Thursday, October 31, 2013

On to Georgia

We have made another hop down the coast. We are, actually, moving a little faster than we expected. As we learn how much ground - well, really water - we can cover in the given conditions, we get better at estimating our trips. So, we left Charleston Harbor at first light on Monday morning, October 28. The weather looked benign (one of our favorite weather conditions) for about 36 hours with a slight increase in winds on Tuesday. Not great for sailing but really good for cranking out miles. Our destination - St Mary's Inlet at the Georgia-Florida border. We originally intended to make this two shorter legs but the chance to get south was too appealing.

Sunrise leaving Charleston
We had moved from our slip to the fuel dock on Sunday afternoon to get diesel and to make for an easy exit in the twilight. This worked as planned and we were underway before the sun came up. We were catching the ebb tide and it gave us about a 2 knot push through the harbor. At one point we were making 8.2 knots speed over ground. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning.

A lot of the trip was just uneventful motoring across the ocean. And it was wonderful. We had a couple of maverick dolphins come visit us and ride our bow wave while we laughed and barked. Roux barked, that is. We saw a few boats but not many. The trip was to be 168 miles and we, basically, only had two waypoints to aim for so we just had a nice boat ride.

Dolphin watch
Of course, this is an overnight passage so we take it seriously. We take turns on watch, wear PFDs, tether in. We did manage to get some sleep on this trip. Roux decided to take some of his anxiety pills and stay out in the cockpit overnight on this leg. He did pretty good. Better for me than for Junie, apparently.

Sunrise arriving St Mary's Inlet
We made good time and arrived at the St Mary's outer markers at daylight on Tuesday. As we turned to the channel, one of the sailboats that had passed us Monday morning showed up. They must have traveled faster than us, got there too early and were waiting for sunrise like we had to do last week.

We were working against the falling tide this time so it was a little slower trip through the inlet but no issues. At St Mary's Inlet, if you turn left you are in Fernandina Beach, Florida. If you turn right, you are in Georgia. For insurance purposes, we need to stay north of Florida until November 1. So, right turn it is. We arrived at Cumberland Island, Georgia at around 10:00 am on Tuesday morning. Not bad.

The first order of business is Roux business. Drop the dinghy, motor, yada yada, yada. By 11:00, we were making brunch in the galley.

We skipped most of Georgia and the shallow sections of the ICW. We are wearing shorts and T-shirts. There are palm trees, palmettos and live oaks with Spanish Moss. The anchorage is full of cruiser sailboats, many of whom are also waiting here because their insurance has the same clause as our's. We are feeling pretty good.
Wild Horses

Cumberland Island anchorage

SeaClearly at anchor
Junie, trying to pose with Roux.

And, sunset at Cumberland Island.


We have had some computer issues that slowed me down .I will get more details and pictures from here posted soon.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Days in Charleston

We are spending a few days here in Charleston taking in the city. And groceries. We have made two trips to the local Harris Teeter. You wonder, sometimes, if people can tell you are on a boat - until you catch a reflection of yourselves in the big glass windows of the storefront. Clearly, we are either sailors or homeless. Pushing the shopping cart down the street back to the marina doesn't improve the image much.

But we are having a great time. We have met so many nice people. Many of them we expect to see again since they are all headed south to similar destinations. Folks on boats share a lot - information, opinions, experiences, recommendations. What they don't share is a common 'type'. They may be laid back or nervous, boisterous or reserved, arrogant or mild mannered. Or all of the above, changing based on the topic and passion. All in all, an extraordinary group.

Charleston is such a cool place. The harbor is endlessly busy with every type of ship, boat and watercraft imaginable. The Water Taxi stops right here next to us so we have a constant flow of people passing by. The Fort Sumter National Memorial is just north up the Riverwalk.

We took the free trolley down into town the other day for lunch at Hyman's Seafood and a walk around town.  The walking seemed to help Junie's back for a while but she is still hurting. Based on recommendations, from practically everyone we talk to, we are headed to Jestine's for lunch today. This afternoon, we are moving over to the gas dock to top off the diesel because tomorrow is moving day. We thought we might stay a bit longer but we see a chance to get back in the ocean and jump to Fernandina / Cumberland Island Georgia. That would be a major leap south and puts us right at the Florida border. Ready to go again!








Friday, October 25, 2013

Charleston

We have talked about it. We have studied the charts, maps, Google Earth and every sailing blog entry we could find that had a reference to this. We have talked to people, set waypoints, evaluated weather and tides. We have calculated times, estimated speeds and imagined our way into this channel many times. We have been in a simulator that gave us a clear understanding of just how small a sailboat looks to the ships we have around us. We know that we have a boat that can take the 25 knots winds and 5-6 ft seas with ease.

And, suddenly, here we are. Charleston Harbor. After slogging headfirst into these snotty little waves for hours, going through what one of our sailing friends, Tammy, called the longest approach in the world, we are in between the jetties. Charleston is laid out in front of us but from a different perspective than we have ever seen before - both physically and metaphorically. If our first overnight, offshore trip was a milestone, this, as Junie says, was a rite of passage. We ain't just playin' boats here, we be sailing.

And an interesting trip, it was. We left Bald Head Island Marina on the high tide after topping off the diesel. We spun around and pointed out toward the narrow channel only to find a dredge barge with one of the crew frantically waving us to go back. They were lifting and moving the dredge pipe. So much for our graceful exit. We had to hold station until they re-positioned. Then, we got the all clear and motored out into the Cape Fear entrance to the ocean.

Big ship from a distance just
off Cape Fear
We were immediately reminded that this is a working, deepwater port by the presence of cargo ships and tankers sitting and moving around the channel. And, this also served as a reminder that Charleston is a much bigger, busier port.

It was a ridiculously calm sea. And, the further we went, the calmer and more eerie it became. It was a huge, gently undulating grey ocean. We optimistically put out the mainsail and staysail just for stability as we motored along at over 6 knots. After a while, Junie decided we needed to fish. We had the rod and tackle out already so she dropped a big lead-head with a white skirt and a chartreuse Gulp bait. We kept motoring along, switched places at the helm, Roux watched for dolphins off the stern and the seas remained calm.

Kind of gross. Pretty much discouraged
any thoughts of swimming.
An hour later. BAM! The rod slams against the side of the cockpit. I grabbed for it (since Junie was driving. I was not stealing her fish) and managed to get a line burn on my finger because the line was peeling off the reel so fast. I got the rod under control and started tightening down the drag and trying to crank in some line before it reached the end. A LOT of line went out in a very short time. Then, it suddenly got a little easier and I was able to start reeling in - but it felt funny. Like when you snag a fish and it comes in sideways. After a lot of reeling to get back all that line, we finally got to see what we caught. Half of a False Albacore. Apparently, we hooked this fish which, in turn became the bait that attracted something much bigger. Marlin? Shark? Exciting but just a little creepy.

Shot down from the bowsprit. Incredibly smooth.
We got ourselves back in gear (literally) and resumed the trip. About another hour later - Dolphins! Headed our way, coming to visit as we have seen them do so many times out in the open ocean. Soon, they were all around. Several were playing at the stern. SeaClearly has a low freeboard so they are almost close enough to touch. Roux was barking like crazy and the dolphins were coming up and looking right at him. I went to the bow and watched as they played right under our bowsprit. What a joy to see. Then, in typical dolphin fashion, they remembered somewhere that they had to be and swam off.

You can see the reflection of me holding the
camera over the side to take the picture.
By now, it was late afternoon. I went down into the galley and made a pot of chili. Yes, that's right, chili. I cut up peppers, onions, garlic, browned up the ground beef, etc, etc and cooked it in the pressure cooker. That just gives you some idea how smooth the seas were.

As it started to get dark, we reefed the mainsail (which, basically, means that we shrunk the size by shortening and tying down the big sail. We had always agreed that we would do this offshore before dark so we didn't get surprised in the night by rising winds. Why would we expect rising winds when it was so calm, you wonder?


OK, now for the diversion. We contracted a 'weather guy', Chris Parker. He is a meteorologist that provides weather reports for the entire east coast, Caribbean and Bahamas You can also sign up for an annual contract under which he will give you specific guidance. You can say, "Chris, we want to go from Cape Fear to Charleston on Tuesday at noon. What can we expect for weather and do you recommend that we go on that day or wait?" Which we did. And Chris told us to wait. He said, "You will see benign weather until about 4:00am Wednesday when you are approaching Charleston. Then, winds will switch to the west and increase to 20 - 25, gusts to 30. Waves may be 7 feet. You may be able to get close to shore and wait for sunrise and the land may block the fetch but it is not looking good. Maybe a little better the next day."

So, why, you may ask, are we now sailing through the dark to Charleston? Sometimes, you evaluate all the data and make your own decision. Because you are stupid. Why trust the professional you hired?

We made such good time that we actually slowed down to try to coordinate our arrival to the slack tide due to arrive at noon in the Charleston channel. At 4:00am, we were 10 miles from the outer marker. We hove to and parked for the next few hours until the sun would arrive. But guess what arrived first - the wind. As the sun rose at about 7:00, we started our final approach. Which translates to almost 20 miles from where we are. Junie has already had one conversation with a cargo ship to make sure we weren't run down in the dark. Now, it is daylight and the big ships just keep on coming. Headed for Charleston, just like us.

This puts us in the position of bashing into those pesky waves with the wind right on our nose. Of course, Chris was right. Accurate to a ridiculous degree (although, in reality, I never saw the wind gust higher than 29.4 knots. And they didn't really start until almost 4:30). It made for slow progress. We would motor along at 4.5 knots for a bit, get smacked in the face by a big wave and slow to 2.3, regain speed, repeat. For 7 hours.

Big ship. Not in the distance.
We contacted one more inbound freighter to make sure they knew we were there. We have an AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder so they can see us if they ever look at their AIS screen. Most sailboats do not even make a blip on the radar so AIS is our best defense. And more important, we can see them and call them by name. If you just get on the radio and say, "Hey, big ship headed for Charleston.", you don't get much response. If you can say, "MSC Dymphinia this is sailing vessel SeaClearly", they tend to pick up. In our two encounters so far, they have been very professional and courteous.

Big ship. Not nearly far enough in the distance.


Finally, we are between the jetties. We missed the slack tide by about an hour and a half even though we were just outside the channel 8 hours early. We have caught a break in the ship traffic and don't have to worry about being run down as we clear into the harbor. We contacted the Charleston Maritime Center, our destination for the night, and get some directions. At 2:30, we pulled into our slip.



I haven't mentioned Roux's experience on this leg of the journey. I wish he could tell the story. Let's just say that he was off the boat before all of the lines were tied off and didn't make it to the grassy area at the end of the dock before he let go.

Today, we are resting. We made it to Charleston. We decided that we are going to stay here for a week, eat shrimp and grits, and feel good about life.










Monday, October 21, 2013

Offshore!

Big milestone. Our first offshore, overnight passage! We left Lookout Bight at about 2:00pm on Saturday. Actually, right after another milestone. Roux started acting jumpy at about 1:00 so we thought we would get ready to take him to shore for his pre-trip business. But he insisted on going out on the deck and, immediately, ran to the bow and took a dump. First time ever on the boat. We praised him extensively for crapping on our beautiful boat, cleaned up the mess and thought "Well, time to go!"

Junie the Sailor Girl. Just after leaving Lookout Bight.
We pulled the anchor and motored out into a perfect ocean. Calm rolling seas, clear. We ran through a pod of dolphins after just about two miles. Dozens of them. So we were all happy and excited. It was nice to leave in the afternoon to get some travel time in before dark. We weren't sure how this was going to play out.

As it started to get twilight, it became obvious that we were not going to get perfectly clear skies all night. We did have a full moon through broken clouds for a while. Junie wanted to take the 9:00pm to midnight watch. So, I got Roux down into the cabin and tried to settle him down for some sleep. But, we were, after all, in the ocean. And the boat goes up and down. And the people on the boat go up and down. And the dog on the boat goes "WTF man! What are we doing out here!" We had given him one of the anti-anxiety pills the vet supplied but I can't say that it helped too much.

Try to picture me, in the aft cabin, comforting a large brown dog. The boat is rolling. I'm not sleeping. Time is passing. I probably slept 20 minutes. Somewhere in the middle of this I go up to check on Junie. This is her first watch at night by herself and I am concerned that she is nervous. I slide open the hatch and there she is. Earbuds in, singing along with the tunes on the iPad, dancing around at the wheel, full moon shining through cockpit, smiling like crazy. She shouts over the noise in her head "I love this!" I'm thinking, I can't wait to get on watch.

We switched on and off watch through the night, kept up our log entries, plotted our position on the paper chart to back up our two electronic charting options - Raymarine and iNavx on the iPad. Nobody got much sleep. We will have to figure out what might make Roux happier. In the cabin, in the cockpit, who knows.

We ended up motoring all night because, as predicted, the wind was right on our nose all night. We were actually making too much progress. We ended up getting to Masonboro Inlet at 5:00am. Due to the cloud cover and time of year, it didn't start to get light until nearly 7:00. We drifted around in circles a couple of miles off shore until we could start to make out the features and then headed through the inlet. And, just like that, we had completed our first overnight, offshore passage.

ICW just inside Masonboro Inlet
Our original intention had been to stop pretty soon after clearing the inlet and turning into the ICW - either at the Wrightsville Beach anchorage or south a bit further to make the Carolina Beach mooring field. As it turned out, we had gotten a second wind and decided to just keep going the additional 3 hours south down the ICW and the Cape Fear River to make it to Bald Head Island Marina. That meant that we wouldn't have to take the dinghy down to get Roux to shore. And, we would be positioned to jump directly back out into the ocean having bypassed Frying Pan Shoals. We arrived at noon. It was a good call and made for an easy stop.

SeaClearly next to a more typical
Bald Head Marina watercraft
Then, we found out that Bald Head Island is a cool place. It is terminally cute. Only golf carts are allowed on the island. In fact, we stayed awake, cleaned up the boat a little and even got lunch. At a restaurant. With ice and everything. And ice cream from a little shop. Did I say this place is cute? Then, we went back to the boat, covered all the hatches and ports, cranked the AC down to cold and crawled into bed at 3:00 pm. We (all of us) slept until almost 8:00 am this morning. Making up for lost sleep.



Today, we really got to learn about Bald Head Island. It has immense natural areas of marsh and maritime forest and beautiful homes. It has an old lighthouse, an adorable chapel and even a pricey grocery store. It has spectacular views of Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals - a scary view even on a nice day. None of which we would have seen had we not met some more new friends. Joe and Sonja stopped to admire our boat and we ended up talking for a while. We mentioned that we needed to rent a golf cart to get to the store and they, immediately, offered to take us. Joe came back a few minutes later, gave us a tour of the island (they have been here several times) and took us to the grocery. Then, he and Sonja came aboard and joined us for Nachos and wine. We had a great time and having every intention of taking them up on their offer to come visit them.

 




Roux - waiting for his Blankie to come
out of the laundry.
We are meeting a lot of nice folks along the way. We met Robert and Joy (sv Arwen) back in River Dunes and hope to catch up with them along the way again. Maybe in the Bahamas! We passed a boat on the ICW that we have anchored near twice at Ocracoke. He sailed on out into the ocean as we turned into the marina. So, we may see him again when we make our next hop.

And, our next hop? We are thinking Charleston. We originally had an interim trip to Winyah Bay to make shorter hops. But, we believe that we can make Charleston in about 24 hours. We intend to leave here at around high tide tomorrow - about 11:00 am - and hope to make the 132 nautical mile trip to arrive there at noon on Wednesday. We plan to hang out there for a week. If it feels right.

Holly, check it out! Our plant lives and thrives!



We miss friends and family. Thanks for keeping track of us and calling to check on us. We did get to Facetime with granddaughter Reagan  - oh and her parents. Seriously, thanks, Dusty and Holly, for keeping us in touch! And Jeffrey and Emily for the regular calls. And Emily for the worry and free medical advice. And Tyler, thanks for re-introducing us to our French Press. What a better way to make coffee - especially on a boat.
I will try to keep the postings up but don't expect one until after we wake up in Charleston!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Boarded!

For someone with nothing but time on my hands, I am sure having trouble keeping our story current. As a result, this is a long post. 

We are here at Cape Lookout, anchored in the Bight. It is an absolutely gorgeous place. We stopped here on our last trip so it is a familiar spot and a wonderful anchorage. The first night here, we were the only boat in a large, isolated area surrounded by coastal beauty – with a lighthouse thrown in for effect. Full moon, sea turtles (a lot of sea turtles and big), beaches. Just lovely.

Getting here was interesting. We left Ocracoke and crossed the Pamlico to the west and made a return visit to River Dunes Marina. If you have been following our blog, this may all seem familiar. We are following a similar path south through North Carolina as we did on an earlier trip.
 
Roux was a little nervous.
In contrast to our previous, transcendental journey down a glassy Pamlico from Wanchese a few days ago, this crossing was bumpy, sloppy and wet. Roux was not happy with the situation and made it very clear. He spent a fair portion of the trip trying to sit in Junie’s lap. Just a little bit too much of those steep Pamlico waves.

But we arrived at River Dunes without issue. We took advantage of the diesel, water, laundry and hot tub. We met a couple of other southbound cruisers. And we set ourselves up to get out early in the morning to make the run down the Neuse River, down the ICW , out Beaufort Inlet and over to Cape Lookout Bight – around 45 miles.

He is a companion dog,
after all. Laying on my feet
while I'm cooking.
It was a very easy trip. We left the Broad Creek channel and pointed south with the Mainsail and Genoa out full. Nice sail with not much wind. We made fair time at about 4.5 knots.  Junie was concerned about the progress because she had us calculated to be going out of Beaufort at slack current before flood tide. (Are you impressed? I was. She is really good at this. I just drive the boat.)

Adams Creek, ICW
We dropped the sails to go into the Adams Creek section of the ICW and the current helped us make up for slow sailing. We were making as much as 8.3 knots at one point with the engine running a comfortable 2400 rpm. We passed under the bridge at Morehead City almost exactly on schedule and headed out the Beaufort Channel. It was like a lake – well, a busy lake with a gazillion little fishing boats buzzing around. I am sure that the calm conditions had a lot to do with the crowd. But, we left most of them behind as we entered into the ocean and took a left for Cape Lookout. We put out the sails (same ones), shut down the engine and were ocean sailing. Crazy stuff!

We saw a Coast Guard cutter off in the distance and assumed, correctly, that it was the cutter Block Island that had announced its’ departure on the radio earlier. We were pretty far away but we waved (as usual) and shouted that we love the Coast Guard.

A little while later, I looked back and saw one of their orange Zodiacs out on the water and pointed it out to Junie. She and Roux were actually out on deck watching for dolphins.  We said, “Hey, wonder what they are doing”. Then, “Hey, they are coming this direction”. Then, “Holy S&%@! They are coming here!”

Soon they were alongside and hailing us on the radio. “When was the last time we had been inspected by the USCG?”, they wanted to know. How about, never. They confirmed the number of people on board, confirmed if we were carrying weapons onboard and confirmed that the dog was not dangerous. Then they asked us to prepare to be boarded.

We all remained serious until the paperwork was finished.
Remember now, that we are in the ocean under full sail. So we requested a moment to pull down the canvas and came to a stop. Soon, we had three, armed Coasties sitting around our cockpit. A routine stop. Not very routine for us. And Roux didn’t like the little orange boat circling off in the distance. Everytime it came near, he went crazy barking. The guys in the cockpit were OK, apparently.

They checked our IDs, Ships Papers, fire extinguishers, flares, EPIRB, Oil and Garbage Placards (betcha didn’t know we had those) and other stuff. They complemented us on wearing our PFDs and tethers. Even Roux had his PFD and tether. We passed with no violations and got our yellow copy of government form XYZ1234 that showed that we passed.

Turtle!
Junie offered them some Key Lime cookies, we all smiled and they left. Then we sat back and laughed at what had just happened. We suspect that some of the junior Coasties needed boarding experience and we were a good target.

So, there we were. About a mile to go to the Bight, our mainsail, dropped in a hurry, looked like it was just dropped in a hurry. Roux was so stressed from the experience that he went to sleep. So we motored up and finished the trip and got anchored. We saw our first turtle within minutes.





The plan now is to sit here and wait for the right weather window for an overnight, offshore run down to Masonboro Inlet near Wilmington, NC.  Our weather guy says that should be our best time. And this is a pretty nice place to wait.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wanchese to Ocracoke via the Twilight Zone

So, picking up where I left off…

We spent one short night in Wanchese. We topped off the diesel and water, talked to the commercial fishermen in the next slip, ate dinner, set the alarm and went to bed early. We needed to be up early to make the run down the Pamlico to Ocracoke. And you just never know what the Pamlico is going to be like.

There are a couple of side stories. First, one day before we left, Bank of America notified us that our credit card number had been stolen and they were canceling our card and issuing new ones. Great timing. The new cards were supposed to arrive by 10:30 on our planned departure day. They didn’t make it. Our friends Marsha and Dennis offered to pick them up when they arrived and bring them to us at our marina stop in Wanchese. How nice is that?! Unfortunately, the new cards still had not shown up later in the day so we left home without them.

A bunch of charter boats relocated from Oregon Inlet
to the Broad Creek Marina due to the
government shutdown. Once again, we were the
only sailboat in sight at Wanchese.
The second story is our commercial fishing buddies. They were a great source of information on inlets on the east coast and longline fishing and all sorts of stuff. They were scheduled to go out of Oregon Inlet the next morning. They didn’t want to be the first boat out because, after five days of bad weather, the condition of the inlet was an unknown. Several days later we read on the Outer Banks Voice (local news stuff) that the inlet was so badly shoaled that day that no boats made it out through Oregon Inlet. Tough news for the fisherman and a charter fleet that was already burdened with relocating their business dealings due to the government shutdown. The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center is a concession that is located within the Cape Hateras National Seashore – which was, of course, closed.


Crazy flat Pamlico. The picture may be upside down. Not sure.
Back to our story. We left Wanchese on Saturday morning and had much better luck than our dockmates. We motored out through Old House Channel with no issues into a Pamlico Sound that looked like a pond. It started out smooth , then got flat, then glassy. We were actually looking at the reflections in the water of the seagulls flying overhead. This is not the reputation that the Pamlico has earned over the years. It was kind of surreal at times. It was misty, hazy, grey. The sky and the water merged together such that there was no horizon in any direction. Twilight Zone kind of weird.

SeaClearly from the dinghy dock in Ocracoke.
Doing absolutely nothing on a beautiful afternoon.
We made the trip in good time and cruised into Ocracoke Silver Lake after a ten hour trip. Much to our relief, the National Park dinghy dock was still accessible – not blocked off with yellow tape or locked gates at the end of the dock – even though the park was closed. Good for us because Roux was really anxious to get off the boat. We went through our routine of anchoring the boat, shutting down, getting the dinghy off the davits, motor installed, arrange the ramp, get Roux in and take him for shore leave. Then we settled in for the night and patted ourselves on the back for getting this party started.


We spent two nights in Ocracoke, did absolutely nothing and it was everything we dreamed it would be.


We have since moved on and are anchored in Cape Lookout Bight tonight. We are the only boat here. There were some interesting occurrences along the way that I will try to capture tomorrow and catch up the story. We are all safe, happy and tired.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Departure - The Prequel

There is one standard piece of advice that cruising sailors always give to people that are considering sailing off into the sunset.

Just leave! Getting away from the dock is the hardest part. It’s part of the whole ‘A journey of a thousand miles…’ thing. There are always reasons – perfectly sane, plausible, sometimes even sensible reasons – that you just can’t leave yet.
  • The boat needs {enter whatever here}.
  •  I’m not feeling too good.
  • The dog is old.
  • There is rain in the forecast. 

Well, guess what. We left! We are officially headed south, in a sailboat, on our own.  The house is shutdown, turned off, closed up. The vehicles are winterized, up on blocks, covered and parked. If you look out back at the dock, all you will see is some last minute sloppy docklines that were left beside an empty slip. We never have to ask ourselves again ‘Are we really going to do this?’.  We have. How long we cruise, how far we go – only time will tell.

Our friend Marsha snapped this pic
 as we were ready to pull out
So here is the story. We had our departure window set for sometime between October 6 and October 16. Of course, our big influencing factor is water level. We had already made tentative arrangements with Broad Creek Marina in Wanchese to get a slip for one night – some night – as a launch point down the Pamlico. (And, yes, we are beginning to wonder about our strange connection to Wanchese. We feel at home there. Hmm.) At this time of year, the trip all the way from Colington to Ocracoke would take longer than there are daylight hours so we needed a staging point. Also, we didn’t want to leave ‘heavy’ just in case we had marginal water levels. So we left the water and diesel tanks fairly empty.  And Ocracoke is an anchorage with limited services. Especially limited since our wonderful politicians shut down the government, including National Parks like the one in Ocracoke. As such, we needed a fuel and water stop anyway.

So, we waited. As I mentioned on one of the earlier posts, we watched another cruiser leave Colington last week in a perfect weather window. The weather forecast then turned to crap. Strong northeast winds for 3 – 4 days followed by more north wind for a week. Maybe some heavy rain. Great.  All the things that drive water out of Colington Harbour.

Every day we would get up, check the weather and get the latest guess. Then, a glimmer of hope appeared. One day predicted with northwest winds as a front passed. October 11. Right in the middle of our target window. But October 9 dawned with those pesky northeast winds and torrential rain. Several places on the Outer Banks set new rainfall records. And the water ran away. There was probably 18 inches less water than we needed to make our escape.

Being eternally optimistic, we went right ahead finalizing the provisioning, arrangements, winterizing and socializing. We had our neighborhood dinner party (theme for this month – State Fair! – it was awesome).

October  10. In total disregard for the laws of nature and physics, our water was rising – fast. Despite being blown away by strong winds, by afternoon the water was higher than we have seen it in 6 months. 


Colington Island in the rearview mirror.


This was getting serious. After all the years of planning, months of talking and weeks of waiting we actually had to ‘make the call’. Pack it up, we are out of here!


Stay tuned for more...


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Windows, waiting and watermakers

Several weeks ago, we looked at our schedule for the fall and established our window for departure south. Somewhere between October 6 and October 16. We figured that gave us plenty of latitude to wait for weather, water and whims of destiny to align (or diverge) as required to get us on our way.

We have some cruising friends here in Colington, Bob and Judy, that are also heading south. We talked about cruising along with them but decided to hold off just a bit to get everything together. Bob and Judy targeted their departure for October 2. That is tomorrow. The weather today was ideal. The weather tomorrow is ideal. The weather the next day is ideal. Following that, it starts to deteriorate.

Tonight, we started kicking ourselves in the ass. What if we are missing the window of opportunity? Why were we waiting? Why are we always late?

After a while, we settled down and got a bit more rational. We don't have a schedule. The water and weather will be OK later. The universe is unfolding as it should and we will get our window. Perhaps there is a good reason that we are held up - avoiding a catastrophe, letting pieces fall into place, whatever. Sometimes, you have to let things play out.

In the mean time, we get to have some fun. We had dinner at Mama Kwan's with our friends (former neighbors) Neal and Jeannie. We had a blast catching up. We are headed up to visit with the kids and grand-daughter tomorrow.

We have also taken care of a lot of boat systems preparation. The watermaker is now functional and ready to deliver 8 - 10 gallons per hour of pure water. We had been putting off this task because the system was 'pickled' (filled with preservative chemicals
Me, down in 'the hole'. Actually called the sail locker.
Surrounded by the watermaker, wind generator control,
solar panel control, refrigeration compressor, bilge pump,
generator. Busy place. Not sure why it is called a sail locker.
) and once you start using it you sort of have to keep using it on a regular basis to keep it clean. We learned a lot about water quality and testing. We learned a lot about the quality of normal tap water - a little frightening. We actually tested and made pure water from Colington canal water. Not recommended but purifying fresh, filtered, de-chlorinated water is not much of a test. We only ran that way briefly and then backflushed the system immediately afterwards. But when we do reach clear ocean water we should be good to go. A big plus when hose water at the marina in the Bahamas can cost as much as bottled water.

All of the big boat parts (engine, transmission, generator, plumbing, electronics, rigging, tackle) have been cleaned, changed, repaired and replaced. We got some more spare parts - starter, more filters, pumps, more filters, gaskets, fluids, on and on. Rebuilt part of the head.

So, we are ready. We just have to wait a bit more. And tolerate people wondering if we are ever actually going to cast off. But hey, our insurance won't let us go south of the Florida line before November 1 anyway. So, why rush? It won't be long before we are sending emails from warm, sunny places.