The final check of the weather on our planned crossing day, Wednesday, March 28th, confirmed our crossing window was still there. It also confirmed that the window was closing behind us faster than originally predicted. We stayed on our original schedule, but the change in forecast caused Lunasea to decided to travel close behind us.
Three boats, Nantileas, R Pellican, and Orion, left around 11am to allow for a easier sail over the bank, with a little less stress on the engine. We hooked up with Sea Holly and Slow Dancin’, who left an hour later, at Mantanilla Shoal just before entering the ocean at about 8pm that evening. The winds and waves were on our starboard quarter (i.e., at an angle off our stern). The winds being mostly behind us meant that we would experience them as calmer than almost any other angle. The wave angle meant that there was still some rolling, but not as bad as having them on our beam (i.e. side). We were relieved to find that the possibility of 5-6 foot seas didn’t materialize. Instead, we were experiencing 2-4 feet. This we could handle for 14 hours.
Since Cathy had been sick on the last 24-hour trip, we never developed the watch schedule that is necessary to keep the person on watch rested. This time, we alternated sleeping in the Main Saloon and taking our turns at the helm. It worked well. Neither of us had to do a marathon session at the wheel. Neither of us got sick, and we were able to go below to complete simple tasks, without risk of seasickness. Which isn’t to say we weren’t tired arriving at Port Canaveral at 11:30 the next day, but we were better rested than on our first 24 hour trip outside.
Just Call Me
Upon re-entering the US, we were required to clear customs and immigration. This of course, was going to be simple, since we had taken care of getting our customs sticker and registering with the local boater option with immigration. One phone call and we should be done. Right?
Not so fast.
Dave called as we approached the entrance to Port Canaveral, and was told that we needed to be tied up to a dock before we could make that call. (We later learned that this was to ensure we could be boarded by surprise, if necessary). So, when we arrived at the dock, Dave tried again, and got placed in a queue for the “next available agent”. Sigh! He then found out that we needed to call a different number for Port Canaveral than that for south Florida. After working his way through the voice prompts to the right one for clearing customs, the recording informed him that we must appear in person and then hung up. Click.
So much for the one phone call.
So, we joined the 8 other boats (3 Canadians, 1 British and 4 US) for the 2 mile walk in the sun to the Customs office. Thankfully, our group of 6 managed to hitch a ride there with a sympathetic marina employee. Then we stood shoulder to shoulder in the cramped entry hall of the Customs office, smelling a little rank, since we had all needed showers pretty desperately. Another customs officer entered to find the crowd of us and seemed dismayed at the backlog. Dave took the opportunity to explain that we wouldn’t be there at all if we could have registered on the phone. She took a look at our paperwork and agreed that we should have been able to clear with a phone call. To the chagrin of our fellow travelers, she took us immediately back into the office and had us work with an agent who completed our sign-in. She said that the phone message would be fixed so it didn’t happen again.
The agents were very helpful and generous to all the boaters, ensuring they were all processed as quickly as possible – even giving out bubble gum to the kids and joking with those of us in line. But as we continued to hang around, ensuring our fellow travelers were taken care of, they politely suggested that we should leave if we had been processed already to relieve the congestion in the crowded hall. (Perhaps they were thinking it would freshen the air a bit, too.)
So, even though we didn’t get to have the “one phone call” clearance process, maybe we made it easier for someone else.
Three of the boats in our flotilla -- Sea Holly, Slow Dancin’ and Lunasea – decided to leave the marina on Saturday to travel north to Cumberland Island, GA, the next logical stop on the outside run up the coast. This would be a 26-hour trip, so another overnight on the ocean was in store. We agreed to join them, since the marina was much too expensive to stay longer than the 2 nights we had booked, and we still hadn’t heard from Marianna and Merlin. According to an earlier e-mail, the St. Mary’s/Cumberland /Fernandina inlet was likely the southernmost port of entry for them.
We were nervous that conditions were not going to be as placid as forecast, as we plowed headlong into 6 foot waves and 20-25 knot winds as we left the Canaveral inlet. Luckily, soon after we turned north the conditions settled down to the forecasted conditions which were calm for the rest of the run until we entered the Fernandina inlet the next day. The waves and winds had once again kicked up making for a rough ride into the inlet.
Dave and I looked at each other to decide whether we could do this again. On the other hand, we still hadn’t heard from Marianna and Merlin. Maybe they were already north of us. At least, if we went there, we were sure to run into them. They couldn’t be north of there. So, we signed up for the next hop and wearily began getting ready for another run outside.
We knew we needed to get to bed and sleep well if we were going to start out early the next morning for our trip to Charleston. We had to first head to Fernandina beach to re-fuel and then out the inlet to Charleston. But Dave began to worry that the anchor was not “right” as he checked it before going to bed.
Coastal Georgia has 7 foot tides by Cumberland Island and the current associated with the rising and ebbing tides can have a dramatic effect on the boats position – equal to or greater than that of the wind. When we set the anchor the wind and tidal current were in the same direction, and the anchor set well. However, the current changed shortly after we set anchor and would change again around 10pm. Sometime in the intervening hours, when the boat turned with the current, our chain must have caught on the keel. Dave could see the anchor bridle taut and heading back from the bow instead of forward away from the boat. Cathy was too tired to take in this bad news, so we went to bed anyway, thinking it would work itself out. However, at 2am, we were back up again, Dave checked the anchor and it was no better. Now, Cathy couldn’t sleep either. This could mean our passing up on the trip to Charleston if we couldn’t resolve this before morning.
So, at 2:30 in the morning, we decided to launch the dinghy, mount the outboard motor and use it to spin Orion around. Thanks to a full moon and a clear night, we could see what we were doing. Cathy stood at the helm and spun the wheel in the direction we wanted Orion to spin. Then Dave positioned the dinghy at the bow and pushed on the hull to start the spin.
The first attempt did nothing. The bridle was still angled back. Nothing accomplished. We thought about it a bit and tried to pull Orion backward from the stern in the direction that she should be laying. It didn’t work, so Dave went back to the bow and gently pushed Orion’s bow in the other direction. Within a quarter turn, the bridle shifted forward. Cathy looked at the GPS and we had obviously dropped back to our original position.
It had worked. We were both amazed and relieved that we had actually fixed the problem. We collapsed into bed, knowing that the morning would come much too early.
The Fernandina inlet was dramatically different from the day before – flat calm with little wind. The ocean was equally calm, which made the conditions more comfortable. However, there was little help from the sails in the light winds. We eventually got some stronger winds in the evening and managed to pick up 0.5kt from the headsail. As we approached Charleston, the winds died again and we motored in on a rising tide into the harbor. We couldn’t have asked for an easier entry. At the Charleston Maritime Center, the water was so calm, we just floated in. Perfect.
The one near miss came as Cathy was positioning Orion to enter the fairway into the marina, which had her concentration so engaged that she didn’t see the Fort Sumter tour boat departing its dock next to the marina. As she recognized the collision that was coming, she threw the engines into reverse, which caused Dave to look up to see what the hell she was doing. Thankfully, we easily avoided them.
Putting our skills to use
The maritime center is in the middle of Charleston’s waterfront, surrounded by activities. Since this was a holiday week, the docks around us were busy with families touring the sites. We were busy with chores on our boats after docking – Ken on Slow Dancin’ was up the mast working on his lights; Sea Holly was changing their oil; Dave and I were preparing to do the same. Dave was below and Cathy on the dock when we heard a chilling scream from the pier ahead of us. This was not the scream of kids having fun. Cathy leapt off the boat to head toward the sound of the scream, discovering a child in the water who had fallen from the pier above. The mother, unable to reach her daughter, was frantic. The boaters nearest the incident, Sea Holly and Slow Dancin’, reached her first and pulled her out. Cathy went back to the boat to get a towel and the first aid kit, while Dave assessed her injuries. The little girl had been walking along the benches on the upper pier and had somehow slipped and fallen into the water. She had several cuts and bruises from hitting something on the way down. However, she was incredibly lucky that nothing more serious happened. Her mother was going to take her to the hospital, so Cathy gave her a dry T-shirt to wear and let her change on Orion. Dave worked to reassure the mother that she had made the right decision not to jump in after the girl. He managed to put in a plug for taking the Red Cross courses in First Aid and CPR.
In discussing it afterwards, in the confusion of the moment, Joy and Heather initially thought that Ken had fallen from the mast. Ken, on the other hand, up on the mast saw the whole thing, but was powerless to help. We were all grateful that nothing worse had happened.
When we pulled into Cape Marina in Cape Canaveral, we once again ran into Jed and Paige on Spellbound. They were in the marina for a couple of months while they prepared their new boat, Watercolor, for launch. We joined them for dinner on our second night there, along with Jerry and Will from another sailboat. The same day, we also were surprised to see Discovery, whom we had met in Treasure Cay, tied up to the dock in front of us. They were hoping to go straight to Charleston from Canaveral, but not until they had fixed an electrical problem that had caused them to cross from the Bahamas without navigation lights.
We finally heard from Merlin --who had crossed from the Bahamas to Beaufort, SC—and Marianna – who had crossed into Lake Worth, FL. We were north of both of them, but they were, as expected, headed to Charleston. So, we decided to wait for them. This meant saying goodby to Sea Holly and Slow Dancin’ who needed to continue to head north to the Chesapeake.
We enjoyed some time together touring Charleston, watching a DVD and a farewell dinner at at the Southend Brewery in the historic district. We bid them goodbye as they headed up the ICW for Georgetown on a windy Good Friday morning, with promises to look for them when we get back to the Chesapeake.
Chris and Margaret also called us as they left Charleston for points north. They had followed us to Charleston a day later and now were on a beeline to Annapolis, where they would leave their boat to be sold. Chris is starting a new job in Atlanta in May.
So, we are waiting for Merlin, who should arrive on Saturday and Marianna, who should arrive next week and the opportunity to catch up with them on their travels since we parted company in January.