125 Miles Offshore
This leg started as we left our slip in Southport, NC. We motored down the Cape Fear river a short way, almost to the mouth, and then cut into Bald Head Island marina to top off our extra fuel cans and water tanks. We also used the calm of the marina to make final preparations for offshore like running the jacklines, securing fenders and lines, and lashing down the anchor and anchor locker. While this was happening, rain started falling pretty heavily - maybe an ominous sign. We motored out of the marina cut, took a left and exited the Cape Fear into the Atlantic. We set a waypoint for Charleston and set up the boat to take care of itself. The weather forecast had called for winds out of the north and northwest, but all we were getting was a 10 knot breeze from the southwest, right on the nose, so we motored for the first hour or so. Around noon, the wind clocked a bit to the west and we were able to get the sails up and motor sail at about 6 knots and half the RPMs. Everything was going as planned, and we estimated that if we kept going towards Charleston, we would arrive in the middle of the night and we really didn't want to come into the inlet at night. So, we decided to shoot for St. Augustine, another 20 hours or so, and a course change to the south. Just before dusk, a few dolphins decided to swim along side the boat for a few miles - they really gave us a show before they took off.
Everything was ok until about 11pm when the wind really started to pick up. At first we were excited that the wind was filling out, but it wasn't long before the seas really started to build. The boat was starting to become unstable with that much wind so we rolled in the genny and eventually decided to wrestle down the main. In hindsight, we probably should have double reefed the main before the sun went down because when we were finally able to bring it down, the wind and seas were much too rough and it was much to dark to safely tie in a reef. So we revved Perky (our Perkins diesel) back up and resumed course. The wind and seas continued to build and the boat was really bucking and rolling. Moving around down below was a matter of deliberate balancing and firm handholds while trying to anticipate the next movement of the boat around you.
We decided to check the weather and were surprised by the reports of an unforecasted low pressure system moving through. A small craft advisory and gale warning had been issued and the wind was now forecasted to build into the 20-30 knot range, and the seas were sure to build along with the wind. We were having trouble keeping our speed above 4 knots because every time we made much more than that, a ten foot wave would come along and we would bury the bow into it, slowing us back down to 2 or 3 knots. We soon agreed that a run to St. Augustine in these conditions would be madness, so we reluctantly set course for the Charleston inlet and turned the boat west, right into the wind and seas. 40 miles to safety.
All through the night, the wind roared and the seas battered us. We repeatedly rode one big wave up and crashed down into the next, taking green water over the entire bow of the boat. Each time the spray was picked up by the wind and hurtled back to the cockpit where we were quickly learning to recognize when to duck in order to keep from getting soaked. Down in the cabin, the order of the day was trying not to be thrown across the boat, plotting our position on paper in the case that we lost our electronics, and continually checking the radar for freighters, which were likely to be thick in these waters around the busy port of Charleston. At about 1 am, we were both down below checking out the radar, when an alarm went off. Just a few seconds later, the boat made an unusual jolt to one side and we both looked up to see water fly across the top of the boat. Mike hurried out to the cockpit to see the autopilot display read "Boat off course". The boat was turning itself in circles and crashing into waves all along the way. It seemed that Otto had deserted us. The autopilot refused to work, so we were left with only one option - to hand steer all the way to Charleston. So there we were, in the darkness, trading 30-45 minute shifts, trying to hand steer a compass course while getting bashed from all sides by ocean waves that we could hardly see. Whoever wasn't steering was below checking the radar, updating navigation and trying to catch some winks of sleep. Against the wind and seas, we could only manage between 2 and 3 knots, which meant we were going to be at this for a long time. We just prayed that our motor, ol' Perky, would keep ticking, because if we lost the motor in this situation, for whatever reason, we'd be in a pretty bad spot. This went on for about 10 hours until we finally spotted the sea buoys of Charleston harbor. Things were much easier to handle mentally when the sun came up, and the seas calmed a bit, but not much. We were able to pick up speed to about 5 knots and the harbor began to get closer a little faster. It wasn't until 11am or so on Wednesday morning that we began the run into the Charleston Inlet.
Needless to say, we were exhausted. We dropped the anchor, both took hot showers and changed into dry clothes, drank a bunch of water and went straight to sleep.
We have been baptized.
Mike, Kate, Tomorrow and Perky (Otto got scared and quit)
We set out from Southport, stopping into Bald Head Island to take on fuel and water before the leg to Charleston
Exiting the inlet at the mouth of the Cape Fear River
Let's get it on
Waiting for the action to come
This is "Pirby" - our EPIRB - Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon - Let's just put it this way. If it comes down to it, Kate will probably save Pirby before she saves Mike or the boat.
Holding on to this means that a young, fit, Coast Guard recruit will jump out of a helicopter to save your cold wet buns.
Right before sunset some dolphins came to play.
Notice that there are not pictures between sunset and sunrise - There is a reason - We were assaulted for the entire night by 10-15 foot seas and 30 knot winds. The sunrise was quite welcome, even though the winds and seas never really subsided. Charleston harbor was a welcome sight.
Note the whitecaps
Let's get to Charleston so I can sleep!!!
Our wind generator has been nicknamed "Slash" Other names considered - "Spinning blades of death" and "The Mamer"
A "little" traffic in the Charleston Inlet
Ft. Sumter as seen on the way in.
The new Cooper River Bridge
The Charleston Historic District