We met a few days before the planned trip and talked a little bit about the trip and the boat and everything seemed to go OK so we planned to have him come down last Wednesday and spend the night so we could get an early start Thursday and hopefully make Beaufort NC by Saturday. The winds were forecast to be in the teens for our trip with seas of 1 to 2 feet on a four second period (for those that aren't aware, the comfort level of the ride has as much to do with the distance, or period, between waves as it does the height of the waves...and the closer the period in seconds comes to the wave height in feet, the more uncomfortable the ride is supposed to be).
We get up and make our way to the fuel dock at the marina to get fuel and a pump out before departing. While I had arranged to get fuel when they opened in the morning, apparently someone came the night before and bought all of the fuel they had so we had to go to another marina to get fuel for the trip. This put us a bit behind on our ambitious schedule to make it to Beaufort by Saturday.
We headed out the inlet and into the Atlantic, raised the sails, and started heading north/northeast. The wind wasn't as high as forecast initially, so we started out motor-sailing (using both an engine and the sails to power the boat). After a little while the winds picked up to around 12 knots and we were able to shut down the engine. Finally, really sailing, with no motors, toward a new destination. It felt good.
|Yes, this IS a sailboat.|
The weather was great, the sea was comfortable and we were making between 5 and 6 knots. Speed of just a little under half the wind speed seemed pretty good to me. At one point I discovered a stow away on board, I have a feeling he will be surprised when we get to our destination....if he survives the trip and gets off the boat at that point. At one point I felt a little bad for him and offered him a little fresh water but he didn't seem interested. Don't know how long he can survive without food, but I hope he knows what he got himself into.
|My little stow away.|
As the sun set, the sailing conditions remained very nice, with one foot seas and winds from the east/southeast between 10 and 12 knots. This gave us a nice beam to broad reach sail. For safety overnight we reefed the main sail and that reduced our speed to between 4 and 5 knots. A little after sunset we were off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is a pretty large port and there were a number of large cargo and container ships moving about in the area. I periodically fired up the radar to check for vessels in the area and we kept a look out for them. Since it was a nice clear night, we were able to see and avoid (although I don't actually recall having to alter course...but perhaps we did).
|Sunrise from the helm.|
We took 4 hour watches overnight and it was uneventful. The water rushing past the hull with only the occasional need to fire up an engine or the generator to recharge the batteries (I'd run the generator if I needed AC power for other things...like cheating and using the microwave, otherwise I would use an engine so we could get a few more knots for a little while). As morning approached, the winds died down and so the "iron genny" (the motor) was started again so we could maintain a 5~6 knot speed. During my morning watch there was a small pod of dolphin (I think I saw 6 or so jumping out of the water) heading directly for the boat. I thought they might be coming to play at the bow as they often do so I went to get my camera. Of course, when I got back out with the camera, they were nowhere to be found. Oh well. It was cool to see them.
|Track of the first half of the trip|
We passed by Charleston around 8 AM and continued motoring most of the day. In fact, the wind was light enough from behind us that I couldn't keep the sails filled when motoring so I doused the sails entirely. Doing some calculations on where we were, I decided we weren't likely to make it all the way to Beaufort before sunset on Saturday, so I decided we would divert to Southport, NC. Finally in the afternoon, the winds started picking up and we were able to raise the sails and once again shut down the engines. By sunset we were in Long Bay and about 45nm from Southport.
|Sunset. There is land over there somewhere.|
Naturally, the winds picked up a bit overnight and even with reefed sails we made it to Southport at about 4am. Since I didn't want to navigate the channel at night and no marinas would be open anyway, I decided to heave-to and wait for daylight and the local marinas to open. After sunrise we made our way into the channel and, after a little additional waiting, got a hold of the marina and we were back on a dock.
|Track of the second half of the trip.|
I wish I could say that everything went well on the trip, and as for the sail itself it did. Unfortunately I made some decisions that led to quite a bit of frustration. With the fuel fiasco and the added delay, I skipped doing a few maneuvers that I had planned before we headed off. Had I stuck to the plan I think I would have realized earlier that my crew was more than just "a little rusty". I'm no sailing instructor, but perhaps if I had better understood his lack of basic sailing skills I could have compensated before the frustration set in. We ended up parting company in Southport and I shuttled him back to get his car and to pick up mine.
I learned quite a bit on this trip. For one, I need to do a little better job evaluating crew skills before setting off on a trip. I learned that, while it is easier to have a hand, I can single-hand the boat if I need to. I learned the grace of a dolphin swimming through the ocean in the morning. I learned the peacefulness of watching the sun rise over the ocean when no land is in sight. I learned that I really need to get my wife out here with me soon.
P.S. If you are in the Southport, NC. area (or somewhere else) and would like to go sailing and help me move the boat, let me know. You don't need to be an expert, just have some desire...and an honest evaluation of your skills so I can set proper expectations. And don't be offended if I quiz you on a few things so I get an accurate assessment.
P.P.S. If you are concerned with our stowaway...despite his occasional precarious perch (at one point I found him on the foot of the genoa when I unfurled it) and lack of food, I did see him roaming the boat after we made it back to dock. So, he survived the trip too. Hope he likes North Carolina.