After leaving a pleasant peaceful anchorage in Charleston with delays due to increment weather, we headed north towards NJ.
The forecast included at least 1 of 4 days of rain and possible thunderstorms. It’s summer so that’s to be expected. Growing up in Miami it was a daily occurrence with the Everglades heating up and the skies opening. After living in San Diego I’ve lost that familiar feeling and am a big scardy cat now. Being a yacht owner adds a whole new twist. Thunderstorms are a yacht owners nightmare. Getting hit equates to losing all electronics and months of work to replace all the goods and rewire the whole lot. Plus who wants to be onboard for that! Take your metal rimmed glasses off and touch nothing is my motto. If off watch, climb in bed and pretend it’s not happening.
The first night was beautiful. The sunset, the stars and then the moon did not disappoint. John Forgrave flew from LAX to help us deliver and the extra set of hands makes our journey more enjoyable and easier on the sleep hours. He’s a great friend and a good sport who’s experience is mostly from racing Hobie 16’s. So we teach and play and laugh and fish and eat.
The 2nd day we were headed towards the Capes.
Why do the Carolinas name all the points scary names like Cape Fear and Cape LookOUT! The 3rd one heading north that is known for kicking sailors asses and is nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is Cape Hatteras. Shipwrecks abound as currents collide. Storms are a regular occurance as the continent bends at a distinct point.
Cape Fear was easy breezy. We passed Cape LookOUT at dark and were on our way towards Hatteras when the storm engulfed us. There was no turning back now.
We’d been watching the lightning in the dark skies with low lying clouds to the East and now they were on the West too. Counting the seconds before the big bang it was 20 and the radar was showing same. Until it didn’t. In my head are the lyrics somewhat modified – Clouds to the left of me, lightning on the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you. When the lightning lit up the sky we could see it all. The clouds – you’ve seen them. The kind with fingers that reach down and look like they want to pluck something out of the ocean. It was only a matter of time before we would get nailed. We rolled up the jib, main was already down, and the wind went from 20-40 knots a minute later. The rain pelted us and the only good thing was it wasn’t cold. The lightning had gone from being left and right to straight over head but not doing that loud BAMM! that was happening to our East. It was staying above us, but not hitting the water. Thank God! Meanwhile my brother had just driven with his wife to NC to visit friends on the outer banks. They knew we were out there, and only 40 miles away but no way would we go inside an unfamiliar harbor at night. That is a rule that should not be broken. An hour later the storm subsided and at 5AM the sky had calmed down. At sunrise pilot whales came to our bow and greeted us and the day with their songs and playful jumps. With 2 hulls we get twice as many playing on our bow wakes and sitting up front watching the show is always a treat.
The camaraderie of sharing an intense experience that is not artificial (scary movie, rollercoaster ride) bonds us even more, and we get the chance to retell our story to each other in the years to come.
Sailors get to do that if they sail long enough. We remember the times that define us – our courage, strength, decisions, judgement and the experiences that take us there.
Am I still a big chicken about lightning storms? Absolutely! But when it was happening was I freaked out? No. The jobs at hand were what counted. Concentrating on being safe and getting through it was the focus. But I will tell this story again. And the lightning will be bigger, the storm and seas wilder, and like all good fish stories, maybe a tad longer than what we really saw.
As for the fish stories, we have caught a Little Tunny, King Mackerel, female Dorado, and a Skipjack Tuna in 2 days. The Dorado was the only one we kept and 2 dinners later we are hoping for more! We remind ourselves that we are sailors, not fishermen, so anything we catch is a bonus!