This morning finds us on a completely different ocean than we had been sailing on for the previous two days. Instead of flat, sunny, and blue, it is now lumpy, gray and overcast. We are just coming around Frying Pan Shoal, off Cape Fear, NC.
The weather briefing I gave Karen at the start of her watch last night was to expect winds to be steady in direction and slowly and steadily increasing from 8 knots to about 20. Almost all of that was “rather accurate”.
What actually happened was the wind went from a mild mannered 8 knots from the northeast pushing us at 5 knots through the water to 27 knots howling from the northeast moving us at almost 9 knots—in about 90 seconds.
We have been doing this long enough now that it takes us about 3 minutes to reset sails suitable for the new conditions and we are off and running. At least to start with, it is a fast and exhilarating ride on flat seas. Over the next few hours, the waves do build and toss us around a bit, but nothing very uncomfortable. Over the course of the next couple hours it settled down to a steady 18 to 20 knots and our large headsail is now pulling us along on a deep reach at better than 7 knots.
Since we left the Chesapeake we have been moving with a fleet of well over a dozen boats that has moved in a tight cluster down the coast. In the lighter winds the slower boats have been motoring, and the faster ones sailing. The sudden change in conditions have quickly scattered the fleet. The catamarans have all shut off their motors, and finally get to use their speed advantage, and the monohulls spread out with the bigger, faster boats quickly leaving the smaller ones behind. The few boats left nearby are all of a size similar to us.
We had planned to spend our time in Hilton Head at anchor, but the weather for Friday and Saturday is supposed to be quite gnarly, so we just used the satellite phone to make a marina reservation. Taking advantage of the miracle of modern technology!