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...

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