04 October 2016 | Photo off Outer Banks near Cape Lookout, North Carolina.
Vicki – Currently Brunswick, GA, Air 25 deg C, Many Heavy Rain Showers, Humid, 8/8 Cloud
We woke early after little sleep last Wednesday 28th September and checked the hurricane forecast once again. We saw that Brunswick, Georgia, which is located the furthest west along the east coast of the USA was not expected to be in the projected cone for Hurricane Matthew as it would be passing out to sea. However, it appeared it would most likely pass over Cape Hatteras and move on into the Chesapeake Bay then turn towards New Jersey and the New York area. On that information, we departed on sunrise which was at 0700 under overcast skies. It wasn't going to be smooth sailing though as we had to face headwinds and lumpy seas until we were past Cape Hatteras. As we headed out, we saw on Marine Traffic that only one other cruiser, a Nordhavn, was moving south at sea 40 miles ahead of us. Others were powering down the ICW in order to escape Chesapeake Bay. It was a very lonely trip.
During part of the day we were accompanied by a US aircraft carrier USNS "Carson City" performing exercises with helicopter landings and takeoffs. They repeatedly announced that all vessels were to maintain a 3 NM limit which we did. For some reason, I am always the one on watch rounding Cape Hatteras and it always occurs around midnight on dark nights. This time, lightning streaked across the sky from storm cells which kept popping up in the extremely humid unstable air. I saw the Cape Hatteras Light and red tower to starboard and a cargo ship named "Spirit of Melbourne" which reminded me of home heading south on our port side. Our watches were roughly 4 hours on, 4 hours off and engine checks every hour.
We ran Vanish with both engines and air conditioning the entire time to keep ourselves comfortable and moving along at 8 to 9 knots. We had a constant counter current of 1 kn which slowed us down a little. The seas from Norfolk, Virginia to Cape Hatteras were not my favourite as the swells were 1.5 meters from the east and wind from the south-east. Once we turned the corner and changed course 50 degrees to the SW, the boat motion definitely improved. As the sun rose, the sea had become quite glassy with picture perfect 'popcorn 'storm clouds. We ducked into Cape Lookout and anchored next to a British yacht we had last seen on the Choptank River in the Chesapeake. The night was calm and quiet with no rain or thunderstorms but in my opinion, Cape Lookout is a vortex for the very worst weather it can gather. As we raised the anchor in the near dark on Friday, 30th September, a slight breeze arrived with a few spits of rain. The radar showed relentless severe storms and heavy rain all day at Cape Lookout after we left. For us, the day turned into episodes of drenching rain with headwinds to 28 kn followed by lulls of 8 kn and waves going everywhere. About 10 miles south of Cape Lookout, another US warship appeared. I was off watch at the time. The radio operator came on hailing Vanish and asked what our intentions were. Well, Maynard could have said he hoped he would live to be 100, be fat and happy with a dozen dancing nymphets. Or he could have said he intended having a rum and coke when he arrived back in Georgia, but was having a few tic tacs instead. He could have given so many excellent answers but he said something I certainly didn't think of. He said, "I intend holding my course," to which the warship answered, "Good. We'll pass behind you." This is why he is the Captain and I am the First Mate/Jokster I guess.
The stabilisers were working hard from Cape Lookout, NC past Cape Fear, NC. Some waves would double up causing a dip in the ocean which the bow would drop into, sometimes up to 5 ft but Vanish just kept rolling along easily at 10 kn. Spray would hit the bow and swirl off up over the bridge, but once past Cape Fear with another 20 deg turn towards the south-west in deeper water with less current, the seas started to finally behave. We saw a number of vessels head into shore through a secret shallow entrance north of Cape Fear, then pass Cape Fear on the ICW then head back out to sea. We didn't know this back door route and went past all capes at sea.
Again off Charleston, I was on watch at 2.30 a.m. I don't like passing Charleston at night as there is so much shipping to contend with. Maynard came up to do his watch and we both noticed that the lead red light into the Charleston channel was out. This was the second time we'd seen a major navigation light not working in the last week. I had also passed an unlit fishing buoy well out to sea and am so thankful for radar and excellent charts. There is no time to be complacent at sea as it is a full-time job tracking vessels, watching weather, checking boat systems and ensuring all is clear ahead both on the FLIR camera and the charts. We never play tv, radio or music at night as it is too distracting.
We arrived at Brunswick on Saturday 1st October around 6pm and tied up with not a soul to be seen in the marina at the time which was ok as we easily dock Vanish by ourselves. We'd travelled 600 miles since leaving the Chesapeake in 3 days with one overnight stop. In all, we have travelled 3,000 miles this cruising season so far. Considering it is just the two of us onboard, we feel happy with this achievement and know we have a much better handle on each other's jobs and capabilities.
Unfortunately, the computer models have shifted Hurricane Matthew closer to the east coast of the USA and Brunswick, GA is well in the cone of this storm. The storm has taken longer to arrive than expected, and in that time, the wind sheer has lessened allowing it to bobble more towards the west. The below GFS Ensemble shows the latest tracks of Hurricane Matthew.
We knew the models could change but we are very disappointed that we might be caught up in this storm. There are tens of thousands of boats along the coast of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina that will all be affected. The Brunswick Landing Marina is nearly full here today. Last night at Happy Hour at the marina, 40 of us all talked about the prospects for our vessels and where we would go if we could go anywhere. Everyone thought we were in the best location so here we stay. The storm is expected to arrive on Friday. We have rented a car but if we have storm surge of as little as 3 ft on a high tide, the car will be inundated in the carpark as the area is dead flat. The car is our ultimate escape but it's no use if it's under water. I am not looking forward to the decisions ahead.
(I will be posting each day until this situation is behind us so please keep checking for further updates. See Photo Gallery for more pictures. Please feel free to comment as we always love your feedback. Don't be shy.)