November 7, 2009.
It’s funny how quickly things can change. All week the weather “experts” have been talking about how Friday was NOT the day to even think about being out on the ocean.
We looked at all the weather inputs we had to consider and it just all became a bit more confusing. We wanted to jump out into the ocean at Cape Fear. The forecast for Saturday called for pretty much no wind from here to Charleston. That would mean 24 hours of motoring to get to Charleston. I hate that crap, we can handle a few waves, just give us enough wind to keep the sails full.
But the forecast for Friday had mellowed a bit. The wind was supposed to blow 25 out of the north until noon with 9 foot waves and then drop to 20 knots in the afternoon. The ocean looked like it was supposed to smooth out a bit as the wind abated. Through the night the wind was supposed to continue to lighten until it was less than 10 knots.
So we hit the ocean on Friday. We waited until the tide changed in the Cape Fear River where a tide versus wind condition is a recipe for a 3 hour ass kickin’. We left the anchorage at 1100 and headed down the river riding the tide with the wind behind us, we found ourselves hitting over 9 knots.
The Cape Fear River spit us into the ocean, an eerily calm ocean. Barely a swell, with just tiny wavelets lapping at the hull. Somebody must have leaned on the wind switch because it absolutely died. We sailed for the first 2 hours while maintaining a speed of between 2 and 4 knots. I couldn’t believe this shit. We were worried about getting blown off the ocean and here we were unable to find any breeze. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we had waited for the calm that Saturday promised. Just before dark we did catch a small fish that we threw back. He was small, it was getting dark.....
After 2 hours we had to start the engine and make some of our own wind as we motorsailed along. Finally around midnight there just wasn’t enough wind to keep the sails full and we had to put em’ away and motor through the night.
It wasn’t to be a dull night though. As soon as we had established our course the Coast Guard broadcast a Notice to Mariners. It seemed that a 63 foot fishing boat had sunk that morning and the 1 mile wide by 1 mile long debris field was last sighted 30 miles away, exactly on our rhumbline. Crap.
There were about a half dozen or more boats out there with us. We could only see one of them but more and more of the scattered boats started to chime in with opinions as to what course they should set to avoid a possible collision with the ever expanding debris field. Some headed east while others veered west. One boat even headed straight for the debris figuring that it had to have moved by then.
One guy stuck out though. There’s always one. He called the Coast Guard a half dozen times to clarify “exactly” what happened, when it happened and when the last sighting of debris was etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. Four hundred thousand questions, HEY, I’m tryin’ to sleep here! This guy was obviously very impressed with his own use of the vernacular.
When the Coast Guard gives a position they say 079 tack 34 decimal 234. Most normal people just give a slight pause instead of using the words “tack” and decimal”. But this guy was the consummate mariner and tried to impress his professionalism on all within earshot and insisted on dragging things out as long as possible. We were rolling our eyes at his ponderous use of the airwaves until he asked the Coastguardsmen if they had any “facilities” still in the air to give an update on the current position of the debris. Facilities? I’m sure he meant “assets” and even the young guardswoman had a bit of a chuckle in her voice when she declined saying that no other updates were available. Facilities in the air, perhaps toilets in the sky, maybe that’s what they mean by Eau de Toilet, I dunno.
Christy and I just adjusted our course 10 degrees to the east because whatever wind there was had been from the east and the ocean swell was heading westward as well. We didn’t see anything but then again it was pitch black out and it was probably just a fuel slick, a styrofoam cooler and a couple of empty beer cans. It was interesting to listen as some of the people were pretty much paralyzed while they ran set and drift programs to figure out where this garbage could have floated to. I’ll never understand why they call it common sense.
It was great to pass Fort Sumter as we reached Charleston Harbor. We dropped the hook in the Ashley River at 0930 and spent the remainder of the day loafing before turning in around 1930 hours for a well deserved rest.