02 February 2010

Tales of Woe

On Wednesday, we left around noon.  Nothing too fancy, we just spent the night in Tull Bay - we stayed close to home in case any system wasn't working properly or if any unforeseen needs arose.  The weather was gorgeous, we were smiling, everything seemed fine and dandy.  Kyle took the helm to lead us out of the canals.

So, we spent the afternoon getting minor things settled in or stowed, then got out our books and lounged in the sun.  The plants were loving it!  And so were we, quite frankly.  That afternoon we celebrated our departure with the aforementioned champagne, and later that night the parents (Ken and Kelly - oh, sorry to forget you, Short One - Brittany, too) and neighbors (Dwayne and Janet) came out to cook us dinner and wish us farewell.  

In the morning, the real adventure began.  We had an uneventful trip down to Coin Jock, where we filled up on diesel and chatted with some boys delivering a mega yacht from New Jersey.  It was pretty chilly on the boat because even though it was 50-60* out; the wind was bitter.  Little did I know what was to come...

So anyway, we made it to our first anchorage, no problem, around 1pm.  We "battened down the hatches," as they say, because the weather was about to turn inclement.  The forecast was COLD and WINDY.  Those are the proper nautical terms, Kyle taught me those.  We learned that the dinghy cannot be used to set an anchor (the gravitational force of the chain is greater than the pull of the boat when rowing).  Hmm, what else.  It was cold that night, but we had a giant pile of blankets.

The next morning the waves were kind of rough, and that was before we even got into the Albemarle Sound.  Also, they were parallel with the direction we were heading.  I learned then that the direction of the waves is nearly as important as how big they are.  If we had been heading with the waves or even against the waves, we probably would have crossed the Sound.  But going parallel is pretty brutal.  There was utter destruction of the bookshelves, but we already knew that there was insufficient stowage in that area.

So, even though it hurt our pride, we turned around and went back to the anchorage.  This was a tough decision, because the weather reports had already advised us that if we didn't cross Friday, the next earliest we'd be able to cross was Sunday or even Monday, which meant a couple days being confined to the sailboat, no land, no people, just a test of how long we could stand each other.

But it turned out to be more than that.  On Saturday we woke up to snow.  Keep in mind we have no heat on the boat at all.  There is a stove, and we can derive heat from that, but I think that every time we ran the stove it set the CO detector off, which was annoying.  And it was tolerable with 2-4 layers of clothing on.  Most of what I packed was intended for tropical zones, however.  So we kept our spirits up by learning how to make popcorn in a pan (not too difficult) and doing a puzzle I picked up at Goodwill (surprisingly difficult).  But even by Saturday I was hardly eating at all, because my body just wasn't using the energy.  Every bite was forced, because I knew it would warm me, but I just wasn't hungry.

Sunday, we didn't wake up to anything, because we never slept at all.  Winds gusting up to 45 knots, I think Kyle said (gale force).  That meant the dinghy constantly thumping on the deck above our heads, halyards pinging against the mast, winds howling everywhere, and constant fear that the anchors would break loose and we'd be grounded.  And just when I dropped off, the radio would crackle in with a "Pan-pan" or "Securité."  In all honesty, not sleeping wasn't such a bother because by that point, we were going to bed at seven and getting up at nine as there was nothing to do in or on the boat, and nowhere to go because our anchorage was very remote.  More importantly, there was nowhere warm except for bed, covered in blankets. 

And it was Sunday afternoon when I finally broke down.  By Sunday, any cheeriness I felt was a little bit forced anyway, but when I saw my two precious art books - Art of the Louvre and History of Art - getting water damaged, I just couldn't take any more.  The condensation was so awful; we were both spending so much time wrapped up in blankets in the v-berth, our breath was causing every surface in the v-berth to drip.  Also, one of the ports in the v-berth had leaked in our short, rocky trip Friday morning, which had also done some damage to the books.  They're nearly all second-hand, crappy books so I don't care about most of them, but it was then that I realized the extent of the damage.  There was even water between the books at that point.  The main salon wasn't as bad, but there was a lot of condensation there too.  So there was water everywhere - all around us, outside the boat, in the boat, and snow on the boat.  It was pervasive, relentless.  Just like the cold.  And we were still only six hours from home.

We talked Sunday night, and we decided that we should just return to Moyock.  That decision was really hard, because we're both proud and stubborn to the core.  But even though the winds were forecasted to be fairly calm, the weather wasn't supposed to get warmer than 40* for quite a while.

Monday we woke up to ice.  It was so calm in the river that ice had formed.  Gloriously calm, even.  Heading back to the ICW from our anchorage, we seriously discussed continuing on, because the winds were perfect for an easy crossing of the Sound.  And, making actual progress made everything seem so much happier than the dull sitting-and-waiting that had been our main focus of the last few days.  But calm winds weren't going to make it much warmer, so we did in fact return to Moyock.

And that's where I am right now.  Sitting at the counter, watching cable, in a house warm enough that I only need one layer of clothing.  There is a fridge and a microwave right there in the kitchen, I can cool or warm food at will.  There are actual people here.  I can go the grocery store if I decide I want ice cream.  I can stretch out as far as a I want, and it takes me more than three steps to get from one end of the house to the other.  I'm not saying I can't handle the confines of the sailboat.  But weather this cold makes the boat so much smaller.

When we got back, there wasn't enough water to handle our 4.6' draft in the canals, so we parked it at the end of the canals, and rather than wait until our water taxi got home from work, rowed the dinghy all the way down the main canal home.  It was actually a pretty nice day for it.  Today Kyle spent about six hours trying to get the sailboat back to the dock; we ran aground just around the corner from the house.  It was cold today.  Carolina shouldn't be cold.  Carolina should be at least 50* at all times, and any snow that falls should never stay.  Carolina shouldn't look like this.

So it was a big learning experience, and I think it's safe to say that while we knew turning back was the best option for our sanity, it was a HUGE disappointment to both of us.  But I find it really encouraging that Kyle and I got along really well through the whole thing.  I am extremely impressed by his tolerance for misery - even when I'm cold and the warmth of the house is right there ("Let's just go back and warm up quick a second before we take the dinghy out again and try to haul to boat to the house"), he isn't willing to give up.  It makes me feel like such a ...GIRL.  But it also challenges me to be stronger, and despite our initial setbacks, I think we're going to do okay.

Also, now we get to watch the Superbowl!


  1. Found you on BC. Great site.. keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Oh Darc, I didn't know it was that bad. You guys are my heros and I hope that you get another go at this soon. After all, I want an excuse to go see Guatemala!


  3. Reading this, I didn't hear pride--I heard a lot of humility in sharing so many frustrations. Sounds like you are learning a lot and it is already an adventure! I'm glad you get a little recovery time.

  4. When living aboard and sailing it is crucial to follow your gut, not your ego. Sailing can be utterly miserable in the kinds of conditions you describe; get a decent heater, fix the leaks and if you improve ventilation you won't have the issues of dampness aboard. And for God's sake a beeping CO heater is not an irritation, it's a warning of deadly gas present!
    Take it slow, gain knowledge and keep alive. Courage and determination is important, but so is caution, knowledge and experience. Good luck and we'll see you on the water some time. Drop me a note if I can be any help; I love to see young people living the dream.

  5. Haha, well yeah, the first night the CO detector went off I barely slept because I was worried I wouldn't wake up. After it went off for the tenth time I took it a little less seriously...

    But it was definitely a good test run; we found out what we lack in terms of necessity and comfort. Not a failure by any means, I just wish it had turned out better.

  6. Well, better to have all those problems in the Sound right near home, rather than in the middle of the ocean somewhere. Good for you for knowing when to swallow your pride and head back to shore. And good for you for not giving up! Now that you have those kinks worked out, next time is going to be great!