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s/v Nightingale Tune and s/v Jasaru in the anchorage at Cape Lookout, NC

Packs of dolphins sprang out of the water as we rounded the point into the scenic anchorage in Cape Lookout, NC. It was the perfect ending to a 30 hour sail that marked a few big firsts for us.

The decision to “bust our cherry” (as Justin so eloquently put it) for overnight sailing was not one taken lightly. Brian and I  knew that eventually we’d have to overcome our fear of this unknown experience, and as we weighed our options for getting to Florida – either motor down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for the next couple weeks or sail down the coast, the decision became clear. With reports of annoying and potentially hazardous conditions on the ICW and the opportunity to have the support of buddy boats along the way, the time felt right for crossing this milestone.

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John, Justin, and Rob at the daily coffee meeting aboard s/v Jasaru to review forecasts, charts, and plans for the day ahead.

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s/v Jasaru, heading out of Hampton, VA

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s/v Hecla of Uist heading out of Hampton, VA

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The crew of Jasaru, getting cheeky with a tanker ship

There was plenty of wind to take us out of Hampton on Wednesday morning, but after a few hours it waned and we turned on the motor, eager to outrun battering winds forecasted for the following day. We held a steady course and got into the rhythm of taking our three hour shifts at the helm and checking in with our friends aboard sv Jasaru and sv Hecla via VHF radio. There was a beautiful sunset, and then total darkness save for the millions of stars surrounding us and the phosphorescent wake trailing Nightingale Tune. I monitored the autopilot and radar without incident as we rounded the notoriously hairy Cape Hatteras, NC at 1:00 AM, with Brian asleep in the aft berth. We were bummed that we didn’t get to do any night sailing (just night motoring), but all in all, the mild conditions gave us the opportunity to experience the logistics of the beast. We now know what to expect and no longer fear the unknown.

The seas kicked up in the final hours of the trip on Thursday afternoon and we pushed on through our biggest waves yet – ranging between six and ten feet. We held on and laughed a bit (ignorance is bliss) as waves crashed over the bow and we took spray to the face. It would have been hell in the cold, but was not entirely horrible with temperate water and the sun warming us through. Still, we were pretty happy to crack celebratory beers once we dropped anchor behind Cape Lookout, NC to wait out the weather.

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Brian, modeling some of the gear that keeps us safe during night passages – harness, flotation device with water-activated safety light, clip on VHF radio, and tether line that clips to the cockpit. We have a rule that nobody leaves the cockpit on watch – if one of us needs to go on deck, the other must be present.

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View from the helm seat on a moonless night at sea – iPad with navigational charts, radar screen, auto helm control, VHF radio. On watch, we rotate in three hour shifts in the cockpit and monitor all instruments every couple minutes to make sure we’re on course and ensure that we’re not about to hit anything.

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Brian taking a sleeping shift with Nico in the aft berth

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Water splashing over the bow

We’ve made the most of this hiatus. The weather here has been gorgeous and the state park beaches that surround the anchorage on three sides are mostly deserted, save for some wild ponies lazily grazing next to the water.  Our little sailing family has had a bit too much fun eating and drinking aboard sv Jasaru, and as the lone woman, I’m starting to feel like one of the guys, for better or worse.

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Brian and Tom, examining the electrical connection on the outboard motor

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Dinghy hauling for beach visit

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Today, as we make preparations to raise anchor the moment the wind drops to a useful level, we’re feeling a bit more serious, as we’ll be offshore for two to three days. The forecast says we’ll have some great wind for sailing and we’re anxious and excited to continue our education in the coming days as we push on to St. Augustine.