It’s the third week of our trip and we’ve finally reached warmer water, though due to unseasonably cold temperatures down here not necessarily warmer weather. We’re now in Charleston, South Carolina, doing as the locals do: overindulging in fresh seafood and hearty, obesity-inducing lowcountry cuisine.
While traveling on the Intracoastal Waterway was certainly an experience we won’t forget, by the time we reached Beaufort, NC we were ready to break out the sails and get the boat moving the way it’s meant to. The weather was perfect for continuing to Charleston offshore so we jumped at the chance, knowing that if we missed the opportunity we’d be stuck in Beaufort for another week. The beer selection at Backstreet Pub is good, but it’s not that good.
Getting back out to the ocean after crawling down the narrow corridors of the ICW was like reaching an above treeline stretch on a long hike up a densely forested peak. Everything seemed to open up. The stars shone brighter, the sails filled with wind and pushed us along, and the ocean was alive. Seabirds swooped and hovered, eying the pink and purple lures popping in our wake and clumps of weed floated past here and there. On the second morning we hooked five little skipjack tuna within 15 minutes. But the most evident signs of life were the dozens and dozens of bottlenose dolphins who appeared alongside the boat as we sped along and cut through the swell.
Dolphins are always a welcome sight at sea, but the amount we saw on this past leg was unbelievable. A small group of them began playing at the bow just outside of Beaufort and almost every time we checked over the course of our 36 hour sail, day and night, there were at least a few of them hanging around. The phosphorescents glowed in their wakes as they surfed next to the boat at night. And there were so many of them. At one point they actually seemed to be swarming. I asked Matt how many he thought there were and he said he “reckoned there were a hundred” (ie, more than he could count). During the day you could stand at the bow and race along with them, just a foot or two above them as they darted around each other and glided back and forth beneath the spray. They seemed to be keenly aware of us and we were mesmerized by them.
These short overnight trips can be difficult – your body doesn’t get into a routine and it’s just short enough that it’s hard not to think about getting there – but having the dolphins around was so cool. They kept us aware and comfortably tethered to the present moment.
Matt got some great footage and I threw together some of the best clips here. My apologies for the bad sound quality and quickly done, sub par editing. Will make improvements soon!
We made it to North Carolina, where accents are strong and teeth are optional. We decided to take the boat down the canal between Norfolk and Elizabeth City instead of going out into Currituck Sound because the weather wasn’t looking great. It ended up being a really cool trip. The leaves are all changing here and it’s completely still and deep black on the river. It was pretty weird floating along in a sailboat, though.
Because we tied up after exiting the lock to explore the town of Deep Creek (which turned out to be a single strip mall with surprisingly good Japanese food), the boats ahead of us were long gone and we had the canal to ourselves. The whole surface of the water was a black mirror, flecked only with the yellow stars of fallen maple leaves. It was unreal.
I need to backtrack a bit, because I can’t forget the lock master. To enter the canal we had to go through a small lock to be raised up to the canal’s water level. The guy in charge wore aviators like the prison guard in Cool Hand Luke and took his job just as seriously, except instead of a pistol hanging from his belt he wore what appeared to be a child’s size large lifejacket over his men’s size large leather jacket and instead of two bloodhounds at the ready he had a 12-year-old mutt named U-Turn trailing at his heel. He told me, “His mama was fullblown pitbull, daddy was a pitbull-sharpei mix, and he was raised in a pin” (that’s pen) ” with two rabbits. And the male rabbit was the alpha outta the three. So…”
He was such a sweet guy, full of recommendations, helpful advice, and stories, and U-Turn was even sweeter. It was a funny place to have a chat but we’ll remember it for a long time.
Matt and U-Turn. New pals.
So cold at sunrise. But worth being up to catch the steam rising off the river.
After many months of planning and multiple delayed departures, we’re finally off the dock and underway! It was a strange feeling to be leaving Narragansett Bay knowing we wouldn’t be returning (at least not on Tamata), and at the same time so exciting to have actually taken the first step in making the trip a reality. As my dad says, the hardest part of any trip is throwing the lines off the dock.
There’s always a reason not to leave. It’s pretty easy to convince yourself that a better opportunity might present itself, or that there are still loose ends to tie up before setting out, especially if a lot of planning is involved. Though Tuesday was a quiet, sunny day – a normal weekday for those around us – it felt charged and special to us. Knowing that this was the start of a 10,000+ mile journey that would span more than a year while motioning through the banality of last minute errands painted the morning in a strange light. My brother took a quick break from working in the metal shop to let our lines off and we glided out of NEB into Narragansett Bay. The Dock Express boat was anchored just outside the marina, loading boats to be carried down to the Caribbean, fishermen pulled their traps nearer to shore, and the birds worked the water against the backdrop of the red-orange wash of fall foliage. A normal day. And though we were in the midst of it all, it felt like we were separate from it in some way too…
In other news, our first stop is New York City, where we’ll be embarking on a feeding frenzy. So check back in!