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Sailing to Charleston

Updated: Nov 26, 2018

November 13, 2018 

Although we were tied up at the fuel dock, we were fully exposed to the current, and waves smacked against the hull  all night. Still, we slept. The only thing that keeps us awake on the boat are unusual and unexpected sounds. I have grown accustomed  to the vast repertoire of sounds that our boat makes at night––the groans and creaks; loose lines slapping; the wind whistling through dorades that provide ventilation into the cabins, or shrieking through the shrouds that hold up the mast; thwacks and bumps of water against the hull. We left the dock at 07:00 and passed easily under the Carolina Beach Bridge, where the tide board now read a reassuring 66 feet. We wound our way carefully through Snow’s Cut toward the Cape Fear River as fog blanketed us. We sounded our foghorn as we approached the channel to the ocean. The winds were out of the SW, but light, no more than 10 kts, and expected to clock around to the West and eventually the North. Strong winds weren’t expected until after midnight.  We weren’t sure whether we’d make it as far as Charleston, although if we did, we’d have the chance to spend time exploring the city before Owen returned home to Vermont on Friday.

We motor sailed, but were only able to fill the jib for a few hours before the wind lightened, and then completely died. Late in the afternoon it came around to the north. The day was cold and cloudy, and there was a lot of motion—first, the up-and-down slog against waves when the wind was ahead of us, and then the side to side rolling as the wind came around behind us. Waves were 5- 7 feet, and all of this motion conspired to make me queasy.The guys were fine. I could only manage to nibble a few crackers and an apple. Christoph and I spent the day listening to an audio version of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owen. We had just left the marsh lands of the North Carolina coast where the story takes place, and could readily envision the rich flora and fauna where tidal channels, swamps and ocean shoreline meet. I managed to eat a small bowl of chili for dinner. Chili is a favorite food for sea passages, and I had made a batch at home to bring along. We all felt better after eating. 

Owen took the night watch from 18:00 to 22:00. Christoph went below to sleep, but I stayed on deck for a while for the fresh air. Gazing at the still point of the horizon calmed my queasiness. Eventually, I went below to sleep. Christoph resumed watch at 22:00, and woke me as we entered the Charleston channel at 01:00.  There was traffic in this busy harbor––we took the stern of one container ship who hailed us, and kept clear of another coming through the channel, ocean bound. Finally, we passed a tug, port to port. 

We headed towards a protected anchorage near Hog Island, and I went forward to drop the anchor.  By 01:45 we were snuggled under the covers and sleeping soundly. In the morning, I awoke laughing, telling Christoph that I had dreamed about a “template for the anchorage." There is no such thing as a template for any aspect sailing, and the constant call for improvisation is one of its great attractions. I suppose the dream expressed my anxiety about sailing with my overtaxed and under-developed right brain.

We waited at anchor for slack tide, and at noon, made our way up the channel to the Charleston Harbor Marina, the only one we called that had space for us. It is part of a resort that includes a golf course, an indoor pool and hot tub. The marina docks lead to a small beachfront, where a great blue heron reigns in stately indifference. We tied up at the dock and put on layers of warm clothes, ready to explore Charleston. 

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