Beginning the journey south.
| Two weeks at anchor in the harbor at Ocracoke Island is a long time. Really, it took 2 days of intense exploring to discover most of what the place offers. The old British Cemetary, the many eclectic shops, the great seafood restaraunts and of course, the phenominal beaches. We really wore ourselves out the last two weeks between boat chores and repairs and all the shoreside activities. But now we are preparing for the next big step in our new life. Now we head south before the angry winds of an Outer Banks winter can catch us. Fugitives from the cold weather, our thoughts drift to scenes of coconut palms and sugar fine sand beaches.
The sound of an anchor chain running through the roller is theraputic. It signifies so much more than the mundane chore it is. Lifting that chunk of steel out of the sand means we're on the move. On the move means we're chasing our dream. And that is what this lifestyle is all about. I stand in the cockpit watching her move about the bow stowing the ground tackle. Her movements are graceful yet efficient as she handles the chain rode. I smile as she remembers to hang the anchor over the side to spray the mud and sand off. It's little things that make a crew a team. Into gear the old diesel goes and we head out of the cut and into the sound with an escort of terns and gulls swooping around the masthead.
My heartrate increases as we near the inlet. I've timed our departure to catch the slack period between tides, but I still see the waves breaking over the scattered bars around the place. We both keep scanning the surface to ensure we remain between the bouys. I think of the old salty saying "Red right, returning" as I watch another red bouy slip by our port side. We definitely aren't "returning"!
The swells begin in earnest as a gentle lift and fall. The sizzling sound the water makes as the boat displaces it is almost drowned out by the roar of the diesel as I increase throttle to shoot the inlet. Breakers are close abeam and give us a fright. Heartrates and eyebrows reach for the sky as steep waves crash over the bow sending rivers of green water splashing over the deck. The noise and intensity reach a climax and then seem to magically subside as we pass the bar and leave the slab-sided waves behind in exchange for the gentle swell of the sea. I watch her look behind us with yet another smile as she slips her arm around my waist. She then goes below to stow any gear jarred loose from the wild pony ride. My smile remains.
The change is sudden and dramatic. Green gives way to the deep blue colors of the ocean proper. It is a line seemingly drawn on the surface of the ocean by God and never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes it's close to shore and sometimes far out to sea. It never fails to gain my admiration.
The winds are out of the northwest and it is time to raise the sails. I ask her if she would rather man the helm or grind the winches then chuckle as I make my way to the mast. The answer is always the same. She heads us into the wind and I start grinding. It doesn't take long before the mainsail is in irons and flapping in the breeze. She heads us back in a southeasterly course as I make my way back to the cockpit to sheet the sail in. Then the genoa is unfurled. Rollerfurling makes it an easy task and in a jiffy, we've got both sails trimmed nicely with a fresh breeze coming in off our right shoulder. Not quite a run but we'll have to pay close attention to prevent a jibe.
The next change is also sudden and dramatic and never fails to bring a sense of contentment to this fine ship's crew. With the turn of a switch, the diesel coughs and dies and that beautiful soundtrack of a boat under sail fills our ears. There's that sizzle we last heard inside the inlet. Now it's joined by the roar and splash of whitewater thrown aside by the hull. The flag is flapping from the backstay and a slight groan from the rigging as we roll with the swells. I hear beercans in the cockpit cooler sloshin in their bed of icy water and something in the cabin is rolling around on the sole. I choose to turn my attention to the icy beer as she decides to stow gear in the cabin again.
If the forecast holds true, we'll spend a few days out at sea as we parallel the coast heading ever south. With a few inlets chosen as contingency plans, we hope to make it all the way to Miami before heading back inside. For now, we simply set the boat up to sail herself and prepare the fishing gear for the edge of the Gulfstream. As the sun warms us, we begin the ritual of shedding our clothes. It's not long before we're naked except for our safety harnesses. This is something we both dreamed of as we read of others' journeys and we smile like fools as we complete our tasks in the buff. The day is full of promise.