Homeward bound..... north from the Abacos to Virginia

We waited and watched the weather, but there were no good "windows" to head north in the Gulf Stream. Sailors all along the eastern seaboard were grumbling and frustrated as cold front after cold front spun off the east coast and foiled plans to sail north. We finally chose a few days that looked "good enough", knowing that we could be stuck for another month if we waited for the perfect window. The forecast called for 6 hours of light north winds in the middle of the passage, which we felt we could live with. In the Gulf Stream, you want to avoid strong north-component winds, since (in addition to coming from the direction you're going) the wind-generated waves oppose the strong northbound current and cause very rough seas.

The first day out we had light southwest winds, and we motorsailed along under sunny skies. In the early afternoon, both of our trolling rods got hits, and Neil and I raced back to man the reels. I had a Mahi on my rod, and he dropped the hook a few yards from the boat. Neil had something BIG. He could barely get the bowed-over rod out of its holder. He almost didn't get the drag tightened down before all the line went out, and the drag gear was hot to the touch from spinning out. The fish fought hard, and Neil worked long and hard for every yard of line he was able to gain on the fish. As the fish neared the boat, we were all saying, "What is it? What is it?" Neil thought it was a tuna from the way it dove deep. We hoped! Finally the fish was near the boat and we could see that it was an enormous Yellowfin Tuna, our very favorite fish. Barely daring to hope we could get it aboard without losing it, we carefully discussed our landing strategy. I donned gloves and hand-lined the monster closer, letting him run off when he tried, always keeping tension on the line. Finally I was able to bring him close enough and Neil swung expertly with the gaff, hooking him just behind the head and swinging him aboard. We all worked together, Olivia getting things we needed and taking pictures. Go Team Zora! We were ecstatic!!! Commercial- and sport-fishermen regularly bring in tuna much larger than this, but successfully landing a 42-pound tuna on a sailboat is not an easy feat. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves. Of course, we had sashimi that night! In the photos below, Neil is holding a bowl of primo ahi tuna steaks from half of the fish... at sushi-grade tuna prices we figured we'd just caught upwards of  $350 worth of tuna! And, of course, ship's cat Daisy had her share of the world's finest catfood, too...

Unfortunately, the rest of the trip was not so idyllic. The north winds turned out to be much stronger than forecast (15-20 knots) and lasted about 18 hours. We spent a day tacking back and forth across the gulf stream, trying to use the north-northeast-setting current to compensate for the fact that we couldn't sail in the direction we wanted. We heard that severe thunderstorms were forecast for the day we'd be approaching Beaufort, and so we finally decided to divert and duck into Cape Fear instead. The morning dawned windless and glassy calm, but we were tired of severe weather and headed for port.

As it turns out, the thunderstorms never materialized, and we'd have been fine to continue the extra 20 hours to Beaufort, but it was OK. We got our fuel and water and started up the dreary Intracoastal Waterway towards Norfolk. We spent two nights in Beaufort, North Carolina, enjoying the town and it's great Maritime Museum (and borrowing one of the cars they loan to cruisers so that we could fill propane and get groceries.)

As I write this we're tied to the free town dock in Great Bridge, Virginia, just 12 miles from Norfolk. The cold fronts have continued to spin off the coast every 2 or 3 days, and we've been dodging thunderstorms up the ICW. We've also been freezing our butts off. We've dug out our musty, long-unused fleeces and boots and hats and gloves and are bundled up like Arctic explorers as we drive down the ICW. We even folded back the bimini, since we are seeking the sun for warmth now, rather than seeking the shade as we have been for a year and a half. We see local people wearing short sleeves, so it must be that our blood is so thinned out from the tropics that it feels colder than it is. What are we going to do back in Maine!?!?!?

We are doing a few necessary things here in Great Bridge, like replacing the nylon mainsail slides that have begun disintegrating, and then we're hoping that this weather pattern will break and we'll get a window to head north. We hope to be able to get all the way to the Cape Cod Canal in one long offshore hop, but if we only get a few days between cold fronts we'll hop up to Cape May NJ, and go inside Long Island Sound from there. Meanwhile, Olivia is enjoying bird-watching. She's all excited about the birds that signal "home", like seagulls and robins and the Canada Geese families that paddle around next to the boat here. She doesn't realize that soon she'll be missing the Tropicbirds and Frigatebirds and parrots and pelicans that seem so common to her now...

Next: Zora goes home- Casco Bay, Maine.