourselves from the odors of Sophia’s inhabitants from the last thirty years. The foul air in the head and V-berth posed a mystery, since the holding tanks were sparkling clean. Ryan replaced all the sewage hoses, the source of the stink, closed the salt-water sea-cock, since the saltwater intake pump on the electric toilet was broken. We have been pouring fresh water into the bowl to flush it. Ryan fixed the contraption well enough so that we could use it, a very exciting event after a week and a half of walking 15 minutes every time one needed to use the bathroom, not an easy thing early in the morning. But, hey, it got us up. So it was a thrill to think we might actually be able to use the head on our own boat, but, sadly, this was not to be. Ryan had to get his hands dirty again and pull the whole thing out to look inside. It turned out that the y-valve that is supposed to direct human effluents into the holding tanks had been wired shut, allowing waste to empty into the harbor, something explicitly prohibited by the Coast Guard.
For good reason, too. Oriental and other ports nearby are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles and other wildlife. It seems the previous inhabitants of the Sophia had been unwittingly polluting these waters for years. Ryan set things right, and I stared to look for the broken part. Not to be found. The only thing I located online that remotely fit the bill cost $300. A new, manual toilet, far more reliable and easier to fix, cost about $450. So that’s what we wanted. Had to order it, of course, since the tiny little Marine West Express store in town, didn’t carry it. It will come in on Friday, they say. But we’ll be out at Ocracoke until Saturday, at least, if the winds hold.