Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Oriental to Charleston, Part II

Aletheia in her glory
This is Part Two of the Carolina Trip. Part One is here.

When we last left our heroes, they were having an epic dinner aboard Aletheia lying at anchor at Wrightsville Beach.

Both the captain and I really wanted to do some offshore sailing and yet among our many compatible aspects -- we are both fairly conservative sailors. Neither of us would make the jump offshore in adverse conditions just to say we had done it. In addition, though we spent the night right at the Masonboro Inlet, the Frying Pan Shoals extended well out into the Atlantic between us and Charleston. We would have had to sail fairly far offshore before we could turn to the southwest and make for our destination. In fact, many sailors traversing the East Coast will come inside between Masonboro and Cape Fear just to avoid having to go out and around those shoals.

As keen as we both were, it didn’t make a lot of sense for us to go offshore from Wrightsville. We
Wrightsville Beach Anchorage
hatched a plan to run inside down to the Cape Fear River in the morning, and if the weather and the tides were on our side by then, we’d jump offshore from there to Charleston. We had to have the outgoing to tide with us at Cape Fear River and then the in-going tide at Charleston. Otherwise, it would be dangerous to creep along against the flow with the potential for traffic; especially ship traffic.

We left Wrightsville Beach early on Sunday morning and ran down to Snows Cut. The Cut crosses over to the Cape Fear River and is often a difficult stretch. At one narrow point, again against the tide flow, we were maxed out and creeping along barely more than a knot over the ground. We had a little help from the sails and got through it - ever so slowly. After the cut, the ICW angles across some shallows to join the Cape Fear River. On the river, midday Sunday, there were no ships in sight, but we finally sailed through ship infrastructure; range marks, bigger bouys, and a large natural gas terminal.

One of the last bouys outbound
At Cape Fear, the ICW goes most of the way out toward the ocean before it turns to starboard at Southport. Approaching that intersection, we already knew the tide with us and we were going offshore! My vagabond heart soared and called from the clouds like the many osprey we had seen along the way. I was … we were …  going to get some sea time!!

It would be twenty five hours or so across to Charleston, we set the auto pilot and decided to take three hour watches once it got dark. Often an auto pilot won’t steer a sailing course because it can’t read or react to the wind. Our wind held steady though, and the autopilot steered all night. Our timing was tight and the Captain wanted us to stay within a half mile of the rhumb line to avoid a bunch of extra sea miles. Holding close to the rhumb line though precluded sailing for comfort and my watch at dusk was really rolly. For three hours the boat never stopped moving for a second. We were rolling heavily from side to side plus the normal forward and back motion. I began to feel a little green around the gills. When Wade relieved me, I went below to nap and was down there about 15 seconds when I climbed right back up and leaned over the rail. I don’t remember ever being sick on a boat before. Any way, bless the fish, here’s my supper. I posted 4 mini videos on YouTube of our time at sea here.

The sea moderated and it was a beautiful sail overnight to Charleston. Somehow all along the entire trip, our timing had always been good; just when we needed it most. We hit Charleston Harbor just as the tide turned in our favor. We sailed dead downwind up the channel as the Monrovia-flagged Primavera container ship passed us. We had talked with someone on the ship’s bridge, and promised to stay well to starboard as she past.

All along our trip we were often stared at and photographed. Aletheia is a distinctive beauty. Her junk
The Primavera
rig is curious with it’s batwing sails and two unstayed masts; one of which is nearly in the bow. People in passing boats waved, called to us, and took pictures. It was amazing and hilarious to be a part of such a spectacle. Even the crew of the Primavera must have been watching for someone stepped out on the small deck adjacent the huge ship’s bridge and snapped some pictures. Later, @zhirov_sergey ‘liked’ my picture of the ship on Instagram. I like to imagine he was the guy on the deck that day.

Once in the harbor, we had to make for Elliot Cut to get over to the Stono River and the St. Johns Yacht Harbor, Aletheia’s new home. One bridge on Elliot Cut doesn’t open for boats during rush hour for commuters. To wait it out, we anchored across from the City Marina, the very marina where Wade and I had met three years ago on another boat. After waiting, we hauled anchor and slogged our way through another channel with a squeeze point and a current against us. The marina had closed before we could get there, so we anchored just down river from them, under another bridge. The sun was just going down Monday evening as we made supper and anticipated our formal arrival the next day.

St. Johns Yacht Harbor under the bridge
In the morning we contacted the marina, casually motored back under the bridge and tossed our docklines to the helpful staff. Wade checked in and we straightened up the boat. The Captain is a bit like me -- once we’re moving we’d rather just keep going to get things done. We had had a good night’s sleep the night before at anchor. Wade’s truck was up in Oriental, where we had started. I had made a lunch date with a former suite-mate from Michigan State for Wednesday, the next day, but had also offered to help Wade retrieve his truck. We decided to rent a car right then, Tuesday afternoon, and go get it. Road Trip! Five hours up and a few more than that back.

We had made an epic run from early Sunday morning to sundown Monday: left Wrightsville Beach; down to Cape Fear; out into the ocean; sailed all night; arrived at Charleston Monday afternoon; waited for a bridge; and finally anchored right near the marina. Then Tuesday settled in at the marina before an eleven or twelve hour road trip into the wee hours Wednesday morning. After a nap, we took the rental car back and had returned to Aletheia about an hour before my buddy, Brian, called to say he had arrived for lunch.     Badass.

Wednesday evening I had a pleasant dinner with Wade and his Charleston friend, Nat, whom I had first met with Wade when they stopped by s/v Eleanor three years before. Thursday, we ran some errands around town and Wade dropped me off at the Greyhound station for my trip back to Florida and my boat, s/v Emma. The trip was just what I needed to recharge my vagabond soul. I am working my to-do list with increased vigor. My new trucking gig is seven days on, seven days off; good for getting on with the boatwork. In addition, while I was away, the marina’s mechanic was aligning and installing my engine! My boat project is way ahead of where it was when I left! What a time! Good sailing with a good friend on the good ship, Aletheia. Life is good; so good. How many good’s can fit into one paragraph?

That good. Thanks, Wade.
Aboard Emma with my Aletheia Hat! 

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