And, suddenly, here we are. Charleston Harbor. After slogging headfirst into these snotty little waves for hours, going through what one of our sailing friends, Tammy, called the longest approach in the world, we are in between the jetties. Charleston is laid out in front of us but from a different perspective than we have ever seen before - both physically and metaphorically. If our first overnight, offshore trip was a milestone, this, as Junie says, was a rite of passage. We ain't just playin' boats here, we be sailing.
And an interesting trip, it was. We left Bald Head Island Marina on the high tide after topping off the diesel. We spun around and pointed out toward the narrow channel only to find a dredge barge with one of the crew frantically waving us to go back. They were lifting and moving the dredge pipe. So much for our graceful exit. We had to hold station until they re-positioned. Then, we got the all clear and motored out into the Cape Fear entrance to the ocean.
|Big ship from a distance just|
off Cape Fear
It was a ridiculously calm sea. And, the further we went, the calmer and more eerie it became. It was a huge, gently undulating grey ocean. We optimistically put out the mainsail and staysail just for stability as we motored along at over 6 knots. After a while, Junie decided we needed to fish. We had the rod and tackle out already so she dropped a big lead-head with a white skirt and a chartreuse Gulp bait. We kept motoring along, switched places at the helm, Roux watched for dolphins off the stern and the seas remained calm.
|Kind of gross. Pretty much discouraged|
any thoughts of swimming.
|Shot down from the bowsprit. Incredibly smooth.|
|You can see the reflection of me holding the|
camera over the side to take the picture.
As it started to get dark, we reefed the mainsail (which, basically, means that we shrunk the size by shortening and tying down the big sail. We had always agreed that we would do this offshore before dark so we didn't get surprised in the night by rising winds. Why would we expect rising winds when it was so calm, you wonder?
OK, now for the diversion. We contracted a 'weather guy', Chris Parker. He is a meteorologist that provides weather reports for the entire east coast, Caribbean and Bahamas You can also sign up for an annual contract under which he will give you specific guidance. You can say, "Chris, we want to go from Cape Fear to Charleston on Tuesday at noon. What can we expect for weather and do you recommend that we go on that day or wait?" Which we did. And Chris told us to wait. He said, "You will see benign weather until about 4:00am Wednesday when you are approaching Charleston. Then, winds will switch to the west and increase to 20 - 25, gusts to 30. Waves may be 7 feet. You may be able to get close to shore and wait for sunrise and the land may block the fetch but it is not looking good. Maybe a little better the next day."
So, why, you may ask, are we now sailing through the dark to Charleston? Sometimes, you evaluate all the data and make your own decision. Because you are stupid. Why trust the professional you hired?
We made such good time that we actually slowed down to try to coordinate our arrival to the slack tide due to arrive at noon in the Charleston channel. At 4:00am, we were 10 miles from the outer marker. We hove to and parked for the next few hours until the sun would arrive. But guess what arrived first - the wind. As the sun rose at about 7:00, we started our final approach. Which translates to almost 20 miles from where we are. Junie has already had one conversation with a cargo ship to make sure we weren't run down in the dark. Now, it is daylight and the big ships just keep on coming. Headed for Charleston, just like us.
|Big ship. Not in the distance.|
|Big ship. Not nearly far enough in the distance.|
Finally, we are between the jetties. We missed the slack tide by about an hour and a half even though we were just outside the channel 8 hours early. We have caught a break in the ship traffic and don't have to worry about being run down as we clear into the harbor. We contacted the Charleston Maritime Center, our destination for the night, and get some directions. At 2:30, we pulled into our slip.
I haven't mentioned Roux's experience on this leg of the journey. I wish he could tell the story. Let's just say that he was off the boat before all of the lines were tied off and didn't make it to the grassy area at the end of the dock before he let go.
Today, we are resting. We made it to Charleston. We decided that we are going to stay here for a week, eat shrimp and grits, and feel good about life.