Thursday, January 04, 2007

Beaufort to Cape Fear, NC

129.4 nm
Wind: S 10 knots, dying to calm
Seas: 3 feet with two-foot swell
Maximum speed: 6.9 knots (downwind, under sail)
Average speed: 3.9 knots
Latitude: 33°55.07’N
Longitude: 078°01.47’W

The third day in a row we’ve seen the dolphins. I’d swear they’re following us, but he ones we saw this morning were speckled and dark and smaller, not white-grey like the huge ones we saw out twenty miles offshore. This morning we saw them heading into Cape Fear River, and they raced and played with the boat again. The boat was completely surrounded. I don’t know what kind of crazy good luck this is, or if it’s normal, but it was completely unexpected. I thought we might see dolphins on our first ocean crossing or something—I didn’t know they routinely hung out with cruising boats.

So we finished our second overnight passage without event. We thought about heading further south than even Cape Fear, going down to the next inlet in South Carolina, but the swell overcame the Master on a beam reach, and we didn’t feel like hand-steering, exhausted, for sixty miles. So we just headed into Cape Fear. It’s a little bit frustrating to have come the twenty miles around the Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear for no reason, but we really did it to avoid coming into the inlet on the other side in the dark. And it’s a fun thing to be able to say we did.

It was an amazing passage, really. The Master steered the whole time, which meant I was able to go below and make hot chocolate, do yoga in the cockpit, generally mess around while the boat steered herself. I even got good sleep, at least on my second watch off. It was a full moon tonight, too, and little can explain how amazing it feels to be sailing in the dark, under a full moon, out of sight of land. It’s something everyone should do.

Tonight, we’re exhausted, of course. The worst part was coming into the inlet at what I thought was slack tide (I got the tides on the radio) and encountering at least a four-knot current against us. The wind had died and we had the diesel in full gear and we were going barely a knot, with commercial fishing and huge barges passing us. The last ten miles took us about four hours, and we came into the anchorage right before dark. We ran aground again, of course. This may become our new technique for anchoring in the ICW—drift gently aground at low tide, throw out the anchor, and hang out until the boat floats up enough to set it. It’s at least working well tonight.

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