Cape Hatteras, the whole unedited story.....

United States' flag
North America » United States » North Carolina » Beaufort
January 8th 2013
Published: January 8th 2013
Edit Blog Post

So this is the story of our rounding of Hatteras:we left Norfolk on Friday night at 10:30 the schedule is to get through cape hatteras before dark, we thought we could get there for around 1 pm so this left us plenty of room for error. We had a chart of all the wind forcasts for the next 24 hours as doing this trip is a non stop kinda deal since all the surrounding areas have rocky shoals. Cape Hatteras is known as the ship graveyard since there have been more then 1200 sinkings there, kinda spooky.So we had our motor tuned up and been preparing for this for a few weeks, we have been waiting for this weather window and analysed it and confirmed it with others that know weather etc etc. We thought we were fully ready....We left on time at 10:30pm in fact and motored up to the chesapeake bridge ( about 2 hours away ) it was pretty flat out there small waves and light winds from the north west, they had forecast from the west for the next 15 hours so I was a little miffed but said hey what the hell, we can move on. we go for another hour once we hit the ocean, the water is different there and there is a lot more motion, the motor started to overheat, hmmm, its gorgeous outside with a nice moon lighting our path, so we decided to keep on trucking with a motor that is not 100% , this is fine as long as we can sail and the forecast said we could easily sail all the way to hatteras so we went ahead...

Most of the day saturday was spent looking for winds, as we went more offshore we found a nice east breeze that stayed with us until cape hatteras, the damage was already done at this point since we were averaging 5 knots with the motor and whatever crappy winds we could find. so we would do Cape hatteras at night in a pitch black environments.... so the sun sets, its gorgeous. We were not prepared for what would come next....

So We left Norfolk at 10:30 on friday night hoping to make cape Hatteras for around noon, the trip is 200 km and maybe 10 km offshore as the area is full of shoals. The other problem on this trip is there is no turning back since there are no clearly marked inlets or cities along this outer bank of the north carolinas. We were hoping to go at 8 knots and ended up doing an average of 5.0 knots due to wind changes and our motor not really wanting to go at high Rpms so we were very very late........

ITs getting late and we are starting to head offshore to go around the cape, the wind has been very good to us as it changed direction for us in a favorable way to push us towards the ships graveyard. We were very thankful for the winds and the calm seas as this area usually has very erratic weather patterns and nasty confused seas. Night falls and we are now sailing in pitch black, there are no lights on shore to our right and there are obviously no lights to the left as it is the open sea. We use our autopilot and gps to navigate towards this opening without knowing what is ahead of us. We are prepared and have a backup for our gps we have charts we have all kinds of help to get us where we need to be. 7 Oclock and we can make out a single red light which is a tower on the left side of us. We are still 10 km away. We know that there is another marker on the right side of this death channel but to our incredible amazement, this thing is NOT lit up. its another fixed tower on a shoal in the middle of the ocean, no lights, how insane is that. We were a little worried.

We start heading for the lighted beacon on the left side since we can see this one, we will favor the left side just in case, we area still in the pitch pitch dark and all we see is this little blip in the night. Blip Blip .......Blip Blip..... we are going slow and it takes another 1.5 hours before we actually start getting close. we are trying to find the marker on the right side with our lights or just trying to get an idea of where we are. At this point we are kinda scare since we are now 50 km out to sea and are trying to do something that is done very easily in the daylight but at night we were told not to do.... Blip....Blip.....Blip.... the beacon is now on our side and checking the depth it is going up fast, we were at 150 ft depth and we are now at 60 feet, 55 feet, 48 feet anyways it was quite uncomfortable. We still can not find the marker on land on the right, it is tense, it is pitch dark. Blip.... Blip.....the beacon is starting to get passed us and we start breathing easier. The depth is now starting to get back to normal, 60-70- 80- 150 feet woohooo now the next step is to sail to lookout point which is 140 km away. We are so releived, this was this big deal how easy was that, bring it on now Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras was now a memory. We are now travelling with light winds heading dead west between what is the largest ship graveyard in the eastern seaboard on the right of us and on the left the open ocean, at this point we were about 40 km from shore, we want to stay very well away from the shoals and the myriad of ships that wrecked along the coast, it made for an uneasy feeling but hey we had decent winds and with the motor against the current we were still managing 5 knots forward. Not too shabby, Lori took over the wheel and I went down for a little nap, Hatteras shmateras I said before shutting my eyes comfy cozy in our cockpit......

I suddenly hear the mainsail flutter; strange the forecast was for south east winds overnight at 10 knots going to 10-15 south west by lunch so we were supposed to have favorable winds for our westerly trip to Cape lookout. It starts to pick up and we are now at 15 knots on the nose so winds went coming from east and went to west in 5 minutes. The same way they changed earlier this afternoon this time it was not going to work in our favor at all. I took down the main, I went up on deck with my harness and teather strapped to the jacklines and slowly grinded the sail into the mast. the waves had started....

I told Lori; I am not so worried about the wind it is the waves. The wind coming from the West means the waves have time to build and we are heading west which means waves on the nose. We listen to the forecast; light winds from the south east changing to west later in the day..... wtf..... I feel robbed, I am pissed. So what do we do now, the winds are picking up to 25 knots now and the waves are maybe 2 feet but you can see that there are bigger ones forming. This sucks.

So we are in building seas, and to the right of us is the "ships graveyard" and shoals and rocks, to the front of us is building seas and a headwind that is creating larger and large waves by the minute and on the left is the open ocean.... What to do now.

So we turn up the motor and try to motor sail tight into the wind so our heading is now off the the left slowly heading out to seas, this is the best option as opposed to heading to the shoals. Waves pick up and we are now starting to bang into the waves, the boat is fine, its a big beast. Motor overheats, shit, not now, we have to turn it off, winds are now gusting up to 30. we try to sail into the wind but we have too much sail ( the genny only ) and we start to pick up more speed but with more speed comes heavier banging into the growing seas. BANG BANG BANg for the next 2 hours, its 11 oclock, the winds are steady now at 20 knots and shifted slightly to the north I mean slightly, I have to slow the boat down. We are heading into the ocean at 6 knots and the boat is going up the now 6 foot waves and the bow is crashing into the water, going under water. water rushes on the deck and comes all the way back to the navigation station. We are now exhausted and really getting worried. We cannot go below, we cannot go to the bathroom we cannot do anything..... but wait. We take in the sail and I leave out a small triangle so that the boat has some support I set the autopilot to have us point just into the wind so the effect will have the boat catch the wind and then the autopilot will take it back into the wind. this way we are making some headway but not getting pushed out, it also slowed the boat down so the boat can go up and down the waves. Its 12 now. we are just sitting in the cockpit thinking this sucks.... We listen to the weather forecast and they now tell us of this wind and that the seas will be building to 8-10 feet and much larger offshore. GREAT. its going to be a long effin night. winds howl all night. the boat bangs a lot less since we are now averaging 2.5 knots. the auto pilot set to mission impossible was a good idea in retrospect, I had not realized that where we were heading was deeper into the gulf stream which has a 2.5 knot current....

So we wait for 6 hours in the cockpit, hungry exhausted from not sleeping for 48 hours, feeling a sense of helplessness that I cannot really explain. We never freaked out we never panicked Lori and I executed our plan to the letter and monitored our position throughout the night making sure we did not gybe and adjusted our headin as the winds slowly shifted back and forth.

6:30 rolls around the sun is coming up, yipppeee, we will see what is bouncing us around we will see what we have to tackle, this is going to be our savior, the light.....

HOLY COW, the waves are now 6-8 feet and ugly, we are in daylight but 100 km offshore, turn the lights back out please. So we listen to the weather again, the winds should be shifting to the north then back to the west at 15-20 which is fine. We only have 1 option and this is to sail towards the west and try to make some headway if we ever want to get into shore. Waves are coming from the north west ,winds from the north so we are heading west crashing into 5 foot seas, we have the motor going and both sails out and doing maybe 4 knots average. The boat gets hammered hard banging and banging and banging, I cannot keep the autopilot on it does not know how to avoid the waves. Crap, I am going to have to helm now??? holy patato. I dont know how to explain the tiredness that I now felt, I am depleted, I am done, not even hungry anymore not even really worried just kind of there. I get my 15th wind and grab the wheel turn the autopilot on and I say bring it on bitch. It takes me a good hour to figure out that you can turn your wheel at the last second and avoid a full crash of the boat coming over the wave, I learn, I adapt. ITs working, we are heading west now and the boat is crashing a lot less and we are making some headway west... we should be heading north west to make it into land but I will take anything at this point. we even started to talk and laugh again. I helmed for 5 hours straight into this mess before the waves started to come down to maybe 2-3 feet, Lori took over the helm and I showed her my new found tactics on taking on the waves, she caught on and she did amazing, Love my Lori.

The rest of the story is one of calmer seas, wind shifts and dolphins coming to visit. the smiles slowly came back on our faces.

We were still about 80 km to sea when we made the last tack towards beaufort. we were very happy to arrive at around 11 pm and tie up to a dock.

left friday night at 10:30 arrived on sunday night 11:30; 49 hours.

Slept 1.5 hours tops. this is dozing in the cockpit.

I estimated we traveled 400 km

so we averaged a speed of 4 knots for the whole trip, I had done all my calculations at 7 knots. our top speed was 8.8 our best run was 7.7 knots for 5 hours coming into beaufort in calm seas

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


9th January 2013

Hi God what a story..admire your courage and well and safe continuance. Peter and Claudette
9th January 2013

Thank you! That was probably not the longest passage we'll do, but it was the craziest..... especially at this time of year. The rest will be much easier! :)
9th January 2013

Wow, great story. You now know you two can do it. Great correction regarding the waves. Congrats. Craig
9th January 2013

thank you! :)
9th January 2013

thank you! :)

Tot: 2.832s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 10; qc: 54; dbt: 0.0404s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb