Monday, June 8, 2015

Waiting for our "outside" weather window

Beaufort to Cape Lookout Bight:  We couldn't get out of Beaufort fast enough.  We won't be back.  We headed out the channel towards the Beauford Inlet with excitement and a little nervousness.  It would be our first short jaunt into the Atlantic Ocean!  We immediately started giggling when we were passed by the fisherman going OUT in TINY john boats.  OK, but it was still exciting!  We get the sails up pretty quickly and turn onto an easterly heading towards Cape Lookout, the eastern end of the same island as Ocracoke.   I was at the helm while the Captain raised the main sail and unfurled the genoa.  I yelled, "Lighthouse in sight," before he could get the genoa unfurled.  "What?!"  Well, we were still 5 miles out (1 hour of sailing), but his face was hilarious.  We had a nice, comfortable sail (waves are at 8-9 sec intervals out here instead of 4-5 on the Chesapeake & Pamlico sound.  Fingers crossed!)  I stayed at the helm and the Captain furled the genoa as we entered the channel, not dropping the main until we were halfway across the bay.  We saw 2 rather large turtles as we motored across looking for an anchoring spot, "Did you see him?  He was HUGE!"  There are 6 or so other boats in the anchorage that is 1.5 x 1.5 miles.  We're anchored next to a decent sized yacht with a little Hobie catamaran (Captain is trying to figure out, if we skip the SUP and sell the kayak, could we get one onboard?)  I wish we'd bought that snorkel gear the Captain said we didn't need yet.  The water is slightly clearer here (but it ain't the Bahamas!).  We can see our rudders.

The water keeps getting clearer! (Cape Lookout Bight)

Stats:  Total time 2:21.  Total mileage 11.4 nm.  Avg speed 4.8 kts.  Sailed the whole way.

We hang out on the boat for awhile and around 5:00 pm, the current and wind seem to let up.  I jump in the dinghy and have the engine running before the Captain can get his flip flops on.  On the way over to the beach/lighthouse, I say, "gee, that looks shallow." and let off the throttle.  "Nah, it's fine.  The fishing boats go through here"--and we're aground.  A quick shove off with the paddle and we're floating again, only to look down and see several HUGE turtles down below us!  It's our longest dinghy ride yet--you can barely see the boat from the beach!  We drag the dinghy up onto the sand, then return to drag it up a little farther.  (It looks like a long swim from here).  We reach the lighthouse just as the ferry drops off another group (so much for getting off the beaten path).  However, the door is locked.  The people behind us track down the maintenance crew who say the lighthouse closes at 4:15 pm and the park rangers are long gone.  Now they have to wait an hour for the return ferry.  "Do they know they left the light on?"  BAAhaaahahaha.  We crack ourselves up.  The Captain ponders, "could we buy a ferry ticket to go back into town to the grocery store?"  Why not?  We've been watching for several days and tonight is officially the full moon.  Beautiful.

Day 2 Cape Lookout:  We wake up to rain and after checking the radar drag a few more things inside.  The Captain makes grits for breakfast.  A rainy day is the retired sailor's version of a snow day--read, take a nap, read.  The yacht anchored next to us leaves mid-day so we are one of 3 sailboats left in the anchorage.  We begin the "weather window" waiting game.  Originally, the weather looked good for an offshore passage on Thursday, then Friday, now Sunday.  (I'll give it a week, then press for the ICW so we can explore our options for the summer.  Insurance says we have to be north of the Florida/Georgia line by July 15th because of hurricane season.)  I catch up on blogging and play with the satellite communicator (a satellite phone that texts & emails.  Expensive, but we can send pings so family & friends know where we are.  Cell phone coverage has already been a problem in some rural areas).  Amelia takes a nap with Daddy.  Lunch is some canned soup heated up on the stove.  

The rain lets up in the afternoon, so we move out into the cockpit.  We learn a new term from the NPS websight:  rage tide.  "Most paddlers will want to avoid the rage tide, the time when the current flows the hardest, as ½ of the total water volume passes through inlets during the third and fourth hours of tide flow. During this time, flatwater will turn to whitecap waves and intermediate terrain can become expert."  After checking the tide, the kayak is dispatched only to find out--we are REALLY far from shore!  A lot of paddling made the boat smaller but beach still far away :-(  Changed direction to find the shoal with the turtles and didn't make it there either.  When I turned back towards the boat and tried to take pictures, I almost got blown by the boat (Captain had just come out to check on me when I blew bye.)  "Where are you going?"  "A little help here, please."  Apparently, I'm a wuss, but here's a link to the paddling trail for the Outer Banks (

The First Mate has been whining about the possibility of sand getting back onto the boat, so the Captain reinstalls the stern step shower with a spare piece of hose and a spare nozzle, then makes stir fry from leftovers in the fridge.  He's awesome that way!  After dinner (we had to wait for the cat to wake up to turn on the second water valve.  It's under her "bunk") I washed my hair in the cockpit with the new stern shower.  Awesome.  Clean up is--hose down/overboard where you were standing.  (Captain approves of low water use.  The water pump didn't even turn on.)

Day 3 Cape Lookout:  It rained hard over night.  The Captain's morning was 1)  stove ran out of propane while I was making coffee.  Change propane tank (11 lb tank lasted 2 months!)  2)  Dinghy full of water & "and the aux fuel tank is floating upside down!"  Bail out dinghy.  3)  Have a cup of coffee.

Captain reading on the trampoline while anchored at Cape Lookout

Sun is out.  The two other sailboats leave, so we have the place to ourselves (besides the fishing boats, jet skis and occasional pass by the Coast Guard or Navy helicopter).  The Captain sets up the jack lines (so you can clip your harness onto something if you need to go on deck underway).  Thirty minutes later, he trips on the jack line running across the back of the cockpit on the way to the dinghy.  Glad we set that up a couple days in advance!  The Captain digs out some snorkel gear, but with the current only makes one lap around the boat before he says,  "Hand me the soap."  The Captains first stern shower.  We're cruisers now!  Speaking of that, pillows are airing out on deck.  Underwear hanging from life lines.

Later, a Navy helicopter circles over the island several times so we turn the VHF radio to channel 16 to see what's going on!  Credit card company calls to confirm that we didn't join the online website  No.  (Real world crashing in on our carefree lifestyle.)

A Gemini catamaran comes in and anchors on the other side of the bight.  HI!

Cape Lookout to Morehead City:  The weather window keeps sliding back, so the Captain elects to head into Morehead City to provision (we're out of cookies & low on rum).  We find a marina for $1.50/ft and close to the WalMart SuperCenter, West Marine, PetSmart and Dicks.  Score!  We only have a short distance to cover, so after getting a hold of the marina, we casually pull up the anchor at 9:00 am with the First Mate at the helm.  As we clear the bight the genoa is unfurled ("Channel in sight"  Dang it!) and we motor sail for an hour before entering the channel.  Several small pods of dolphins make brief appearances and we are passed by numerous sport fishers heading in and out.  We reach the narrow channel into the marina and dock with little fanfare.  (We are informed a weeklong marlin tournament with a $1 million purse starts on Monday with a $15,000 entry fee.  Gonna need a fishing pole.)  Backpacks are immediately deployed for errands.  Amelia gives Dad her list before we head to PetSmart ("more greenies please, cat food in broth and more litter!"), a quick stop at West Marine (dock line is on sale and it turns out 70 ft of line is heavy!), a quick stop at Dick's for a few more Nalgene bottles and then lunch at the Mexican restaurant.  Backpacks are full, so we pass the grocery store and head back to the boat for naps.  (Greenies are served and litter pan is changed).  Back to WalMart for round 1.  Captain has cookies for dinner with grapefuit juice & vodka (because we're still out of rum!)  We discuss a new way to attach the fender to the boat (First Mate masters a clove hitch) and then the decorative chain sinnet (so we can look cool!)  Showers with unlimited hot water and hot and a Big Bang Theory marathon.  Nice.  Bonus--it was a cool evening with a breeze.  Perfect for sleeping.

Sailboat stumbles into a sportfish marina

Stats:  Total time 3:01, Total mileage 16.7 nm, avg speed 5.5 kts

First Mate learns the decorative sinnet knot for our docklines

I make an early run to the WalMart SuperCenter for another grocery run (lots of organic and gluten-free).  I overshop, but manage to load my backpack and two light plastic bags for the walk back.  The Captain headed to Dick's (for a backpack, because I'm not sharing anymore) and the liquor store (seriously, love NC.  Hate ABC.  Husband can drink a 24-pack, but a bottle of rum is a separate trip).  He calls because he forgot the map.  I score my first ride back to the marina.  At the stop light, someone stops and says, "Are you going to the marina?"  YES.  Nice guy.  Lives 3 houses down from the marina.  Husband returns with two large bottles of Cruzan (good job, Captain).  Then returns to WalMart for an 8-pack of ginger ale (turns out it doesn't list ginger as an ingredient!) & lunch meat.  I made another batch of simple syrup (for coffee & Hemingways), a "pitcher" of Hemingways in the new Nalgene bottle, and cold orzo Med pasta with homemade greek salad dressing for dinner.  I've got the departure checklist started, so when when Captain returned and filled the water tanks, we are ready to go.  It's a short motor to our next anchorage--positioning for our offshore hop.  However, it's Saturday and the amount of power boats is awe inspiring.  We are constantly waked, some actually heading towards us, then turning away away at the last minute and waving.  This is our house.  Not our idea of fun!  We anchor next to the Coast Guard Station at Fort Macon.  We count no less than 19 sport fishers entering the inlet at one time.  It's our roughest anchorage yet (Yep, worse than Fort Monroe.  Captain has a theory about anchoring at forts!)  Things were on the floor that have never been on the floor before.

What is a sportfish?  They come in all sizes!
Stats:  Total time 1:15, total mileage 6.5 nm, avg speed 5.3

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