We spent three fabulous days exploring St. Augustine, drinking from the fountain youth, touring the local distillery, and learning about Henry Flagler and the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
I flopped open the guidebook to look at our next destination and the captain checked out the weather for our short hop up the Florida coast. "Ah oh," exclaimed the captain in a tone I have come to recognize is serious. "What is it," I replied setting aside the cruising guide.
The National Hurricane Center
had identified tropical disturbance a few hundred miles east of the Bahamas with conditions suitable for a hurricane and a trajectory for the southeastern US. The storm was still far enough out that we had time to make a move, but not long to make a decision.
We had planned a couple stops in Georgia including an anchorage off of Cumberland Island, but those destinations will wait another time. We now wanted to get to Charleston where the marinas are well equipped and prepared for tropical storms. Further, our beloved nieces Bethany and Grace and their families are in and around Charleston and we savored the opportunity to spend time with them.
We calculated the distance to Charleston, a thirty hour trip, checked the weather, sunny with light winds just ahead of the beam for 200 miles. We couldn't resist one more delicious meal ashore in St. Augustine but an early morning departure was now in order and much to be done for an overnight offshore passage running ahead of a hurricane.
The captain got up at 4am to plot the course, disconnect shore power and water. He removed the sail covers and attached the halyards. I took the photo you see here from our slip. We were able to make the 7:30am bridge opening and headed out the channel into the Atlantic, our trip taking us forty-five miles or so off shore.
Despite the change up in plans and anxiety about the storm potential, the mood on Big Frisky was good. We had just stocked up on fresh fruit, nuts and assorted snacks. The weather was gorgeous and over the course of our sail dolphins played in our bow wake. They kept us company in our solitary overnight watches, entertaining us with their sleek speed and agility.
Over the course of the night we encountered a bit of marine traffic, some we could see on AIS (Automatic Identification System) which displays the heading and speed of approaching vessels and provides the same info about our boat. Others, we could tell naught about other than that they were there and we didn't hit them. Sometimes standing watch for three hours by yourself in the deep dark night is a little boring, but a lot of times it is plenty exciting.
As we approached Charleston it was evident we were not the only boat coming in for refuge. The Charleston Harbor Marina in Mt Pleasant has 400 slips and I daresay they are almost all full. Talk around the dock house is all "what do you think she'll do?" This afternoon the tropical disturbance has been upgraded to a named storm: Bonny and she's headed to South Carolina.
We are safely in our slip, our lines are doubled. We are amongst fellow sailors in a safe harbor and just across the bridge from our family. We do got plenty liquor and food to wait it out if need be.
As a caution to other sailors, do not read "Last Train to Paradise" cheerfully purchased at the former Ponce de Leon Hotel now Flagler College
gift shop and reading the opening chapter about the hurricane of 1935.