Sometimes, it really is a 'dark and stormy night'.
I could search around for another description, but this one does the job pretty
well. By about 4pm, the wind had gone round to the north, so we found ourselves
close hauled and heading east. But not just 'heading' east. We were plunging and
rolling and lurching east, shipping water over the bows and heeling at about 25
degrees - even with two reefs in. Every now and then, a particularly awkward
steep wave would send Summer Song skittering sideways, and dislodge things from
safe places throughout the boat.
In the night, the motion became more uncomfortable
still and no one really slept, but at least the wind veered on round to the
east, allowing Alex and Graham to tack back onto our northerly course. Every now
and then, a really heavy wave would send a few unwelcome drops through the
sealed fo'c'sle hatch onto my face. Alex also had some light refreshment
through one of the portholes above her head. These leaks are small and should be
easily fixed before we leave on our return crossing.
The shipping was quite heavy, with a stream of
tankers and cargo ships sliding past to port and starboard. Our radar reflector
seems to be doing a good job, and again we saw ships altering course around us.
At one point towards dawn, I saw a huge vessel pass slowly by, with a line of
bright lights just above the waterline. It was hard to tell in the murk, with
just the odd stab of distant lightning to illuminate the seascape, but I think
it could have been an aircraft carrier. Lots of the US fleet is based just
around the corner in Norfolk, where we're going.
As I type, we're passing Cape Hatteras, marked by a
strange flat lighthouse perched above the waves on four enormous legs. It squats
like a tripod, or some sort of misplaced chunk of Brighton pier. Our course
bends north now and then back slightly west into the Chesapeake. It means the
worst of our 850-mile passage is now behind us, with just over 130 miles left to
run. We're expecting to drop the hook in Norfolk Road tomorrow mid afternoon.
The donk is back on and it looks like being an undemanding leg. The only
question left is whether Alex will finish her latest Stieg Larsson book and
return from Sweden before we arrive.
Before I forget, Alex's mahi made an excellent fish
supper for three. She traded me the washing up at lunch for gutting the fish - a
good deal on my part, I think. Graham stewed the fellow in foil with lemon and
herbs and, though it took an hour in the oven, it emerged tasting almost sweet,
it was so fresh.