I know we’re not in the Bahamas yet but does it have to be this cold?   Leave a comment

Lee said this last week and now it pops into my head a few times a day.

It’s not every day that I get to do extreme things, just most days.


It’s so true. By extreme things, he means driving the dinghy miles upwind back to Pirat in the dark through steep wind chop after going ashore in Oriental. That was a little incident I forgot to mention that week.

Most recently, we set off into the ocean again and found no shortage of challenging conditions and trying events. First off, it was (and still is) really, really cold. I’m no cold weather wimp. I’ve lived in Colorado, Rhode Island, and Maine. Cold like this when you’re trying to sail and generally living half outdoors on the water is ridiculous. My face freezes and I can’t talk right. My hands get so cold I can’t operate zippers, turn keys, or light the stove. Did someone forget to tell North Carolina it’s not in the North?

Other than being cold, the sail here from Beaufort was a forceful shove back into ocean sailing after too much ICW cruising. We left before dawn and it was already blowing 15+ in the harbor. Squeezing past the huge dredge to get out of Beaufort was harrowing. Lee and I studied the lighting patterns that dredges display the night before so we knew we should pass on the side with the green lights, not the red ones (the side with the length of pipe across the water). Still, there were tugs pushing the dredge around, boats exchanging crew, and plenty of rough water to make the situation interesting.

It was a relief to get out to sea until I went down below and remembered that I get seasick. I took a Marezine then but I knew it was too late. I barely finished making Lee’s pot of oatmeal before I was sick. In retrospect, I know that an empty stomach makes me more prone to seasickness and we hadn’t had breakfast yet that morning. I should have had a bite to eat and a Marezine at least 20 minutes to half an hour before we left the harbor.

I won’t get into the details of my seasickness. This was the first time in years that I’ve gone beyond just feeling seasick. It was not fun. I spent most of the day incapacitated in a bunk while Lee did a masterful job sailing the boat. He clambered around on deck in his red suit. It was very, very wet. A close reach with seas directly abeam meant every few waves one would smack the hull just right and fly onto the deck.

Pirat flew along at 7-8 knots or more with the solent and a triple-reefed main. We were overpowered for the gusts and probably would have gone just as fast with the storm jib and main. Maybe we would have switched head sails if I had been able to help more.

Lee took this great video on the foredeck.

I was just starting to feel human and had collapsed down below after putting all my foul weather gear on when I noticed something strange. The boat was flattening out. The sails were luffing and it felt like more than just a header. We were tacking. I was up in an instant because I knew a tack was not in the plan. Lee told me the auto pilot had shut off as I tended to the jibing main. The auto pilot hadn’t actually shut off. It had decided we were going to do circles. The rudder was over not quite all the way and the wheel was stuck – held by the auto pilot – so we couldn’t regain control.

I don’t know how many circles we did before Lee ran down below and cut power to the a.p. and chart plotter. We gybed three or four times, then dropped the main and eased to jib to stop the turns. It’s amazing how long it can take to do something that seems like an obvious action in retrospect. Lee realized that he could have just shut off the chart plotter to fix the problem. Some sort of bug in the software brought up a weird auto pilot mode when Lee tried to turn the a.p. on. At least no one was hit with the boom. The boat survived. We survived.

We arrived in Wrightsville Beach, NC shortly after that. It was perfect timing. If our boat was any slower we would have come in after dark. Days like that make us so glad we have a fast boat that really sails!

Next stop: Southport, NC on the other side of Cape Fear. We decided to take the ICW because it’s about half the distance of sailing out around Cape Fear, doing a 180 degree turn, and beating upwind to the inlet. As long as we leave at high tide we’ll be fine in the ditch.

Posted December 7, 2010 by Rachel in Getting started

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