Underway: Day 2 - Storms and Beaufort, NC Bound

Thursday, June 29, 2006

032-31.200 N
077-53.400 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from the of the BlueJacket!

Right now we're off the coast of Cape Fear, NC and are considering our options as where to go. We're down to about 30 gallons of fuel, which is the amount that we'd need to make it to Beaufort, NC if we have to motor.

Yesterday was spent motoring as we had NO wind. Zip, zero, zilch. But the good thing was that we were in the Gulf Stream which was giving us a 2-3 kt boost in speed. As a result we were doing 8-9 kts, which is fantastic. The Gulf Stream was as placid as one could hope. We had the portholes and hatches open and Sue even made a eggplant Parmesan for dinner. We also read books, played board games, called some friends on the sat phone and were generally very bored.

I had the 8-11 PM shift and when I handed it over to Sue at 11 there were some thunderheads to the SE that had some cloud-to-cloud lightening which I didn't think would amount to anything. Things were so calm that I slept in the V-berth (in the bow) with the hatch open. At about 1:50 I awoke to the bow pitching up and down. As I reached to close the hatch we took a wave over the bow and gallons of water poured in soaking me and the bed. It seems that one of the storms created a small patch of chop which was gone as fast as it appeared. When I went to the cockpit Sue showed me a thunderstorm to our starboard and a broad patch of rain to our port. She went down and tried to clean up while I tried to avoid the rain and storms.

The rain quickly overtook us and drenched us with rain. I got us out of that, but the radar soon showed thunderstorms breaking out all around us. I tried to guide us between them and did a good job of dodging the thunderheads that were throwing bolts of lightening to the ground. After 2 hours the radar clearly showed that a 25 mile long front had formed behind us and was chasing us to the NE. The clouds were pitch black, but the lightening would outline them which allowed me to get an idea of what was coming. I kept maneuvering, but finally we were surrounded on 3 sides by intense thunderstorms and the pocket was closing. The winds were increasing and lightening was everywhere. I made the very tough decision to turn around and head back through it so that we could get to the backside where there shouldn't be any lightening or rain. The radar showed that was about 6 miles back and I guess that the storm was moving at 8 kts and I would probably make 2 kts while heading into the wind and rain. Thus it would take 40 minutes to make it through the front. I told Sue to expect a bumpy ride and turned the boat around.

Within minutes we had 35-40 kt winds on the bow and torrential rains whipping across the water and decks. One interesting thing is that heavy rains really smooth out the seas, so the ride got a bit smoother. However, it was cold! The rain and the winds were frigid and I was getting cold as I only had on my foul weather jacket and swim trunks. It took close to an hour to get through and it felt like a lot longer. We finally cleared the rain and lightening and things were much calmer. My jaw was sore from clenching it so much! I stayed on shift until 6:45 when I felt that I could hand the boat over to Sue without too many things to avoid. I crashed for 3 hours and when I got up I found that we had leaden skies with very little wind. We began a turn that would take us out of the Gulf Stream and towards Cape Fear or Beaufort, NC.

The issue that we have is fuel. I never expected to have motored all of the way, and we were down to about 30 gallons, which is exactly how much fuel we need to make it to Beaufort. As soon as we exited the Gulf Stream we were hit by a counter current at 1+ kts! Where did that come from? The wind had also picked up out of the NE, which was exactly the direction of Beaufort. We made the decision to head to Cape Fear but we found out that all of the marinas are full with 4'th of July boaters. Now what? We decided that we'd find a place to anchor and we needed fuel, so we headed to Cape Fear. The down side of this is that it means another overnight to get from Cape Fear to Beaufort. The winds picked up and we were able to start sailing close-hauled to Cape Fear. As the day progressed the winds clocked around and I realized that we could head to Beaufort, so we started heading that way. No one told the winds to stop clocking and now they're dead behind and the boom is banging away every time we get a rolled by waves. If the winds don't clock further around we'll start motoring when we've accumulated enough "spare fuel". At this rare we'll make Beaufort late Friday night.

That's it from here. WE hope that everyone has a great 4'th of July weekend!

-- Geoff & Sue
Log ID: 880

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