Wednesday, November 26, 2014

4 Days on the Outside

After hanging out behind Fort Macon for the evening, better weather greeted us in the morning.  We topped off our fuel at the Moorhead Yacht Harbor marina (which had fuel almost 75 cents a gallon less than the Pungo Creek stop), and headed out.

In the Atlantic we were greeted with winds from the north to northwest at 20 to 25 knots just as forecast.  The seas were about 2 ft on an 8 second period, which would make for a reasonably nice ride. Perfect conditions for our trip south. With a reefed main and genoa, we were making 7.5 knots directly toward our destination without burning any diesel. If the forecast holds, we will make good time all the way to our destination.

During this first day I found another surprise from the boatyard. Sparing you the details again, I found that the black water or holding tank system on the other side of the boat was also leaking.  Much slower than the first, but still leaking. Fortunately this side still has the direct discharge option active and now that we were well outside the limit, I switched it over to direct discharge and dumped the tank. After more bleach and water, it was cleaned up and we were good to go again.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the winds picked up to 25 with gusts to 30. The seas also steepened, with 4 foot waves on a 5 second period. It made for a bit of a rough ride. Just before midnight we made it around Frying Pan Shoals, which we both stayed up for since that area has a bit of a reputation. We gave it a wide berth and were fine, but I wonder if it was a partial cause for the steep seas. To slow the boat down a bit we ended up dropping the main (it was fully reefed at that time) and sailed at around 4 knots on reefed genoa alone for the remainder of the night watches.

Over the course of the next morning, the winds dropped down to about 7 knots and the seas calmed down to under 1 foot.  As the day rolled on, the winds continued to calm and we eventually ended up firing up a motor to try and make a little time.  After we started the engine, we were visited by a couple pods of dolphins...I wonder if the engine noise attracts them to come play in the bow wave.  We hadn't seen many dolphins until this point, but were visited by a dozen or more while motoring along.

By the afternoon, the winds had not just calmed, but shifted to much for the forecasts. The winds picked up a little later in the afternoon and we put the sails back to work. We are now beating to windward but still mostly on course. As the sun again disappeared into the water, we reefed for night watches and sailed past Charleston around 10pm in just under 20 knots of wind but only 1 to 2 foot seas on a relatively long period. Good to be sailing again and not burning diesel.

Those conditions lasted most of the night with winds slowly increasing through the morning of the 3rd day. The winds also continued to shift around so we were slowly veering east of the course to keep with the wind. I don't know why, but being 40 or more miles off shore (that's over 6 hours of travel at 6 knots) and being out of sight of land is actually a peaceful feeling.

Most of the day we enjoyed relatively calm seas and good wind. As night fell, the winds again picked up along with the seas. Neither seemed to be cooperating with our desired direction of travel as we passed Savannah so I decided to try and find a bit calmer seas and a shift in the wind direction by heading toward shore. We motored directly toward Savannah for a bit and were rewarded with both slightly calmer seas and, more importantly, more favorable winds. We were able to sail for the remainder of the night.

Naturally, as morning arrived, the winds fell off and we transitioned from sailing to motor sailing. We could have continued sailing, but the winds were light and we needed to make Brunswick before the marina closed for the evening. 6 knots would do it, but the 3 knots from the sails alone would not. I would have been happy to have sailed the last bit and hove to near Brunswick for the night, but Neal needed to get back home before Thanksgiving so we pushed on.

We arrived at the marina around 4pm, after waiting for a car carrier ship to pass through the Sidney Lanier bridge (I'm not playing chicken with a ship that can easily crush my boat). We get the boat tied up and the trip from Virginia is complete.

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