I wake an hour before I want, water dripping through my gore-tex bivy onto my face, run to the bath house to put on dry clothes and layer on the foul weather gear. Too early, too dark to leave, the boat is packed and I walk the streets of Beaufort dressed in yellow.
Low tide and sunrise within a few minutes of each other, we motor out of Taylor Creek and raise full sail. Seagulls hover over the tideline on the edge of the inlet. The last of the tide carries into the ocean.
A northeast breeze on a cloudy morning, green water and five knots towards Cape Lookout Bight. We come into the bight, sail south along the beach and round the shoal. I jot "NORTH" in my notebook as we come about and head north towards Barden Inlet, Core Sound and...eventually.... home.
The flood tides helps us point high through the inlet, past the island rookeries and marshes with small flocks of ibis flying into the wind and going nowhere. I cheat on the floating markers and hold true to those on pilings, losing my way at marker "30," running up on a shoal, then finding my way again.
Past Harkers Isand and Browns Island, forty tacks up the narrow channels of Core Sound, past Jarrett and Nelson Bays, past the clusters of homes and church spires of Davis and Stacy, Sea Level and Atlantic, past the barren dunes and shifty shoals of Drum Inlet, into the waves rolling down the fetch of the Sound. A last tack to round Hall Point into Thorofare Bay, finding the little cove of protected water on the north shore with the single dolphin rolling in the calm water to welcome us, setting the anchor as the sun goes down a dozen hours after leaving Beaufort.