After 3 of the most uncomfortable days we’ve had at sea we deliberated if we would continue north and round cape Hatteras or pull into our familiar stop from last year, Beaufort, North Carolina. Despite barrelling along at 9 knots in the gulf stream towards the infamous shoals, we both agreed that between exhaustion and impending thunder squalls, that Cape Hatteras could wait.
Our passage wasn’t a gruelling battle against strong winds and seas, but I think we had wind from just about all directions at various times during the passage. What made the passage one of the worst for comfort and off watch rest is that we found ourselves in a washing machine, caused by wind driven waves opposing and meeting with swells or waves from different directions.
On the bright side, our second night at sea we had the opportunity for a rare beam reach, possibly our first ever on a multi-day passage. This allowed us to barrel along at over 7 knots even with a conservative sailplan. The winds died off the next morning and with the sun I was able to see why we had been thrown around so much and continued to be. We had wind and waves from the west meeting an existing east swell with a shorter pitch to lump up the waves and make Altera roll violently too and fro. And for good measure the occasional swell from the north.
While the confusion of the seas was diminishing when we reached the gulf stream we made the decision to pull in. After all Beaufort is a charming town and dog friendly too.
When we pulled in to the river, the marina was bare except each slip was occupied with massive ball fenders. We found out that the annual deep sea fishing tournament had brought over 100 boats to Beaufort and nearby Morehead City. The very competent dockhands scrambled to find us a slip and customs was over to visit within a half an hour. One of the agents instantly took a liking to Magnus and was concerned that he hadn’t eaten his breakfast so she started hand feeding him and was quite happy when he decided that he may as well finish off his bowl now that he had a taste for it. If I had to pick a single port for being the most welcoming place to arrive from a foreign country on a boat, this would be it.
By 5 o’clock the docks started to fill quickly as the fleet returned for the night.
It’s impressive the gear they have on board. And I thought sailing was an expensive pastime. I was wrong. Minutes after each boat pulled in, the crews were washing them down – each boat with its own water softening device on the dock as it would be a shame if the town water minerals left a water spot when it dried! I should have borrowed one while they were fishing and I was washing weeks worth of salt of Altera.
This year I also inflated the dinghy so that we could check out the island opposite from the docks. 33 wild horses live on the island and Magnus and I had the pleasure of watching a few of them.
If you ever visit the island, go at low tide. At mid tide the trails flood and you’re quite limited. So I actually went twice.
The island also has a great beach on the side that overlooks the ocean inlet.
And I almost forgot the best part. We had a cold front while we were there and made for long missed experience for us Canucks and comfortable sleeping at night too.