Sunday, June 12, 2011


Cumberland Island, Georgia 30º46.403N | 81º28.602W
The sun setting over the calm yet capricious ocean.
How different I feel as we retrace our path north. Seven months ago, as newly minted cruisers passing through this same stretch of Florida, we had yet to sail in the ocean, still using our time toiling south for outfitting and rigging, preparing the boat and our nerves for the rigors of offshore sailing. Seven months ago, we threaded tiny stitches down the ICW, taking two weeks to cover the same distance we traversed offshore last night in only 24 hours.

Such a short few months later, we don't hesitate to abandon the grumpy bridge tenders and wake-making power boats for the mysteries of the deep.

And truly, you gotta wonder what mysteries await when you step into Neptune's territory.

With our GPS routed to our much-loved Cumberland Island on the Florida/Georgia state line, we threaded the slim Ponce Inlet mid-morning in unsettled waters, turning north in a brisk breeze from the east. We briefly considered reefing the main (pulling in some sail) but waited a bit to see how reliable that breeze would be.

The forecast was sketchy, calling for the wind to get light and clock, perhaps all 360˚ overnight with little or no swell.

They were half-right.

We had a beautiful day of sailing on smooth water with a good wind that settled right down, no reefing required.

This sure beats two weeks on the ICW!
Then the sun set and all hell broke loose. Does this remind anyone else of our Gulf Stream crossing?

The swell gradually increased after sunset, rising to 6-8 foot swells by midnight, right on our beam if we kept our course. The wind dropped and started clocking around behind us, practically useless.

These conditions always make me wonder, as I'm sure I've said here before, how loud music purloined the term Rock 'n' Roll, a name much more suited to our rock, rock, rock, ROLL. And why is it invariably in the dead of night?

On my 9-midnight watch, I struggled to get any power I could manage out of the light wind, anything to stabilize us in the broiling swell, I discovered that, oddly, the jib does better running on light wind if it's reefed. Who knew. I was able to keep it full much better by reefing it down to a smaller slice of canvas. I tried to snake as close to our course as possible without pitching us all in the drink from the rocking.

But, as predicted, the wind kept clocking, making a full circle by the time we were done.

We enjoyed the day and alternately endured the night, delighted to see the sun finally rise and the damned swell begin to unfurl.

I think I've got the ocean figured out. She's a primadonna, docile and perfectly lovely in the spotlight of day, a total freakin' bitch by night.

We set our anchor just off Cumberland after 24 hours of sad near misses. Leaving Ponce Inlet, we learned we had anchored less than two miles from our friends Eric and Annie on WeBeSailing, whom we haven't seen since we left them in Rose Island in February. Making our way into the St. Mary's inlet, Karen and Dale on Jessie Marie radioed us on our their way out, forging the path we will take tomorrow: a 24-hour passage to Charleston.

Fort Clinch on the southern shore of St. Mary's River.

No comments:

Post a Comment