Long, boring, and poorly written trip report...
With negotiations on a BVI to France delivery going nowhere I received a un-soliceted e-mail from a guy with a Sabre 38 lying south of Miami heading to the upper Ches. Would I be interested?
After a few more e-mails and a phone call with the owner, who passed the the final "AH" test, details were worked out, flights booked, and I find myself checking weather pages while packing my seabag for yet another trip up the east coast.
Arriving in Miami I'm met by the owner, Joe. Quick intoductions are made as we load bags in a rental and head for the Black Point Marina. (Stopping en route for a case of beer, always a good sign!) Upon reaching the boat Joe opens her up while telling me to "Relax!'. "Have a beer!". I do a quick survey of the rigging and deck equipment. Everything looks great, well maintained, and in good condition. After a quick tour of the rest of the boat bags are thrown below and my choice of berths offered. (Uh, I'll take the quarter berth!) Plans discussed over beers in the cockpit, then off to dinner and more beers.
Next day we pick up our third crewmember John. Joe's old fraternity brother. Joe invited him as a last resort and was actually shocked when John said yes! John turned out to be a great guy with a sparkle in his eye and a serious penchant for mischief. A perfect partner in crimes! Joe and John, who hadn't seem much of eachother in eight years, start up like it was last week razzing each other and reminding the other of their "best", and funnier yet, "worst" moments in college. We gettin along great!
Provisions are purchased, sails bent, water and fuel taken aboard, and we're off that afternoon heading for the Gulf Stream for hopefully, a quick move north. Our plan is simple, to sail outside, around Cape Hatteras, then up the Ches to Worton Creek, Joe's home port. John immediately throws out two fishing lines mumbling about Mahi and Tuna, Wasabi and Soy sauce while opening another beer. "Hey Joe!" He shouts at 08:00, "Have any rum aboard?" "Where's those rum punches you were tellin me about?"
The die is cast yet again!
That night we're motorsailing north at 9-11kts. We've put two consecutive 200+ mile days in. The sky is amazingly clear as the lights of the coast become a faint glow to the west. We sit in the cockpit trading lies, establishing watch schedules over yet more beers.
We soon settle into the grove when the silence is broken by the whine of fishing line screaming off the port side reel. John yells out a ear-splitting, "Yeah Baaby!!" "SUSHI!!" while reeling in our first catch, a 35lb Mahi!
Two days later we spot a US aircraft carrier and several other Naval ships off our starboard quarter. Over the radio comes an authoritative voice asking our intentions. "Uhhh, to sail to the Ches?" "Please maintain your current course and speed". "Uhhhh, OK!" Only 1 1/2 miles off our starbord beam, F-18 jets start screaming off the deck followed by AWACS and helicopters! WOW!! What a show!! These guys were banking in for their landings 3-400' over our mast. We could literally see the pilots looking down at us as we craned our necks looking up at them! Soon they were on the horizon. As darkness fell we heard radio traffic of US, Polish, and Croatian warships performing exercises along with the sighting of a flashing yellow light moving across our bow then south of us a mile out. A quick radio call and our thoughts were confirmed, a US submarine cruising on the surface! I decide changing course to get a better look might not be in our best interests so continue our course with jet fighters occasionally roaring overhead. Still, What a show!
Approaching the Carolina coast the winds become negligible and Joe fires us the engine and begins putting out fishing lines when he notices no water flowing from the exhaust. Yikes!! We shut her down and Immideatly begin tearing into checking the sea strainer then water pump/impeller. That all looks ok so we dig deeper into the Westerbeke to find a shaft driving the water pump worn and rounded out causing our problem. 35 miles out with winds at 1 1/5 - 2kts, total glass without a ripple on the water. I think back to a Morgan 462 delivery from Buffalo to Bayfield. We'd lost the transmission while motoring through the Keneewa. With winds of .5 to 2 1/5 kts, Dale, the owner of Dilly Dally, sailed those light winds the last few miles back into Lake Superior. I still think of it the best example of sailing skill I've ever seen. "Hell! "If Dale can do it I can damn sure do it!!".
After an hour I get the bow pointed in the right direction and we're actually making way towards our goal. We're ghosting along until Joe can't take it anymore and screams, "SeaTow!". Two and a half hours pass and a line is being passed for the 5 hour tow to shore. Although delayed by mechanical problems Joe dances happily around the cockpit expounding on the virtues of SeaTow Unlimited! That $149. per year just saved him from a $1700 tow bill! Later that evening we're on the phone trying to locate parts. Luckily we find a yard with a similar blown engine with the parts we need. Cool! We get directions and find ourselves pulling into a lane with boats blocked up with 2X4's, cut off telephone poles, concrete blocks, and a peeling faded square of plywood nailed to a leaning 2X4 with "Office" painted in running orange spray paint directing us to a 1960 era office trailer with broken, cracked windows, a satellite dish, and a old, old yellow dog with bad attitude. As the part is pulled from the junk engine we watch as one of the yard workers utilizes their high-tech parts storage system. He rolls out used, trashed batteries and oil filled engine blocks across the street and man-handles his cart into the woods, returning a few moments later with empty cart.
A toxic super-fund site in the making... we've got our parts.
With part in hand we're back to the boat. Joe chases John and I off while he tackles repairing our mechanical issues. John and I reconnoiter the area quickly finding the "The Officer's Club" at Little Creek, SC. Rick the bartender quickly tends to our liquid dietary needs as he notices the strain placed on our bodies from the 100 yard walk to the place. The staff , locals 'n sailors in attendance learn of our voyage, problems, and say, "whatta ya havin friend?". We're quickly taken under wing and treated like old, lost friends by everyone we meet. A fantastic place I'd highly recommend to anyone passing by. Stop in for excellent dinner, drinks, and trememdous hospitality. I know I'll be back given half a chance! Course if that don't suit ya there's Umberto's right next door. Dark woods, white linen, silver. A soup course, salad course, pasta course, followed by our entree. We'd ordered a good bottle of wine with dinner. Long after it'd dissapeared, Tom, bartender extraordinare, kept filling our glasses with fantastic wines.
Two days later, with John having to bail due to busniss obligations, (a two week trip to Vegas. Last year it was hosted by Jenny McCarthy!). Repairs made, refueled and watered, Joe and I are now looking at changing weather conditions so decide to hit the ICW for the remainder of the trip north. Little did we know we'd soon be facing the second worst wind conditions I've ever encountered anywhere.
Sailing into 35-48kt headwinds, we bail in search of a protected spot to anchor. We're soon joined by s/v Delta Blue and several other cruising boats. A night of anchor watch and drag alarms is followed by "relatively" calm winds next morning. We run for the channel and protection from the wind.
With weather still deteriorating we decide to pull into the Swan Point Marina in Sneads Ferry, NC. for the evening. As we approach, a short, stock guy with a wild head of hair is standing ready to catch our lines. Chris, and his partner Paul recently bought the marina and have been steadily upgrading the facilities with floating docks, new showers, a consignment shop, and friendly boat store with unlimited free coffee.
Chris we soon learn is a retired UDT, Recon, special ops, been there/did all that/can't really tell ya bout it kinda guy. He's been everywhere, seen and participated in more covert crap than you've seen in a dozen Hollywood movies, and tells fantastic stories. Matter of fact ya can't get away from him! Just open another beer and settle in. You'll enjoy the distraction!
His partner Paul is equally gregarious and both are super eager to help anyway they can. Righteous folks for sure.
Shortly our conversations end when we hear a loud "Yeah!" "We've still got six inches to spare!". We look over in unison to see SeaTow guiding in a 41' go-fast that had run hard aground. They get tied up and one of the two aboard hops ashore walking around in little circles with a dazed look in his eyes while carrying one large blade of a three-blade prop in his hand. OUCH!! After they make arrangements for a lift to check/repair damage, greetings are exchanged and soon we're invited to their boat for a few beers. The owner, a 34y/o guy and his buddy 32, had left several days before for a planned four day stay in KW. Six days motoring south to stay four days then return! Whoa! He'd said they went hard aground at speed the evening before. Come dawn, still stuck fast, a big M/Y comes along and politely slowed to pass. The aground boat's owner hailed on 16 telling the skipper he'd appreciate a pass with as big a wake as he'd care to make in hopes of being refloated. The M/Y was happy to oblige and even came about for another shot at speed. "Dude!" "It was a freakin five foot breakin WAVE!!" "It popped us off like a cork!"
With sky darkening and tornado with damaging hail predicted we settle onto their boat for a impromptu "Tornado Party". These guys were prepared! Rums, Crown Royal, several brands of Tequila, along with numerous bottles of differing concoctions and mixers started coming outta the locker with four shot glasses and assorted beers. Reports of tornado touchdown's at Camp Lajune to our north and another close to our south are met with... "Lemme have another shot 'o that Te-kill-ya!" as Brats go on the grill. By the time we made it back to Voila, Joe's Sabre 38, and racked out a bomb could have scored a direct hit and not fazed our sleep.
Squinting at the next morning's waaay too early, and way too bright sun, we coil up lines 'n collect fenders and continue our way northward leading a growing flotilla of various power and sailing vessels toward bridges, their tenders, and a short lock. Lots of debris in the water, (like 25' logs) make our journey interesting.
So far we've been lucky with the weather. Although it's blown pretty good a few days we've avoided anything serious. That's about to change.
Coming out of the waterway into the Ches we're starting to get wet and searching for the driest spot under the bimini. Fog and rain would accompany us the rest of the way to Worton Creek. I came up for a watch at one point to find Joe, in full foul weather gear, hands in pockets, totally drenched and looking equally dejected. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight. Joe quickly realized how he must have looked and broke into a hugh grin. "Well, people did get up and go to work today...".
Another overnighter and were tying up the boat Saturday afternoon and giving her, and ourselves, a much needed bath.
Another great trip with new friends. Although I'd hoped to be around for friends George 'n Kerri's wedding celebration I was a day late. It would have been wicked cool to have met everyone.
Well, that's my latest lies. I'm sticking to it until more recollections creep back into memory or someone with differing phtographic proof shows up.
Now, to find the next boat!
Cliff (aka ughmo2000)
Post-script, upon my return I found an e-mail sent a day after my leaving to Miami accepting my terms to go trans-At with an Irish captain friend.
Damn!! Missed it by that much!