August 3 – Been A While

I’m sorry that it’s been over two weeks since I posted. We’ve been pretty busy and we’ve done a lot of traveling. This blog isn’t really meant to be a travelogue, but I want to give you a rundown of where we’ve been since we left Beaufort, SC, on the morning of July 19. We went from Beaufort to Laurel Hill, where we anchored out; from Laurel Hill to Charleston, where we stayed in a marina for a night; from Charleston to Whiteside Creek, anchoring out; Whiteside Creek to Georgetown, SC, where we stayed a night in a marina; Georgetown to North Myrtle Beach, SC, where we stayed in a marina for two nights (more on that later); North Myrtle Beach to Southport, NC, one night in a marina; Southport to Middle Sound, anchoring out; Middle Sound to Mile Hammock Bay, anchoring out; Mile Hammock Bay to Beaufort, NC, anchoring out; Beaufort to Oriental, NC, one night at the free city dock, then four nights in a marina; and finally, Oriental to Bear Creek, where we are currently anchored out for the night. We’ve traveled 397 miles since Beaufort, SC. We have covered 590 miles since leaving St. Marys.

Here is a description of our typical day. We get up about 0630 when the sky starts getting light. Suzy has her coffee. I stretch and gripe about having to get up so early. Suzy has a little bit for breakfast. I can’t eat because I’m always nervous about getting underway. You’d think after seven months that I’d relax a little bit, but I’m always anxious about each day’s journey. I begin going through the daily pre-departure checklist: check the weather and tides; review the sail plan for the day; review the plan for getting off the dock or retrieving the anchor; check the engine oil, radiator fluid, and fuel levels; check the charge on the batteries; check the stuffing box (where the prop shaft goes through the hull); check the water level in the bilge; check for water in the fuel-water separator; make sure all hatches are securely closed; make sure all items on deck are securely tied down; make sure all loose items below are securely tied down or stowed; make sure the engine raw water seacock is open; make sure all lockers are latched; remove the canvas covers from the binnacle (steering wheel and instrument column) and dodger (windshield); mount the US flag on the stern rail; put the day’s charts, binoculars, handheld VHF radio, cushions and throwable flotation in the cockpit; and put on our PFDs (personal flotation devices). Then we start the engine. While the engine is warming up, we check that the engine instruments are working, check the main VHF radio, the chartplotter and GPS systems, and the depth sounder. If we’re in a marina, we check the anchor windlass (which isn’t necessary if we’re at anchor — it’ll get tested when we try to weigh anchor). Then we activate our SPOT, which is a satellite locator/tracker that constantly updates our position and can send out an emergency distress call. Now it’s about 0800 and we’re ready to go. Usually around 0900 my stomach has settled down enough that I can have something to eat, which typically is a cup of dry granola trail mix. I stay behind the wheel. Suzy is the lookout and go-fer, but she will sometimes take the wheel if I need a break. We eat a light lunch, which Suzy prepares, while underway.

On an average day, we’ll travel for about six or seven hours. That will cover about 40-45 statute miles, depending on currents. I like to be at our destination by 1500, because I want us to be securely anchored or tied up in the event of afternoon thunderstorms — and also because I get tired after six or seven hours behind the wheel. Once we stop for the day, we open up the boat and try to cool it down, and do a scaled down reversal of our morning checklist. Until the last few days, it has been 95 degrees inside the boat in the afternoon. We have fans going all the time, but that’s barely enough to make it liveable down below. If there’s a breeze, and we can find some shade in the cockpit, we’ll sit outside; otherwise, the coolest place — believe it or not — is in the salon. We drink plenty of ice water. We keep water bottles in the freezer. They don’t stay in there long enough to freeze. We drink them too frequently for that. We’ll do boat chores, if needed, or we may read some. We both keep journals. We read our emails and check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I may start on my “homework,” which is the preparation of the next day’s sail plan. This may not seem like much, since we’re traveling on a well-known waterway, but I go over weather reports and tide schedules, trying to determine what the conditions will be and whether currents will be with us or against us, which then tells me how far we can go and where I need to find a place to stop for the night. I check for bridges and their opening schedules — which can cause serious delays if you at arrive at ten minutes after the hour for a bridge that only opens at the top of the hour. Timing bridges is tough, and I haven’t really mastered the art, yet. Once I find a place to anchor that is properly protected from the expected wind direction, or make a reservation at a marina where we might stay for the night, I begin checking reports of hazards along the route we will be taking. There are a couple of sources (Active Captain, Salty Southeast Cruisers Net, etc.) where cruisers post comments about situations they’ve encountered, including shoals, obstructions, missing or confusing daymarks (guideposts), or serious currents. You have to carefully evaluate these comments to determine if they are justified or not, and then figure out how you will mitigate the condition that is described. Then you work on contingency plans for unexpected delays or places to duck in and hide in case you encounter bad weather.

We try to stop and relax with a glass of wine and a snack for Happy Hour. We prefer doing this in the cockpit, but we have to wait until about 2000 when the sun is almost down, or it’s too hot to sit outside, unless there’s a good breeze. After that, Suzy will start on dinner. Sometimes, I’ll grill chicken or fish, which avoids lighting up the stove and heating up the boat. We eat a lot of cold salads. We’ll eat around 2030. Suzy cleans up while I resume my homework. By 2130, she’s in her bunk with a book — and out like a light by 2200. By that time, I might be finished with my homework, and may read for a couple of hours. I’m usually asleep by midnight.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. Tonight, I’m posting instead of doing my homework. I’ve been working on my extended sailing plans, and have gone over tomorrow’s segment, so hopefully there won’t be many surprises along the way.

Well, I’ve put a lot of words down, and I haven’t even gotten to what I really wanted to talk about, and that’s the interesting people we’ve met since leaving Beaufort (SC). They are Phil and Nancy in Charleston, Rick and Susan of S/V Sea Fever, Matt and Jan of S/V Checked Out, and Sabina and Gino of S/V Snickers.  On the other hand, we’ve also seen some really-stupid-to-downright-batsh*t-crazy things done by some people. I’ll tell you about them, too. Next post — maybe tomorrow.