Friday, June 26, 2015

Ignorance and Confidence - Our Trip to the Virgin Islands in Review

"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure." 
Mark Twain
Rainbows are always good for your confidence.

In retrospect, we had large measures of (at least one of) these critical characteristics when we departed on our adventure. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Oh sure, we planned, we researched. We were well aware that the Virgin Islands was more than twice as far as we had ventured before. We could look at the charts and see the long stretches of ocean that would need to be crossed.

We did have some prior experience. We had already made a trip to the Bahamas. Shoot, we even did that trip with our old dog, Roux, and Junie with a bad back.  We were, it appeared, better prepared than many people we met along the way. But we were still, in many ways, as dumb as a rock. And that ignorance served us well.

Where the confidence came from, I am not sure. Perhaps it was imparted to us from our very capable vessel, SeaClearly. She knew the way, knew the ways and carried us in such security that we probably never realized how much she tempered our experience. If indeed that is true, we are grateful for the insulation and give her her full credit.

We still find ourselves getting philosophic and emotional about our trip. We stretched our limits and have done something that can't be taken away. We are always happy to share our story with anyone that is interested. But, be forewarned that, if you ask, it may take a while to shut us up. We do think that the logistics of the trip are interesting. So, we would like to offer a pragmatic view of our trip in hindsight and in quantitative terms. The summary. So, here it goes.

The crew of two.

  • SeaClearly and her crew (Junie and me) left our slip in Colington Harbour on October 4, 2014, arrived at our final destination in York River Yacht Haven on May 26, 2015
    • Total time - 234 days - 7 months, 22 days
    Junie at the bow.
    • We spent 86 nights in marinas of which 40 days were extended stays in the Dominican Republic (15 days) and Ft Pierce, Florida (25 days) while we waited for weather and/or traveled away from SeaClearly. By the way, marinas are expensive.
    • We spent 58 nights at anchor, 57 nights on mooring balls (also somewhat expensive), 8 nights on the hard (out of the water or parked along the face dock) at the boatyard in Oriental.
    • We spent 25 nights traveling offshore at sea. Of that total, we had:
      Twilight on the ocean
      • Five 1-night passage
      • Three 2-night passage 
      • Three 3-night passage 
      • One 5-night passage
    • There were only 12 nights out of those 234 that Junie and I did not spend aboard SeaClearly

Peaceful and calm

  • We covered 4254 nautical miles 
    • Of those miles, 4068 nm were offshore/coastal miles 
    • We logged 186 miles on the ICW - 164 on the way south, only 22 on the way north
    • The longest non-stop passage - from Fajardo, Puerto Rico to Crooked Island, Bahamas - 581 nautical miles
  • Countries/Territories
    • United States (Of course. Home, we call it)
    • Bahamas
    • Turks and Caicos
    • Dominican Republic
    • Puerto Rico
    • US Virgin Islands
    • British Virgin Islands
  • We visited a total of 34 different islands or cays

SeaClearly on a mooring ball at Guana Island, BVI...

...and anchored off of Stocking Island, Bahamas

  • We spent $2300 on diesel fuel. Approximately 556 gallons. We paid anywhere from $2.92 (Fort Pierce, Florida) to $6.26 per gallon (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos) with the average being $4.15 
    • One of the coolest place we fueled - South Beach, Miami 
  • Total engine hours - 670 
    • The meter read 2962 when we left, 3632 when we arrived at York River Yacht Haven 
    • We did three engine oil/filter  changes along the way - Dinner Key, Miami; Puerto Real, Puerto Rico; Fort Pierce Florida 
    • Four Racor fuel filter changes 
    • Two fuel polisher filter changes 
  • One generator fuel filter change. One generator oil change. 
  • We usually assume our diesel consumption is slightly less than 1 gallon per hour when running the engine and about 1 quart per hour running the generator. Looks like we did better than that again this year. We may have to revise our assumptions.
  • Zero engine or generator breakdowns.
  • Solar and Wind Generation were flawless
  • We filled a propane tank three times.
  • Along the way we needed to acquire some pieces, parts and services:
    • We had a new macerator pump (and a spare) shipped to us via Watermaker Air in Staniel Cay, Bahamas ($302 + $45 air-freight)
    • We had a Furuno wireless radar unit shipped to us at Marina Pescaderia in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico ($1390)
    • We had the refrigerator recharged and the boat washed in Marina de Puerto Bahia, Dominican Republic ($40 and $80)
    • We had to replace the fuel line connectors on the outboard about 5 times. Once, we had to buy a used connector from a dinghy rental group in St John (using quarters from the laundry money) after we broke ours at the dock.
  • Wildlife encountered
    • Dolphins (big, little, gray, speckled, black), Whales (Humpback, Right), Manatees
    • Rays (of all sizes), Sea Turtles, starfish, conch, crabs
    • Sharks (Bull, Nurse, Lemon, Reef, Tiger, Hammerhead)
    • Bio-luminescence in many forms 
    • Fish, fish, fish (Tropical, Wahoo Barracuda, Jacks, Tarpon, Mahi, squid)
    • Hutias, iguanas, pigs (the swimming kind), goats, donkeys, chickens (forever to be associated with morning in the Carribean)
    • Eagles, ospreys, seabirds, wading birds, hitch-hiking land birds in the middle of the ocean
This post could go on indefinitely but I will wrap it up now. We met more incredible people and saw more incredible sights than we could ever list. We arranged wonderful visits from family along the way. We had some great meals and some absolutely awful meals. There are some things that happened that were so stupid, so embarrassing or so-not-funny without the appropriate context that they will never be discussed outside of the tiny little circle of trust. OK, maybe at some point but not now.

So, there it is. Have we learned anything? Absolutely. My advice? Go do what your heart tells you to do. As soon as possible.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


We passed offshore of Cape Lookout in the middle of a dark, moonless night as May 24th turned into May 25th. The bight inside the hook of Cape Lookout is one of our favorite stops but we wouldn't be stopping there tonight. We could see the beam from the lighthouse as it signaled through the night even though we were more than 10 miles away. The shoals extend for a very long ways offshore from these three famous east coast capes - Cape Fear, Cape Lookout and our next waypoint, Cape Hatteras.

We swung below the lit markers south of the shoals and, apparently, came right up to the edge of the Gulf Stream. Our speed jumped to just shy of 8.5 knots as we rounded the slight corner and took aim on Hatteras. Once the course change was input, we had nothing to do for several more hours. The sea was calm and the wind remained light. The navigation lights of our traveling companions - 'Mystic Shadow' and 'True Love IV' - were still visible off in the distance as they ran parallel with SeaClearly.

Dawn came early since it was now May 25th. It is very pleasant to have so many hours of daylight. When we made our first trip to the Bahamas, we did a lot of traveling in December. The nights were very long and the days short. This is definitely better. We could begin to see the Outer Banks as soon as the sun was up. We were several miles offshore which gives you a really frightening perspective on just how fragile the Banks really are - it ain't nothing but a sandbar.

We passed the distinctive Cape Hatteras lighthouse around midday and made another slight turn north to follow the coastline. We were happy to be making pretty good time. Not, so much, that we were in a hurry but because it meant that we would pass offshore of our home - Kill Devil Hills - during the late afternoon and evening so we could see it as we went by. And, we did. It was funny to be passing such familiar sights - Oregon Inlet, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Jennette's Pier - in SeaClearly. We have been out in this stretch of ocean many times in our Grady-White, 'June Bug', but this was a first in the big boat. We were only a few miles off the beach. Our house is only a few miles the other way off the beach. As we approached the Wright Brother's Memorial perched high up on the hill, we knew we were directly even with our house in Colington Harbour.

Passing Kill Devil Hills - you can see our starting point
leaving from Colington just to the west.
On October 4, 2014.

An odd thing occurred then. We were happy. Not sad that we were passing home without going there. Happy that we had opted to move SeaClearly to the marina on the York River. It took a few minutes of talking through it to figure out what this meant but we got to the heart of the issue. Last year, when we came back home to Colington, there was an air of finality. Like, Bamm! the trip is over. I was depressed for weeks. Of course, we went on a trip up the Chesapeake later in the summer and, ultimately, this big trip this year. But, at the time, it felt like we were done. The adventure was over. By making this move to the marina it felt like we were keeping the trip alive. Like we were just resting until we could repair and re-provision and we would be on our way again. Somehow, it just felt better.

So, on we went. The day drained away, as beautiful as the one before, and we pointed SeaClearly to our last major waypoint - the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We had several more hours to go as the night settled in. After hours of seeing, pretty much, nothing the approach to the area around Norfolk, Virginia is interesting and entertaining. OK, it is downright intimidating. First, you start to see more lights along the coast.  The chart gets confused by ship traffic approach lanes, danger zones, lit and un-lit markers. Things move all night long around the many military bases in the area. Air traffic is loader, lower and more frequent than anywhere we have seen. And you haven't even gotten to the Bay yet.

Ships of all kinds were moving in all directions as we lined up on the north channel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. It was about 4:00 am so that means that you see a lot of big, dark shapes with red, green and white lights in various configurations. All moving fast. We, once again, thanked our radar and AIS for the glorious information they provide. We caught something of a break as the ship traffic seemed to disperse as we arrived on the scene. Junie did get a call on the radio from a Virginia Pilots boat to confirm our intentions. Yes, Junie tells them, we are headed to the north entrance and up the Bay - not into Norfolk. That's good, says he, since they are escorting a large tanker through the south entrance and would have caught up to us shortly. Yikes!

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at sunrise - behind us.
With Junie driving and watching the charts and me spotting the real-world markers, we slid through the dark towards the break in the bridge lights that clearly shows where the channel passes over the 'tunnel' section. A fresh breeze kicked up and, since we still had the big genoa flying, SeaClearly heeled over pleasantly and accelerated as we neared the entrance. The sky was only beginning to show signs of the coming day when we passed out of the ocean and into the Chesapeake Bay. We did a little 'WooHoo!' dance as we looked over the stern and left another milestone in our wake.

The trip across the bay and up the York River was pleasant and uneventful. The breeze stayed fresh and we had a nice sail most of the way. Junie called 'Mystic Shadow' - the only of our travel companions in radio range after the two day trip - to bid them farewell. Our faster-than-expected trip up the coast had another effect at this point. We had arrived at the mouth of the bay at nearly slack tide before ebb. Which is good. But, the further upriver we went, the more the out-going tide was slowing us down. By the time we made our turn into York River Yacht Haven, the tide was just before dead low and at maximum current. Hmm.

We called into the marina and asked for some help with the lines at arrival. We, of course, already knew what slip we were headed for since we had reserved D-2 for the next year. As we negotiated the twisty channel into the marina, we spotted the dockhands at our slip. Three dockhands? Really? We thought we would be lucky to get one person at 9:00 am on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. We really wanted to put SeaClearly into the slip stern-to - backed in - but the wind and current were fairly strong. We told the dockhands our intention via radio and I am pretty sure I heard them grimace. But, we picked this slip because it has a lot of fairway in front of it. Junie got all of the docklines set for a portside tie. We hung out our new, really big, fender balls on the starboard side to fend off our dock-neighbors' boat if necessary. I spun SeaClearly around and tried to play the wind and water to my advantage.

I was perfect. I know, I am not supposed to say that but it felt good. We came in straight and about two feet off the dock.  We were more than halfway into the slip and Junie could almost hand the lines to the dockhand. At which point, the dockhand stepped off of the dock and fell into the water between the dock and SeaClearly! I shifted into neutral and hoped he didn't get mashed. Fortunately, the wind was blowing us off the dock. Junie was yelling at the other dockhands to forget the lines and get that guy out of the water. They grabbed him, another guy grabbed the stern line and we were in. Once we were secured, I told the slightly-injured-very-embarrassed dockhand that it was normally our job to provide the drama when we were docking. Then, they all went off to something else or back to what they were doing.

SeaClearly safely in her new slip.

The view from our dock - Yorktown is right across the river.

Junie and I - the crew of SeaClearly - stood on the dock and looked around our new home. We had a big hug and some misty eyes as we stood and looked at SeaClearly and thought about the journey that we had just completed. There was a time - not very long ago - when we would have considered the last leg of the trip alone to be the trip of a lifetime. After all, we spent two nights in the ocean, rounded Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, sailed into the Chesapeake Bay - at night! To have that trip as the final punctuation at the end of this wonderful, 7 1/2 month round-trip to the Virgin Islands seems appropriate.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Southport Stories, Circumnavigators and Sailing Companions

By now, it is obvious from our 'Where are they now?' track that we have parked SeaClearly in York River Yacht Haven at Gloucester Point, Virginia. Officially, our 2014-2015 Virgin Islands Adventure Cruise has come to a close. Reached fruition. A dream becomes memories. I am compiling all of our pertinent statistics from the voyage but, so far, one of our favorites is 'Nights not spent on SeaClearly'. Since last October 4, there were only 12 nights that we were not aboard.

Eventually, I will catch up on my blog posts and get SeaClearly and her wide-eyed adventurers back home safely (OK, you already know how the story ends).  But there are a few details to cover from the trip north so I have to back up a few weeks.

SeaClearly tied up at Southport Marina

Once we reached Southport, we had a final choice to make regarding the completion of our trip. We had already decided that SeaClearly was not going home to Colington Harbour so our destination would be her new home in Gloucester. The outstanding question that remained - 'What route to take to get there?'

Option A would involve moving up the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) to Masonboro Inlet, out into the ocean for a short leg to Beaufort Inlet, and then back into the ICW for several days all the way to the Chesapeake. Aside from the painful fact that this would pass within a few miles of our Colington home (and the slip we can't use anymore), it also meant a long, slow ICW trip of about 5 - 7 days. Not one of our favorite things.

Option B starts out the same - Southport to Masonboro Inlet via the ICW - but then we would stay outside and take the ocean route around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and enter the Chesapeake at the mouth of the bay. We have never made this trip and it was, frankly, very appealing. First of all, it would only be a 2 night trip. Better. And, it would deliver us directly to our new marina. Also, for years, we have imagined ourselves sailing in over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. We have often spotted sailboats coming in from the ocean as we crossed the bridge-tunnel and thought,"One day...". On the other hand, the less positive side of the discussion, transiting Cape Hatteras always raises images of sailing ships driven onto the shoals. It isn't called the 'Graveyard of the Atlantic' for nothing.

Option B-Offshore route from Southport to the
Chesapeake Bay and on to the York River.
In the end, we decided we would rather sit for days and days waiting for the weather to give us a chance to go 'outside' rather than spend days and days in 'the ditch', as the ICW is known. As such, we expected to stay at Southport for 4 or 5 days - maybe more - looking for that nice weather to get us out into the ocean and around the corner. However, as we started looking at the latest weather models and our various resources, it appeared that there was a big high pressure system settling in that would bring calm weather for days starting on Sunday - just two days away.

Southport Marina has, we knew from past visits, a weather briefing every evening during the cruiser migration season. Hank, from Carolina Yacht Care, is a retired Navy meteorologist (and just a real nice guy) who gives this presentation regarding the expected weather and, also, the conditions travelers might expect on the ICW.

On this particular evening, there were only three boats represented in the audience. Coincidentally, we had all just returned from the Virgin Islands, we were all looking to go offshore, around Hatteras and into the Bay. As a result, Hank could skip the ICW conditions and give the crews of 'Mystic Shadow', 'True Love IV' and 'SeaClearly' a very focused forecast. What we saw was a window of calm - probably too calm to sail most of the time - that would last for 5 or 6 days. Practically unheard of and, certainly, not to be missed. Sunday would be the first of several good days to leave. And, we were ready to go. It was decided that, since Junie and I and SeaClearly were familiar with the short run up the ICW from Southport to Masonboro Inlet (having done it several times before), SeaClearly would lead the way when the three boats left with the slack tide the next morning at 9:30 am. A comfortably not-so-early departure.

Another of the statics from this trip that is interesting - 'Number of Circumnavigators met'. As we have gone through the different segments of our journey, our hubris has always been held in check by the accomplishments of the people we have met along the way. Back on New Years' Day, we arrived in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico after crossing the infamous Mona Passage. We felt like world travelers - right up until we met an actual world traveler down the dock. Bob had circled the world, not once but, twice - by himself. And, while it keeps us humble, I must add that, as a rule, people that have made long voyages like that never belittle your relatively minor accomplishments. Rather, they are encouraging, interested and open. Today would be no exception.

We were tied up on the inside of the fuel dock which affords a clear view of all of the comings and goings at Southport Marina. On this morning, a small-ish sailing vessel, captained by a lone woman,  was coming in the channel and headed towards the dock. It appeared that there may have been some issue with the boat so Junie, being a 'Women who Sail' ambassador, went over to help with her lines. A few minutes later, Junie returned, excited. "Do you know who that is?!", she says. I could see the starstruck look in her eyes. Nope, no idea. "That's Donna Lange!"
'Inspired Insanity'

Duane, Donna, Junie. We spent most of our time
laughing like this. Great to meet you Donna!
Donna Lange (rhymes with flange) holds the record for fastest solo circumnavigation by a woman from the United States. In that boat. A 28 foot Southern Cross appropriately named 'Inspired Insanity'. Donna is on her way north to Bristol, Rhode Island to prepare for a repeat of this incredible feat, but this time, without stopping at all. She is, in the sailing community, a rock star. It was interesting to watch as word spread that Donna was in the marina. People just sort of appeared, looking for a chance to meet her, ask what it was like to sail the world alone. And why do it again?

We had arranged to go out to dinner that evening somewhere with Donna. But when we were invited over for pizza with Hank (the weather guy) and his lovely wife Lisa on their boat 'Haanli', we quickly accepted. They graciously included Donna as well and we had a wonderful evening eating pizza, drinking wine and talking about everything. We all hit it off immediately. People in boats always have great tales to share. We got to know Hank and Lisa better and hear their stories, we told ours and, of course, Donna has a few. Her story is remarkable and I would recommend visiting her website -  and checking out this article

The next day, May 24, was departure day and, I can tell you, it is reassuring to have an accomplished sailor like Donna blowing kisses to you as you are leaving the dock. Then, as we led our little flotilla out into the Cape Fear River, Hank and Lisa caught up to us in their runabout and took some pictures of us on our way. What a great sendoff.

Bald Head Island in the distance as we
prepare to turn up the river.
SeaClearly heading out into the Cape Fear River

The caravan moving upriver on AIS

Now, it happens that this was Sunday on Memorial Day weekend. This is the official beginning of summer for most of the Mid-Atlantic states and our short, 22 mile, run on the ICW was absolute chaos. The summer party was kicking off in style. The weather was perfect. Boats of every description and size were on the move. Many of the boats (and the captains) were, probably, back in the water for the first time of the year. In the midst of this, three bluewater sailboats, loaded to bear with travel gear and provisions, were moving north. All of us on the last leg of long journeys and with months of ocean travel behind us. We made a pretty cool caravan.

'True Love'  passing us a few minutes after
we exited Masonboro Inlet and turned north.
We had the same sail set and I hope we
looked this good doing it.

As we made the turn to go out of Masonboro Inlet, the boat traffic lessened. When we cleared the jetties, there was nothing in front of us but wide open ocean. We, once again, passed the markers of an east coast inlet and turned north. 'Mystic Shadow' and 'True Love IV' were directly behind us. There should have been some kind of background music to accompany the sight of these three boats escaping the mayhem of the ICW and raising the sails as we spaced ourselves out for the first-leg run towards Cape Lookout.

'Mystic Shadow'

We hugged the coast for a while trying to get the best sail angle but the wind, as expected, dropped off as the high pressure settled in. We started the motor, left all of the sails up and were making good speed. It was evident by looking at the AIS stats that, our fellow travelers had come to the same conclusion since we all, suddenly, went from averaging 4.0 knots to 6.5 knots. The ocean was beautiful as the evening fell and we went through our, by now very familiar, routine of preparing for a night run.

Running lights on, cockpit instruments set to 'dim', radar active,
AIS reporting, log book and red flashlight at hand.
Settled in for night travel as the sun sets.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fort Pierce to Southport dodging squalls

May 17, 2015

Sunday evening. We are sitting in our slip in Harbortown Marina, Fort Pierce, Florida. We have been traveling for months now and we are getting tired. Not tired of the adventure or tired of sailing or tired of living on SeaClearly. Just tired. We are ready to move on which, in this case, means north up the east coast. We have been here for 3 weeks waiting for the weather to give us a big window so we can bite off a big chunk. We have asked our weather guy the same question - "Fort Pierce to Southport, NC?" - so many times that I think he is getting annoyed. But, we finally got a window that looks like it will work.

As we sit listening to the live music coming from the restaurant, we worry. We don't worry about the thunderstorms and squalls that are predicted along our 4 day path. It is forecast to be mostly very mild wind with occasional squalls to 40 or 50 knot winds, lightning, locally high seas, that sort of thing. We don't worry about the 4 nights in the ocean watching for ship traffic as we pass some of the biggest shipping ports on the east coast.

No, we worry about getting out of the slip. We have been all the way to the Virgin Islands but getting SeaClearly into and out of docks is still nerve-wracking. We have met people who have, literally, been around the world who's biggest fear is docking their boat. Maybe that's why they kept going.

We watch the wind and current swirl around the marina. There is a pretty good tide here so it moves some water. We are more than halfway down the fairway and backed in to the slip. Once we pull out and clear the pilings, we will have to make a quick determination whether we will be able to turn left and drive out or if our bow will be pushed to the right forcing us to back out of the fairway. There really isn't room to turn SeaClearly around in this space. The wind is strong enough today that the bow thrusters should not be depended upon as a salvation. They can't overcome stupid. We plot docklines and strategies, envision scenarios and position fenders. We ask the marina to have some dockhands available.

Then, morning dawns on Monday and it is beautiful. The wind has dropped to around 10 knots, the tide goes slack right on schedule, the sun is shining. We drop all but the last two critical docklines. We edge SeaClearly forward, the dockhand tosses the stern line and waves us goodbye and we, anticlimactically, drive out of Harbortown with no drama at all. You always feel like you wasted a lot of time worrying when things go well. Or, maybe they go well because you worry. Regardless, we are on our way again!

The slack tide in the marina comes about an hour ahead of the slack tide going out of Fort Pierce Inlet. So, our quick, easy departure results in catching up to the incoming tide as we head out towards the inlet. We are motoring into a 2 - 3 knot current getting out to the ocean. But, it is a gorgeous day and an easy ride despite the current so we slog through, enjoying the moment, clear the mid-markers and turn north. The sails are up immediately and the engine is off 3 minutes later. We would continue to sail comfortably all day on Monday until just before dark.

The wind was predicted to become mild but stay southeast and it did exactly that. We need 10 - 12 knots of wind to move SeaClearly and, as night fell, we didn't have it. However, since the winds were in a favorable direction, we could motorsail and make really good speed by generating our own lift. We power-sailed all through the night and covered a lot of water. Cape Canaveral came and went. We were close to shore and had the lights to our left all night. The next day was more of the same. We cruised along on a nice ocean, making time north.

Unfortunately, we knew that we were playing the weather systems and that we would lose our wind entirely, get those thunderstorms and, then, face the possibility of a cold front reaching us and bringing nasty weather before we could reach Southport . We might have to bail out as early as Fernandina Beach, Florida or maybe Charleston. We checked in with Chris Parker via the SSB radio and got the latest update. Basically, the forecast was the same. Look out for strong squalls, get somewhere by Thursday and then find someplace to sit for Friday - Sunday.

Hmm. This presented a quandary. At our normal predicted rate of travel, (we use 5.5 knots as a reasonable average that we can maintain over a 24 hour period between sailing and motoring) we might make Charleston just in time for bad weather. And then be stuck there. We were not going to have any wind except during the possible strong thunderstorms. So, we changed plans. We would strap everything to the deck, put the hammer down and burn diesel to make it to Southport before the weather front arrived. Of course, 'hammer down' in a sailboat is not exactly blazing speed. But, if we could straighten our path and make a bee-line for Southport and maintain 6.5 knots, we could shave about 12 hours off of the trip.

Before we left Fort Pierce, knowing that we would probably see squalls, we had mounted the storm tri-sail on the mast-track and had it bagged on deck ready to go. Our rigger, back in Oriental at the beginning of our trip, had pointed out that we didn't have to wait until the wind was over 40 knots to use it. Why stress your mainsail? Put it up early and use it like a triple reef. After all, we were either going to have no wind (in which case no sail works well) or a lot of wind in storms (in which case a small, strong tri-sail makes sense). Mostly, we were motoring. So, we tied the mainsail tight to the boom and raised the storm tri-sail.

During a particularly calm period on Tuesday, we went out on deck to dump the jerry cans of diesel into the tank. This would allow us plenty of fuel to make the flat-out run up the coast. As I went out onto the deck to start the process, the dolphins showed up! They came from nowhere and headed straight for our bow.


More dolphins!

Bigger dolphins!

Since we were jamming along at 6.5 - 7 knots, SeaClearly was pushing a good wake for them to play in. They hung around for a half hour and entertained us. Eventually, they remembered that they had some dolphin things to do elsewhere and disappeared. We resumed the operation of dumping the diesel into the tank through our Baja filter (a funnel with a screen filter) and settled in for the evening.

As evening approached, the edges of the horizon started flashing with the first of the lightning. The radio got busy with Coast Guard weather warnings as the storms fired up. "Seek shelter immediately." No shelter in sight. "If caught in open waters, go below decks. Avoid ungrounded metal." Really? We kept powering along with our storm tri-sail and our big genoa as the foresail. Kind of an unlikely sail configuration. But, in the event of running into a storm, we can furl the genny pretty quickly and leave the tri-sail for stability in the big wind.

We threaded between the storms all night long. We kept watching the radar and listening to the radio updates and wondering when our luck would run out. It didn't. Junie got rained on a little bit during her middle-of-the-night watch. Mostly we just got an awesome not-too-distant display of lightning in the night. We kept the motor at about 2800 rpm and ate miles.

Storms chasing us from behind.

This storm was moving east and out of our way. We dodged
these all night long.

As we closed in on Southport, NC on Thursday, our charmed period expired. Our timing for arrival was screwed up by our fast trip so we were coming into the Cape Fear River, a very big river, at full ebb tide. Three and a half knots of current. Right in our face. The weather front was arriving and the wind switched around to the east-northeast. Right in our face. But the waves were still being pushed from the south so they were coming from behind us. All in all, a mess. Of course, there was a dredge parked mid-channel and a cargo ship coming down-river as we were coming in. Lovely.

We manipulated the channel and all of the obstacles and made the turn towards Southport marina. It was Thursday, May 21st at just about 5:00 pm. We executed a perfect landing despite 20+ knots of wind. We all looked fairly disheveled but I know we looked happy. We managed to put a lot of miles behind us moving north. Then we took the prudent advice and signed up at the marina for at least 3 days. It was a good run and puts us within just a few days of getting home. Feels good.