Hal and Sandy July 2014
11 July 2014 | Whortonsville, NC
Hurricane Arthur was referred to as “Gentleman Arthur” in a headline of one of the coastal newspapers. The storm brewed very quickly during the week and passed over the Pamlico Sound at about 2 am on July 4. I was caught off guard at home because we had been at the lake all day on July 3. My friend Hal texted me and asked if I was going to go tend the boat. I called Jeanette and she told me that Nick had walked the dock to make sure everybody was tied securely. I did not have time to get there and even if I had, there was little I could do. We always double tie (two dock lines at each cleat) in summer anyway and I was confident S/V Southern Star would be able to weather a blow. Nick sent an email out early on the fourth saying that we had dodged the bullet. Although the storm came on shore further south than predicted the fact that it came ashore sooner weakened it and turned the wind more north than northeast so the storm surge was not as bad as it could have been. Nick said the water did not rise as high as the main part of the dock, so as hurricanes go, the “Gentleman Arthur” nickname could apply.
Our first summer as retired people has not been as I always expected. I thought we would be sitting around the house waiting for something to happen. Instead we have no idea where the days go. We have done a lot around our home and we have been able to spend a lot of time with grandchildren and friends but I never dreamed we would be so busy. It is one thing after another. We have been talking to our friends Hal and Sandy about going sailing with us for months. Since we are all retired, I had hoped we would be able to watch for a perfect weather window and head for the coast when the time was right but we needed to schedule before Labor Day if we were going go this summer. We set a date and I kept my fingers crossed for good weather. The weather was going to be hot no matter when we scheduled. We decided on a Wednesday and Thursday timeframe.
Tuesday July 8, 2014
Judy and I left on Tuesday morning because I wanted to try cleaning the boat’s topsides. We left at about 7:30 and had lunch at Kings in Kinston. When we got here we were pleasantly surprised to find our friends Ken and Jan here already. I deployed the dinghy and proceeded to scrub the topsides. Did I mention it was miserably hot? The poly glow (wax) I had applied last time we were in the yard looked great for a few months wears off and then looks really bad. My efforts at getting the old poly glow off were not fruitful. Scrubbing hard is difficult because the dink pushes away with the slightest pressure. I had brought several products that promised “squirt on rinse off” results… Yea right. I did get a fair job of cleaning the starboard quarter of the topsides but results were not worth the heat and effort.
It was so hot I never got around to eating any dinner. We deployed the portable (luggable) air conditioner as soon as we arrived but it was having trouble keeping up. I was watching the weather closely. Our normal schedule with guests is to have the come down on Friday and go sailing on Saturday. Until now it was always a weekend trip and we never arrived until late Friday night. This time we had the option to go sailing a day early. I hate trying to second guess weather. After consulting every weather forecasting organization known to man, I decided that Wednesday would be better than Thursday. I called Hal and told him we would go sailing as soon as they arrived on Wednesday.
Wednesday July 9, 2014
The weather was not great. There was an unexpected small craft advisory on Tuesday night. The winds were southwest and the wind tide pulled the water down to a minimum level for launching overnight but the water had risen some during the morning hours because the winds had backed down a bit. I knew that even if the wind calmed the seas would still be rough. Unfortunately we had to choose the lesser of two evils. The forecast for Thursday was for numerous thunderstorms.
Hal and Sandy arrived right on time. Judy had prepared a light lunch and we ate in the cool of the air conditioned cabin before we left the dock. We launched without incident and motored out to the lower Neuse. The wind was stiff and building. I would estimate at least 15 knots with rough confused seas. These conditions would not allow us the smooth easy sail I wanted but they were not bad enough to pull the plug. We worked our way out to the ICW with several tacks. I was keeping a close eye on our guests, to make sure nobody was turning green (I hate when that happens). Although she does not handle very well under main alone, I did not deploy the headsail because I didn’t want Hal and Sandy’s first sailing experience to be a rail-down screamer. After about an hour Judy suggested that we head to the dock. Had the conditions been better I would have argued but I cranked the diesel and gave her the helm so the main could be lowered. Ideal sailing conditions are fairly rare. We were lucky to get out and back for a quick sail and at least give our guests the feel of the boat under them. Maybe they will return in ideal conditions for another try.
I was expecting a real bruiser of a landing when we got back to the dock. The water level was still low which usually causes problems and there was a strong crosswind. Luckily the water was not as low as I thought, or I didn’t hit the shallow spot, and the wind backed down momentarily. Trish handed me a dock line and that was all the assistance we required. As I always say… a successful cruise is one that causes no damage to the vessel or her crew.
Hal and Sandy had not checked in to their hotel so they went over to Oriental to check in a rest a bit before dinner. I secured the boat and Judy got ready for dinner. When Hal and Sandy returned, we cooked hamburgers in the cockpit. Hal was honorary grill-master because he has forgotten more about grilling than I will ever know. It was a great simple meal. Our friends Ken and Jan as well as Don and Trish joined us and we had a really good time.
Thursday July 10, 2014
Hal and Sandy had a mission to secure a beach house for next year on Emerald Isle beach but we had agreed to meet later in the day for dinner. When I first went outside I thought I had made an error with sailing on Wednesday because the weather looked great. I pulled the dinghy from the creek and secured it in the trailer for going home. We put the covers on the boat and other normal chores. By about lunch time I changed my tune about the weather. A large black squall was building just to the northwest. The Internet radar indicated it would pass mostly to the north but we would get at least the southwest end of the storm. It hit shortly after noon and made me really glad we had not planned a morning sail. Luckily it was not a violent storm but it did last quite a while. I took a nap. It was great!
We had been in contact with our guests all day and decided they would come by at about 5 to decide where to eat. Nick and Jeanette had highly recommended a little Italian restaurant in New Bern called “La Rosa”. Sandy was born in Italy and is an expert at Italian cuisine. Taking her to an Italian restaurant could be tricky. I also knew that if Nick and Jeanette liked the food we would too.
Wow! Two good decisions in as many days. “La Rosa” was simply excellent. Sandy and the owner chatted for quite a while. Of course nobody else at the table had any idea what they were talking about since they were speaking Italian. Everyone was pleased with the meal and the service was good. I thanked Jeanette later for the recommendation.
The weather had deteriorated all afternoon and by the time we left for the restaurant, the black clouds were lowering. While we were eating the rain was coming in buckets. Luckily, it was just rain with very little wind and lightening. We left in a drizzle and went back to Ensign Harbor. We parted company there and Hal and Sandy went back to their hotel. Hopefully they had enough time to get there before the rain started again. We were safely on board and stayed dry although I think it rained off and on all night.
Friday July 11, 2014
The weather was cloudy and damp but not raining and not too hot. Since it was our “go home” day we took the usual steps for getting the boat ready for our absence. I purposely left the wheel cover off since this is hurricane season and the wheel cover adds a lot of wind resistance that we don’t need if strong winds arrive at the dock. We left at about 10am and Judy wanted to stop at “Buckhorn’s”, the local used book store. Then it was on to McDonalds for a couple of “big teas” for the trip home. The rest of the trip home was uneventful and that is a good thing.
Cheers Hal and Sandy. This was a really good trip and we enjoyed our time with you. I wish the sailing had been better but at least we got out there for a little while.