Cape Lookout, North Carolina

Cape Lookout, North Carolina

 

If there is a more beautiful anchorage on the East Coast, I haven’t found it. Just inside of the treacherous “Graveyard of the Atlantic” as these Carolina Capes are affectionately called, lies one of the most tranquil and pristine anchorages I have ever seen. She is protected on all sides and the holding is not to be believed. We arrived here on Sunday morning after an all night run from Southport, NC. and after surveying the local landscape, we dropped the anchor. We gave Gratitude a nice rinsing and ate something and went to sleep. That night we had 2 fronts pass through. The first was right at Jacks bedtime so we were both up to witness the holding in 30 knots of wind with storms all around us. Im anxious to figure out how to post pictures as we got some amazing shots of the very low overcast storm clouds with the sun setting in the distance. The second front passed through in the middle of the night. Naturally, Alec awoke to watch us ride out the storm at anchor in 50+ knots of wind. I slept peacefully through the whole thing. I typically sleep well but coming off an overnight trip – Im completely comatose – nearly un-wakable. Alec told me the next day that she “sailed” around in the wind but the anchor held tight and kept us pinned to the bottom unwavering. After that test, anyone could sleep soundly knowing she wasn’t going anywhere!

The initial plan was to stay until Wednesday but in no hurry to repeat our 10’ wave experience, we all decided to wait for the more prudent weather which was forecast for a Friday departure. All of this extra time allowed for us to climb the beautiful Cape Lookout lighthouse (only open Wed-Sun so we thought we would miss it). Also, we took a dinghy ride to Harkers Island on one day and Beaufort the next.

One of the terrific gifts of this type of travel is the relaxed and unhurried way that we tend to experience an area. There isn’t that frenetic pace that one often adopts in an effort to cram it all in on planned week long vacations. With no particular plan in place and not even sure of what island we would explore, we departed Gratitude on our little dingy with our essentials bag in hand (typical contents include sunscreen, water, camera, cash, wipes and an apple or two) and hats and glasses and we were off! We ended up on Harkers Island. Neither of us had ever heard of it before and we had no idea what we would find. After finding a suitable resting place for our dink, we set off walking with no particular destination in mind. We randomly selected a street to walk down which looked to have water – the opposite end of the island at it’s end. Along our walk, we started chatting with a nice man filling his bird seed feeders in the front yard. You know that feeling when, by some crazy chance, you happen to be face to face with someone who exudes so much warmth and kindness you feel like you could talk companionably for hours? This was just such a man. We continued our walk away and moments later, after moving from the street to allow a car to pass we realized that the car was this man, Paul. He told us to “please take his car to explore the island – take it as long and we liked – He didn’t need to go anywhere” “ Have a great time!!!:” Ha! So we did! We went from one end of the island to the bridge joining the island on the other end. It was so much fun having a bigger broader view of this little special place and to have been the beneficiary of so much grace felt magical. After returning Pauls car (with a full tank of gas:-) and chatting a bit longer with he and his wife Aprille (I know – funny they have the same names as the couple we are buddy cruising with). we went on our way.

Coming home on the dingy we stopped by Shackleford Banks Island. There are wild horses here which are overseen by the National Parks system. There are several harems or “families” of horses living on the island which are completely left to their own devices. They receive no medical intervention or care, no food – but are left to graze peacefully in this beautiful place and they all come to a communal watering hole.

After returning “home”, Alec and Jack swam and cleaned the bottom of Gratitude while I went up to the elliptical and enjoyed a lovely mid-afternoon workout.

On Wednesday we took the dingy to Beaufort Island where we learned all about the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. There is a fantastic Maritime museum here were we spent hours learning about Blackbeard and the Queen Ann’s Revenge believed to have been found here just outside of Cape Lookout in 1996. It is believed that Blackbeard either ran his ship aground intentionally or unintentionally after blockading the port of Charleston and absconding with his biggest heist yet. Blackbeard was captured and killed only months later in this area in 1718. Jack was curious how old he was when he died and we did some research to discover that he was just 38 years old. He was originally a Privateer working for England under Queen Ann’s rule.

On Thursday we climbed all 207 steps to the Cape Lookout light house and also enjoyed a talk about Jack’s favorite subject – sharks 🙂

And today – (Im finally caught up with our blog) is Friday and we are underway on a 66 hour passage. We left Cape Lookout this morning at 10.00. We are getting a nice gentle roll from the waves. Just enough motion to make doing boat chores unpleasant but writing in the off watch bunk really enjoyable. The plan is to arrive at the high tide in Onset, MA on Monday at 11:00 am.

Southport

Most of you know that we had planned this weeks schedule to coincide with my family’s yearly trip to Sunset Beach. My sister Kelly and her family, My brother Tim and his family, and my mom and her husband have been coming to this area every year for 25, 15 and a few years respectively. The additional bonus is that we are cruising with April and Paul aboard the April K, a 55 Nordhavn for the whole summer. The funny thing is for those of you who haven’t heard this serendipitous story, is that we only met April and Paul a couple of months ago and, here’s the punch line, she is my step sister. Her father Craig is married to my mother. Without getting too deeply into the various ways in which our paths have nearly crossed over the past several years, this truly is a God introduction as we only finally met while sharing a dock in Old Port Cove merely 3 feet away from each other. While discussing our plans for the summer we decided that we would love to surprise her father for a celebration of his 80th B-Day which was occurring the week prior on June 7. With that – the plan was made to be here for this week. On Saturday, June 16th (I have to start dating things if Im to be 2 weeks late with updates:) we arrived in South Harbor Village Marina where we remained all week. Unfortunately, this was a 50 minute drive from where the family was but we rented a car for the daily commute. This is really one of the challenges of having a boat that draws nearly 7 feet but Im not complaining – it just limits the marinas that can serve us. Southport was as close as we could get to Sunset Beach for the week. Brief Highlights for the week included a Fathers day/B-Day celebration aboard Gratitude on Sunday hosted by April and I for my mom and her dad and Alec and Paul for fathers day. On Monday we joined the entire family at the Boundary House for dinner where there were 18 of us in attendance for a belated celebration of Craig’s 80th. Also on Monday, Jack enjoyed his first ever jet ski ride with his Uncle Jim and his cousin Colin. Words can’t describe how much fun he had doing this! Jack really has a love of speeeeeeed. (YIKES- Thankfully this also accompanies a healthy fear of death which Jack also has). On Tuesday Jack had his very first sleep over with his cousins at Aunt Kelly and Uncle Jim’s rental home. Again – heaven for him and so much fun for Alec and I as we had our first date night in a month. The rest of the week included daily trips to the beach to enjoy spending time with cousins. On Friday we all parted with hopes to do this again another time. We left our slip at the South Harbor Marina on Saturday afternoon after a brief calculation indicated that an arrival in daylight (always a good idea coming into an unfamiliar anchorage or marina) would require an overnight run. A quick check of the weather and battening of the hatches and we were off. It was to be my watch to begin with and we left with no complications – the inlet was pretty rollie and choppy but nothing worse than what most inlets are. While patiently waiting for the chop to subside after departing the inlet, the waves instead continued to build on our Easterly course. Unfortunately, this continued for the next 1.5 – 2.0 hours with wave heights reaching 10 feet in my estimation with roughly 4-5 seconds between them. Our 300# anchor measured 8 feet from the water line was at many points buried in the trough of a wave and bouncing in it’s cradle like a little ping pong ball. Despite this motion, our little ship motored through the waves like she was made to – safely and confidently. I have never had more faith a vessel to carry us to smoother waters. At no point in the process did she ever moan or creek and the only sounds we heard (besides our own breathing as we were all kinda holding our breath) was the clinking of glasses. I went down to the galley to attempt to remedy the clanking and unfortunately ended up getting clonked with a falling glass as I opened a locker door. Note to self: wait until the dust settles to try to fix something completely and utterly non-essential. After 20 miles we were finally able to make our turn to the North after passing Frying Pan Shoal and the waves following us made for an infinitely more comfortable ride. Nearly immediately we all were feeling better. The next stop: Cape Lookout in North Carolina

Wilmington, NC June 8-15

Memories from Wilmington

We arrived here on Thursday after a fun and easy overnight run from Charleston. Unfortunately, we timed the outgoing tide wrong – or rather the chart program did – either way, the result was the same, swimming upstream against an outgoing tide – and everything took longer. Not a problem for us however, with the exception of the extra fuel and longer run, I was able to take advantage of the extreme smooth ride going up the Cape Fear River and have a great work out and get some boat chores done ahead of our arrival into Wilmington.

After arriving, the slips weren’t ready yet so we tied alongside the fuel dock and had a little look around. The marina is about a 3-4 hour run up the Cape Fear river after passing Bald Head Island and Wilmington has a vibrant and up and coming river front which spans a 2 mile distance from the Cape Fear Memorial bridge to the Parsley bridge with a river walk way the entire distance. This river walk passes “down town” filled with lovely shops, restaurants and bars and one could spend hours enjoying the area. The first order of business once tied up was to contact our niece and nephew who are here studying at the UNC Wilmington. They were both here and we arranged an UBER to where Sarah works so we could see her before she left town in the morning. We also enjoyed time with Patrick not only for dinner that night but breakfast the next morning. It was certainly the highlight of the trip to enjoy seeing what amazing people they are growing into.

Additional stops while here, we enjoyed a car show and we rode bikes for miles through mid-town areas and artsy areas enjoying the architecture and old antebellum style homes many dating back to the civil war. Finally, we toured the North Carolina Battleship – the third battleship in sequence built with that name. Significant for her was that she was a part of every single Pacific theater during the second World War.

We left on Friday June 15th to head back down the river to Southport where we will stay for the week

Goodbye Charleston!

After enjoying a week in this fantastic city, it is time to say goodbye.  While here, we immersed ourselves in the rich history of this city – From  Fort Sumpter, the place of the first shots of the civil war in 1861 to the Flight Deck of the aircraft carrier US Yorktown we had a great time exploring and learning.    We stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina which gave us an opportunity to take advantage of some of the creature comforts we are missing aboard – Jack – the swimming pool.  Mom, the weekly massage I have come to crave and we all loved the abundance and quality of the amazing food!  Jack tried his first ever gator and grits! (not at the same meal 🙂  He liked the gator but passed on the grits – me too.    We all loved the local specialty of pralines – essentially cream, butter, sugar and a few nuts.  Crazy delicious!!!  And we had a chance to do laundry in large machines getting it all done in a hurry.  This is a big plus as Pratt hasn’t been feeling well necessitating more than one change of the bedding this week.  Our wonderful vet is sending meds which will hopefully help but he has been feeling much better the past few days – for now…  because, the plan is to leave at 3:00PM today with the slack tide to head to Wilmington, NC.    We should be underway for approximately 20 hours.  Depending on how much we love it – we will either stay there or go next to Bald Head Island.  Our eventual plan is to be in Southport Marina to celebrate my Step Fathers 80th birthday and see family on the 16th.

We all love hearing from you and we miss you.  Hope all is fantastically well at home! XO

 

WE ARE OFF!

Palm Beach – Cumberland Island, GA

Day 2

We made it off the dock nearly on schedule at 12:15 yesterday afternoon after a flurry of activity making final preparations for our departure. The funny thing about planning a trip like this – no matter how much time you have to prepare, there will always be last minute items not accomplished and one could prepare themselves right out of taking the trip. Our preparations took on this feeling. Our original departure date – weather depending – was Saturday the 26th of May. The weather was not ideal though so we pushed the departure until Tuesday. Even with the additional 3 days, we still felt rushed and only marginally ready to leave. That said, the delay did allow for us to attend church at our favorite place – St. Mary’s Episcopal in Stuart, FL and we also had an opportunity to see our favorite Priest, Father Christian and his lovely bride, Anastasia. One item that I had really hoped to accomplish was to have Gratitude blessed and after discussing this with Father Christian on Sunday AM, arrangements were made for he and Anastasia to come Sunday night to perform the ritual. Also attending was a dear friend from church whom we affectionately refer to as Grandma Jean. Whoever said you can’t have too many people love your child had Grandma Jean in mind.

The blessing was accomplished for both our vessel and the April K – our summer buddy boat docked “next door”. We enjoyed a lovely meal with great conversation and there is no question, we all felt better knowing that God had been invited on the journey with us. It was hard to argue with the presence felt by all in attendance.

So, our first day at sea….

The seas were forecast to be 5’ with 6 second periods. There probably were several 5’ waves but mostly the ride was incredibly comfortable and felt more like 2-4. This is a huge relief to me as our sea trials have all been in calm seas and this was the first time I had a chance to feel what her motion felt like. The same was true for our last “Gratitude”, a Kadey-Krogen 58. For me, the motion of that boat was a little “uncomfortable” compared to this ride and I only discovered that on her first trip home.

Our broker, friend, and resident mechanic joined us for the first couple of days. Since our acquisition of Gratitude, we have had a very comprehensive work order accomplished on every major system aboard. Since this is the first “real” shake down after performing all of this maintenance, it was wonderful to have a true professional aboard should anything go awry. If anyone ever has a need for Nordhavn work on the East Coast, James Knight is the guy to see.

We arrived in Cumberland Island, GA in time for a celebratory dinner on board Gratitude which included the 3 of us, James Knight and Paul and April from April K. We had an opportunity to try out the new grill installed on the aft deck, the anchor, the windlass (when we pulled up the anchor), the davit -(the large crane which lowers the dinghy into the water) and the dinghy. All systems performed flawlessly. After a peaceful night’s sleep and breakfast on the aft deck, we explored a bit of what remains of the Carnegie Estate from the mid 19th century. It burned several years after falling into disrepair after the Great Depression but it’s old grandeur was truly unmistakable. Additionally, wild horses now inhabit the island and were everywhere. Punctuating this trip was Jack’s first discovery of a real shark’s tooth which he found on the shore of the island prompted by a local woman who herself was beach combing to find the treasure and gave Jack 1 of hers before setting him on a life long journey, Im sure, to find more. So Jack is now 2 shark’s teeth richer!

 

 

Day 3 Cumberland Island, GA – Charleston, South Carolina

After our short visit, it was time to say goodbye and head North to Charleston. This was another 30 hour non-stop cruise which we are now in the midst of. I am back on watch at 5:30 and I went off watch and slept from 1-5. Alec and I try to do 4 hour watches which allows each of us a chance to enter a better quality sleep. By the time we arrive in Charleston Ill only have enjoyed 4.5 hours of sleep – those who know me can attest to how unusual this is for me – only 1/2 of my usual 9 – but for some reason, as I sit here watching the stunning sky come to life with hues of pink and purple, it hasn’t bothered me in the slightest and neither did it bother me on our last overnight where I had more time in the bunk but far less sleep as I had 1 ear open all night waiting for an unusual sound or feeling. Im really loving this off watch bunk though. I am sleeping really better being closer to the helm and Im feeling better being on watch with my partner so close if I need him. Also, due to it’s location mid-ships, it is a really comfortable ride.

Day 4

 

Our plan is to stay in Charleston for a minimum of a few days but may be longer as we have plenty of time on our hands and I have never spent any appreciable time here. (I know! Crazy right). We have a reservation at a resort/marina which sounds fantastic. Ill update again after a few days and let you know how we enjoyed the marina and Charleston in general. Rumors abound about the current in Charleston so we are making every effort to arrive at slack tide. (This is the time when the current is changing from outgoing to ingoing OR vice versa – basically it is the 15-30 minutes before or after the highest or lowest tide. Our slack tide for Charleston is at 10:30 am. We are on track to arrive at 9 into the inlet so this will give us plenty of time to mosey to the marina.