birdWell it had to happen sooner or later.  High ZZ’s and Miss Deb both lost their virginity last week….I mean their “Offshore” virginity.  In concert with Rachel, High ZZ’s completed a 2.5 day passage from St. Augustine, FL to Cape Fear (South Port) NC in the deep blue Atlantic; and blue it was!  Two hundred, eighty-five nautical miles offshore in nearly perfect conditions: 5-15 kts of winds aft, 2-5 ft seas, no rain or storms, warm days.   Only got a bit of “rolly” for 12-15 hrs.   None of it would have been possible without the help of able-bodied seaman, Marshall Spoon, from our Claytor Lake Sailing Association.   We all stood 3-hour watches at night (well, Shep actually had 1.5 night watches since he had to sleep on deck during Miss Deb’s watch in case she got nervous), enjoyed open time during the day, reading, napping…and enjoying the company of our pictured fine feathered hitchhiker, who stopped to rest on High ZZ’s and was not the least bit timid about chatting with the captain.   Can’t write an entire “Ode” about Mr. AIS and Mr. Radar, but both were quite handy.  Our AIS tranciever picks up signals from other AIS equipped vessels, especially large freighters, and could warn us many miles ahead of close encounters.   When a close pass with a big ship was noted, we would call them on the radio to make sure they “saw” us and had a plan for how to pass without crushing us.   Mr. Radar was able to pick up small craft not AIS equipped if we did not see their lights, and was especially helpful since Rachel’s radar was on the fritz.  On-watch crew from both boats chatted, exchanged navigation information….THANKS MARK and JULIE!  Although offshore passages can be tedious and taxing, the great benefit is that we covered the distance in 2.5 days going north that it had taken nearly 2.5 weeks going south….AND with much less stress on the navigator.   All those shallow bit on the ICW in GA and SC were bypassed, as was the stress of hitting something and going aground.   The enemy of boats is land, not water! We had a nice three-day visit to Beaufort NC and a quick stop in Oriental (minus the 6 in of snow on the deck).  We are now enjoying a few days in one of our favorite places in NC, Ocracoke Island.   A few days on the beach will totally recharge the batteries for our last leg back to the Chesapeake.