Great Boats Travel Alike

Brian and I continued to wait out a blasting northeast wind before moving once again to cross the Albermarle Sound. We’d grown quite fond of our anchorage behind Durant Island; waking when the crabbers came ’round to check their traps, watching the local Ospreys hunt, fishing for our own fresh Blue Crabs for supper, and each night watching the sun fade away behind an untouched, North Carolinian wilderness. We tuned into local radio stations to get a good does of NPR news and stories, hip-hop, and country. We were well connected to the outside world with 4G which enabled us to check emails, chat with family and friends, and do some much needed researching pertaining to outfitting the new Alliage 41 awaiting us in France. We had been moving, moving, moving! In truth, for the moment, we were enjoying our solitude prior to our return to the hustle and bustle of land.

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Solitude is…well…it can become quite lonesome even when sharing it with your spouse (some may argue especially when sharing it with your spouse). And so, on this particular evening as we laid out our supper buffet style in the cockpit, we were quite surprised and excited to see a sailboat in the distance moving toward us. The sight of the sailboat ignited new conversation, “It’s coming straight at us,” “Well, it’s 5:30, must be coming over to anchor,” “We should invite them for drinks,” “What drinks!? We’ve got one beer left in the cupboard!” And so the anticipation for the new arrival built as the sailboat motored closer, and closer, and closer until Brian exclaimed, “That’s a Westsail!”

Sure enough, our new neighbor was another Westsail 32. Once within shouting range we heard a loud, “Helllllooooo Rode Trip! I’m SO excited you are here!” We waved and yelled back, “Hellllloooo! Welcome to our anchorage!” The Captain anchored his Westsail and without delay Brian hopped into our dinghy, which was already in the water, and dinghied over to pick up our new friend for a visit. We welcomed aboard Peter. He is also sailing northbound on s/v Onapua. Peter is just beginning his own adventures and sharing on his website: www.onapua.com

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We invited Peter to join us for dinner. As it turned out plain ‘ol black beans, corn, cheese, and homemade tortillas were a tasty meal after a hard day’s travel! We were honored to learn that Peter has followed our travels by reading our blog and that some of our decisions were helpful to him throughout his own sailing preparations. Brian, Peter, and I swapped sailing stories and talked technical about Westsails. Peter’s enthusiasm for his newfound sailing lifestyle reminded Brian and I why we too love this lifestyle. There is a connectedness here with fellow cruisers and an appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds us.

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Hoppy Hitchhikers Hide & Seek

We’ve had all walks of life aboard Rode Trip, and I’m not just referring to single-handers. I’m referring to critters great and small who despite our home’s watery foundation manage to hop aboard and hitch a ride.  Some are in need of respite, such as birds with weary wings during a long journey.  Some are in need of rescue from the water, not their own natural habitat.  Some may simply be exploring.  Discoveries of these creatures are usually surprising, sometimes alarming, and almost always accompanied by a loud, “AAAHHHHHHH!!!! EEW EEW!!” followed by a long winded sigh from Brian.  Some critters are welcome guests, others are quickly tossed overboard.

Brian and I were motoring in the Intracoastal Waterway through the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal.  We’d stopped that evening at the end of the canal and dropped the hook about one-quarter mile from shore in the Alligator River.  Sometime during the night, our most recent hitchhikers hopped aboard.  The next morning, underway once again, we were bashing against choppy waves created by a strong north wind.  I came into the cockpit presenting breakfast, and as I sat on the port side I noticed something green butted up against the wall of the winch.  “Oh, a chrysalis!”  I leaned over for a closer look.IMG_9772

Hmmm, this was not a chrysalis.  Once again I’d confirmed to myself that I should really be wearing my glasses.  Upon even closer inspection, this was a frog!  A tiny, very green, soundly sleeping frog!IMG_9777

This was a most welcome hitchhiker.  How could I (meaning Brian at my command) toss overboard such a cute little fella?  “Let’s call him Toby,” I suggested.  “I think it’s a girl,” Brian replied.  Since the name Toby happened into my brain without much prompting I had to think for some time about a girl name for the frog.  By then, we’d stopped our trip because once we entered the open Abermarle Sound the 25 knots of north wind right on our nose was slowing our progress too much to continue.  We ducked behind the protection of Durant Island, just north of the Alligator River Wildlife Preserve.  Brian tied the tiller once we’d set the anchor.  He moved aside one of the cockpit cushions and out hopped a second frog!  “Ah, hah!  That one we’ll call Juliet,” I announced.  The second frog found itself a cozy nook in the crevice of the boomkin.

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We identified these as Green Tree Frogs.  Found in North Carolina along the Coastal Plain, Green Tree Frogs are quite abundant in wetland regions and swamps.  They are nocturnal; which explains their sound napping during choppy seas.  At night time they can be quite acrobatic while in search of flying insects to eat.  Just after sunset, Brian and I went to the cockpit with a flashlight to check on the hitchhikers.  Both Toby and Juliet had moved slightly from their previous positions.  While searching for Juliet, Brian found a third…fourth…fifth…Green Tree Frogs were hopping about the boomkin as if it were a jungle gym!  In total, we’d counted eight frogs!  But can they swim?  Had they hopped aboard from a floating log?

The next morning I went to the cockpit straightaway to check on the frogs.  They had all snuggled into nooks and crannies; the boomkin posts, the propane box, on top of the tiller.  I managed to find five of the eight.  The Green Tree Frogs were soundly sleeping, awaiting arrival at the next scheduled stop, Elizabeth City.  IMG_9785 IMG_9786 IMG_9788 IMG_9789 IMG_9792

The Trip that Went South: Here We Go!

We had wind and current in our favor as we began down the Intracoastal Waterway from Wrightsville Beach, NC toward the Cape Fear River. The sun was shining but it was no mask for the chilly air whisking our faces. We were happy to be headed south! BMac helped me to raise the jib and we continued motor sailing.

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BMac was willing and eager to learn and do as much as possible. He soon took the tiller and assigned Brian to dolphin watch.

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While the guys were occupied, I did my last email/internet check. Woah! There was big news in the cruising world… Firstly, the largest typhoon to ever strike was wrecking havoc in the Philippines. I shared this story with the guys and we dared to imagine 200 knot winds comprising a storm stretching from Boston to Philadelphia. This would certainly be a tragic event! Secondly, the US Coast Guard had reported assisting five sailing vessels within the past two days. FIVE! In addition, Brian and I were already aware of a cruiser who required rescuing from the Northern Atlantic earlier this week. Hmmm… I shared these situations with the guys. Four of the sailboats were traveling with the Salty Dog Rally; a group of sailors who depart Hampton Roads, VA together bound for the Eastern Caribbean. Two were demasted, one was taking on water, and one had a medical emergency that was later declared not an emergency. The fifth was not associated with the rally and was headed toward Bermuda, however there was no emergency rather a faulty EPIRB. What was happening out there!? Was the universe showing us a sign!? Again, we downloaded our weather forecast while we still had connectivity. Yup, still good. Did I mention we were departing on a Friday…but sailors aren’t superstitious!

While BMac drove, Brian and I were able to rig our starboard side spinnaker pole for the very first time. We poled out the jib, not only giving us a nice boost but also keeping the jib from flapping with any shifty wind as we motored the waterway. Fabulous!

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Brian did spot some dolphins (he’s always has the first keen eye) and took the tiller while BMac and I moved about the deck to watch the dolphins more closely. We were also treated to quite the maneuver from a tug with a barge on the Cape Fear River. There it was, just moving along parallel to us traveling in the opposite direction when suddenly the tug dropped the chain, pulled a reverse, and swung along the side of the barge! It was then pushing the barge sideways down the river, while turning it around. This was certainly a first for us, and certainly a first for BMac to see a tug in action and realize that the barge has no power of its own!

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Kayakers playing chicken with the passing waterway traffic in the Cape Fear River.

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After nearly five hours motoring along the Intracoastal Waterway, we were briskly exiting the Cape Fear River with the outgoing tide into the Atlantic Ocean. The late afternoon sun warmed us as BMac steered while he and Brian navigated the channel. Ah, we were free! We motored for some time until beyond the point of Cape Fear which seemed to be shielding us from the wind. The waves built as we got farther and farther from the coastline. The wind built too. We set the main with one reef, added the staysail, and let the spinnaker pole down from the jib. Soon we were cruising along at 5.2 knots in 10-15 knots of wind with 2-4 foot following seas. It was glorious! In the cockpit at sunset, we dined on Brian’s homemade macaroni and cheese while we planned the overnight watch schedule. We’d do three hour watches and for this first night we’d buddy with BMac. As the night folded in around us, BMac was getting a quick and dirty lesson in developing his sea legs. Outside, he was able to hold his own. But inside, the motion of the ocean got the better of him. During his first watch he scampered topside and had a good, close look at the dark water below while bidding farewell to his supper. Brian kept watch with BMac, who was most comfortable in fetal position on the bunk. It was a rolly night but Rode Trip was screamin’ along and we were loving the sail!

The next morning, I began day two on watch with BMac. Buttered toast aided in renewing BMac’s energy. He sat topside getting his bearings now that daylight had returned and he was starting to feel better. The wind was tapering as the forecast had predicted. Mid-morning, we shook out the reef on the main and continued to make south as best we could. By the afternoon, we were becalmed. And so as we had pre-planned, it was time for the iron sail.