Seven days after leaving Charleston, NC, Dolce Vento’s delivery captain, John, and crew, Cindy, pulled into our slip Tuesday, June 12, bleary-eyed and totally exhausted. It had been 60 hours since leaving Morehead City, NC with only one course of action — to go around Cape Hatteras. The original plan, to travel north on the ICW to avoid predicted Hatteras foul weather, like so many other events on this voyage home, was soundly thwarted. This time, instead of engine or electronics problems, it was extremely high water under the Wilkerson Bridge that stopped their progress. With strong wind from the east, pushing the water up into the ICW canal off the Neus River, it was impossible for Dolce Vento to clear the bridge or to predict when it would recede to passable levels.
After motoring back to Morehead City, NC, they got lucky with the wind as they headed east toward Cape Lookout. With all sails up, Captain John put the “rail in the water” pushing Dolce to a 25 degree heel. She flew, Dolce Vento exceeded her hull speed (8+ knots). “It was grand, if not heart stopping at times,” Cindy reported.
After rounding Cape Lookout, Dolce Vento could no longer sail, but she motored through pleasant settled conditions until she entered the Chesapeake Bay. John and Cindy calculated that they’d make Solomon’s Island (3/4 way home), before having to fuel up, if conditions held. But, conditions didn’t hold.
Again, the fates slapped them in the face. Fierce 25 knot winds from the north created bellicose winds. The Genoa sail (aka ‘big jib’) blew out. Cindy watched a 10′ x 10′ piece of the material be ripped from the sail, fly into the air, float down into the Bay, and then sink in the Bay’s churning water. What was left of the Genoa was shredded, useless. Cindy pulled it down, rolled it up, and tied it to the mast as best she could as waves beat against the bow creating a Pogo stick effect on deck. Neither life nor limb was in danger but it was not easy.
Ever increasing stress and slow progress do not make for a good voyage. Dolce Vento crept along, at little as 2-3 knots/hour, as winds pushed against her, dangerously reducing helm steerage. Fuel consumption was way above what John and Cindy had calculated, even after Cindy added the extra five gallon jug of fuel. It was clear that they wouldn’t make Solomon’s Island before going adrift in the night — the engine was running on fumes, they couldn’t sail, and daylight was failing.
The situation was transforming into a safety emergency. It was time for action. Captain John called TowBoat US to order up an “underway” fueling. Not exactly like in-flight fueling where one plane flies in parallel above another, drops a metal fuel line into the plane below, and then flips the switch to send fuel. No, this was a manual hand-to-hand effort. Arriving two hours after the call, the TowBoat US boat sidled up to Dolce Vento when waves allowed. Its captain did a “fly by” handoff of a 5 gallon jug to Cindy while Captain John tried to maintain a steady heading. Cindy reached out, did a “jug catch”, poured the fuel into the tank, handed-back the jug, and then stood by to catch another, steeling herself against breaking waves and wind to avoid being catapulted of the boat. Dolce Vento’s and TowBoat US’s motion through the waves made this work, exhausting as well as dangerous, but it worked and before an hour had passed, Dolce Vento motored north, into the night. They would reach the safety of a dock before midnight.
And so it was. Dolce Vento pulled up to the fuel dock at our sister marina (Herrington Harbour South) at 10:30 PM Monday night to rest until morning. At 9 AM they fueled up and came up the channel into our marina (Herrington Harbour North) in the daylight to dock at our new slip.
We caught the dock lines as Dolce Vento came into the slip at 10:30 AM. I am thankful that the voyage and our adventure has come to a safe, if not somewhat unsettling, end.
Cindy, despite the harrowing trip, is undeterred. She will sail again as soon as possible. My husband, John, and I are done. Dolce Vento is for sale. She needs a bit of TLC. This includes a new Genoa sail, the generator repaired, a new coat of bottom paint, her hull polished, and her decks and interior detailed. More than we wanted to spend, but less than it could have required.
Like I said before, it’s been a life changing adventure. We learned that although we love sailing, we’re don’t love long term cruising. It takes a special character and perseverance, neither of which we seem to possess.
And as the saying goes, “the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life is the day he buys the boat and the day he sells her.” Believe it. It’s true. Everything in-between is what you make of it. We made the most of it. We have not a single regret.