Day 15: From the blownout Bayou to Sal's Pizzeria
Overcast - it was awful, but now it's pretty nice!
Nov/04/2011, St. Simons Island ,Georgia
Nautical Miles Travelled: 53
Total Trip Miles: 939
How to begin to discuss today...Well since we learned not to underestimate the Atlantic...its only fitting that last night we also learned that the Bayou can get pretty wild also. We anchored in a beautiful spot as discussed in our last post and went to bed full of steak, rice and a few pops in our stomach. The weather was warm, the sun was shining and dolphins were swimming around our boat for hours. Things looked pretty different around 1:30 am when the winds shifted as predicted, the anchor drag alarm went off, the rain started pouring and the winds kicked up over 24 knots. The bayou is pitch black. You hear me say that along with contempt because pitch black gives no reference points. Try anchoring a big boat with marsh within 100 feet on 3 sides of your boat with no visual reference point with winds and current pushing your boat in all different directions. Not easy, especially 2 minutes after waking you from bed. Long story short we reset the anchor (twice actually) and laid out a ton of chain to make sure the boat would stay put. The wind kept increasing to the point that the bayou had 2 foot waves shaking the boat. The anchor alarm falsly went off every 20 minutes or so as the boat literally did circles around its anchor due to the strange currents in that area. Tired as hell we woke up and sailed the Georgian ICW. Nothing in sight except 3 boats all day. We made good time and arrived in St. Simons Island around nightfall. We grabbed a slip instead of anchoring so we could sleep and avoid the high winds expected tonight. BTW waves offshore of Georgia are expeced to reach 12 to 24 feet tomorrow! No thanks! We met another couple sailing a Cat tonight and they asked if we could cruise together tomorrow. Theirs is a 34 footer, but it made it through an open ocean sail last night in crazy conditions and came out ok. They were both extremely sore today and described the experience as "getting whooped".
After we arrived tonight the dockhand, Buck, recommended a place on the island called Sal's Pizza ( http://salsneighborhoodpizzeria.com/ ). Sal is a Jersey boy born and raised, was a pro boxer and had one hell of a run. Defintely the kind of guy you love to meet and hang with, true salt of the earth. The food in his cozy, energentic restaurant is authentic NYC / Jersey / Italian, exactly what we needed tonight. The pizza we got, Margherita with sliced meatball and fresh garlic was excellent and a solid 18". For all those reading this blog who are Sailing South that Rach and I have met along the way, grab a slip at Morningstar Marina, snag an Island Cab ride to Sals Pizza and grab some dinner and drinks (make sure to sit at the bar)! Sal and staff are a blast and if you are lucky enough to get Jackie as your waitress / bartender, she is a sweatheart! BTW, I made the mistake of walking in with my Sox hat and paid the price! J/K all in good fun, Sal enjoys the rivalry with the rest of us! Check out the pic attached...Sal with me and Rach after we had a few drinks and chatted it up for a while. On the house Sal gave Rach and I a Stregga? Look it up, a first for me, but a good after dinner sipper in my opinion. There were some other couples there too, actually one was Football / Yankee team player and I think the girls were pro football chearleers at one time. Loud and fun bunch. Reminded me of the Cali crew when things are getting out of control at the bar. We kind of hung out with everyone and had a blast doing it. Great night. Off to Jacksonville tomorrow early morning. If we are lucky we will be hanging with Lukes, Ash and Sadie tomorrow!
Day 14: All alone.
70 degrees, sunny... t-shirt and flip-flop weather, finally!
Nov/03/2011, Cane Patch Creek, GA (aka the middle of nowhere)
Nautical Miles Travelled: 52
Total Miles Travelled: 886
So after settling in last night around midnight, checking the SC/GA Atlantic Coast forecast and reviewing our route options both inside and out, we decided to wake around 7:30 AM and head out around 8 down the ICW. As usual, we had a hard time pulling ourselves out from under the warm covers, but it was warmer this morning than what we've been used to and we had to move down the coast to stay on track. So I threw on some slippers, lit up the stove and started to brew some coffee.
With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, we pulled up the hook and headed for the ICW. The outside forecast was nasty, so we opted for the more liesurely stroll down the ICW through the last bit of SC into GA. Derek steered the boat along the magenta line (the ICW on our chartplotter) while I booted up my computer to catch up on some work. We meandered through swamp lands, forests and past some ginormous Hilton Head estates. The sun was out, finally, and it heated up steadily all morning. We both had a different kind of chipperness in our attitudes today. After 20 or 30 miles, we realized that we had only seen one other sailboat, one trawler and one megayacht; there were only a handfull of skiffs along the 50 miles and us - we were alone... it's strange to be a sole catamaran navigating on natural, untamed rivers through the marshlands with dolphins swimming along side. If you're wondering what the effect of that soledome is...let's just say there was a lot of random laughs, some home-grown songs on top of a few (many) beverages and ultimately, just a real sense of vacation.
We moved farther down the interlacing rivers and are now anchored in the Cane Patch Creek, just off of the Ogeechee River, with no houses, no boats, nobody in site. There are fish and dolphins litterally jumping out of the water around us as feeding time arrives and all we hear are the chirps of the numerous birds in the marshes; we just heard a shotgun, so I'm assuming someone is hunting for deer or wild pig...which I of course hope to see and add to the long list of wildlife (btw - yesterday we saw another sea turtle and today a single butterfly along with the myriad of dolphins playing inland). I hear there may even be alligators in the area, so we'll see if we get lucky to spot another one this trip.
D just turned on the anchor alarm as the sun sets in the distance; with a glass of wine, some cheese and crackers we're hoping for a quiet, relaxing night in the bayou. This is true seclusion...not a soul for miles and literally marsh land on all sides of the boat within 100 yards...places you just don't know exist unless you venture out to see them.
Day 13: Enlisted!
Beautiful, sunny, 60's and moderate winds
Nov/02/2011, Charleston to Hilton Head
Nautical Miles Travelled: 84
Total Trip Miles: 834
"Calling all vessels, all channels, all vessels all channels, this is the United States Coast Guard Charleston South Carolina, break. We have a Search And Rescue emergency distress beacon that has been energized at coordinates...all vessels are advised to proceed in this area with extreme caution, report anything if seen and assist if possible." "Roger that Coast guard this is sailing vessel Soul Purpose, we are currently transiting that area approximately 6 miles west of the reported SAR signal, please advise if you need our assistance, we show an unidentified vessel on our radar approximately 4 miles South East of the reported SAR coordinates..."
More on that later.
Today marks a day that was unusual, exciting, unplanned and adventurous at the same time. It's funny how a simple event can change the course of the rest of your day... We rose from a great nights sleep with relatively low ambitions for the day. We joined a parade of boats out of the harbor where we waited for a 9 am bridge opening (opens after rush hour). After proceeding through, about 30 minutes later we had passed all of the boats in the parade, yet another reason it's great to have a catamaran, 2 engines! We put the sails up and were enjoying some brisk cruising through the sunny SC countryside along the protected intracoastal waterway. Because we blew away the other boats heading down the waterway today we completely missed a turn that would have kept us on the intracoastal. I was obliviously sailing along while the ships navigator (Rachel) was on the phone trying to fix her computer with corporate IS. By the time we realized we missed the turn we were already headed towards an outlet that would take us back to open water. We did some research, checked the coastal weather and decided it was safe and would actually put us ahead of schedule. We rode a narrow channel out and had an amazing few hours of sailing directly downwind. We had 6 to 8 foot waves but we were travelling with them and in fact surfed them up to 13.6 kts! We had the Gennaker (big sail) out and the sun was blazing. That's when we heard the Coast Guard transmission. We were the only boat in any direction even remotely close to the SAR signal. We informed them of our position and all kinds of details about ourselves and boat and then they asked us if we would alter course and investigate since they were a couple hours away from having a boat on scene. Before we knew it we had the Coast Guard, a tug boat and a freighter all talking about Soul Purpose and coordinating efforts with us. We worked to triangulate a search area radius and calculate potential drift based on wind, waves and current. I can just imagine what all the people we have met along the way this trip were thinking hearing the whole ordeal over the calling channel 16 (what everyone monitors) and Coast Guard Channel 22A. Unfortunately both our search and the Coast Guard's was unsuccessful which means the boat may have sunk with the SAR beacon. Later that afternoon a boat was reported missing so one can only assume from there... We felt good that we did all we could to help, but now had to face the reality that it would be dark before we even reached the outer channel to Hilton Head. We called around but no one had dock space available or they had already gone home for the day. As usual Rachel devised options. We decided against another night sail as conditions are supposed to be intense tonight, no thanks, not again. We ended up glued to our GPS, Radar and Thermal night vision screen yet again while we made our way into the Chechessee River. We are currently parked 100 yards off someone's front yard. Their porch lights were invaluable in helping us keep the boat oriented during anchoring in the blackness. You can see the river shoreline in the night vision camera video in the photo from today's blog. All in all a great day and certainly exciting. Time to grill up some grub and get a bit nice with a bottle of Jack!
Day 12: A break...
Sunny and beautiful :)
Nov/02/2011, Charleston, SC
Nautical Miles Travelled: 0
Total Trip Miles: 750
After a full night of neverending winds, waves and sea splash, we were thrilled to land safely in the Charleston harbor. The trek from blue water al the way in through the inlet channel was LONG, 10 nautical miles or so, but every mile brought less wind and warmer temps. We must have looked a little ragged and out of place when pulled into the docks since two different people asked us if it was cold out there...we were still in snowpants and a few sweatshirts each...needless to say when they heard we were out all night they just raised an eyebrow nodded and smiled with a bit of respect.
So after tying up, we sat on the salon couches and stared at each other trying to figure out our next move. It had been 12 hours since we ate (we forgot about dinner due to the change in weather) and it was now 11 AM, so we had also skipped breakfast. Problem was we were both too tired to move, so we ate a granola bar and Derek proceeded to type up last night's blog. I slowly faded and next thing I knew both D and I were fast asleep on the couches - no pillows, no blankets, just us out cold.
After waking up around 1 PM, we quickly showered and got motivated to enjoy our "day off". We decided during our night tribulations that Charleston was to be our vacation from our vacation. We have a friend from work who has a vacation home there so we even had the inside scoop on hot spots! We checked in at the marina office and proceeded to walk into the city. It was a georgeous day, so it was nice to get some exercise...walking in circles around a 40' boat doesn't quite do it for a work out. We hit up an awsome rooftop deck (thanks Colin), the blog pic is from the rooftop at Pavilion Bar. We had some sweet tea martinis and lobster/scallop ceviche, all of which was perfect reward for our long night out. We opted to wander the city streets a bit to get a feel for Charleston before dinner, so we walked through the Market area, which is much like a mini-Fanieul Hall with all sorts of artisans. We then checked out many restaurant menus and settled on some good home town southern BBQ - we were tired of fancy and just wanted some real food.
It seems strange, but Charleston shops all close around 6 PM, so as the stores closed up and we finished our dinner, we went out for a drink and then, beat tired, called the marina's free shuttle for a lift back to the boat. Eventhough we slept a few more hours upon arrival in Charleston, our energy had quickly drained again...we figured we would chill onboard and decide later about doing drinks later in the evening.
We got home, ate some peanut butter pie while D finished up the overnight blog and within seconds, I had passed out on the couch and Derek was doing the "head bob". We called it a night. Eight full hours...what a relief!
Day 11, Night 11, Day 12 (AM): Religion: Never underestimate the Atlantic
Weather: Fk'd up!
Nov/01/2011, Cape Fear NC to Charleston SC
Nautical Miles Travelled: 124
Total Trip Miles: 751
As we mentioned in our last post we were concerned that the forecast that had been very constant for days, could change at the last minute given the region that we are in. We headed out of Cape fear inlet fighting a nasty 3 knot current, but once we got out things were great! The winds were up (20 knots from the SE) and so were the waves (5 feet), but we were heading down wind (on our stern quarter) and travelling with the swell. The wind was coming from a slightly different direction than was predicted but we didn't think much of it since we had been dodging scattered T-storms all morning. We sailed all day doing 8 to 10 knots and prepared for nightfall, pitch black sailing that laid ahead. About an hour before dark the winds started to fall and things calmed down a bit. We were actually happy about this as it would make for a much more relaxing and peaceful night sail. Boy were we wrong. Within 1 minute the winds went from 13 knots SE to 32 sustained knots from the NW! WTF! If you have seen the movie the perfect storm, this is kind of the same thing on a very small scale. We had days worth of built up wind chop and swell coming from one direction and now the winds started to howl from the exact opposite direction creating a brand new wind/wave direction and causing us to alter course. Worst of all, it started downpouring and the rain felt like bb's being fired at us due to the high winds. The boat started to get slammed from both directions and the seas were very disorganized. The immediate intensity and shift in the forecast really caught us off guard, especially since we were already 26 miles offshore. We set a slow course for a very narrow inlet called Winyah Bay entrance. We had never been there and it was not recommended but it was the only thing within 3 hours of our boat. We had the Coast Guard and Sea Tow on the VHF discussing what the conditions might be like at the inlet in this storm. The last thing we needed was to come into and inlet that was even worse than the coastal waters due to tides, winds, waves etc. Some of these inlets will have 10 foot standing waves and 5 knot currents during these light gales. Long story short and after a bunch of conversations with some very helpful people, we decided to use our boat for what it was meant for and sail through this. We could not easily escape so we had to find a way to sail through it. So, flying a sliver of jib and a triple reefed main (very small amount of sail up), we found an angle and speed that would allow us to get through this as long as things did not change again. The conditions stayed pretty much the same all night, 25 to 30 knot winds with some stronger gusts. It was miserable! 40 degrees and waves crashing over our beam all night. Even with 6 layers on top, foul weather gear coat and snowpants it was cold and wet. I got about 2 hours of sleep and Rach got about 4 total. Most of those hours are boken into multiple shifts. We set a course for Charleston, nice and slow...the ETA on the navigation read 12 hours to go starting at 8:00pm. You cant imagine what its like to be falling asleep at 9:00 pm and know you have another 11 or so hours to go of relentless wind and waves. When daybreak came and we got a look at the waves I just wanted to hug and praise our boat for the ride it gave us all night. We actually had 8 to 12 footers coming in off our quarter with the occasional rediculously scary 16 footer rolling in. We were looking up at breaking waves that were behind us when we were in the trough with a different kind of respect. When the waves would overtake us and the boat was at the crest of the wave, we were looking down 20 feet to the trough (10 foot waves and 10 feet of boat height from the captains chair). It felt like the boat was going to fall off the ledge bow first. But good ole Soul Purpose even on autopilot just kind of cruised through it all just as it did all night. To be honest before we saw the waves I would have guessed they were half the size. One cool thing I have to add is that while you are on the verge of falling asleep you start to see things in the thermal night vision that you don't know if its real or not. I kept seeing dolphins litteraly jumping out of the water in front of the boat in the little night vision viewing screen. I didn't know if I was delierious and halucinating or if it was real. Then Rach saw it during her shifts also. We figured we were both crazy until morning, sure enough dolphins everwhere. For Melissa...I forgot to mention we had 2 sharks follow us our of NC when we were about 20 miles offshore. 2 black fins that would surface and dissapear, but followed the boat for 5 minutes or so!
To wrap up, we rolled into beautiful Charleston SC around 9:00 am and had sunshine to make it feel like a whole new day. We both collapsed on our couch when we made it to the dock at Charleston City Marina (right in the city). What a night. Thats the second time we have been blasted overnight. I really hope that when we have to go offshore the entire Georgia and Florida coast that we get some pleasant night sails for a change. I will say this, we learn so much more about our boat when we and it are put to the test.
Day 10/11: Does NC ever end?
Still 12 deg below normal (50s), light NE breeze to help us on some legs of the ICW
Oct/31/2011, Carolina Beach, NC
Nautical Miles Traveled: 54
Total Trip Miles: 627
So day 10 was more of the same...motoring down the narrow, shallow ICW. We traversed through more of NC, which we're beginning to think never ends and we finally landed at Joyner Marina in Carolina Beach, NC...what we hope will be our LAST night in NC. We thought about anchoring tonight rather than tying up at the marina, but after four failed attempts to get the hook stuck in the soft mud, we opted for a night of sleep vs. groundhogging (popping up through the port hole every half hour to make sure you're not drifting). Come to find out in the AM, the marina owner said it's near impossible to drop a hook in this area due to the holding.
Now, it's time to strap on a pair and head back to big blue... We can't take another day in the ICW, its making us soft. All kidding aside the ICW can be an arduous task. Every minute of active driving to prevernt grounding the boat is taxing. Waiting for bridges, passing other boats with proper etiquet, dealing with current against you one minute and with you the next...all of it makes for a relatively uneventful day filled with lots of minor tasks and planning. Oh, and the worst part, the sails are hardly ever up and the motors are always ripping. Its a sailboat, its meant to sail, so we are taking her back out through Cape Fear and heading "South." We cant pull in anywhere tonight due to the wind and wave direction, coupled with the tide. However the wind and waves are at our back or on our quarter all night (forecasted) and not supposed to exceed 25 knots. Cape fear is known for changing conditions and that why we have contemplated this all morning. With the continental shelf short and close by we will be trying to stay close but keep a safe distance from the shoreline. We will likely be out of cell range so we wanted to send this update out this morning. Hopefully the next broadcast will be from South Carolina (Charlestown if we go slow). However if conditions pick up and winds start to howl we may end up in Georgia in the am hours and sail on to Savannah. Neither of us are looking forward to another night glued to the GPS, Radar and night vision, but this move will make up time and get us sailing again. We have prepared the boat for battle and already suited up in our foul weather gear...yes temperatures are still in the 40's, not cool. The pelicans and dolphins are giving us a send off as we speak. Wish us luck!
p.s. to my buddies in CA, I just spotted a sick surf break for you off of Bald Head Island.