Monday, June 13, 2011


Charleston, SC 32º46.832N | 79º57.599W

Attentive readers might remember how we fell in love with Charleston last December as we passed through, bookmarking it for a visit on our return swing north.

Yesterday we set off from Cumberland Island for yet another 24-hour passage, entirely skipping Georgia and its 9-foot tides.

In a frustrating continuation of our ships-passing-in-the-night phase, as we were leaving, our friends Christie and Matt on Kaleo were anchoring across the way in Fernandina, but we were glad to hear they are Charleston-bound as well.

The generous inlet of the St. Mary's River was shrouded in dense smoke as we sailed out mid-morning. Apparently large chunks of the southeast are on fire. We leave you folks in charge of the country for a few months, and you set the whole place on fire!

The wind was brisk and lovely, from the east as we set our course northeast toward Charleston. The forecast was dreamy: 0-1 meter of swell, wind in the 10-15 knot range, perhaps dropping during the night.

We passed an enjoyable day of near-perfect sailing accompanied by a strong sense of foreboding, remembering that damnable pattern of the last two passages: perfect by day; hell by night.

And you know what? We were right -- except for one thing: it was far, far worse.

After sunset, the sea state got increasingly agitated. By midnight it was tossing us about in 8-10 foot swell with a random 12-footer thrown in. What direction? On our beam, of course.

The wind apparently did not read the forecasts, because by midnight it was howling a steady 25 knots, gusting even higher. From where? You should know the answer by now: on our stern quarter, clocking slowly behind us.

Same routine as the last two overnighters with the volume on 10. Sigh.

It's a funny thing about sailing. On a tack off the wind, you loll along surfing the waves, thinking this wind isn't so bad, but then you turn on the opposite tack, and it's as if somebody switched the weather channel. The bow pounds through the waves, the screeching wind blasts against the sails (and your face) and you feel like you're rocketing out of the atmosphere -- even though, according to the knot meter, you're actually going slower.

On our two previous passages with similar but lighter conditions, we were able to hold our course reasonably well, but this time, if we kept our course, the rocking and rolling was truly unbearable. We had to zigzag west toward shore, running downwind, then east, out to sea, hopefully on average, keeping our course to Charleston.

During his 3 to 6 a.m. watch, Chip altered our course, finding a better route that was a wee bit more tolerable. On my 3-6 shift, the swell slowly, inch-by-inch started to ease and by the time I came back on watch, the sea state had calmed, and the sun was just beginning to lighten the sky.

The sun must have had a rough night too, because all morning it threatened to just go on back down.

Since when does the sun set in the east?
We passed the morning peacefully, snatching little catnaps in the cockpit thanks to calmer seas.

Well-earned rest after a fitful night.
By noon we turned into the long channel leading into our dear Charleston, dropping anchor in the Ashley River for a good long sleep, resting up for our weeklong date with this fine southern city.

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