Southbound: Indecision in Beaufort

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It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
— Oscar Wilde

Stuck in Beaufort. Rain pours from the sky, heavier now than it’s been all morning. Any last inkling of going offshore today has been officially washed out. 

Dad, Tom & I borrowed the car from the Three Nice Guys at the Beaufort Docks marina and drove to Atlantic Beach for a midday breakfast at the Four Corners Diner, then on to West Marine to get a few supplies. Because that’s what you do during a weather delay. 

When we got back, after longer than the hour we were technically allowed with the car, the Three Nice Guys were sitting together inside the little Beaufort Docks office in three adjacent chairs. Apparently just sitting. When I paid for a second night here, they consulted one another briefly before unanimously agreeing that tomorrow around 0700 would be the best time to leave the marina, at near slack water. The Three Nice Guys are a mellow, friendly bunch.

The forecast looked perfect as of yesterday. But this morning it’s a little TOO good. Meaning, the strong northerly that is set to fill in behind this stalled cold front that is bringing us this rain right now, is going to be a little TOO strong between Friday & Saturday. There’s a gale warning offshore, with the wind forecast to gust to 35, and remain steady in the mid-twenties for about 48 hours. A biggish sea will accompany the wind.

I feel like a huge sissy. If we were sitting here aboard Isbjorn, we’d be offshore already. I wouldn’t be writing this. Isbjorn revels in big conditions off the wind. Plus, it’s a high-pressure ‘fair weather gale’ - meaning the rain will be swept away by cold, dry Canadian air, and the weather, while windy, will be splendid. But we’re not sitting on Isbjorn. We’re delivering Meri, a 2004 Tartan 4100 to Stuart, Florida from Annapolis. The boat’s owner is in Colorado. She’s certainly up for it - Tartan’s have an excellent reputation, and she performed great the little we sailed her on the open-water parts of the ICW over the past few days.

But she’s not setup for ocean sailing. Only two white sails (jib & main - no staysail or any sort of heavy weather gear), probably original (and 13 years old). No jacklines. A borrowed liferaft, sat phone & EPIRB (from Sojourner, my dad’s boat). The running rigging is nice stuff, but it’s old and stiff. There’s not much in the way of spares. I know it’s only 550 miles offshore, but still…

Even as I write this, I feel like I’m making excuses for myself for NOT going offshore. Never waste a fair wind, they say. This is killing me sitting here when we’ve got 7 days of northerlies in the forecast and we’re heading south.

But there’s something in my gut that’s saying stay put. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in 20,000 miles sailing Isbjorn over the past two years, it’s to trust my gut. My ego doesn’t like it, and that’s probably why I’m so indecisive right now. 

A real sailor would have left this morning, it’s saying to me. You call yourself a professional. Ha! Wuss.

Tom finds it reassuring. He and Darlene sail an Ericsson 38, and when it’s time for them to make the ‘go or no go’ decisions, he goes through the same agony. 

“This makes me feel much better!” Tom joked when we debated what to do earlier this morning. “I thought it was only me who felt like a wuss and had a hard time making decisions.”

We can’t leave tomorrow, not offshore anyway. It’s a FRIDAY! That’s a big no-no in traditional sailor superstition (and one that I choose to follow). So instead we’ll go down the ICW as far as we can in the daylight, aiming towards the Cape Fear inlet on the inside. That’s 105 statute miles away on the ICW, which is more than a day in daylight. So we’ll hope to get down there sometime midday on Saturday, then go straight out the inlet and offshore to start the trip in earnest. I’m anxious that the forecast which looks so good right now in the long term - those strong northerlies easing back into the high teens and twenties starting Saturday, and lasting all the way through Wednesday on the GRIBS - I’m worried that’ll somehow change. I’m worried I’ll regret sitting here at the dock and writing this instead of going into the ocean. 

Why am I writing this? My ‘professional’ (read ‘egotistical’) side says keep it to yourself, buddy. But it’s cathartic writing about my anxieties, and maybe I’ll inspire somebody else to think that it’s also okay to make conservative decisions.

I said myself that I’ve had enough ‘adventure’ this year on our own boat. This is meant to be a relaxing delivery south with friends, no drama. 

Now I just need to learn how to relax.