Monday, April 25, 2011
Vero to Beaufort
Day One: We leave the Vero Beach mooring field, but pull alongside Solitaire which returned from the Bahamas yesterday, and say a quick hello to Nancy and Jim. It’s 11 am, and of course, we manage to time our exit to put us directly in the teeth of the current. While transiting the inlet, a Coast Guard vessel barrels down on us and we suspect we are in for another boarding. Our Tax Dollars at Work slows down, looks us over, then hard throttles past us, waking us like no power boat has ever done. Hopefully a trainee is at the helm. Three hours later we are out of the Ft. Pierce inlet, and we raise sail, bound for Beaufort, North Carolina, about 500 miles away. A US Customs fast-boat does a 360 around us, and must conclude we don’t look like drug runners, and takes off at about 200 MPH.
It’s 2020, or twenty minutes after eight at night, I am on watch, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with the world right now. There’s 9 knots of wind, and we are sailing along in 2-3 foot seas at 5-6 knots, which I will call an average of 5.5, but that might be a generous estimation. The Captain is sleeping, thankfully, as he would probably be making noises about putting the engine on, while I intend to eke out as many of these good kharma moments as possible. The final minutes of civil twilight have passed and the stars are beginning to come out.
There is something so special about night sailing, and while there are times that I work myself into a dither about overnight cruising, I seem, as of late, to have lost my long standing trepidation, and actually look forward to my first watch. Peter is able to sleep through anything, so is not troubled by the remaining sunlight, and I am hoping that the noise of the engine when I turned it off did not break into his REM. There seems to be no one out here but us chickens. I like it like that.
I finished reading Japanland, A Year in Search of Wa. It only took me half a day to find my harmony.
Day Two: We sail until 10 am when the wind mysteriously goes northeast, and turn on the engine mostly to top off the batteries and finish making water. 337 miles to Beaufort. At 1530 Mooch goes to rest again, and we enjoy a beam reach for 15 hours, making in excess of 8 knots while riding the gulf stream. This evening’s excitement is once again due to Our Tax Dollars at Work. At around 2 in the morning I come across a vessel not showing up on AIS, so I presume it is a shrimper. As I get closer, I can see only a red light and a large mass, so it appears the boat is headed west in front of me, while I am heading north.
But then it stops. Now at this point I am pretty damned close to this thing and all I know is that it is big, and I sure wished I knew for sure where it was headed, then I see red and green. Crap. It’s headed directly as me. So I hail “vessel in approximate position of” and get a comeback that “Warship will head 30 degrees to starboard to avoid sailing vessel”. I wait. This mother just gets bigger. I take the bull by the horns and do a hard starboard turn off the wind. We miss each other while each probably thinking the Captain on the other boat is an idiot. I leave the warship in the dust while hoping that the helmsman is getting her ass chewed out.
During the night I finish reading The Gate Crasher, written by the babe who wrote the Shopaholic Series, perfect overnight watch reading.
Day Three: At 0630 the rollers become larger than the wind speed, never ever a good thing, so on goes the motor with the hopes of stopping the slatting sail and the rolling stomachs…180 miles to go to Beaufort. For the last two days we have been thinking that we need to slow down to make the inlet during day light. What were we thinking? The wind goes light and variable, we lose the stream, and our speed drops to low fives. The flying fish are making better time than we are.
A lonely exhausted bird freeloads on First Edition, and stays aboard for two hours.
What wind there is goes south, and is directly behind us and insufficient to fill the sails. So we motor along all day and night, making between 5 and 6 knots. Around nine at night a parade of big cargo ships comes cruising by, most leaving sufficient room between us to avoid hyperventilation. Except for Northern Jasper. When I contact the vessel the second effort results in a comeback, I inform the Captain that we look kinda close with a CPA (closest point of approach) less than a mile, and I inquire if he sees me. After a hesitation that is long enough to let me know the answer, he acknowledges me and says we look OK. He then proceeds to change course, to go right in front of me. I would have thought this trained expert would have chosen to pass my stern. What an idiot. At least he livened up my watch. I have begun to read The Lion by DeMille, another wonderful author for midnight watches.
Day Four: At 0615 I turn the watch over to Peter with 39 miles to make Beaufort. It is sunny, warm, with no change in wind, so we continue to motor along. At about 20 miles out, we discover we can steer First Edition with Peter’s smartphone, provided all we want to do is go in circles. So all that nonsense about electronic devices on airplanes is not poppycock after all.
At 10 miles out while I sit composing this entry I hear Mooch coughing and run to the cockpit, where the Captain sits, smiles charmingly at me, and continues reading McMurtry’s Comanche Moon. I feel compelled to tell him we are running out of fuel. Honest to God, I really need to get fuel gauges for this man. And a hearing aide.
At around 1300 we hit the inlet (with the current!) and head to Beaufort Docks for fuel. From here we will head off to Cedar Creek for a perfect CC Manhattan and steaks on the grill. A great trip. Happy to have had it, and happy it is over.