The Big Sailing Trip Part III
This is the third installment of our big 1,200 mile sailing trip. You can read the first installment here.
Tuesday June 26, 2019-Charleston
The night before we docked in Charleston. We got cleaned up and went out to dinner at Hooked--Charleston is an awesome town if you like to eat, amazing restaurants are on pretty much every corner the pressure was on to pick the best one. Then Tuesday was chore day. Deb went to the supermarket to top up some of our provisions, and reorganized the fridge. I did the laundry and then scrubbed the salt and the scuff marks off the deck. Todd and Sean worked on fixing the main sail. When we were taking down the sail the day before we’d heard a loud “ping” as a pin that holds the sail onto the main halyard had broken and fallen off. Our generator also was not working properly—the error message Todd was seeing indicated that it wasn’t getting any water. Marine generators and diesels take in sea water to keep them cool, and they were able to figure out that the impeller—a tiny propeller that spins to suck in the cooling water, was broken.
We hired the marina to help us repair it. On one of my walks to the laundry—we were the absolute last boat on the mega dock, the walk to the laundry was almost ¾ of a mile That is a far walk in the steamy South Carolina heat, and it was damn hot that day. I walked there to haul the laundry, put it all in the machines, and then walked back to get started on cleaning the deck. Then when my timer on my watch buzzed I walked back over there to flip the clothes into the dryers, back to clean, buzz, back to get our clothes.
But on one of my walks I said hi to a man who worked at the marina who was sitting in a golf cart. I didn’t think much of it, went about my business. But later that afternoon that same man drove Todd back in the cart. “Beej, you’ll never guess who I found,” Todd beamed. I took another look at the man, and it was actually an old friend of ours. He was the yard manager at the marina where we kept Sabine in the winter. He was always very kind to us as we were restoring that boat, gave us great advice, looked the other way and gave us keys when we wanted to gain access to the inside of the big hangar like buildings, an all around cool dude. I remembered then that he and his family had moved to South Carolina after years of living in Rhode Island. Apparently Todd had walked into the Service Department, where Chris works, and just started talking to Chris without realizing it was Chris. Blah blah blah, generator, need an impeller, blah blah blah. Then Chris said "OK Todd, you got it." It was great to see an old friend and even greater to see him look so happy, he accepted a smelly sweaty hug from me and we got caught up.
We finished our chores, Chris said he’d send a guy over first thing in the morning to help us finish the repair to the generator. We topped up the diesel, the water, cleaned the interior of the boat while Todd and Sean went out to West Marine to fetch the impeller for the generator. While I was waiting for the guys to get back I jumped off the back of the boat to cool off. I spent the day in my bathing suit, because I knew I wouldn’t mind it getting wet as I cleaned the decks. The marina is located at the mouth of the Ashley River, and the current immediately took me away from the boat and the dock. I swam back and held onto the swim ladder, and let the current wash the sweat off of me. Earlier that day in the river Deb and I had seen a dolphin swimming along in the brackish water.
Once we were all dressed we headed in to town once again—Todd had heard from a few of his Uber drivers that Page’s was THE place to go for dinner. They were not wrong. I had chicken and waffles—the waffles were made with sausage, corn and jalapeno peppers inside. Delicious! Of course I had to try the key lime pie, as I am on a quest for the best key lime pie. (Mrs. Macs in Key Largo, you are still the long standing winner.) But the banana pudding was the real winner of the dessert.
Wednesday June 26, 2019
We set out from Charleston after getting the generator repairs done. We took the trash out, I filled the water tanks as much as they would allow. We went back to say goodbye to Chris, untied the lines and set out for the hour ride to the mouth of the harbor.
The plan was to sail to Morehead City, NC. In looking at the forecast, rounding NC’s point didn’t look so hot, 20 kt winds against us. We discussed the possibility of leaving the ocean at Morehead City and entering the Intracoastal Waterway, and following the ICW all the way to our next stop: Norfolk. The ICW is basically like a canal that runs from Norfolk all the way to Fort Lauderdale. This way boaters can travel the length of the country without having to be offshore. The advantages of going through the ICW are that it’s more scenic, and we’d get more rest as you cannot travel the ICW at night because the navigation buoys are not lit. The disadvantages are that it’s so narrow, like traveling on a river, that we wouldn’t be able to sail. And because it’s not perfectly straight we would have to hand steer the boat and not use the autopilot, like we’d gotten used to using while at sea. I both dread and look forward to traveling on the ICW.
While we were en route from Charleston to Morehead City Todd set up a fishing rod, attached a lure to the hook and let the lure run out behind the boat. The previous owners of the boat left a lot of gear aboard, including fishing equipment--poles, lures, etc. Todd set it up and propped the pole in the holder on the back of the boat. I doubted we would catch anything as we are traveling 6-7 knots—not scorching fast by catamaran standards, but way too fast for any fish to swim I would imagine. When Deb asked about the speed at which the lure would travel, he had explained that a fish beneath it at any moment would see the lure dart across the top and think for a split second that it was a squid and dart up and grab it. He told us that when the line runs all the way, once a fish bit the lure out it would be quite noisy.
Deb sat next to that rod the entire time I was on my afternoon watch and it didn’t make any noise. She noticed that the rod was bent a bit more than it had been when Todd had set it up. There is about 1,000 feet of line on that reel. When Todd picked up the rod and began to reel it in he was met with resistance.
I steered the boat back to lessen the resistance on the line. He reeled and reeled and reeled telling us that he’d probably managed to catch some trash floating in the ocean. He reeled some more, I slowed the engines and carefully steered so that the fishing line wouldn’t get caught in our rigging. I put the engines in neutral so the propellers would stop spinning--getting fishing line caught in the propellers would be disasterous.
At the end of the line was a tuna. It was still alive and who knows how long we’d been dragging it, but it gently flopped against the line, exhausted at being caught and dragged. He released the fish as it was a bit too small to catch and honestly we had so much food aboard that we probably wouldn't get to sufficiently eat an entire tuna. But the rest of the afternoon he smiled at his accomplishment at having caught a fish. Pretty sexy, actually.
I completed my watch, made spaghetti for everyone to enjoy for dinner, headed in to the shower and to bed. I’d been asleep for about an hour when Todd woke me up to tell me that there was a pod of dolphins swimming around in our wake but I was too exhausted to get up and see them. Apparently it was our best encounter yet. Lesson: don’t sleep through things like that anymore.
Thursday June 27, 2019 Almost to Beaufort NC.
My day began at 12:30 AM. I got up, put some clothes on, grabbed a cold drink from the fridge and prepared to assist Sean in his shift. Night time is always interesting because I think the wind changes more. Sean and I took in the jib sail, only so I could put it back up again on my shift. The wind has been coming close to right at us which makes it hard to sail. We knew this was in the forecast.
I started reading Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody. She’s a relatively young actress and I wondered what she could possibly fill a memoir with. She’s actually very funny and relates her extremely awkward tales of growing up. I started her book as I was on standby for Sean. By the time my watch was finished I was more than half way through it.
The main halyard was too loose and slapped the roof of the boat. The wind wasn’t strong enough to keep the main sail fully engaged so the boom loudly flapped back and forth. When I saw that the wind had picked up to 5 knots I actually loosened the main to see if I could get it to pin to one side. No dice. I tightened the sheet to keep it from being noisy and annoying. It was still filling up, and I hoped it was helping us make some progress. Then I saw that the wind was changing so it was less on the nose, and more from the port side. I opened up the jib sail and managed to squeeze out an extra knot of speed, but still not enough to shut down the engines. The engines have been running steadily since our departure from Charleston. On Wednesday afternoon we’d had to run both, but as I slept before my night shift we managed to pick up enough speed from the wind to be able to shut the starboard side engine off thus cutting our fuel consumption in half.
Todd set some new waypoints that brought us a bit closer to Frying Pan Shoal so we could hug the shoreline a bit more for better conditions. Shoals are a system of underwater rocks that should be avoided at all costs. Basically if you hit a shoal you’re sailing a boat into a wall. I steered us to one waypoint, and then the next one, and then set us on the coarse for another before I went to bed. Deb and I shared a glorious sunrise that streaked the sky magenta.
This is what we wore when on watch at night. I am wearing a life jacket that is more like a harness. It will inflate when it hits the water. Inside the jacket is a device that will activate when it hits the water and signal all nearby boats that there is a man overboard. Tied to my drawstring on my shorts is another device that I can activate that will send out a GPS beacon to my location should I fall in. That will signal the Coast Guard. Then the yellow leash that is clipped to me is what keeps me tethered to the boat. We installed jack lines all over the boat and we kept ourselves clipped into them when walking around on deck at night. Here I am just at the sun rise still tethered in from the night before.
At 7 I finished my watch, inhaled a bagel, washed some dishes, woke up Todd, took my vitamins and went to bed. I managed to get 5 hours of sleep, which was blissful. But before my sleep the night before I felt something in my eye. I couldn’t see what it was, and it wasn’t too bothersome so I went to bed. When I woke up my left eye was tearing and was swollen shut. The swelling managed to go down. But when I woke up from my morning sleep it was swollen again. I don’t feel anything in there, but it’s starting to concern me a bit. I’ll have to look in the first aid kit to see if there are any eye drops.
In the afternoon Todd and Deb decided they’d put out the fishing line again and see what could be caught. Todd defrosted from steaks for dinner and I marinated some shrimp for myself. He made his awesome cheddar broccoli cous cous. Then after dinner Deb reeled in the line to see what she’d caught. Turns out she caught a sizeable mahi mahi! We ended up throwing it back as we have tons of food aboard and we’re not entirely prepared to kill and filet a fish that we caught. The most humane way to kill a fish is to dump vodka in its gills, and we don’t have any vodka aboard. Todd took the hook out of its mouth and it swam away from us as fast as it could.
We figured while we were stopped we may as well don our bathing suits and go for a swim. The water was still in the 80s, and felt amazing to rinse off the stickiness of the heat. Charleston was absolutely sweltering, to the point where I seriously questioned why people live there. And I am amazed at how warm it still is offshore. From my experience it’s always a good 10 degrees cooler. I haven’t unearthed my jeans or hoodies from the closet at all, even on the overnight shifts.
In the late afternoon we arrived in Beaufort, NC. The entrance into Beaufort/Morehead City was kind of tricky. There was a boat dredging the channel, there were marker buoys all over the place, but eventually we made it in. A man in the houseboat next to our slip helped us tie up. I complimented him on his houseboat, because it was absolutely adorable.
“I like your houseboat,” I smiled.
“Oh I hate it,” he replied. That comment struck me as odd. If you hate a boat, why own it. Boating is supposed to be something we do to enhance our lives. Why enhance it with something you hate?
We tied up, hung out for a little while but we were all pretty exhausted from the eat sleep watch schedule we’d maintained. Sean plied us with a bit of rum, but we didn’t really feel like hanging out. That’s the thing about when Todd and I vacation, we are so active during the day that we don’t do the nightlife at all. Though I question what nightlife is to be had in the quaint Beaufort, North Carolina.
added on 08.02.19