The reason we stayed in Charleston was to wait for the weather to warm up. By the time we left, it certainly had. Several 90 degree days in a row were warm enough. We headed north looking for cooler weather, leaving on Thursday, May 3rd for Southport, NC to rendezvous with some friends there.
We had enjoyed being in downtown Charleston, continuing to explore its historic district and the waterfront on the downtown peninsula, even squeezing in a few shopping trips out to the nearby communities.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
So much for the light winds and low waves that were going to be on our stern the whole trip from Charleston to Southport, NC. We certainly had those conditions as we left Charleston, but overnight, the conditions changed dramatically. The wind shifted from the southeast to the northeast, right on the nose, and the winds and waves began to build. Now we were plowing into waves and struggling to make headway against the wind.
We had been under sail for most of the day. Even in light winds, we were making good enough time to arrive at the Cape Fear entrance by daylight. A brief sound of thunder in the distance never materialized into any storms over the water. The winds eventually died, so Dave powered up the engine and furled the headsail. However as we were bringing in the sail, a gust of wind came up suddenly, which should have been a warning of things to come. After supper, Dave took the watch and saw the winds clocking around, but the waves were still low and the wind strength was only in the low teens. Not what was predicted, but not too bad.
Shortly after Cathy’s watch began, the waves started to build. Orion started see-sawing over the oncoming waves and would, with increasing frequency, rise up on a wave and crash into the next trough. Bam! Cathy checked the wind strength, and was surprised to see that it was never much more that 15 knots. Not bad, but the waves were certainly taking a toll on our speed. At one point, the time to destination on the GPS increased to over 24 hours. There was no way Cathy was going to put up with this torture for another 24 hours. With a few more RPM’s, the speed increased and the ETA moved in to early afternoon. Better, but that still meant 12 more hours of pounding. Ugh!
So the hours ticked by. The conditions on Dave’s watch were not much better. By early morning the waves seemed to moderate a bit as we gained some protection from Frying Pan shoals. As Cathy took over the helm for the next watch, she was puzzling over how the light winds could have produced these conditions. By checking the instruments, she discovered that she had inadvertently left the wind speed display on a setting that showed the wind angle instead of the wind speed. Since we were headed straight into the wind, it never varied by more than 10 degrees. A quick check of the wind speed log, showed that we had actually experienced 30 knot winds overnight. That explained why the waves had built as much as they had. In retrospect, it was probably better that we hadn’t known just how strong the winds were.
We entered the Cape Fear inlet at 10:30 and made it to South Harbor Village marina by 12:30 – exhausted, but glad to be in.
Before we left Charleston, we met another couple of boats who had stayed in the marina last November when we were there. Bob and Jean on Dolphin had halted their trip south last fall at Charleston and hauled Dolphin at a marina further up the Cooper River. They had left the Maritime Center a few days before Thanksgiving. Just a day or two longer and we might have convinced them to continue on with us south. We may hook up with them again further up the ICW or maybe in Maine if we make it there this summer. We also got to see Carolyn and Keith on Whim, who came in for a few days after returning from the Bahamas. They had been our neighbors at Barefoot Landing and at the Maritime Center in November. They left with Dolphin headed north on the ICW.
Finally, Johesa arrived a couple of days before we left. We had met them in Marsh Harbor. They were friends of Joanne and Ralph on White Bird. They had been with White Bird in Green Turtle Cay while White Bird was waiting for a transmission replacement. Unfortunately, Johesa had to begin their trip back to the states, leaving White Bird before the repairs were completed.
The tall ships are coming to Charleston on May 17-20. Four of them will be at the Charleston Maritime Center, including the newly launched Spirit of South Carolina, which we saw under construction last November. She pulled up to the end of our dock on the Tuesday before we left. Her standing rigging (masts, shrouds, stays, etc.) were done, but her sails had not yet been rigged. She is a beautiful ship, and a lot of work (and several million dollars) has gone into her. Like many tall ships, she will become a training ship.