updated 7/19/2006 7:09:44 PM ET 2006-07-19T23:09:44

Tropical Storm Beryl gained strength Wednesday as it moved away from the North Carolina coast and headed toward New England.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a tropical storm watch for southeastern Massachusetts, from Plymouth south and west to Woods Hole, including Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Colin McAdie, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said offshore areas of Massachusetts could get some wind as the storm passes by.

“This would be probably early morning hours Friday,” McAdie said.

At about 5 p.m. EDT, the storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph, above the 39 mph threshold for a named storm but below hurricane strength of 74 mph.

The storm was centered about 135 miles northwest of Cape Hatteras, or 390 miles south-southwest of Nantucket. It was moving north at about 8 mph, and a gradual turn to the north-northeast was expected Thursday.

Meteorologists canceled a watch for North Carolina’s northern coast as Beryl passed about 100 miles offshore. McAdie said Beryl could strengthen in the next 36 hours, but would weaken after moving over cooler waters.

Initial warnings about the second tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season did little to deter golfers, boaters or fishermen in North Carolina.

“It was blowing 15 to 20 (mph) and the sea was rolling up a little bit, but we’ve fished in worse,” said Brynner Parks, 48, after a day on his 58-foot commercial fishing boat with six clients from Maryland.

Last year’s June-November Atlantic hurricane season saw a record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including destructive Katrina.

The first named storm of 2006 season, Tropical Storm Alberto, splashed ashore in Florida in mid-June, then plowed north along the coast past the Outer Banks. It was blamed for one drowning.

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