offshore     Yes, we are back in the saddle again; back where the ocean’s our friend…ok, Gene Autry’s lyrics (or was it Aerosmith?) don’t quite go that way, but they are appropriate for us.  After two months in Venice, we returned to the boat and settled back in to that familiar saddle spot, where my butt feels most comfortable…at the wheel of High ZZ’s.  A few new surgical scars to add to Shep’s arsenal of old-age war wounds, another completed project on the FL house (a new storage shed in the carport), while High ZZ’s waited patiently for our return to Vero Beach.  She seemed eager for us to loosen her reins and free her to romp in the open ocean.   I think she was even overjoyed, or at least her American Pharaoh like performance seemed to reflect a sense of euphoria; but more on that later.bikesonbeach

bridge of lions  We shook off the dust and cobwebs from two months at the Vero Beach (FL) City Marina and arrived at Little Creek (Norfolk) just 12 days later (and that included a two-day stop-over in Cape Lookout). That is a record for High ZZ’s sprints between her southern (winter) and northern (summer) ranges.  We had busted our boat insurance June 1 deadline for exiting hurricane prone Florida, but were at no risk, as no named storms approached the US east coast.  On the way from Vero to St. Augustine, we were able to visit friends Martin and Patsy in New Smyrna Beach and as is usual when we get together (but always great fun) we had a difficult time getting going the next morning.   We delayed our offshore venture (and attempt at leaving a different harbor inlet) until we reached the familiar pastures of St Augustine.  Our timing was perfect, as we caught the out-going tide for a two knot boost out the St. Augustine inlet and pointed our trusty steed’s head northward.  Following seas, and a not-quite-enough 10-15kt wind made the trip offshore pleasant and fast.  Although we had to motor-sail quite a bit at 2/5 throttle to keep our speed up (we wanted to make an in-coming tide at the Cape Fear River) we recorded our first 160nm 24 hour day!  Miss Deb, now a grizzled veteran of offshore passages, took over the reins for her usual 0000-0300 watch during the two day passage, and was treated to the aerial acrobatics of flying fish jumping on and off of the boat as High ZZ’s sprinted northward.  At 0800, 48 hours after departing St. Augustine, we entered the Cape Fear River on an incoming tide.  Take that American Pharaoh!   Unfortunately, we were treated to Florida-like heat (heat index of 110F) in North Carolina and retreated to marinas each night (except at CLO) so we could plug in and run the AC.


In another bit of luck for good timing, we were treated to a visit from friend Barb (missed you Tim) in Swansboro, NC.   Wow, two sets of football friends in one trip….bodes well for the Hokies this fall!  Then it was off to Cape Lookout, NC, to meet up with four boats from our Claytor Lake Sailing Association on their annual summer cruise.  We caught up with the flotilla of four 19-22 ft trailer sailors about half-way between Beaufort inlet and the Cape, and had a great time “racing” to  the anchorage (just to even the match, we kept our mainsail in the mast).  Two days of reminiscing, happy-hours, beach combing….ensued, before it was time to let High ZZ’s point north again.   A quick jaunt to Oriental (love the Tiki bar), race to Belhaven to beat the severe thunderstorms lurking about, up the Alligator River (another “must have AC” evening at the AR Marina), and a third passage through the Great Bridge lock…we always go south through the Dismal Swamp canal and north through the Virginia Cut, and soon the hustle and bustle of the Elizabeth River/Hampton Roads appears on the bow.   Dodging a few tugs-with-tows, a few container ships, a few naval vessels, and it is out past the Bay Bridge/Tunnel and Willoughby Bank.  This was our only poor-timing transit as a two knot foul current slowed our approach to High ZZ’s northern corral.   But then, just a dozen suns and 600+nm in the making, our steed backed gracefully into slip B47 at Bay Point Marina, where she will spend a month or two cooling down, getting re-shoed, refurbishing her saddlebags…