Our trip down the long and winding ICW from Beaufort has not been unpleasant. But it was definitely a pleasure to get out into deeper water and really sail for the first time in several months. After an enjoyable two nights dockside in Charleston (and many long walks around the city) we took advantage of a brief weather window to run offshore South Carolina and Georgia to the St Mary’s River inlet and Fernandina Beach, Florida. There was great sailing weather for the first third of the 28 hour trip. We covered many miles on a three-sail broad reach about 5 miles offshore before the wind got fickle and died. That left us with an overnight motor in glassy seas under a nearly-full moon. Not unpleasant at all.
At the entrance to the St. Mary’s River we were greeted by the guns of Fort Clinch. Andante was not intimidated. We were a bit taken aback by the industrial waterfront of Fernandina Beach and the odors of the pulp mill but we found a nice secure mooring to hold us through the gale that arrived overnight. My instruments recorded a max wind of 52 knots. Wheee!
Its still blowing 35-40 kts as I write this –so expect to stay put until at least tomorrow to allow the wind and seas to moderate a bit. The goal is always to sail the boat so wind is good — but wind direction and sea state matter a great deal. As we head south along the east coast of Florida the ideal weather is something like 15-20 kts from the west. These conditions would allow us to sail at full speed a few miles offshore where the wind is strong but locally-generated waves are fetch-limited. We might still see swell from distant storms but even large swell is more comfortable than short steep waves. These are the general conditions expected beginning late Monday through Tuesday and into Wednesday. I hope to take full advantage of them. The near-term plan is to push south to Port Canaveral and possibly further (Ft. Pierce? West Palm?) as the weather allows.
We should be in South Florida (somewhere between West Palm Beach and Miami) by the end of next week. Once there I’ll take some time to decide whether to head further south to the Florida Keys or make the short hop (around 60 nm) to the Bahamas. Either way, things are definitely looking warmer and sunnier. Yay!
Later today I’ll work on updating the “Trip” link, above, to provide a summary of the 2022 trip legs.
From southern North Carolina into South Carolina the ICW is extremely narrow with many areas of severe shoaling. Driving this stretch required a lot of concentration to keep Andante in the center of the channel and out of the mud. And we’re definitely driving and not sailing. There have been a few rare occasions to hoist a sail and gain an extra knot of boatspeed (and a smile) but the engine is on all day long.
From Camp Lejeune we pushed south with brief overnight stops in Wrightsville Beach and then Southport where we loaded up on fuel, water and some fantastic shrimp and grits. The next day we weathered a gale in the marshes of Little River Inlet, SC before continuing on past Myrtle Beach and into the amazingly beautiful Waccamaw River. The owls were frighteningly loud but it was too cold to see any alligators. This was definitely one of my favorite overnight stops so far. Probably buggy in warmer seasons so perhaps lucky to enjoy it now.
We arrived in Charleston, SC on January 12 and plan to stay here for a day or two until a weather window allows a coastal passage to Georgia. South of Charleston and all through Georgia the ICW is essentially impassable due to shoaling except at mid/high tide. It will be much more efficient (and fun) to sail outside. This short break gives me a chance to top up fuel and water tanks and stretch my legs with walks through the city.
We left Morehead City just after dawn and had a beautiful ride through the port and into Bogue Sound.
Bogue Sound is very scenic with many small sandy islets and lots of birds. One friend followed us closely for several miles. (This is my first attempt including video in this blog. Hope it works.)
We made good time and with the wind behind us were even able to carry a headsail for a while. The last few miles of the day cut through USMC Camp Lejeune. There were some interesting contrasts with beautiful marshes and lots of wildlife in a live-fire training area.
We anchored for the night in Mile Hammock Bay, a well-protected little harbor apparently used by the Marines for launching landing craft. It was a good place to ride out the gale that arrived overnight but was anything but quiet — the little harbor is adjacent to a busy helicopter landing area.
The 3-4 weeks of actual work on Andante stretched over two full months to accommodate the holidays. It was great to be home and see everyone and eat way too much. But now its January, its cold, and we need to get south. As fast as this moderately slow boat can go.
We left Bock Marine on January 4 for a short trip to Beaufort. It was good to get underway again and test out the new steering and engine controls for the first time. Everything worked smoothly and we anchored for the night in Taylor Creek on the Beaufort downtown waterfront. I assembled dinghy and motored the 100 yards to shore for a nice dinner with Bill and Anne. From the anchorage I could see some of the wild horses on Carrot Island frolicking on the beach. Never mind that all I have to share are still pictures of seemingly relaxed horses. There was indeed frolicking.
The next day we stuck our head out into the Atlantic and sailed south for an hour before deciding the conditions were not at all what was forecast. It was very windy and rough with frequent heavy rain squalls. Not fun, so we turned around and headed back in the inlet.
Its easy to second-guess a decision like that. But after deciding to return to port not only was I immediately more comfortable, I was reassured by two significant good omens: A big pod of dolphins began following the boat and leaping alongside as soon as I turned around. And upon entering the inlet we were greeted with a full rainbow.
We anchored for the night near the Coast Guard base in Morehead City. It wasn’t a particularly quiet anchorage but was convenient to the ICW and allowed us to get an early start the next morning. With the very short periods of fair weather between frontal systems its looking like we’ll continue south along the ICW rather than offshore – at least for now.