The 2014 NCC was a rough one. I tip my hat to those that either attempted or did the full 300 mile Blackbeard Challenge. The 100 mile NCC was hard enough for me this year. The first part of the course was fairly easy for me since my boat handles following seas and tail-winds quite well (being a trimaran with amas). My top speed was around 13 knots somewhere in the Nuese River. The Harlowe was a pleasant surprise with the current actually going with us. It was the first time I experienced that. I reached Beaufort after 9 hours 15 minutes (2:45 PM). Compare that to my Beaufort arrival time 2 years ago (2012 NCC) of 19 hrs 37 minutes (3:07 AM). Much faster for the first part of the course this year.
I had picked out a camping place on Browns Island over on the Core Sound side near some trees to use my hammock. The only problem was that I couldn’t quite get there before dark and the most direct way there was to go around Hatcher Island from the South and enter for a bit Core Sound. The problem with this was a very strong Nor’Easter blowing right down Core sound. I also neglected to take my spinnaker retrieval shoot off so the windage on my bow was something fierce. I could barely tack even while paddling like mad the wind was blowing so hard. It was also pitch black out there in Core Sounds. I was worried about being blown back into the break water at the tip of Hatcher Island.
I saw some lights of other Watertribers camping at earlier more sheltered points on Brown’s Island but I feared those spots would not have convenient trees for my hammock so I pressed on.
Eventually I made enough forward progress to get close to the camping spot. I couldn’t see the shoreline that well and ended up beaching it about a quarter mile to soon. I decided to just get out and walk it along the coast to get closer to the place with the trees. I finally made it to the place I needed to be.
The ground was completely saturated with water. Standing water everywhere. Fortunately I was there after the bad mosquito hour so the bugs were not so bad as I was setting up camp. It was difficult to find any dry land even to temporarily lay down my dry bags. Since I was using a hammock. having dry land was not so important.
I realized later on that I was fortunate that I beached it because there was a pound-net near by and I missed it by beaching early.
I cooked a quick Mountain House meal, hydrated, changed into my camp clothes, and got some good sack time in the hammock. I actually slept for about 8 hours. Compare this with 2 years ago of only getting about 2 hours of sleep. Ironically, I reached Cedar Island sooner 2 years ago but I was much more rested this year even with the hard day to come in Core Sound.
In the morning, I pushed off after day break along with about 4 or 5 other Watertribers who had also camped somewhere in the facinity. Some had boats faster to the wind and left me behind. Others had about the same sailing capabilities as myself and I saw them off and on most of the way up Core Sound. We had to tack zig-zagging all the way up to the North East. (Wind blowing directly form the North East). It was a long day but I kept saying to myself over and over “Let the wind do the work”. At one point 3 or 4 Watertribers beached at the same time and chatted for while. No-one was liking beating to weather all day long.
I realized at one point that I would not make it back to Cedar Island before dark. My main goal was to at least get past the pound nets before dark so I could better see them and not get tangled up in them. A couple other watertribers decided to camp one more time before the final slog to the finish but I wanted to press on.
I wasn’t able to get past all the pound nets before dark and had a couple sneak up on me by surprise. In two cases, I needed to pull up my dagger board and flip up my rudder to glide over the net. The problem was with my ruder up, I loose steerage with the wind blowing so hard. I only have a few seconds to paddle over the net, drop rudder, and paddle to a safe distance. On one of the nets (after dark) I came dangerously close to being blown back into the net which would have been a real pain. But I was finally able to get my rudder down in my exhausted state and paddle sufficiently far away for the net to again take my hands off my paddle and get my sail up and dagger board down.
Finally, I reached the cut-through to Cedar Island and was able to assume a course of sail that was not right into the wind. I could actually sail for the first time in almost 12 hours without needing to tack. It was very nice for that last few miles. It was pitch black by that time and I was going to go the camp-site ramp which I had never been before. I was navigating just by my GPS. I wasn’t going to chance going through the cut back to Core Sound and doing a beach landing in the dark and the strong Nor’Easter.
I followed my GPS and eventually got close enough that the Watertribers on shore shown their flashlights to guide me to the ramp. It was nice to be able to finish that second day even if I was a few hours later than my first NCC two years ago. I was in much better shape this second time and packed up my boat after coming ashore. Someone gave me a bean burrito which tasted great.
After packing up my boat, I found an unused camp-site and hung my hammock and got some zzz’s.
I stated to realize that I was fairly fortunate in this NCC in that almost half the people ended up dropping out for one reason or another. I was fortunate with nothing really going wrong so I just persevered to the finish. The only equipment failure was my pull-down line came out of my rudder off Hatcher Island at one point but I realized that right away and beached it to fix it. I had three mental errors on the trip.
1. Not changing out my GPS batteries before the start. I had to make a stop on Raccoon Island to replace them.
2. Not taking off my spinnaker snuffer after reaching Beaufort. Taking that off would have made the night sail to Browns Island much easier.
3. Not putting a fresh battery in my GoPro camera while camping on Browns Island. I was not able to get any footage of the long beat upwind in Core Sound. I didn’t want to spend the time unloading my boat to get to the spare battery once I realized my mistake.
Other than that, the trip went fine.
The boat line-up
Just after the start
Downwind sailing in the Neuse River
Spinnaker action heading into Beaufort
Checkpoint 1 (Beaufort)
Awards ceremony after the race