Ambulance sirens stirred me from sleep.
Flanked by blankets and pillows and ample supplies of chocolate and cookies in the backseat of a Honda on an interstate highway, I soon realized all was well and everything was under control. The sirens and their lights grew distant. According to the GPS, we were averaging more than 60 miles an hour and on course. I rolled over and nodded off again, a passive crewmember on an overnight delivery.
Of course we were on course. Professional global traveler, sailor, and charter sailing vacation broker Peter King was at the helm, and his wife and cohort, Carol, rode shot gun while monitoring the GPS. Their alternating two-hour tricks at the wheel began around 10 p.m. the night before in Noank, Connecticut, after a delectable dinner of baked cod that Carol whipped up in between packing for the trip.
By 10:30 a.m., some 700-plus miles later, and after a scheduled pit stop at a McDonald’s, we were enjoying lattes and pastry at a waterfront café in Wilmington, North Carolina, en route to our final destination, Smith Island.
Popularly known as Bald Head Island, Smith Island, which borders the southeasterly flank of the Cape Fear River outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, is the site of Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals, whose renown sands have felled hapless mariners aboard vessels for centuries. Today, sailors cruising the Intracoastal Waterway along the Cape Fear River—far from the treacherous shoals—are welcome to use transient facilities at the Bald Head Island Marina.
But enough about the sea. We three friends and colleagues were on shore leave, on a real vacation at the end of February, though soon enough, chat turned to all things sailing-related: flotillas we’d done together in Tahiti and Italy and the British Virgin Islands, the friends we’d made, the fantastic meals we’d eaten, the wine we’d drunk, the hikes we’d taken, the archeological sites we’d explored, the flora and fauna we experienced.
Indeed the Kings are nature lovers. Besides the dinners, cocktail hours, bike rides, and beach walks (I can now knock Frying Pan Shoals off my bucket list), we communed as closely with the outdoors as we could on a Bald Head Island Conservancy nature walk. We came close, but not too close, to a couple of alligators, while being soothed by soft breezes that let Spanish Moss sway from tree limbs.
We saw yellow rumped warbler; greater yellow legs; white-throated sparrow; red tailed hawk; osprey; giant egret; anhinga; black-crowned night heron; tri-colored heron; great blue heron; white ibis; bufflehead duck; coot; pied-billed grebe; ruddy duck; laughing gull; brown pelican; and boat-tailed starlings.
I can’t get enough of these types of trips, whose components range from great food and great company to the great outdoors. I’m so grateful to Peter and Carol for this special invitation to hang out with them, and look forward to more—hint hint.
The moral of the story is this: If you’re up for a great time, and great sailing, check out the flotillas CW and the Kings have planned for the rest of 2011. I highly recommend them. Don’t take my word—check them out for yourself.