Passage making, November 2017
Making a passage is entering in to Water World where everything moves and dreamtime flows free. Water rushes, swooshes and slaps against the hull as the boat rises with each wave, crests, and falls into the next valley, until we are no longer sure where water ends and sky begins.
The first day we are excited and nervous after months of preparation and anticipation. We weigh anchor at dawn and leave the flat water of Taylor Creek, North Carolina. A 2-knot currant pushes us through the narrow inlet between Carrot Island and Beaufort in to the sea. We are on full alert looking for the next mark, noticing any drift towards the shoals to the south, until we find ourselves in open water.
After a few hours we are alone at sea, surrounded by an unbroken horizon. It is disorienting at first as our bodies and senses adjust to the constant motion, the crowded quarters and vulnerability of traveling in a small boat over open water.
We have plotted our five-day passage from Beaufort to West Palm Beach in Florida, 20-40 miles off the coast, far enough east to avoid the shoals jutting out: Cape Lookout, Cape Fear, and Shipwreck point, but not so far east we end up in the giant northbound current of the Gulf-Stream.
The crew consists of myself, my husband Bill, and our friend Bill from Lopez Island in Washington State. We live in the cocoon of the boat in a well-synchronized dance, making decisions, trimming sails, eating and sleeping never more than a few feet from each other. Every evening we agree on a strategy for the night, favoring comfort and safety.
Nighttime is divided in to three-hour watches and leaves each of us alone with the boat, our thoughts, and the heavenly bodies. Our perception of time and space changes in the solitude of the night. When an approaching cargo ship suddenly appears my inner alarm goes off and I check its speed and direction on the chart plotter. As its red running light passes my bow I relax and I return to studying two large planets hanging in the East.
The boat glides through the black ink of the night. The moon rises and brings the night to life. It wanders across the sky and sets in the west as the sun rises. First light paints the eastern sky a pale grey, blending in to yellows and pinks. A line of cumulus clouds hang low on the horizon, silhouetted against the rising sun. It is a sacred moment.
As the days pass, we fall in to a routine and move more easily around the boat. Pods of dolphins follow us for hours, swimming back and forth, making contact. We spend time talking, reading and napping. Conversations flow easy as the boat flies downwind under a full main and an asymmetrical spinnaker at 7 knots.
One afternoon Bill’s fishing reels start whizzing. It takes time and skill to reel in two beautiful Bonita’s. We release one and eat the other one for dinner. The next day we catch two Mahi Mahi’s and our fridge is full with fresh fish.
The skyline of West Palm rises out of the sea on our fifth day. We drop anchor in North Palm and spend day a shore in high spirits. Excited to have completed our first Ocean passage.
As of November 12 we have arrived at Port Lucaya in the Bahamas. We are tucked in to a well protected anchorage waiting for a strong low pressure system to pass. On Monday we plan to continue to the Berry Islands.