I cooked the last of our sausages while Dad drove Meri through the inlet at Cape Fear. Tom napped. The current was with us, so we made 8.5 knots over the ground, motorsailing out beyond the lee of Cape Fear. I served dinner after dark, those sausages with leftover red potatoes and the last of the mustard. While Tom did dishes dad & I set the genoa and Meri aimed south on starboard tack under an overcast sky. The air warmed up quickly once in the ocean - the water remains in the mid-70s and seems to have acted to warm the breeze, which only that morning was in the 30s.
Our first night out was a ripper. Meri has no pole, so we sailed gybing angles in the following wind, opting to head offshore first with two reefs in the main and the full genoa. The NE'ly that had us on the inside for two days was still blowing, kicking up a boisterous sea, short and steep over the shallow water. Down below it was hard to sleep with the rolling, one of the more frustrating motions offshore. I laid on my back, and each time Meri rolled, my head would roll with her, jostling me awake. Eventually you learn how to curl up and hunker down against the motion, but the first night is always tiring.
By midnight it became apparent we were overpowered. Meri would catch one of the steep following waves and take off on these wild surfing runs, the autopilot struggling to maintain balance as she tried to round up. I saw 14.5 knots boat speed on my watch once, and the gauge regularly read over ten. When my dad came on to relieve me we grappled with the mainsail and stowed it, running off under genoa only, which allowed us to sail more in control and on a deeper angle. We still rolled a lot, but it was easier to sleep.
At dawn we noticed the foot line of the genoa had started to come out the bottom of the sail. The small bit of damage didn't surprise me - the sails are original to the boat, made in 2004, and felt awfully soft the few times we handled them on the ICW. One if the last things we did in Beaufort was to buy some sail repair tape and a needle & thread. The foot line thing isn't a big deal, and isn't even really repairable, so we left it.
Meri covered 175 miles in our first full day at sea. By the second evening the wind had veered into the east and eased off. After dinner time we rehoisted the mainsail. Full this time, and hauled on the sheets as the wind headed us. At midnight we turned in the engine and motored through the last of the dying easterly.
When I came up at 0400 the breeze was back, as predicted, and in the north. Tom was waiting for me to reset the sails. We hoisted the genoa, then decided to douse the mainsail entirely, as the GRIB I downloaded before we left indicated that once the norther filled in, it would continue to build. I went forward to wrestle the sail into the lazy bag at the luff while Tom controlled the halyard in the cockpit. It's shot too. One of the battens busted through the front of the sail. I'm hoping the wind stays aft and strong-ish so we won't need the main again.
As I write the moon looks down on me, smiling a perfect smile as it rises in the east, about a quarter full and waning. The brilliant sky full of stars we had earlier in the evening have given way to a thin layer of grey clouds. The dampness has returned too, and its clammy and itchy under my jacket and pants. I haven't showered in three days, which isn't helping. Dad will come up in 30 minutes to relieve me and I'll probably go back to bed, despite having had two cups of coffee already. We'll see if I can sleep.