Wednesday, December 5, 2012

4am Adrenalin Rush–Yikes!

We made the trip from Morehead City,NC, to St Augustine,FL, in 3 nights and 2 days. Not as much sailing as we would’ve liked. Most of the sails were during the night time breezes and the boat handled nicely. The days were pretty still though and we relied on our 65 horses to keep us going.
We left Morehead City Yacht Basin at about 9am to head out to sea. Problem was that when we got to the 65 foot clearance fixed bridge that was just around the corner from the marina, the reader board said 63 feet. The reader boards are panels of wood with the bridge height numbers painted on then: 62,63,64,65,66… As the water level goes down, the higher number shows up.We need 64ft 3in to get under. We headed back to the marina and tied off on the long fuel dock to wait for a lower tide. Took a walk into the waterfront of Morehead City and then we  borrowed the marina’s courtesy car. We drove over the offending bridge and into the old sailing port of Beaufort. Lots of 1700’s seafaring houses and commerce buildings- pretty place.
We left again and this time the bridge had 66 feet clearance. We sailed out the Beaufort Inlet. It is a 5 mile sail out to the sea buoy.
Now comes the exciting part. At about 4am we were motor sailing 32 miles offshore approaching Cape Fear. There was some moon, but the overcast skies made for a dark night. I was on watch, while Chris was sleeping in the starboard bunk. Crunch! The sound was like the old soda and beer cans, when they were thicker than todays paper thin ones, being stomped on on the sand. A metal crush muffled sound. I jumped up and pulled the throttle back to idle. Chris jumped up and reinserted her heart back into her chest. Having a medical background can be helpful in these situations. I looked behind me and there was 20-25ft cabin cruiser style fishing boat a few hundred feet off my stern. No lights! Just the gray looking outline of a white boat in the dark. It looked like a boat that was abandoned or just drifting. I turned the boat around to investigate. Then the green and red running lights turned on on the boat. I tried raising them on the radio, but no response. Eventually we came up close enough to yell to them, “Are you OK?” They said yes. We then yelled at them to pick up channel 16 on the radio. After a brief, somewhat strange conversation, he said he was fine, that we didn’t need to stand by.
Looking at our boat showed no damage. The best I can figure out is that we did a glancing blow with our 77lb Spade anchor on our bow. I had the Radar running at the time with a 2 mile guard zone. It is supposed to sound an alarm if anything enters the zone. This boats radar signature was just too small. Night watches became even more diligent from then on.
The rest of the trip down we played tag with the Gulfstream. The GS is a river of water that travels north along the East Coast. You get too close to it and the current pushes you way fast in the wrong direction (north). As we would get close to the GS the water temperature would go up to 79*. That’s swimming temperature and a hell of a lot warmer than the 50* water temperature we had in the Chesapeake just a few days ago. The current would also be 1 knot against us. Move in toward shore a few miles and the sea temperature would drop to 74* and the current would slow down or even sometimes reverse and start pushing us. We had dolphins playing with us when we were near the stream. Always a happy sight.
So we made it to St Augustine this morning after only hitting one boat (yikes). The plan is to stay on a mooring for 2 weeks while Chris is off to Zambia for a work project and I try to whittle down the never-ending boat project list.


  1. Sounds like the coast of central america with sleeping fishermen not NC!! So you went into St. Augustine. Tow boat US wouldnt even guide me into that inlet! Said it was too dangerous?
    You may have the same problem with Fl ICW fixed bridges not being enough clearance. by the way welcome to sailblogs
    Jim SV Sound Effect

  2. Whew! Thought that new paint was scratched! That's a close one, glad you're safe and the other boat as well. Have a great time in St.A .... nice place to spend some time working on Georgia.

  3. Told you we should have considered a J 160 with a bowsprit - then you could have enjoyed fish kebobs for breakfast.
    T Tivoli

  4. So scary - glad all is well. Sure seems like you are enjoying your new boat. We love to keep up with you via your blog and you always provide at least one chuckle. happy holidays.

  5. I just hate that "CRUNCH". Lubbers worry about weeks at sea, but it's the crunchy stuff that get's ya.

    Anon A. Mouse