By midnight at the beginning of our fifth day out from the Bahamas, the wind was gusting up to 16 knots, rewarding our earlier faith in its return. Elizabeth Jean’s reefed main and full jib powered us along at seven knots; Perkins rested. Much of South Carolina’s coast was now behind us. The coastline jutted northeastward into the Atlantic, shrinking our distance from land. Cape Fear, north of the South Carolina–North Carolina Border was under 100 nautical miles to the east, northeast. Shortly after sunrise, we altered course towards a safe point off of Diamond Shoal, the beginning of the long passage around Cape Hatteras. The morning weather forecast predicted another two days of good sailing before the cold front that would close our weather window arrived. Our VHF radio, silent for much of our passage, hummed with reports of naval maneuvers, Coast Guard reports, and towing activities. Cargo ships, also on their way to Cape Hatteras, accompanied us at a safe, but imposing two mile distance. By 2100 (9 pm), Elizabeth Jean was nimbly gliding over the three to four foot seas with the wind gusting up to 27 knots. As the midnight watch began, only the stars in the moonless sky and the Cape Hatteras Light abeam studded the dark, dark night. Elizabeth Jean had rounded the fabled Cape in style.
Hatteras winks at Albatross as he hovers above North Carolina. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC.