On to South Carolina

15 April 2019   Cumberland Island, Georgia
It was very cold last night (about 15°C) with a brisk 20 knot SW wind, which is sucking cold air from the central states of the USA – we had to put on fleeces while having breakfast and the hot cup of tea was very welcome.  However, it was sunny and the forecast still looks like we’ll have a weather window to leave for Charleston on Wednesday 17th.

After breakfast, Glenys made some bread, while I tackled a problem on the front toilet.  The pump wasn’t sucking in any sea water to flush the toilet, so I removed the pump to find a small ½” crab jammed under one of the valves.  I pulled the (dead) crab out and voila! a working toilet – you don’t have these problems when living in a house. 

Walking through Maritime Forest

We went ashore and hiked north up the beach on the Atlantic side of the island which was very sheltered from the SW wind.  There were a surprising number of Horseshoe Crab carcasses along the high tide water line.  These strange creatures grow to be 20” diameter and are more closely related to spiders than true crabs.  They crawl around the seabed searching for worms and molluscs, which are their main food.   Horseshoe Crabs lay and fertilise eggs at the high-tide waterline and about 10% of the population dies when rough surf flips them onto their backs, a position from which they often cannot right themselves.

After walking a few miles along the beach, we headed inland and continued walking north along a narrow path through the Maritime Forest beneath the thousands of Live Oak trees.  A number of campsites are hidden away beneath the trees and seem to be very popular with backpackers.  We were only able to get halfway up the island before we turned around and headed back to the boat – a pleasant 10 mile hike. 

16 April 2019   Cumberland Island, Georgia
We woke to blue skies again.  It was chilly in the morning, but not as bad as yesterday because the wind was only 10 knots from the north-east pulling in air from the warmer Atlantic Ocean.  The forecast is still showing SE 10-15 tomorrow, increasing to S 15-20 overnight, so we’ll be heading to Charleston tomorrow.  The next front arrives at the coast on Friday 19th, so we have over 48 hours to sail the 160 miles.

The next front looks like another strong one, with forecast gusts over 45 knots on Friday night, so we’ve booked ourselves into a marina for two nights.  It’s going to cost $80US per night, but we’ll be able to explore Charleston city instead of worrying about the storm front.

Repairs to Bimini

We pottered about on the boat all day.  Glenys spent most of the day slaving away on her sewing machine, reinforcing and patching the bimini, the side panels and the dinghy cover.  I went up the mast and replaced our VHF antenna – we won’t be going under any bridges until we get to Beaufort.  After Glenys had finished the repairs to the dinghy cover, I lashed the dinghy onto the front deck and prepared to go sailing tomorrow.

I checked the engine and the damn water pump still has a very slight leak.  It must be the slight groove in the shaft causing the leak, so there’s not a lot I can do about it at the moment.  I’ll just have to keep a very close eye on the pump and hope that it lasts until we get to Annapolis – we’ll probably be motoring for 100 hours, but I think that we’ll be okay.

I did some research on my options.  I could buy a new pump for a staggering $600US; or buy a new shaft for $250US; or I can buy a SKF Speedi Sleeve and a new seal for $25US.  The Speedi Sleeve is a very thin tube which is an interference fit on a shaft, covering any grooves in the shaft, providing a smooth sealing surface.  The sleeve is made from hardened stainless steel, so I think that it is a strong repair, but I need to investigate further.

17 April 2019   Cumberland Island to Charleston, South Carolina (Day 1)
The anchorage at dawn was like a mill pond.  We pulled up the anchor just after 07:00 and motored the 5 miles to the inlet.  There was a very light east wind, putting us very close hauled on starboard tack, but not enough wind to sail.  We motor-sailed all day, hoping and waiting for the wind to increase and veer to the south-east.  Fortunately, the seawater pump is behaving itself.

Glenys caught two Bonito

In the morning, I hooked and landed a small mackerel, which we had for lunch.  As usual on our watches, I slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon, waking to find that Glenys had landed two very nice Bonito Tuna.  I gutted and filleted them and Glenys packed them in zip lock bags in the fridge.  She’d already made a stew for today’s dinner, so the fish will have to wait.

At 18:00, as we were having dinner, the wind finally picked up enough to sail.  We were still hard on the wind, but in the very calm seas it was a pleasure.  As the sun set, the skies were overcast, but mostly stratus clouds - nothing to be worried about.  There was a full moon, so it was a glorious night.  Our route is taking us 25 miles off shore, but the water is surprisingly shallow at 20-30 metres.  During my 7-10 watch, I was amazed to pass a 335 metre long cargo ship at anchor, 23 miles offshore.

Yesterday, while reviewing the weather forecast, I’d looked up a forecast for the currents along this coast.  The strong Gulf Stream is 40-50 miles offshore in this area, so it is of little help.  The forecast was showing a 0.4 – 1.0 knot counter-current along our route, so I considered taking a longer route to try to avoid the worst of it, but eventually decided to sail the rhumb-line and take my chances.  I’m glad that I did because the worst we saw was 0.5 knots against us and most of the way we had a slightly favourable current.

The wind dropped at our 22:00 watch change, so it was back to motor-sailing for a few hours and then Glenys managed to sail for a couple of hours on her 4-7 watch.

18 April 2019   Cumberland Island to Charleston, South Carolina (Day 2)
We had a lovely sunny start to the day, motoring towards the busy port of Charleston.  At 10:00, we were just entering the inlet channel, but we were unlucky with the tidal current, which was against us.  It was very slow going with counter currents up to 4 knots, so it took us two hours to get into the harbour .

Charleston Maritime Centre

Although we’d booked into a marina, we didn’t want to try to enter our berth until the tides had calmed down, so we anchored about ½ mile away at 32°45.45N 079°55.16W in 5 metres depth and had lunch.  A couple of hours later, we pulled up the anchor and motored over to the Charleston Maritime Centre, where we easily docked at slack water.

In the evening, we went for a stroll into the old town intending to have a beer and then dinner.  It’s the start of the long Easter weekend, so the place was heaving with tourists.  We had a beer in a bar and then went to look for a restaurant serving local creole food, but the ones that we tried were fully booked with no tables available until eight o’clock.  

Disappointingly, the only restaurants that had space were places serving burger and fried food.  There was no point in paying expensive tourist prices for mundane food, so we headed back to the boat; bought a Dominos’ pizza on the way; cracked open a bottle of merlot; and watched a couple more episodes of Game of Thrones – we’re now half way through Season 3.  

19 April 2019   Charleston Maritime Centre, South Carolina 
The leading edge of the front arrived before we’d got out of bed and started with a mere 25 knots of wind and some rain. By the time that we’d had breakfast, the skies were brightening up, but on the weather radar, we could see the main front would be with us mid-afternoon.  We abandoned our plan of walking around town to take in the tourist sights and instead, we did some chores.  

Glenys took advantage of the free laundry facilities and did two big bags loads of washing.  Meanwhile, I topped up our water tanks and then walked ½ mile to the supermarket, where I bought a case of beer and enough wine to last us until Annapolis.  I loaded it all into my rucksack & two shopping bags and hauled the 22 Kg of booze back to the boat.  By this time, Glenys was ready to go to the supermarket, so I went with her and helped to lug back more provisions. 

Yikes - Heeled over in a marina

After lunch, the wind picked up to about 30 knots.  The marina doesn’t have a protective sea wall, relying on the floating pontoons to calm down the waves.  Unfortunately, the waves increased to 2-3 feet, so we were bouncing around in our berth.  It’s not the best marina in the world, but it’s the cheapest in Charleston and better than being in an exposed anchorage.  Thankfully, we had a tourist ferry moored in front of us which helped to block the wind and waves.

In the middle of the afternoon, the skies darkened and the first squall hit us with winds of 45 knots, heeling us over at 15° with lashing rain reducing visibility down to 15 metres.  Lightning flashed and thunder boomed, so the electronics went into the oven.  It was all over 15 minutes later.  This front was much broader than the previous ones and the wind continued to gust up to 30 knots until we went to bed. 

20 April 2019   Charleston to Wando River, South Carolina 
We woke to a cold, 15 knot south-west wind and blue skies.  After topping up our water tanks and dumping our garbage, we caught the rising tide and headed up the Wando River for five miles.  We went under two very high bridges and past a large container port with 3 huge container ships being unloaded.  About a mile past the second bridge, we anchored in 4 metres depth at 32°52.01N 079°52.42W.  There’s a mile fetch to the west, but it’s a lovely spot with woods lining the shore. 

Unfortunately, just as the tide turned to go out, the wind picked up from the south-west at 20-25 knots.  We had wind against tide for 6 hours with waves building up to 2-3 feet.  To make matters worse, the tidal current pushed the stern upwind, so the waves were slapping us on the sugar scoop sounding like we kept hitting something.  

Alba was being pushed so strongly by the tide that the anchor chain was rubbing against the side of the hull, scraping off antifoul paint.  The cold wind was blowing straight down our companionway into the saloon, so we were forced to shut everything and wear jumpers.  It was so unpleasant that I went to bed and read a book for a few hours.  I hate being in places with a strong tide.

Heading up the Wando River

By 16:30, the tide had turned and the boat turned bow into the wind, so that life became tolerable again.  The wind slowly dropped and by bedtime it was fairly calm.

21 April 2019   Wando River to Charleston, South Carolina 
Our lives are totally dominated by the weather.  I spent two hours checking the weather and planning different routes north.  The forecast is for some north winds tonight and then it will be south-west for the next three days – starting very light and increasing to 20 knots.  The next frontal system doesn’t arrive until Friday 26th, so if we leave tomorrow, we should have a 4 day weather window, which is enough for us to sail 440 miles, all the way to the Chesapeake.

The timing of the tides tomorrow is not very good because the tide is streaming into the harbour at 07:00.  We either wait until 11:00 to get a push from the tide or we leave at 04:00 before the tide turns – we’ve decided to bite the bullet and leave before dawn, which will be unpleasant, but we’ll gain an extra seven hours, giving us a bigger weather window.

When the tide turned at 11:30, we pulled up the anchor and headed down river back to Charleston Anchorage, where we anchored at 32°45.87N 079°56.03W in 6 metres depth.  It’s an exposed place just off the channel and the current rips past, but it will afford us an easy start in the middle of the night.  The wind was blowing hard from the north-west, so we were expecting to be bounced around in the evening when the tide turned, but fortunately, the wind dropped and we had a lovely, if cold evening.