I was in it before I had time to think about it and that was probably the best , since there was no turning back, no pause button and no way to extract myself or the boat from the situation.
The rage. It's been described in cruising guides and magazines; wind against current creating steep, sharp waves, combined with deep troughs, clumped close together, all seeming to conspire together to make one really work at keeping the boat on course and under control.
Ever watch Deadliest Catch? You know the scenes where they show the boats plunging down into the large seas, green water being thrown over the foredeck, spray going across most of the boat? The boat hurls down into the sea, then races up sharply into the sky as it sheds the sea from it's decks, only to plunge headlong back down into the next deep trough.
As we exited Beaufort inlet, there were the usual large number of small boats along the edges of the channel, fishing and buzzing about. I also noticed the rather large barge being short towed into the inlet by the tug. There was another large freighter that I was watching further out in the channel, well beyond everything else. Was it even moving, and if so, was it getting ready to head into the channel and towards me?
The small insectual boats had my immediate attention as well as the barge/tug combo. And of course keeping an eye to the channel markers and making sure I was still inside it. The water runs deep here if you stay inside the channel, not so much near either shore located not far outside the channel. I would have to keep to the right of the channel and give the tow/barge plenty of room as I went out. I needed to make a turn out of the channel after the second red nun (they were on the left) to make the Cape, and was gauging where he and I would pass. I noticed that the barge seemed quite skewed in relation to it's tow, and I wondered briefly about that...
Then the waves started to get my attention. Because I was getting into them. I mean, surely I had noticed them before, well yes I had thank you very much. It's just that they really hadn't registered.
And they should have, because I have run the rage in this inlet before, in little Journey. With her 13HP engine, it was more of a crap shoot - will we survive? We had, obviously, but it had been an Oh S**t moment for both of us.
So yea, I can be thick about not noticing the rage when it's right in front of me. Kinda like me to be wondering about a freighter over five miles distant instead....
Beaufort inlet is a great inlet with plenty of water and room to maneuver. The deep water of the inlet makes a rapid funnel for the tide receding from the inland waters. This causes waves and turbulence at the narrowest part of the inlet and just beyond, where the water rushes out to meet the ocean. This flow is to the east, into the Atlantic. The waters of the Atlantic, meanwhile have been flowing west towards the eastern US shore. This causes the normal chop and waves that are found at the inlet.
Now throw in an east wind, that is to say wind that originates from the east and is headed west, and things start to get interesting. The winds help push the waves toward shore at the same time the tide is creating waves flowing out of the inlet. These all collide and the wind helps create a chaotic condition of tall, quick seas known as the rage. These large square peaked waves are everywhere, packed close in on top of each other, and the waves and current conspire to make controlling the rudder difficult, much like in a storm at sea.
Into this we found ourselves, where just moment before, visions of gentle sailing through broad reaches were forming, now replaced by riding mechanical bulls. The boat began demanding my full attention, which was a shame, since I was still in a DUH moment concerning this new development, and was just starting to comprehend the skewing of the barge behind the tug. Then it all came together with a BANG - RAGE ON! The tug was having major problems keeping his tow in check, due to the rage we were in. I needed to keep well away from him, keep an eye ON him, stay in the channel, avoid hitting the next green marker (and believe me, this was a major concern now, given conditions and the way the helm was fighting me) oh yeah, and keep the boat from floundering sideways to all this mess.
As soon as my brain caught up, I was fine. Sure it was work, and keeping myself behind the wheel was a constant battle, sort of a combination of mid-auto-wreck that never ends, and free fall space walking... at random. In the midst of it all, was the job of reassuring my grandson Caleb. He is ten and has great sea legs, but I was at fault for not preparing him for an eventuality like a rage, and he needed constant verbal reassuring. He rode best pressed into my right side at the helm, so that's how we did it, side by side through the rage and around the tug and it's barge. After that, I began to breathe a bit, and it got sorta fun watching the green water throw itself up over the front of the boat.
Al was quiet, letting me concentrate on the task at hand, both of us ignoring the things below, rolling around, falling to the floor, crashing wherever. Suddenly Al raced below and stayed below for several minutes. Busy as I was, I couldn't focus on him, but thought perhaps he ws picking up, and I remember thinking that was probably a bit premature.....
And then he was back on deck, and we worked our way across the channel and out into the Atlantic. After around ten minutes more, we were beyond the reach of the rage and things began to settle down a bit. We were still rolling a bit, even with the sails to damper the roll, and most important, Caleb lost much of his fear, and visibly relaxed.
We were on our way finally, to Cape Lookout.
It was only after anchoring that I found out that Al had rushed below to close all the forward portholes. We spent most of the afternoon drying the mattresses sheets and Al and Caleb clothes.
We are so dense, it's a wonder we float.
And thankfully, we still have adventures to fill a page.