Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Offshore from Beaufort, SC (Port Royal Inlet)-Fernandina,Fl

Sunset off Tybee Roads Inlet, Georgia
     Lately, offshore weather windows have been few and far between. High winds and offshore seas have persisted for a couple of weeks with an occasional opportunity to travel on the outside. Recently, there were 15 foot seas in the Gulf Stream with 35-50 knot winds. Even though those conditions were well offshore they still affected the coastal waters of the Carolina's making offshore travel dodgy.
     We'd been waiting for a window to move from Charleston, SC and decided to travel on the ICW to Beaufort, SC. It took only one night anchoring in a creek with an arrival the following day anchoring in Factory Creek across from the town. Our general mail delivery been forwarded to Beaufort so we couldn't bypass the town.

     Weather forecasts had been downgraded for diminishing winds to 10-15 knots from the northwest and the seas were forecast to diminish from nine feet at Grey's Reef off Georgia to five feet the following day. With all systems go it appeared that we could plan an offshore passage late Saturday afternoon from Port Royal Sound Inlet at Beaufort with an arrival at the Mary's Inlet on the Florida/Georgia border around 11:00 AM Sunday morning.

     The passage began with us having to dodge a hazard to navigation, a large 30 foot floating tree with roots and branches reaching upward from below the waves leaving the inlet. Coast Guard had no security's on this hazard until we reported it. After that we heard reports periodically throughout the night. Somehow, I couldn't get that tree out of my mind. I hoped it was the only one we'd encounter especially in the darkness. At sunset seas were down but, the wave direction hit Simple Life on her side...all night. It was rolly but, at least we had a sliver of a moon to light our way. The engine was off and Simple Life was under sail for seven hours making over six knots! After midnight the moon set and the the wind lightened. It was necessary to motor once again making the ride more bearable. The rolling worsened after a couple of hours. It was going to be a long night. When it's the wee hours of the morning and way past my bedtime my imagination tends to run wild. I'd spotted a boat's lights off in the distance and thought I saw a helicopter's lights or some flying object swooping down toward the boat. Guess what I thought it was? Of course, I'd spotted a UFO! "OK, Michele, get a holed of yourself. There are no UFO's" I looked back with binoculars and the flying thing was gone. I saw only the boat. Whew! Without moonlight the darkness, wind and waves can play tricks with your mind. I mentioned it to Joe who quickly straightened me out by saying, "Don't start imagining things. It's a boat with running lights, that's all! Go to bed and get some sleep."

     Usually, I'm so wired at the start of a passage that sleep is nearly impossible but, around 3:00 AM I hit a wall. At that point I'm so tired that I have few worries and sleep happens. Poor Joe tends to take breaks but, gets little sleep during the first night offshore. I worry about him when I'm below in my cabin. With the engine running it's impossible to hear anything. Even though he's wearing a PFD with a harness and tether, I'm afraid I won't hear if he needs me over the drone of the engine. I feel much better when we're under sail. Those are my fears...I suppose most sailors have them, in one manner or another.

A shrimp boat plying the waters of St. Mary's Inlet

     Waiting for dawn can be like watching paint dry. You stare off toward the east searching for any hint of light. The darkest dark is just before dawn. I know it well. Finally, it happens, clouds become visible, then the horizon line, slowly a magenta glow spreads near the water and sky. I breath a sigh of relief. It's dawn. We've made it.

Refueling at Fernandina Beach, Florida