By Paul Moffitt - Phillidelphia, Pennsylvania - USA
Over the years I have come to an increasing appreciation of the kind of person it takes to do an event like the OBX130, the Texas 200, the water tribe events, or the Florida 120. The confidence is cheap, but the actual where-with-all to boldly go forth when you know conditions are not perfect is paid for with experience. Smart people would call it fool hardy, I call it fun. Andrew Linn's story about the OBX this year is good enough for me as a detailed account of what happened. What I wish to relate to you are some of the moments for me that made this year’s trip special for me. I will finish with a few words about upcoming OBX raids.
When we got settled there were more boats than I had expected; ten or twelve. When I first wrote about this event I said that one could expect high winds, no winds, storms, contrary winds, and down wind runs. Apparently the OBX decided that, after 2009's perfect weather with a following wind in every direction we wished to sail, it would show me what it could do. A tropical depression had formed in the Caribbean. Where it would go and how it could affect weather at the OBX was anyone's guess. Guessing is what the weather people were doing as was illustrated by the fact that they could not even predict things half an hour out accurately all week. There were a bunch of guys from the TSCA Delaware chapter there in smaller boats. They were going to day sail out of Cedar Island and then day sail out of Harkers Island to perhaps meet up with us in the bight if the weather moderated. They never made it to the bight. After the event I emailed Mike Wick who was with them and he said they could never have made it in the weather we went out in. He said something about us being another breed entirely. This was his polite way of saying the crap does not fall far from the crazy bat, I think. In the end we had most of the boats do the smart thing and stay in port. With only six boats starting, we set out as intrepid a bunch of blokes that ever shoved off.
I hitched rides on different boats every day as I did not bring down my catamaran this year. I just had (with Cybele’s help) my first daughter, Darcy Bryn Moffitt, which meant I had not had time to prepare my boat.
In fact I decided to come down only a few days before. With me was Stuart Bartlett, a swarthy theater technician and rigger with dread locks down to his arse and an accent all the way from his home town of Essex. We were able to store our stuff on Bill's Embers Watch. The first day out I sailed with Dave Chase on his brand new Mikes Boat. NorthernGannet was built by Tim Fox, a professional boat builder, and I have seen him advertising his business in SCA with a picture of his Mikesboat. Very fine craftsmanship. The sails also are very nicely made. Dave was fun to sail with. At the start he was a bit hesitant to go out. I left it up to him but I think he was thankful to have me along as crew that first day since I had a lot of experience sailing a Mikesboat in the kind of weather we were heading out into. Basically it was slightly choppy because of the 15-20 mph winds. It was coming in from the SE by East which means that there was a lot of tacking that had to be done to get around the inlet and start heading south towards the Gun Club. Dave and I went out after the Laguna with Mike and Andrew. They were able to stay close enough to the wind to make it out in only a couple of tacks. The Laguna is a very fast boat. Next came us and then Bill in his Ember’s Watch, with Chuck Lienweber as crew, and Sean in his Piccup Squared. The Princess 22 with Tony Day and Peter Larouche in his boat also came out with us. Then there was “Mac” McDevitt aboard his Windrider Trimaran.
Me sailing Dave’s Mikesboat.
Dave and I were doing a very nice job of getting out when we saw that Bill and Sean had inexplicably turned around and started to head back in. I could not think of what had happened or broken. I tried raising them on the radio for a long time. We finally got to the point were we could head south and Dave said he would not mind turning around if I was worried. I finally decided to be prudent and head back in. As we cleared the grass to the last inlet they were coming back out without Sean's Piccup. The chop had been too much for the little boat. It was a smart move on Sean's part because the weather got much worse later in the week. Sean had done this and more the summer before in the inaugural OBX130, but there had not been a tropical depression to deal with then.
Sean heads out to start the OBX. Once he actually got out into the channel the chop and wind were to much for him.
We headed out again, with me cursing under my breath. Just the night before I had been saying how it was important to keep your radio on so that we could all communicate with each other and here are my brother and father both ignoring me on the very first leg!
The rest of the run was uneventful and I showed what I knew about the Mikesboat to Dave. Dave is a great sailor and a pleasure to be around. His boat was immaculately appointed with all the bells and whistles. I was very sorry to hear what happened to him later in the week with the capsize and all. I am also sorry I wasn't with him that day or that Stuart or Sean had not been with him. In that kind of weather it would have been easier to cast off with two people, and it might not have happened at all. It was great of Sean to jump in; literally. For the whole story read Andrew Linns account.
The Gun Club is a place none of us Moffitts had been to before but a local fisherman had told Bill about it. It was a perfect place and distance along. We could not go to the island we had gone to the year before. During the planning phase a ranger with the wildlife agency in NC had stumbled upon my website and wrote me a letter saying that we could not go a number of places I had listed as potential camping spots as they were protected nesting sites. The Gun Club was great. It featured docks and a path over to the Atlantic side of the beach. The only drawback to the Gun club is that you really have to have a shallow keel. The Princess 22, skippered by Tony Day, got in after a lot of dragging her about looking for a way in. Stuart was with him and helped a lot. It seems that you need to go south then approach at a diagonal following some mythical fisherman's pvc posts. We marked it on the gps and hopefully next time around it will be easier to get in.
The boats at the Gun Club make this old abandoned Dock feel useful once more.
The next day we headed down to the bight. I left really late. This day I went in a Windrider Trimaran. I did not like it. It was fast, but not the kind of boat I got into sailing for. Still, I had a lot of fun. So, we left last, and somehow the whole capsizing thing happened without us seeing it. We got into the bight and were the first ones there, followed soon by the Princess 22. I was disappointed and then confused about the delay of the others joining us. Where had they gone? Everyone had been in front of us. I had no equipment besides some day sail stuff. The rest of my camping stuff was on Embers Watch. Tony on the Princes 22 made me a peanut butter sandwich that saved my life. Then, one by one, after a couple of hours of waiting, they came into view and headed down to where we had anchored. By this time the chop was really high and the wind was more like 20 than 15. Everyone got in and we started setting up camp. The first camp spot turned out to be under high tide on a full moon night, which is what it was. We hurriedly evacuated everyone as they almost got their tents flooded and all moved to higher ground and closer to one another. In retrospect this turned out to be a good thing to be so close to each other. That night the heavens opened up and it poured. I mean it really rained. I was happy with my REI tent and stayed dry and happy. I had brought coffee and bourbon so Stuart and I were set.
The next day of the event I had planned for us to just do a short hop out of the bight and around to the back side of Shakleford Island to camp with the horses and sail each others’ boats. It was to be a nice short day to mainly play around, along with a visit to the museum and light house. Well, the wind was at least 25 with much higher gusts and it continued to rain all morning. We were weather bound.
Poor Andrew. He had a not-quite-water-proof bivy bag he had brought with him. The poor sap. He sat out in that rain all night… wide awake. I can only imagine it as some kind of Chinese torture gone worse. During this time he passed from sane to insane, and then back again (I think!). He should have just climbed into Sean's tent. I am sure he would not have minded. Hell, they did the Texas 200 a few weeks later together. So when he came to my tent door with a thousand yard stare and TOTALLY wet, I felt sorry for the man. I sipped my coffee and whiskey and really felt bad. Honest. He had spent all night thinking about how we were going to get out of this mess. It was something like he was going to flag down a boat or something and go over to Harker's Island then somehow get all the cars and trailers down to Harkers where all the boats will be after motoring back up through the hook. I let him down easy and said we were going to wait out the day in our dry tents and then tomorrow when the weather hopefully moderated we would go straight back up to the Gun Club. He went up to the light house and dried everything out. By the end of the day his brain was dry and good to go. In the afternoon the rain stopped but the wind was still strong. I was disappointed that the weather had turned out the way it did, but hopefully that means the next OBX will have perfect weather.
If you have to be rained in might I suggest you have a water tight tent, Coffee, and whiskey?
Later that evening a good friend who had missed the start of the event came out to the hook and appeared. It was George Broadlick in his Sweet Pea. And he brought with him news of Peter Lamarche and Dave Chase, as well as cold beer. Peter had hit a sand bar and had to be taken off. He went back to Canada but swears he will be back more prepared. Dave had pulled out and I think George is the one who gave him a ride up to get his car and tailor from Cedar Island. The beer was cold and awesome. We made a camp fire and all had a great time. I can not fathom how George was able to get the Sweet Pea to us in those conditions. He is an awesome sailor. I sailed the Sweet Pea the next day once we arrived at the Gun Club and I can honestly say that my weight was what controlled the boat. In those winds and chop I don't know how George did it.
George wishing he had another reef and he joins us, bring cold beer.
The ride back up was uneventful. The weather moderated and was, in general, around 15 the rest of the trip.
All around I had a lot of fun and sailed with a lot of great people. I really wish I had had my own boat. Still, I was able to make it. So, as to the future of the OBX?
I want to do it again. But I have decided that it needs to be a bi-annual event. Also, due to my new work schedule, it will have to be later in the summer. So the next OBX will be September 10-14th 2012. (I may change this by one week either direction, depending.) The course will change a little. I have revamped and updated the website and you can find more information and get ready for the next OBX at www.obx130.com You can also find more articles and stories from the last two OBX’s there.
Here are couple more of my favorite photos from 2010 OBX.