Wargames Aboard an Island Packet?
31 March 2013 | Offshore NC
The following was typed into my cellphone as Tammy and I sailed to Beaufort, NC.
Saturday 1500. Four hours into our spring cruise to Beaufort, NC, and I just came on watch to relieve Tammy. It's just us aboard. Land is getting small. Motoring into 12kts of wind that is precisely on nose as we make our way to the 12-mile slue to cross Frying Pan Shoals. Are you kidding me? I'm doubting this decision to go north into a headwind, instead of south of Hilton Head. But we'll see. Forecast calls for shift to SW, and we have 120 nm of offshore sailing in front of us. I see Tammy below making a log entry. Good mate. I'm in full foulies. If it's this cold now, what's it going to be at 3 am?
Sunday 0200. Ghost ships all around us! I've been watching lights of big ship for last hour. Not on AIS. Bearing moving very slightly. Perhaps not at all. Collision course? Strange looking. I see no nav lights. Still nothing on AIS. Then as I'm watching it disappears. Poof.
What the heck?
Either it extinguished all lights or it is a submarine that submerged. Can the Navy cloak a ship? I'm thinking submarine. Don't like submarines. They cut sailboats in half with their periscopes.
Cold. Clammy. 40 degrees. Gibbous moon. Bright overhead when not obscured by clouds. Lightning to east. We could get a storm. Long johns, shirt, pants, fleece, foulies including overalls and boots. Elmer fudd hat with hood over top of that. To look either way I must twist my entire body. Another hour left in my watch. I wonder if I'll have the heart to wake Tammy.
Ghost ship is back. Two of them now. I flip on the radar. Gotcha! I watch a while in satisfaction, then poof! They disappear from the radar. Gotta be submarines, right? I mean, I know I'm tired, but I'm not hallucinating.
I slept well for 1.5 hr, and now I'm on the 3 hr graveyard shift. Aria running well. Wind clocking SE as forecast. Still light, but I'm feeling vindicated. As it is we're Motorsailing 6.5 kts making great time. Hailed a tug that was on a reciprocal course and he found me on radar. Good to know that I'm visible. I didn't raise a reflector. Between the ghost ships and the tug, it's been a busy watch.
Sunday 0600. Feeling rested after a solid 3 hours in my bunk. Tammy told me about more warships and submarines on her watch. I check the instruments and realize that we should be sailing. I pull out the genoa and kill the engine. Ahh. Wind has gone south blowing 9 kts and Aria is making 4 kts. I could relax, should relax, but I'm losing half a knot somewhere. Bugging me. I find it after 20 minutes of trimming. NOW I can relax, watch the day rise. The light slowly comes up, I look to my port side and see a shadow is taking shape in the darkness. About 1nm away, a low-profile vessel. Could it be? I race below to grab the binoculars. I adjust the focus. Submarine! Ha! I bagged him!
Now it's light and we're surrounded by warships. Warship 54 is hailing warship warship 45. 58 is talking to 68 on ch72 about an RIB in the water. I take lots of pictures of the warships.
I do it discreetly.