Overnight to Charleston
We began the day of our second overnight with me dropping my phone in the water. It slipped right out of my pocket as I got off the boat to take Coffee for a walk. It was such a stupid thing too; I always zip my pocket but for some reason I didn’t that morning. While Aaron continued getting the boat ready, I called our insurance to arrange to get another one sent to Charleston so it would be there when we arrived.
The forecast looked great for our trip. Seas at 1-2 feet and only 5-10 knots of wind from the north and northwest meant the passage would be calm and although the winds would be light, they were coming from a good direction and we could still use the motor if necessary. We determined we should leave the marina in North Myrtle Beach around 10am so we could still catch the outgoing tide from Little River Inlet without it being at dead low. We made our departure mark and motored back northbound on the ICW for an hour or so to reach the inlet.
As soon as we entered the Atlantic Ocean, we were greeted by the largest pod of dolphins we’d seen yet! They were splashing around, clearly hunting in a pack. It was pretty cool to see, but as always, we were too slow with the camera. The seas were flat calm and the breeze light as was forecast. It was a blue sky day and although it was chilly, we were thrilled to be out on the open water again. We raised both sails and turned off the engine to the blissful sound of water rushing past our hull. With the sails up we were averaging about 4.5 knots but eventually the wind died a bit and we dropped down under 3.5 knots, forcing us to turn the engine one which brought us up to six as we motorsailed.
The rest of the afternoon leading up to sunset was uneventful. We continued to motorsail and averaged about 6-6.5 knots which is well above our 5 knot average. By 4:45pm we had covered 35 nautical miles in 6 hours! It felt awesome to be making such great time! I took in the scenery and reveled at all the diving birds which would suddenly drop from 20 feet in the air straight down amongst the swell. As sunset approached, the winds were still very light so we made the decision to keep motoring after dark, but we did drop the jib. This is not something we try to do because we are unable to see any hazards such as crab pots, but we hadn’t seen a single one all day so figured we were pretty safe. Besides, if we turned off the engine it would take us about 40 hours to reach our destination!
Once the sun had fully set, the stars came out in full force and they were breathtaking! For most of our shifts, we each just stared up at the sky in between checking our compass heading. There was almost no traffic and the waxing moon didn’t make an appearance until about 5am the next day! I saw a ton of shooting stars and even though it was cold (around 40 degrees), the lack of wind made it tolerable.
Just after I finished my shift at 2:30am (having covered 88 nautical miles of the 110 or so to Charleston), Aaron yelled down to me to come up to the cockpit so we could reef the main. In the space of 10 minutes, just off of Bulls Breakers, the wind jumped from 5 knots from the NW to 15 knots from the SW and the seas went from flat to 3 feet. It was an uncomfortable transition to say the least. We reefed the main and now found ourselves beating hard to weather in the dead of night. The forecast did not predict this shift at all, in fact it still told us the winds were 7 knots from the north, so we did what we could to lessen the stress on the boat and ourselves as we pounded into the waves. We found ourselves going less than 3 knots and freezing cold, waiting until daylight came.
The sun finally began to light the sky at 6:15 and although we could at least see what we were dealing with, we were absolutely freezing and wearing at least 6 layers each. By now we have had to shift course towards Charleston inlet so there was spray hitting us from the bow and we were down to about 2 knots. There is a certain despair in being able to see your destination and know that it’s so close, yet only be able to inch towards it.
We finally made it into the channel at 9:30am (approximately 100 nautical miles into our trip – which means it took us about 5 hours to go 12 nautical miles). Once in the channel, the fun wasn’t over. In our original plan, we had hoped to be entering the channel at sunrise which would allow us to run it at slack tide. Now that we were so late, we were fighting the ebb hard. With large container ships both entering and leaving the harbor, we were struggling against the current at a whopping 1.5 knots. It took us another three and a half hours to go the remaining 7 miles to our anchorage.
As we got close to the anchorage, we dropped the main (there was no safe way to do it earlier when we were going so hard into weather) and realized that it had a one a half foot tear about 2/3 of the way up on the leech. Great. Once we anchored, we had to drop the dinghy to take poor Coffee dog to shore before we could finally get in to dry clothes and have a much-needed nap.
Looking back, it’s amazing that an experience can be so wonderful for so long, until suddenly it’s not. The utter frustration at barely moving when all we wanted to do was get out of the awful weather overshadows the pure joy we had as we set out the day before and could let the sails free. It’s a shame that negative experiences tend to tarnish the positive ones but I suppose we just have to make a conscious effort to not let that be the case. All in all, it took us over 27 hours to get to Charleston and cover 118 nautical miles. We all (except the main sail) made it safe and we did great under pressure. We will focus on those little wins and look forward to exploring Charleston.