Rounding Cape Hatteras

It's 0823 on Thursday morning. Sojourner is in position 35 09 N, 75 19 W. Plot that on the chart - it's as close to Cape Hatteras as you'd ever want to be.

We made it here this morning, the outer edge of Diamond Shoals, a full three hours ahead of my most optimistic prediction of a day or so ago. That was based on six knots of boat speed, and assuming we'd be motoring to keep that, as the weather was calm and likewise the forecast. Shortly after my little math project to see if we'd have enough fuel, the SW breeze filled in and we've been sailing wing on wing ever since, the big genoa poled out to starboard and the main squared off to port. We earned a two-knot bonus riding the western edge of the Gulf Stream. Since yesterday morning, our speed rarely dipped below 7 knots.

In anything other than very benign conditions I'd be nowhere close to where were positioned now. In fact, were cutting the corner INSIDE the big platform marking Diamond Shoals themselves. The water quickly went from 66 degrees and 400 feet deep, to 58 degrees and 40 feet deep in the time it took my dad to go to the head. Despite the fact that its blowing only 8-10 knots from the west (and coming off the land), the deep sea swell from the south has turned into short, steep waves on the shoals, their tops tumbling off in foamy crests. With no wind, they're harmless, but it makes you think.

We ended up so close in because I decided to jibe at 0200 last night just after Tom relieved me on the watch. I went down into my bunk up forward but couldn't sleep. Over the course of my three hours on deck, we'd gradually had to ease towards the east as the wind slowly clocked around. With the pole set I had no options for sail trim and could only adjust our course. We were making about 060, when we needed 040 to cut it close around Hatteras. So I rose again, got my gear back on, and Tom and I furled the genoa, secured the pole and jibed the mainsail onto port tack. We redeployed the genoa and set a course for 035, the best we could do to keep wind in the sail (and not blanketed by the main). Hence six hours later, we ended up practically ON Diamond Shoals.

Yesterday was the type of day offshore that keeps you coming back. An easy breeze from the SW propelled Sojourner along bang on course, aided by the favorable current, and on a flat sea thanks to the several days of settled weather we've had since the little gale off Savannah. It was shorts and t-shirt weather. Schools if dolphins circled the boat and played in the bow wave almost hourly. Tom, perched at the pulpit, counted twelve at one point, bunched tightly together and escorting Sojourner towards the NE.

More wildlife joined us later in the day.

"Turtle!" Said Tom. He'd spotted it just off the starboard beam, but dad and I missed it.

"Was it big?" I asked.

"About the size of the dinghy!" Tom answered.

We'd seen bug sea turtles off the Nova Scotian coast on our way across the Atlantic in 2011, and were surmised to find them that far north. I guess this guy was heading in that direction for the summer.

We fished all day and landed three 'little tunnies.' Otherwise known as bonito. Dad was ready with the cheap vodka to knock him out and get him ready for the frying pan. He was beautiful, deep blue stripes on an almost reflective silver. Weird as it sounds, I saw my mom's spirit in that fish. She believed all living things had a soul, not in a religious sense but in a spiritual one, and I saw the life in that little fish and couldn't bring myself to take it from him. He patiently waited for me to remove the hook and I set him free to live another day. A few hours later a friend of his wound up on the hook and we did the same, releasing him back to the ocean after admiring him. Almost immediately we caught a third! Or maybe that second one was dumb enough to take the lure again. At any rate, as the sun was going down, that was the end of our fishing, and I felt strangely content with potatoes and chili for dinner.

In the time it took me to write the above, we seem to have cleared the worst of Diamond Shoals. We're around Hatteras now, and it's saved it's fury for another day. The waters back to over 100 feet and those big, deep sea rollers have flattened right out. Well spend today running up Virginia Beach, and if our luck holds, will be back in the familiar waters of the Chesapeake sometime in the next 24 hours.