Southbound: Indecision in Beaufort

9 Nov

Shrimp Boat 2 Passing.jpg

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

— Oscar Wilde

Stuck in Beaufort. Rain pours from the sky, heavier now than it’s been all morning. Any last inkling of going offshore today has been officially washed out. 

Dad, Tom & I borrowed the car from the Three Nice Guys at the Beaufort Docks marina and drove to Atlantic Beach for a midday breakfast at the Four Corners Diner, then on to West Marine to get a few supplies. Because that’s what you do during a weather delay. 

When we got back, after longer than the hour we were technically allowed with the car, the Three Nice Guys were sitting together inside the little Beaufort Docks office in three adjacent chairs. Apparently just sitting. When I paid for a second night here, they consulted one another briefly before unanimously agreeing that tomorrow around 0700 would be the best time to leave the marina, at near slack water. The Three Nice Guys are a mellow, friendly bunch.

The forecast looked perfect as of yesterday. But this morning it’s a little TOO good. Meaning, the strong northerly that is set to fill in behind this stalled cold front that is bringing us this rain right now, is going to be a little TOO strong between Friday & Saturday. There’s a gale warning offshore, with the wind forecast to gust to 35, and remain steady in the mid-twenties for about 48 hours. A biggish sea will accompany the wind.

I feel like a huge sissy. If we were sitting here aboard Isbjorn, we’d be offshore already. I wouldn’t be writing this. Isbjorn revels in big conditions off the wind. Plus, it’s a high-pressure ‘fair weather gale’ – meaning the rain will be swept away by cold, dry Canadian air, and the weather, while windy, will be splendid. But we’re not sitting on Isbjorn. We’re delivering Meri, a 2004 Tartan 4100 to Stuart, Florida from Annapolis. The boat’s owner is in Colorado. She’s certainly up for it – Tartan’s have an excellent reputation, and she performed great the little we sailed her on the open-water parts of the ICW over the past few days.

But she’s not setup for ocean sailing. Only two white sails (jib & main – no staysail or any sort of heavy weather gear), probably original (and 13 years old). No jacklines. A borrowed liferaft, sat phone & EPIRB (from Sojourner, my dad’s boat). The running rigging is nice stuff, but it’s old and stiff. There’s not much in the way of spares. I know it’s only 550 miles offshore, but still…

Even as I write this, I feel like I’m making excuses for myself for NOT going offshore. Never waste a fair wind, they say. This is killing me sitting here when we’ve got 7 days of northerlies in the forecast and we’re heading south.

But there’s something in my gut that’s saying stay put. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in 20,000 miles sailing Isbjorn over the past two years, it’s to trust my gut. My ego doesn’t like it, and that’s probably why I’m so indecisive right now. 

A real sailor would have left this morning, it’s saying to me. You call yourself a professional. Ha! Wuss.

Tom finds it reassuring. He and Darlene sail an Ericsson 38, and when it’s time for them to make the ‘go or no go’ decisions, he goes through the same agony. 

“This makes me feel much better!” Tom joked when we debated what to do earlier this morning. “I thought it was only me who felt like a wuss and had a hard time making decisions.”

We can’t leave tomorrow, not offshore anyway. It’s a FRIDAY! That’s a big no-no in traditional sailor superstition (and one that I choose to follow). So instead we’ll go down the ICW as far as we can in the daylight, aiming towards the Cape Fear inlet on the inside. That’s 105 statute miles away on the ICW, which is more than a day in daylight. So we’ll hope to get down there sometime midday on Saturday, then go straight out the inlet and offshore to start the trip in earnest. I’m anxious that the forecast which looks so good right now in the long term – those strong northerlies easing back into the high teens and twenties starting Saturday, and lasting all the way through Wednesday on the GRIBS – I’m worried that’ll somehow change. I’m worried I’ll regret sitting here at the dock and writing this instead of going into the ocean. 

Why am I writing this? My ‘professional’ (read ‘egotistical’) side says keep it to yourself, buddy. But it’s cathartic writing about my anxieties, and maybe I’ll inspire somebody else to think that it’s also okay to make conservative decisions.

I said myself that I’ve had enough ‘adventure’ this year on our own boat. This is meant to be a relaxing delivery south with friends, no drama. 

Now I just need to learn how to relax.

This article was syndicated from 59º North Sailing // 59º North Blog


  1. Norris Larson

    We were in Lago Isabel waiting out the hurricane season after touring about Central America and visiting some old friends in Costa Rica. Abut a month before leaving, I began to have vague anxiety attacks. Nothing debilitating, but yet annoying. Having got this far from Chicago i knew we were capable of going back. As soon as we started down the Rio Dulce, the anxieties went away. One of the top lessons in going to sea. Don’t let anxieties keep you ashore. If you’re well prepared, proceed. I’ve also had similar experiences in running for political office–won a few, lost a few. Anxieties, but yes, run.

  2. Jack Chadowitz

    Similar situation. Been at Great Kill since last Sunday. Gut and careful analysis said not to go last Tuesday. Heading out later today after winds drop. Atlantic City, cape May, or Norfolk, we will see.

  3. Kim Marc

    Ha! Love reading this in quasi real time … might be my first blog ….ha! My German heritage wife from Minnesota calls me a wuss when I have moments of indecision about sailing … I err on the side of caution and he gets this woeful look of distain that … c’mon let’s go … :) That’s on tame LI sound in my Pearson 30 (which I just sold to move up) ….I know the Sound can kick up , but you won’t find me out there …. :) If she only read your blog … she’d know how right she is!!! :) Love it …. As I type sitting by my Jötul 3 stove and the Canadian air mass you write about blows in with gusts to 30kts …. plummetting the mercury to -5C and record lows …I contemplate my next boat …and why …. I am sweet on a Baltic 37 or 39 … But again why … I ‘ll go out in conditions it was built for … I ‘ll just sit on mooring and enjoy the fine cabinetry… And think about real sailors … By no means are you wusses …ps …my pet saying to my super A spouse …you can’t sail to a schedule ;) ha! Good luck on the delivery … Cheers nice picture too of yous two;)

  4. First Last

    The worst is to let a “schedule” dictate your movements. Gut feeling is good, alive, and well. It is a compendium and synthesis of your total life experiences. But, your fear to cast off on a Friday is beyond the pale.

    Be safe: “The best you can do is to go out and come back. It’s what happens in between that defines and detemines your seamanship”

  5. Michael Guggenberger

    Hi Andy!
    I think you are doing good… with not going AND with writing about it.
    I think we live in a world in wich ego, time and expectations lead. And it is a wonderful exercise to leave all these things behind and go for your gut, even if you sit there for two weeks you have done more of the adventure-stuff then most of the people who make all these topics up.
    I think there are more worlds: one of it made up by the speed our society is rushing with. With all the people sailing around the world via the Internet and doing a lot of adventures guided by people like you. So they take the adventure and leave the risk with you. Wich is full on ok! But don’t let these people be you measure-mark…
    I sailed my boat solo from Porto/Portugal to Krk/Kroatia this Summer.
    As i approached Gibraltar after a 400something NM run down along the Portuguese Cost i stopped at Tarifa. Wind was blowing with 20 steady gusting up to 30Kn from the East.
    I was tired, the waves with the wind and the currents there were crazy. So i decided to stop (after a long fight with myself) and wait for the wind to shift.
    I posted on FB that i am going to wait a little until Gibraltar lets me pass.
    HAH and then i had arguments with people why i am not going for it…
    After a lot of back and forth it turned out that these people have never done anything like it.
    Which is no problem for me. I know what goes up in my mind before leaving the dock… with crew or solo. So i understand that people don’t want to do things like this…
    But with those reactions people make up a mindset. And a good skipper has to have his/her own mindset. No matter whats around.
    After a night in Tarifa fighting with kind of the same thoughts that you have now. I actually sailed back 30 miles to hide in a backwater to let the then even stronger winds pass and enjoyed my self
    reading books and checking the anchors once in a while…

    In German we say something like:

    You can make up a place to meet a Sailboat OR a time to meet that boat. And its rare that you can combine both… spot and time

    Take it easy and enjoy yourself…

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