They say that perseverance is best friends with patience.
Along with so many other insights, I believe that this is the lesson that Sea U Sooner is teaching me on this leg of our journey, perhaps with the need for a little bit of grit, courage, faith in one another, faith in God, and a sense of humor thrown in.
We departed from Coinjock, which is one of our favorite marinas in North Carolina, most well known for it’s restaurant and its “out of this world” prime rib dinner, not to mention it’s friendly and professional staff. There are a lot of boats travelling towards Florida at this point in the season, striking the fine balance between lingering in the North to avoid hurricane season and heading South quickly to avoid wintery weather and freezing winds.
We departed Coinjock and were about 5th in a string of 15 or so vessels migrating south. Beautiful day, slight chop, and … whack, an uncomfortable noise and the immediate realization that we had had hit something dastardly. A quick look back and we caught a glimpse of a submerged six foot or so long log, and some other insidious and mysterious debris. Unbenknownst to us, Hurricane Dorian has left a unforgiving trail of flotsam in its wake, still wreaking havoc in the waterways of North Carolina and beyond. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else, but it’s hard to fathom how we hit the junk given our position in the middle of the floating line-up.
We immediately lost power and steering and multiple alarms sounded at the same time. Mike went below to check the status of the situation, and came up as pale as a ghost, deadly calm, and announced the unsettling news that we were taking on water. We called the Coast Guard, donned our life jackets, (not a welcome or easy task for our two brave kitties), and prepared for the worst even as we hoped for the best. Mike went back down below to check the status of the situation again, and was even more shaken than before. Notable because, typically, Mike is unshakable. Sea U Sooner started to list. I was entirely certain we were all going in the water. In and of itself, that is not frightening for me, but I was worried about the cats and thinking that the water was going to be cold!
We both remained remarkably calm. The Coast Guard officer made a number of suggestions to Mike, while putting out an all points bulletin to nearby boats that we were in distress, and taking on water. The CG suggested Mike go below and check the “stuffing box” as they suspected we might have expelled a drive shaft and hence the flooding in the bilge. Mike followed through, just as the CG suggested, and discovered a one-inch hole where the drive shaft had been. He plugged it. Saved the day, and returned to the bridge where we informed the CG we had stopped the inflow of water.
As an aside, the folks at Coinjock heard the distress calls and the dockmaster immediately headed out with a pump to assist with the rescue, although we didn’t end up needing it. A yacht that had been following us at a distance, Dyre Straights, pulled up behind us. They diverted their course and stayed with us for over two hours as we limped along until Sea Tow showed up, and only then continued South toward their original destination. Such is the camaraderie and the good will of the yachting community and we will be forever grateful to Coinjock and to Dyre Straights and always stay motivated to pay it forward.
The Coast Guard noted, and the Sea Tow Captain who escorted us in to Wanchese, remarked that in his entire career 35+ year career that he has only encountred two to three pleasure boaters who have had the wherewithal, knowledge, sense of calm and determination to plug a leak and make a repair in a flooding bilge and emerge without total and catastrophic damage to the boat. Once again I have been astounded by, and am so proud of Mike’s exhaustive knowledge and expertise on Sea U Sooner.
Here’s the good news: if you are going to be hung up somewhere, the Outer Banks is a beautiful place to be, and we would not have been here if not for our mid-adventure. Also, there are some very high-end boat builders and highly competent ship-yards here, so if you need repairs, you couldn’t ask to land in a better place. Although the repairs have taken close to three weeks, we’ve made the most out of the gift of our time here.
We loved Kitty Hawk and the Wright brothers memorial, the history museum and aquarium in Manteo, the four lighthouses that stand watch along the coastline here. Also, we just happened to be here when the Outer Banks Half Marathon was run, so I got to experience another great race. At the finish line, I met a group of gals from Colorado who had travelled here on a “girls-trip” to run the half, and they most generously adopted me into their group and took me under their wing after the race, filling an abyss I am feeling towards my own girlfriends from Colorado — and reminding me that God generously and creatively provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, even if we aren’t fully aware of the need in ourselves. Spectacular sand dunes, daring hang-gliders, festive kites, and wild horses are just some of the other highlights that delighted us on this unexpected tangent.
I’m anxious to get back to Florida and establish a home-base, but have been forced to ponder in some very constructive ways the question “what is home?” Is it more than being with the one or one(s) you love most, to opening your eyes to the unexpected gifts around you, to understanding that there are good people everywhere you go who can anchor you to what’s most important? I am learning, being reminded, that home may be as much a state of mind as anything else. Patience and perseverance.