With the bilge pump working overtime and a strong northerly approaching I decide to alter course. Instead of Beaufort, NC, we now turn northwest and head for Charleston, SC. I do not tell the Admiral about our leak; she has enough to deal with! It is time to investigate just what is going on in the engine room. With the amount of water we are taking on it does not take long to figure out where it is coming from. The stern tube that houses the prop shaft has a crack about three inches long and water is spraying into the bilge! I swallow hard, this is not good. I began to think of hoses I could split and clamp in place or epoxy and fiberglass I could wrap around the tube to stop the leak. In a moment of clarity I realized - duct tape! I had about four rolls on board and this seemed to be an easy and quick solution. I jumped up from the bilge went to my toolbox and grabbed a roll. The first few wraps were not pretty but as I began to layer the duct tape the leak slowed to a trickle. I grabbed the tube and gave it a good pull to see if it might flex, it did not. I took a deep breath and sighed with relief. Our first potentially major problem had been adverted, remind me to give the Engineer a raise!
I came back up on deck to let the Admiral know of our course change and estimated our arrival in Charleston to be around 1800 hours. It was not until a few hours later that I let her know about the bilge leak. Ebeth took the news in stride; a problem that had already been solved was not something she wanted to dwell on. The straight line motor sail to Charleston seemed to last forever. I had been at the helm for around 40 hours now and fatigue was starting to set in.
We had friends that lived just south of Charleston so I e-mailed them to get directions to the anchorage in Charleston Harbor. After you pass through the breakwaters into Charleston you intersect the ICW and can go north or south. Our friends Pam and Ino had kept their Island Packet 32 in Charleston and I knew that they could steer us in the right direction. Pam and Ino are also members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary on Edisto Island. Their training or perhaps their instincts told them that my request for information was more than information on a popular anchorage. Pam wanted to call the Coast Guard straight away, but thankfully for everyone involved she did not. Her response to my e-mail put things in perspective. Even though we were not in trouble we could be very soon. If I did not make it into Charleston and anchor before the northerlies arrived my fatigue and Ebeth's condition could be more than we could manage. In the six hours that followed I sent and received e-mails back and forth with Pam every two hours. As we approached the breakwaters marking the entrance to Charleston Harbor the northerlies were blowing 20-25 knots. Thankfully, our decision to change course and leave the Gulf Stream when we did ensured the swells never got too large. As we entered the harbor a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. We shut down the engine and beared off onto a beam reach with only the jib and mainsail. As we made six knots through the calm harbor and I went down below to call Pam on our cell phone. They had guided us in and to our surprise even paid for one nights berth at City Marina, we were extremely grateful. As Bruadar approached the MegaDock at City Marina we hailed the dock hands on the radio. They had an inside slip set up for us and wanted to know if we needed help. After I analyzed the current and winds we decided to anchor out in the harbor. The current was a strong three knots and the northerlies were still blowing around 15 knots even inside the harbor. We were just to tired and inexperienced with our boat in these conditions. I told them we would dock in the morning with the slack tide. About 15 minutes later we were swinging on the hook and I fell fast asleep in our aft cabin. The first leg of our trip was complete.
The following morning we came in and docked with the slack tide. Pam and Ino met us later in the day and even dropped off their spare car for us to use! We now needed to re-evaluate or plans and make some repairs. The next leg of our trip was to be postponed for a few days. No one was complaining!