When it was good, it was really, really good. But when it was bad, it was really, really bad.
Unfortunately, the last 48 hours of our trip were of the latter variety. And that's how we knew it was time to stop. The weather turned brutal on us that last week; temperatures in the thirties, with high winds, and a thunderstorm or two. Winter is one thing when you can come inside to get warm. But winter on the water is a whole other story.
We pulled into Southport one evening this weekend, and I took a pretty bad fall while we were coming into one of their free docks. Now, I'm not a clumsy person, but my muscles were so cold and tense that instead of hopping off the side of the boat to tie on the dock line, I found myself landing on my side with a hard thud on the solid wood dock. I am now sporting several impressive purple and swollen bruises and sore muscles a few days later. But! I never did let go of the dock lines, so there's that.
The following morning called for high winds, and Gidget and I stayed below in the cabin while our fearless captain beat into the waves. We were only going to travel about 10 miles or so before we planned to stop for fuel and showers. The waves were crashing over the boat and Riley was being doused with icy water. Not the best time to run out of fuel. Yeah, it happened.
I thought I'd let Riley tell this part of the story in his own words:
"So there we were, marching into 30 mile per hour winds and waves, just trying to make 10 miles to get out of it so we could continue on. The weather started getting so rough that the boat was rocking back and forth, and already knowing that I was low on fuel, I saw the gauge begin to dance back and forth erratically. Ultimately I knew what was about to come, but I was praying that it wouldn't. I asked Allison if she would like to continue on, or turn around and head back to Southport (she was unaware of the fuel situation) and her vote was to continue on. I was thinking, 'I guess I'll find out what I'm really made of.' So hunkering down, trying to keep out of the water that kept crashing down over the bow, I waited. I heard the engine suck air and start to lose power, so I shut it down in the hope that there would still be enough fuel in the system to get it started if I needed it. I turned down wind, put a sail out, (reefed down to about the size of a handkerchief), and started sailing down wind to the most manageable point of sail I could with that much wind and current. Motoring into the wind, we had been making 4 knots, and at times down to 0.8 knots. Now, we were running 8.4 downwind. I had a big freighter coming my way, and behind me was a car ferry and a mega yacht, and there we were on a tiny boat, sailing right smack down through the middle of them. When we got to the mouth of Cape Fear, I looked up and saw a sign for Deep Point Marina (a sign from heaven, really). I called them on the vhf, and told them I was down an engine and coming in hot. There was a jetty built out at the entrance to the marina to help boats get in in bad currents, so we sailed up to the mouth of the jetty and I figured I'd try one last shot at the engine. Miraculously it started, although it was lacking in power because it was not getting enough fuel. I was able to limp in, after ripping what little bit of sail I had out. Thankfully, with some help from the dock master and another dockhand were able to make it into the fuel dock."
I can't even tell you how relieved we were to be tied up to that dock. After our nerves had calmed down a bit, we checked the weather for the rest of the week and it didn't look like it was going to let up. We were about two to three long days from the marina we had left from in New Bern, and we couldn't justify putting ourselves through that. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed at the idea of not finishing where we started from, but we found ourselves at a very nice facility with a decent slip fee, and a less expensive option for a rental car, to boot. So, that was that! We had a pizza delivered to the boat that night, and packed up all of our stuff. Before we left, we obviously had to watch the Dawson's Creek episode where Pacey and Joey return from their 3 month sailing trip. Honestly, it helped with the closure I was needing.
It was a little emotional leaving the boat behind the next morning. I couldn't decide if it felt more like the entire sailing trip had been just a dream, or if I was dreaming the ending of it. We would like to return the boat to New Bern once the weather warms up again, and complete the circle. We also have a lot of other plans for that sailboat of ours, and lots of adventures ahead of us. But for now, here we are, back in Virginia, trying to find our footing on solid ground.
I have a few more posts about our trip that I'm looking forward to sharing with you this week, including my attempt at filming a video tour of the boat. So stay tuned! The adventure isn't over, it's just changing course.