A tale of two passages – part two.

We had hoped to get off to an early start for our second passage, but the slip that Beach Marine had put us in was bit too shallow for our draft.  We were going to need to wait for the tide to float us off.  On the plus side, we knew this ahead of time so we were able to sleep in a bit. 

By 10:00 a.m. we were off, fighting the current up the ICW towards the St. John’s inlet.  It took us much longer to get into the ocean than we had hoped (making only 3.5 knots against the current will do that to you), but finally we were out and on our way.  Well, almost. 

Passing the Coast Guard Station in Mayport, FL at the entrance to the inlet.
There were several dredging operations going on in the inlet. We’ve never seen so much activity in one place.

We were literally just about to change course to move out of the channel when we heard a deep, chest rattling, “Toot, toot, toot, toot, toot!”  We immediately looked behind us to see a fully loaded cargo ship bearing down, also leaving the channel. Dude!  You’ve clearly been following us for at least 15 minutes and you wait until NOW to tell us you’re there??  In reality though, it was our bad.  We should have been periodically looking behind us, and it was a good reminder.  After a quick 360 to avoid the cargo ship, we were on our way.  

Jeff and I had both taken a preemptive Bonine and we enjoyed steady wind on the beam throughout the day.  We were also entertained by a large pod of dolphins playing in our bow wake for 10 minutes.  It was so VERY cool!  

We had a boisterous 16-18 knots of wind overnight, but with a reef in the main Bob was steadily steering us at 6+ knots speed over ground.  Our four hour watches went off without a hitch, and we were able to sleep even though it was pretty noisy down below with the boat crashing through the waves.

Around 2:00 p.m. the next day the wind died, so it was time to fire up the engine.  Getting rid of the dirty diesel had solved the issue, and the engine was running without a hitch.  Our forecast from Chris Parker said that we weren’t going to get much wind until later the next day.  Sigh.  Looks like we would be hand steering for a while.

Later in the afternoon we were joined by a little bird who was clearly using our boat to rest.  He hung out on the lifelines, flew down below where Jeff gently guided him out before putting the netting down to prevent a repeat, and basically hopped around being cute.  We were fine with him staying as long as he needed, and adopted him as our mascot.

Hi little guy!

Around 10:00 p.m. I was on watch and the wind started to pick up.  It wasn’t much, but as long as it was enough to let Bob steer and keep the sails from slatting, I’d take it.  With the engine off I enjoyed the blissful silence as we approached Charleston, SC.  

In the meantime our bird mascot had tucked himself into a coaming cubby, so we put a small container of water in there along with a piece of bread and a washcloth for a “bed.”  Based on what we had read in other people’s blogs about bird visits, we figured there was a 50/50 chance he would make it through the night but in the meantime we could make him comfortable.

Approaching the channel into Charleston around midnight was “entertaining.”  It’s a very busy shipping port and our AIS had us hopping, so it was all hands on deck.  Fortunately the cargo ships promptly answered the radio each time we called, acknowledging that they could see us, and we threaded our way through with the engine on (we figured it would be better to get the heck out of that area as quickly as we could).    

Jeff and I conferred and we agreed that if we didn’t want to motor (hand steering is pretty tiring), Beaufort was off the table because bad weather was going to come in on Sunday afternoon.  We decided to adjust our course and aim for Georgetown, SC instead.  We could have gone one Class A inlet further north, putting us on the South Carolina/North Carolina border, but we REALLY didn’t want to hand steer all day if we didn’t have to.

Jeff was able to keep the sails full for a few more hours until the wind completely died, so he fired up the engine again.  When I woke up for my 4:00 a.m. watch, I asked Jeff how our mascot was doing.  Apparently when I was sleeping I missed the bird’s burial at sea.  Awwww.  Poor little guy.  At least he was comfortable on our boat for his last 24 hours on the planet earth vs. plunging into the sea in a death spiral.

Dawn broke as we approached the inlet that would take us to Georgetown, SC.  After battling our way through a sudden influx of horseflies at the entrance (Jeff is a wizard with a flyswatter), we were back on the ICW.  We decided to push on and dropped the anchor later that afternoon in Cow Mill Creek, an anchorage we had enjoyed on our way south last fall.  249 nm after leaving Beach Marine in Jacksonville Beach, FL, our latest passage was in the books.

Cow Mill Creek anchorage.

We prefer the water in the anchorage on the left.  Can’t wait to get back to the Bahamas!

Despite the challenges, we both agreed that we REALLY like passages.  It’s a great way to take a big chunk out of the trip back north, and we saved almost a week of motoring – along with skipping 13 bridge openings which can be very time consuming.  By the second night we were both sleeping much better, and if the weather had cooperated we wouldn’t have hesitated to keep going.  Being out on the ocean with nothing to see but water is incredible, and the night sky defies description. 

Our plan now is to go generally into delivery mode, making tracks towards Connecticut as quickly as we can (with a few multi-night stops).  We will stay inside on the ICW until we get to Norfolk, VA, and then if we don’t have to wait too long for a weather window we’ll go straight from Norfolk to Groton which will be our longest passage.  If we can’t get a window then we’ll hop from Norfolk to Cape May, and then hopefully from Cape May to Groton (again, weather permitting).  We’re trying to avoid the whole “go south to go north” which the Chesapeake/Delaware route entails, particularly given that we want to spend the month of September exploring the Chesapeake on our way back south.  

More adventures to come!

5 thoughts on “A tale of two passages – part two.

  1. Thanks very much. I think we will also do some outside passages on our return trip in the spring of 2020, so it’s very helpful to hear your experiences in doing so. I’m sure that we will also feel a bit nervous about it all when the time comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great way to make some time! We have definitely become less nervous as we’ve done each one, but of course there’s always that bit of apprehension about being a small boat on a big ocean. You guys should definitely go for it, though! Kimberly


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