Ocean Sailing for Beginners.Cruising the ICW (and we are called “cruisers” by the check out ladies in the Piggly Wiggly, so it is official) is a social experience. Any conversation with other cruisers at dock or during dinghy “stop and chats” ( term coined by olivia nathan to refer to her mother debra, the unofficial mayor of annapolis, anywhere in town) usually starts with a nuanced admiration of the other boat (unless there is an obvious problem like lightning strike to the mast or grounding – in which case unsolicited advice is freely given).
I call it nuanced because I am pretty sure we are getting a “bless your heart” compliment on our little red boat compared to the other vessels heading south – 38’8″ is small by ICW standards. The conversation shifts eerily to resemble a freshman college mixer and instead of where are you from and what is your major, it is what are you sailing and where are you going?. (Lots of Canadians here, surprisingly, probably a good one third , will skip speculation about dramatic course reversals depending on the election result.) The response is often the Bahamas. We say that too, and it is a goal. The Bahamas lie, however, about 60 miles off shore from the coast of Florida. You can’t see across the water for 60 miles and can’t anchor in a 1000+ foot deep ocean. Which leaves only ……Ocean Sailing.
We’ve never really done that at all, cruising the BVI doesn’t count, it is all line of sight sailing, and definitely was not in our boat, so when an opportunity came up in Beaufort NC to go to a protected beautiful sound with a light house, unspoiled dunes and wild ponies only 6 miles off shore and we had a 3 day window, we decided to seriously consider it if the weather was conducive.
Like winnie the pooh, “think, think, think.”
When there was no obvious reason to talk ourselves out of it, including the locals saying it was really easy and they do it in their fishing boats every weekend, we talked to some of the other sailors we know to see if anyone wanted to buddy up, but alas no takers. We were on our own. We monitored the wind alert app (thank you JD) on our IPAD and figured out a noon start was best.
The boat prepped and Kevin was off doing something and I heard a nervous voice on the radio hailing channel asking for local knowledge about whether the waves in the inlet going into the ocean stay this big the whole way to the sound. I quickly dialed the radio to their conversation channel in unabashed listening in on another conversation, the local voice informed the Captain laconically “he could see em, he was fayn (fine) and the whauter (water) would steady out pretty soon.” (Apologies for the attempt at the local vernacular). Captain attempts to switch back to hailing channel but not so fast buddy, I quickly bust in and tell the Captain we are going to do the same thing, ask what is it really like out there? Waves over his bow in the inlet, but then smoothing out shortly and maybe he should have waited a bit more for the projected decrease in wind speed. Fair enough. We’re on.
Kevin returns to the boat with chocolate and a real bottle of wine (quickly a luxury) for celebrating when we arrive. Love the optimism. In the channel, water was choppy but we’ve been in worse in the chesapeake (refer to post on shake down cruise) and it did smooth out, we put the jib sail up and we are sailing in the Atlantic Ocean!!! Granted, about two miles off shore, along a beach, with our destination visible in front of us, but still the Ocean. We arrive in the Cape Lookout Bight and it is as beautiful as guide books says. We anchor and take our dinghy to visit the boat who we listened to on the radio. Turns out their boat is Baila and which also hails from Annapolis. We thank the Captain for his advice (He is an Emergency Room Doctor from Philly with wife and three daughters – gas 5 to . They are a taking a year off and sailing). The walk on beach is magical, we watch pelicans dive, and pods of dolphins, and fish jumping everywhere.
Kevin attempts tocommunicate with the dolphins with a clicking noise from the TV show with Flipper. It is so nice to be back in salt water after all the brown tannin fresh water in the rivers and canals. Next day back to Beaufort, the seas are so calm we could have been in the Chesapeake in August except for lazy big rolling swells. Definitely the ocean. Got our bow wet with some genu-wine salt water, Bahamas granted a bigger leap, but the first baby step is under our belts. Photo below is of th Sunset at Cape Lookout Bight, NC