Tuesday 26 Nov. Hatteras to Beaufort: Rounded the notorious Hatteras shoals in early hours then a wonderful day sailing SW in 23degC water. Arriving to Beaufort late afternoon.
At midnight we are approaching Cape Hatteras, where the ocean shelf and the Gulf Stream come closest to land, making a swirl of treacherous waters over dangerous shoals. We can already see the water temperature rise to 18 degC. For a moment, as it’s a dead calm windless night, we think about cutting the corner. But soon see the other 5 yachts in front of us are heading right out to the tip of the shoals, 8 miles offshore. So we wisely follow. Don’t mess with the Hatteras, as the locals say. And sure enough, once level with the famous lighthouse, Cloudy is bouncing around in a disturbed sea. If it was daylight it would be tempting to fly the drone to see the swirling waters over the shoals.
We pass the Outer Diamond Shoal Buoy at 4:30am and turn on a SW course for Cape Lookout, some 70 miles down the coast. The water temperature is now 21 DegC. Whoopy, we are out of the bitterly cold NE USA. 21Deg… we could even swim in that 🙂 Well, maybe not.
The sunrise over the Atlantic clear skies is as spectacular as ever. I can even be outside to watch it without freezing my small parts off! Oana is off watch below – I let her sleep a bit longer as I’m wide awake with happiness of being in the warmth and blue water again. We may not be in the Caribbean yet, but we are in Caribbean water – it’s now a balmy 23.5degC! And it’s 26degC inside the boat.
By breakfast we are down to one layer of clothing and still warm. So out come the shorts and I’m reminded of that song “What a difference a day makes” by Dinah Washington. From 4 layers and woolly hats to tee shirt and shorts in just “24 little hours”, plus we are even bare footed! And we laugh looking at our toenails, apparently not seen for weeks. We both desperately need manicure and pedicure. Now that the boat maintenance works are over we should start a bit of maintenance on ourselves!
At 9:55 the light SW breeze suddenly turns around the bow to the north and picks up to 10kts. So finally the Volvo gets a rest after 25h and 196nm of motoring. What a wonderful peace to be sailing in clear blue water on a gentle broad reach … and warm. Oh, did I already mention its warm? 🙂 The gods are looking out for us today. Let’s hope there won’t be a penance to pay later!
We are now in front of the “fleet” of 5 yachts. But the others are heading much closer to the coast than us and we wonder why. On the chart, the Cape Lookout shoals look unnavigable without going all the way around them, well out to sea. A VHF call to the lead yacht, Ladyhawke, explains it. They only draw 6ft and know a narrow gap in the shoals. With our 8ft draft they advise we don’t follow them. So we stay on our prudent course. After the call we notice one of the other yachts, Viaggio, turns and follows us. We guess they heard the conversation too 🙂 Then another one follows.
Over the summer we purchased all manner of microphones and wind muffs for the GoPro, to get better audio. First off, we are trying a new foamy housing that completely covers the camera. Checking the videos on the PC, it seems to eradicate wind noise very well. But as usual in windy conditions, the voice turns echoey. ( yes folks, we are still shooting video … it’s just the editing we are on hold for!)
At 1 o’clock the wind drops to 6kts and our speed to below 5. The Volvo has to go back on again, if we are to make it into Beaufort before dark. But the sails stay out as they are still pulling. 30 minutes later we are safely passing the outer marker for the Cape Lookout Shoals, where we furl both main and genoa, turn hard starboard and head NE towards the Beaufort entrance, some 16nm upwind.
And while doing this we watch Ladyhawk on AIS as they do their short cut maneuver across the shoals, way up to the north. They must have local knowledge because we just don’t see a 6ft passage through, where they are trying. Then, the next time we look, we see Ladyhawk back-tracking east off the shoals then heading south towards where we had crossed. Hmmm, I was just about to call them on VHF and congratulate their navigation prowess, and that they should buy the first round of drinks in Beaufort! But it looks like we win the race after all … and without cheating! Oh, they didn’t realize there was a race?? Well, there wouldn’t have been if we’d come second 🙂
On our final approach to Beaufort we are reminded we are back in the southern country. Firstly a polite yachtsman asks a local which side to pass him and the local, in a deep southern drawl takes about 1 minute to say a 10 second sentence, probably with a mouth full of tobacco. Others on the VHF we can’t even understand! And secondly we pass many shrimping trawlers all looking like Forest Gump’s, with their arms out and nets dangling, like they are trying to impersonate Lion fish. We like the south. The people, just like the weather, are warm and down-to-earth.
The channel into Beaufort is easy to navigate and soon we are level with the quaint old fishing town. There are 10 other yachts at anchor, across from the town dock, all look like cruisers taking a rest on their way south, just like us. How can we tell? Solar panels, wind generators, dinghies and cluttered decks – all sure signs of liveaboards! We pick a gap and soon we too are at anchor in Taylor’s channel. It’s very calm and almost spring-like as the sun dips and we sit in the cockpit with a celebratory drink, happy not to be cold for once. Did we really leave winter behind in just a 2 day passage?
We decide to just chill this evening and maybe an early night. Tomorrow we go explore the town, on the eve before American Thanksgiving.