Hi Girls & Guys:
Passages on the Gulf Stream are always special. The stream is a very unique place that very few people on the planet get to visit. I feel gifted to have traveled this world of deep blue water many times, beginning in June of 1976 as Master of the M/V Muscavado bringing in a couple of tons of Colombian weed! While it has always been the same stream it has always been a different passage. With the Muscavado it was a close encounter with the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, on a passage north a few years back with my fisherman friend Frog Tillet, the wind was blowing the snot out of our nose, creating big beautiful waves for the Tern to surf on! All was fine on that passage until the auto pilot broke 60 miles offshore, it was a long night and I was ever thankful that Frog was aboard! This beautiful place with spectacular sunrises and sunsets can become a place of horror with a simple change of wind. It is hard to imagine being in heaven and hell at the same time but that is what happened on this “Passage From Heaven Into Hell.
We weighed anchor in Manatee Pocket on Sunday afternoon, delaying our departure until early afternoon would insure we had the beginning of the outgoing tide from Manatee Pocket which would carry us the thirty miles or so to the Gulf Stream. Leaving on a new moon would mean extra big tides and increased velocity of the Gulf Stream! Later that day as the daylight was waning we were traveling North by North East with a gentle South by South East wind of 10 to 12 knots whisking the Tern past Cape Canerval at well over hull speed. Hull speed is that point that the hull can go no faster and the boat will broach (sink)! The Tern’s hull speed is 6 1/2 knots but with the four knots of Gulf Stream we were flying at along at 8 sometimes touching 10 knots! As the sun was setting there was a lone cruise ship coming out of Cape Canaveral. The sun’s setting fore told of a beautiful day ahead, this was about as good as it gets for the beginning of our passage north to Oregon Inlet, NC some 600 nautical miles to the Northeast. It would be safe to say we were sailing into a dark heavenly night, far from the glaring lights and noises of the land. I set about preparing the Tern for the coming easterly wind. The new roller furler made it easy to set the Yankee (sail), no more going out on the bowsprit, just unfurl the sail from the fore-deck, oh did this make it so much easier than past passages! Out here in the stream when the sun goes down over the land the cold air from the North Atlantic rushes in to fill the vacuum created by the rising heat of the land creating a wonderful sea breeze out of the east. It smells like all good things on the planet, I so enjoy taking long deep breaths of this incredibly fresh sweet air! Shortly after tending the sails, I shut down the infernal combustion engine, took some pics, watched the flying fish for a spell then turned in for my first night out in the Gulf Stream!
The next day (day 2) was a spectacular sunrise and gentle breeze from the south by southeast. It was a low dawn foretelling of low winds and clear skies! The day was uneventful except for a lone bird landing on the Tern. It preened it’s feathers for awhile, keeping a wary eye on me then took off never to be seen again! It is just beyond me how a small bird can fly 180 nautical miles offshore without a compass and with nothing to land on except a passing boat which are few & far between, as a matter of fact that cruise ship was the only boat we saw for 3 days until a US Navy ship sailed by! This tiny bird may have been a Mother Kerry’s Chicken, a plankton eating bird. I immediately wondered if this bird far from land was a good sign or a bad sign! I knew from past passages that a bird this far from land was a good sign that means fair weather, but landing on the Tern may be bad only time would tell? Sailing was ideal with a gentle wind out of the southeast At this time we were about 150 nautical miles from the nearest land, Savannah GA. That evening was another picture perfect end to another beautiful day! We were riding this gentle breeze with warm, beautiful, heavenly days I was not prepared for what was about to take place later that night!
Some of you know and understand the VHF radio has a range of about 25 miles, but the Coast Guard has the potential to hear it up to 100 miles with it’s sophisticated listening devices! When the passage into hell started we were about 180 nautical miles due east of Savannah, GA., with 325 nautical miles to go to Oregon Inlet. In the early morning hours I was climbing the ladder to go on deck when my left leg gave out from under me and this excruciating pain developed in my left ass cheek! I had never experienced this kind of pain before and the way it debilitated me I knew, I had better get the mainsail down and start the engine for soon I would be capable of nothing! I was in hopes that putting ice on the pain would help but 24 hours later I was unable to get on deck. I was fortunate that the wind grib files held true to the computers prediction for if they didn’t and the wind picked up I would probably not be writing this blurb! Even if the Coast Guard could hear us there is no way I would call them as they refuse to rescue your property, which means the Tern would be adrift! They will only take you off your boat and leave her for the ocean to destroy! Those of you that have followed the Tern Travels over the last 8 years know that I would never let that happen to Paviti Tern, she is all I have in life and would never abandon her to the high seas!
After 24 hours of living hell, with my condition not improving I knew I had to transfer fuel. This meant I had to remove the refrigerator and chest of draws to get to the quick disconnects that would allow the pump to transfer fuel from the forward tank. Thankfully I had designed the fuel transfer system, if I had to get up on deck with jerry cans to dump fuel into the tank I would not have been able to do it. Every move was extremely painful, but it was not getting better even with ice every hour! I asked Jesus for help and set about getting the job done! Soon I had enough fuel in the main tank to make landfall at Cape Lookout approximately 250 nautical miles to the Northeast.
Our arrival at anchor was anti-climatic, now I could crawl on deck , set the anchor right in front of a Coast Guard Cutter! Here in Cape Lookout I had communications and I immediately e-mailed my physical therapist that has taken care of my shoulder for 3 years or so! When I explained the symptons to her she immediately said siatica and gave me exercises and stretches to do! Two days later still unable to move adequately I called towboat us and they towed the Tern to Oriental NC where I made the decision to tie her up at the Town Marina for a month while I went north to get medical attention. The nearest VA to Oriental is Norfolk, so I elected to go home and seek attention from my VA Doctor!
The rest is history. I have returned to the Tern and sailed her across Pamlico sound to Captain Edward Teach’s home port on Ocracoke Island. The island also played an important part in antisubmarine warfare in WWII. Stay tuned for the upcoming blurb on Teach’s Hole!