Cape Hatteras – folklore?
August 18, 2018
After feeling a little sick to my stomach, both literally and figurately (see last week’s post on that), I settled into some routines on day 2 of the passage. I still didn’t have my feet under me, but the sea bands were doing their job so at least I wasn’t feeding fish.
The morning was a bit slow for everyone after the previous night’s shenanigans with mother nature, and by midday, with light winds, the boys hoisted the gennaker. It is said that when you least expect it, you’ll find it. In this case, the “it” was a new problem at sea.
Our topping lift line (the one that holds that big ole boom up off of the deck) had snapped. We have no idea when, but we are very thankful Darrin saw that when he did. There’d be NOTHING worse than having the boom come crashing down onto the cockpit, crushing the bimini or worse – a crewman. 95 miles off the coast – the boys had a plan.
I really wish I had filmed the process to detangle the topping lift line from the boom and how they temporarily secured the mast, with the main halyard. Erik knows me – I am solid in a crisis – ABOUT 10 MINUTES IN TO THE CRISIS – so he shooed me below to keep me out of the way. After all, the guys needed to do some fancy maneuvering to get this done and I’m pretty sure I’d have been scolding that they needed their harnesses (btw, that was a RULE from me on the boat – all crew MUST have their PFDs on during the night, and if we had any weather, harnesses attached.)
In any event, catamarans don’t need the mainsail in order to, you know, sail. We had the genoa and the gennaker and made use of them for the remainder of the trip, which had beautiful weather and better wind.
As we approached Cape Hatteras, Erik and I both got a little nervous. There’s a reason it is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic, after all. This might have been Blackbeard’s playground, but the real fear for sailors wasn’t/isn’t with pirates, it’s with the shoals and storms – and the converging waters around the cape itself. There are more than 2000 shipwrecks off this narrow piece of land.
While we couldn’t have asked for a better weather window for this maiden voyage, the thought that we’d get caught up in the churn and could lose everything at this point put both of us on edge. But it didn’t stop us and it certainly didn’t stop Captain E from pushing us forward throughout the night so we would approach the cape before dawn. In an ideal world, you would want to see the water after sunrise to assess risk, but two factors forged us on: 1) the water was calm and the wind was good, and 2) a series of storms was brewing and poised to hit within 36 hours. If there was a more perfect time to do this, we didn’t know what that would look like.
At 4:30a, my bloodshot eyes saw that we were just south of the Cape and at an average 5.5kts, we would round the cape just as light would break for the day.
What can I say about folklore and shipwrecks? They are not a myth but there was absolutely zero risk that we would be a footnote in the sailing archives. As we sliced through the waters and headed toward Virginia Beach, we exhaled and thanked Neptune for his reprieve.
After a full day of inching up the NC/VA coast and approaching the shipping channel that leads to the Chesapeake Bay, I have to say this: it’s a freaking washing machine. I don’t know if it was the impending storms that were to hit later that day or the converging water mix of the Atlantic and the Bay, but we skated across the water with less finesses than Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding bashed her knee in. A series of SLAM, SLAM, BOOM, CREAK, SNAP, etc was all we heard for the next 6 hours. Try to sleep through that – I dare you. Every few minutes, I would sit stock upright, wake Erik out of his fitful slumber to ask if the hull just broke. If you think I’m exaggerating, trust me, I am not. Erik continues to amaze me with how patient he is with me. He neither laughed at me nor scolded me for waking him.
But a funny thing happened when we sighted land for the first time in 4 days – we got sad. Neither one of us was ready to end the trip. It was life changing in many ways – for both of us. I found myself completely trusting Erik and his skills, listening to my thoughts (actually enjoying being quiet and still), and recognizing that facing a new life, on the water where we won’t see or talk to other people like you do with life on land, is exactly what is needed at this stage in our lives.
The sunrise that morning was incredible, and luckily, we have good friends who knew the significance of this journey and took their tender out to meet us as we entered the channel. After we tossed our lines out to Tim to secure us to our new home on J Dock, Diane popped open the bottle of champagne, Stephanie arrived to greet us, and we all jumped up and down for a successful and more importantly, safe journey at sea.
Epilogue: I’m a bit teary writing this post. If this was actual pen and paper, there would be tearstains and smudges. If words in a blog could properly convey the emotions experienced during this trip, you’d read just how profound this journey was. As it is, words do not do justice to the experience. May the breeze be warm, the seas following, and your vessel strong. Mother Nature and Father Neptune are calling.
Next: The agony of the move in