It's the third week of our trip and we've finally reached warmer water, though due to unseasonably cold temperatures down here not necessarily warmer weather. We're now in Charleston, South Carolina, doing as the locals do: overindulging in fresh seafood and hearty, obesity-inducing lowcountry cuisine.
While traveling on the Intracoastal Waterway was certainly an experience we won't forget, by the time we reached Beaufort, NC we were ready to break out the sails and get the boat moving the way it's meant to. The weather was perfect for continuing to Charleston offshore so we jumped at the chance, knowing that if we missed the opportunity we'd be stuck in Beaufort for another week. The beer selection at Backstreet Pub is good, but it's not that good.
Getting back out to the ocean after crawling down the narrow corridors of the ICW was like reaching an above treeline stretch on a long hike up a densely forested peak. Everything seemed to open up. The stars shone brighter, the sails filled with wind and pushed us along, and the ocean was alive. Seabirds swooped and hovered, eying the pink and purple lures popping in our wake and clumps of weed floated past here and there. On the second morning we hooked five little skipjack tuna within 15 minutes. But the most evident signs of life were the dozens and dozens of bottlenose dolphins who appeared alongside the boat as we sped along and cut through the swell.
Dolphins are always a welcome sight at sea, but the amount we saw on this past leg was unbelievable. A small group of them began playing at the bow just outside of Beaufort and almost every time we checked over the course of our 36 hour sail, day and night, there were at least a few of them hanging around. The phosphorescents glowed in their wakes as they surfed next to the boat at night. And there were so many of them. At one point they actually seemed to be swarming. I asked Matt how many he thought there were and he said he "reckoned there were a hundred" (ie, more than he could count). During the day you could stand at the bow and race along with them, just a foot or two above them as they darted around each other and glided back and forth beneath the spray. They seemed to be keenly aware of us and we were mesmerized by them.
These short overnight trips can be difficult - your body doesn't get into a routine and it's just short enough that it's hard not to think about getting there - but having the dolphins around was so cool. They kept us aware and comfortably tethered to the present moment.
Matt got some great footage and I threw together some of the best clips here. My apologies for the bad sound quality and quickly done, sub par editing. Will make improvements soon!