Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Home

I am sitting at our table, at home, with the wind blowing 25 knots from the north, SeaClearly bouncing around in her home slip, Junie sleeping in late on a sunny, windy April morning. We left from this slip in our backyard on October 11 of last year. We arrived home on Monday, April 14. There was a time when I had a tremendous fear that we would never leave. I just knew that something would go wrong. Something would happen. Life would twist our plans and trash our dream. I was afraid the 'dream-stealers' would be right and we would never get this big, beautiful blue water boat back to blue water.

But we did. Just the three of us - Junie, Duane and Roux. Now down to two. Although Roux was certainly with us in spirit after he could no longer be there in person.

I have not run down all of the specifics yet regarding the miles, days, gallons, ports and new friends. Suffice to say, a lot of each. While far from being experienced sailors, we have put our rookie year behind us. We are comfortable on SeaClearly - in the ocean, at anchor, moving, docking, bouncing, rolling, living. We had mixed feelings coming into the inlet at Beaufort knowing that it might be a while before we were back on the ocean again.

But it is good to be home. To have a home. We met a lot of people that sold everything, lived on their boats and their only residence is a P.O. Box in St. Brendan's Isle in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Look that up sometime. We aren't ready for that. It is nice to get back, sit on the porch swing and watch Spring come.
Home

Well, sort of. It was fairly warm when we got home but dived back to 43 degrees overnight with the arrival of a front from the north. We had been watching that front carefully and put on a hard push to get here before it did. We had reviewed all of our weather pages, GFS models, marine forecasts, etc and decided that we needed to be home no later than April 15 - the 14th would be better. In Southport, there is a former Navy meteorologist, Hank Pomeranz of Carolina Yacht Care, that gives a weather review session at the marina so we went to that as well and got confirmation. Yep, we needed to roll.

Waiting for one last load of laundry
at Southport Marina
So, on Saturday, April 12 at around 2:00 pm,with the help of some new friends on the dock (Geaux Tigers!) we made a graceful exit from Southport Marina and headed up the 20 mile section of the ICW to get back to an inlet and back to the ocean. We have developed a very definite preference for ocean rather than ICW. We once met a couple in Oriental that was leaving to cross the ocean for Portugal. "Aren't you afraid of the ocean?", we asked. Their response - "It's the people and the land you have to be afraid of." I am beginning to see that.

We turned right at Masonboro Inlet an into the ocean at 5:30 pm to start the overnight portion of our trip. The target was to arrive at Beaufort and get through the inlet as soon as it was light enough to see. For the first couple of hours, we sailed. Very light air, barely sailing but very necessary since it would be our last opportunity for ocean sailing on our trip home. As the sun went down, we rigged for the night run and settled in to motorsail the night away with our standard Staysail and double-reefed Mainsail configuration. It was a beautiful full moon night on the sea.

We did arrive at Beaufort just before sunrise -only to find a dredge sitting at the western edge of the channel. So, we drifted to a stop just south of the channel, made coffee, wrapped up the sails (since there was, now, no wind) and waited 30 minutes for twilight. As we were going in, the entire population of Morehead City and Beaufort got into their boats to go out the inlet to fish. And, who could blame them? It was the kind of calm ocean morning that we used to just love taking our Grady-White out onto the big water.

ICW Core Creek early morning

The former Core Creek Marina.
SeaClearly spent 2 years on the hard
here before we found her. She still shudders
every time we go by.
















And, just like that, we were out of the ocean, under the bridge and on the ICW. You suddenly feel very overdressed in your foul-weather gear, PFDs, tethers, spare diesel and gas cans strapped on your deck, and a radar reflector swinging in the rigging.

We settled in to make it as far as we could that day in order to make it back to Colington as soon as possible. We made great time. We were at Belhaven by 3:00 pm so we kept going to an anchorage at the east end of the Alligator-Pungo River Canal. 'Active Captain' reviews were good for this Alligator River Cove spot. We pulled in there as the sun set and got an anchor down just before dark.

Man, we we tired. It had been over 30 hours since we left Southport. We had done some ICW, then an offshore/overnight run, then a day-long ICW run. The anchorage was ideal for the wind we had and we slept. At 5:30 in the morning, we were up and moving. Anchor up at 7:00 am for the final run home. Up the Alligator River, wait for a rude bridge-tender to give us an opening, and out into the Albemarle Sound. All along this trip, we have had people cringe when we mentioned the Albemarle Sound. We heard words like,"Rough", "Treacherous", "Nasty", "Ugly". Well, this is our home waters and where we learned to sail. We had, naively, attacked these steep, snotty waves in a 22 foot Catalina Capri named 'Lagniappe' when we were much dumber sailors. The experience and education has been helpful.

Once we make the turn east from the Alligator River, we can, pretty much, see home. It is a straight run into the markers at Colington. Of course, if you have read this blog, you know there is not much water for a big boat like SeaClearly in the last 500 yards getting home. We took off some keel paint getting to the inlet and, I believe, may have dredged a new path into the harbor. We took a hard shot on the mud mid-channel that pitched the boat forward. Only our following bow-wake lifted us enough to clear the hump and drift inside. A rather unceremonious arrival but we were in the Harbour, safe, floating and headed for our canal. A few minutes later we were docked. Which used to be a daunting venture but seems routine now.

What a tremendous feeling! This trip was a stretch for us. You can never be sure how an adventure like this will play out. The time, money and emotion that you invest is all at risk. What if you hate it? What if the two of us can't handle this big boat? What if you get out there and you are too scared to go on? What if? What if? What if? All those 'what ifs' are behind us now. We did it, we loved it, we will be back.

We have started unloading the boat, will start today making the maintenance task-list and, probably, start talking about the next adventure. In the mean time, we have friends and family to catch up with, the ease and comfort of house-living to look forward to, and Spring in the Outer Banks. We're home Roux!
We miss our baby. We know he would be glad to be home.


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