Thursday, January 25, 2018
Marathon to Hilton Head Island passage log
January 19, Saturday
0900 Pushed GANNET away from basin wall. Reached back, turned Torqeedo throttle. Engine died. Error 32. I had repeatedly tested the motor during the week and had successfully turned it on and put it in gear a half hour earlier.
One of the often overlooked virtues of jib furling gear is that you can quickly get under sail when your bleeping motor dies. I unfurled the jib. Fortunately the light wind was from the northeast and I could ghost out the narrow boat yard channel on a reach and then turn south on a run for the channel out to the sea.
After clearing the now always open bridge, I had a little space and set the tiller pilot to steer while I disconnected and re-connected the tiller arm. The engine whimsically decided to run and I continued down the channel at three knots under jib and Torqeedo. The Torqeedo was useful when at several places the wind was blocked by buildings.
Past the last of the channel markers I turned south and raised the main. About this time the Torqeedo died again, but it did not matter. I got us under full sail, removed and stowed the offending motor, outboard bracket, fender and dock lines.
East wind was forecast and I had planned to sail south to Sombrero Light and deep water beyond the reef before tacking. However thus far the wind has remained NNE and we are sailing close hauled on port tack at five knots inside the reef up what is called Hawk Channel on a course of about 070º that should take us into deep water in another ten or fifteen miles. This is just as well because the depthfinder is not working. It shows depths of 2.0 and 2.1 feet. When against the boat yard wall I thought this was accurate. It isn’t here where we are in 20’-30’. This, too, won’t matter when we pass into the Florida Straits and hundreds and thousands of feet of water, until the last few miles into Skull Creek where I will have to pay close attention to our position on iNavX.
day’ run 12 miles COG 076º SOG 5.2 knots
Hilton Head Island 452 miles (straight line crossing land; not accurate) 001º
Overcast day. Heeled 20º under full sail. Small waves. Just leapt off one. Taking water over the bow, but so far only a little spray making it to the companionway. Wind remains about ten knots from the NNE.
1330 A half an hour ago the wind veered to the east and our course changed from 076º to 135º-140º, taking us over the edge of the reef into the Florida Straits. On the chartplotter—I am looking at iSailor at present—the depth of water under us went from 25’ to 200’ in five minutes.
Sport fishing boat nearby,
Sun not quite burning through overcast.
I’m wearing the new Gill foul weather parka.
Pulling spray hood up over the companionway but not fastening the sides each time I come below.
1630 GANNET was heeled over 30º and pounding too much so I partially furled the jib and put a reef in the mainsail. As often happens, the ride smoothed out some and our speed increased, though we are still occasionally thudding off waves.
The jib has foam along the luff to cause it to keep better shape while partially furled. This is common but I have never before had such foam. I noticed when furling the sail at dock that it makes starting the initial wrap difficult. This afternoon with wind in the sail, it made it impossible until I led the reefing line to a winch. I’ve used winches to reef jibs on other boats. This was the first time on GANNET.
The reefed sails have good shape. The first reef on the main is deep, just as I want.
We sailed on port tack to the hundred fathom line, where I tacked to starboard where we are holding a course around 030º, which is taking us back toward the reef. When we near the outer edge in a hour or so, I’ll tack back out to sea. We are going a knot faster on starboard than port. Perhaps the current is more with us.
I don’t yet know what I will do tonight, when tacking means also moving my bedding and food bags and the inflatable dinghy. If the wind would veer another 40º, I wouldn’t have to.
1810 Tacked a mile off Alligator Reef Light at last light. Wind has backed ENE, exactly what I do not want. We are making 110º-120º on port tack.
Have seen only a few sport fishing boats and one tug pulling a barge west passing a mile north of me.
1910 The masthead tri-color light is not working. I tested this in the boat yard and it was.
A few days ago two riggers came to bring the masthead Raymarine unit down and to fix the steaming light, which as I assumed only needed a new bulb. The man who went to the masthead mistook his instructions and did something to the masthead light before his partner corrected him. Earlier today I noticed a small loop, like a wire, I did not understand at the masthead. Perhaps the rigger did not reconnect whatever he mistakenly removed,
The masthead anchor light does work. It is part of the same fitting as the tri-color.
I removed wires at the electrical panel, switched, recrimped. All while GANNET was leaping off waves going to windward. No tri-color.
The deck running lights are working, but they are difficult to see, so we are sailing under the masthead anchor light. If any ship sees it, they well may wonder, but at least it is visible.
January 21, Sunday
0830 A very rough night. I slept, to the extant I slept at all, in my foul weather gear. Heeled so far over it was difficult to wedge myself on the pipe berths and there was a lot of noise as GANNET slammed into waves and waves slammed into her. I dozed some and at 0400 moved to Central where I dozed some more sitting up.
At 2300 I went on deck and furled the jib down to about ⅓. A cruise ship was a mile to the north and lights of several other ships to the south, so I tacked to starboard. Our SOG jumped from 5 knots to 7 and 8. The highest reading I saw was 8.8. Obviously caused by the Gulf Stream, which was this time carrying us in the right direction as it wasn’t at the end of the passage from St. Lucia last May.
On starboard tack we cleared the reefs without having to tack again.
I decided the masthead anchor light is not a good idea. A ship seeing it would think it a stern light when we could be moving toward her. So I turned on the deck running lights that at least cause reflections on the water. I turned on the anchor light from time to time to read the wind angle on the Windex.
At first light I went on deck and furled the jib down to storm jib size. The wind had at last veered enough so I could ease sheets and we are sailing on a close reach. Still taking a lot of water over the bow, but not leaping from waves.
At 0730 I saw the skyline of Miami through haze eight or nine miles to the west. I’d like to stay about this far off shore until West Palm Beach where the coast makes a gradual curve to the west and we can fall off another 10º-15º even if the wind doesn’t veer to the southeast as forecast.
I estimate the wind has been 18 knots, gusting low 20s.
No one else out here this morning.
day’s run 109 miles (straight line distance to noon yesterday, crosses land; GANNET sailed farther.)
COG 004º SOG 6.6
Hilton Head Island 361 miles (accurate) 353º
Wind has eased and veered to the east. Easy sailing on a beam reach. After last night, easy is attractive.
I’ve unfurled the jib, will unreef the main if our speed drops below 6 knots. Removed foul weather gear.
Sun breaking through. High rise buildings visible to the west. We are still eight miles offshore.
1500 Instead of veering southeast as forecast, the wind has backed northeast and GANNET is again plowing into waves. I’m glad I didn’t unreef the main. Trying to smooth and dry out the ride, I have just furled the jib back down to storm jib size and we are still making 6.5/7 knots.
January 22, Monday
0900 Last night and the night before couldn’t have had greater contrast. Saturday night was an ordeal. Heeled far over. Lurching and bashing into and off of waves. Last night was smooth, almost level, nearly silent, and fast.
After listening to the Patriots/Jaguars game on radio and eating NZ freeze dry beef and pasta hotpot accompanied by two tumblers of boxed red wine, I retired to the starboard pipe berth at 2100 and almost immediately fell into a deep sleep, waking two hours later not knowing momentarily where I was. I woke several more times, briefly looked around, once seeing the loom of lights from a ship to the east, and got up for good again at 0400, by which time I’d had more than eight hours sleep. The wind had backed slightly and our SOG was below 7 knots, so I completely unfurled the jib.
We are presently just north of Cape Canaveral and thirty-miles offshore. We’ve continued to sail north. The land has fallen away from us. With the boost from the Gulf Stream we are going to have a fine day’s run of more than 180 miles noon to noon and with less than 200 miles to go.
The forecast before I left predicted that today would be the most pleasant this week. Assuming the forecasts continue unchanged this wind will die tomorrow and be replaced by north wind, becoming strong Wednesday and Thursday. So I will enjoy today.
29º ’N 80º05’W
day’s run 185 COG 350º SOG 7.8
Hilton Head Island 168 miles 351º
Assisted by the Gulf Stream, GANNET has just completed her best noon to noon run ever. Her previous best was 180 miles almost a year ago, also current assisted, then the Agulhas.
These were effortless miles.
Life on GANNET beating to windward, as unfortunately we may soon be doing if the forecasts I saw before leaving Marathon prove valid, is hard. Every instant, day and night, awake and sleeping, when that is possible, wedged and braced. Every act, from making a cup of coffee to using the piss pot, planned acrobatics. Two-thirds of Thomas Hobbes’ description of life of man in nature: nasty and brutish. Not short.
Life on GANNET yesterday and today reaching north under sunny sky and moderate waves is easy and joyful.
I moved the Hilton Head waypoint from Skull Creek Marina, my ultimate destination on the northeast side of the island, to an approach buoy in the ocean on the southeast side.
I heard on the radio that the government has shut down. I hadn’t noticed.
1430 Wind continues to back. I had to come up five degrees to keep the jib from being blanketed by the main, for now. Also put a preventer on the main to keep it from lifting and dropping with waves in the lighter apparent wind.
Sunny, pleasant afternoon. Perfect conditions for the past thirty hours appreciated. Becoming not quite perfect.
1645 Drinks—iceless gin and tonic—and music on deck this afternoon. A long missed pleasure. The universe is beyond imagination. Time is long and you are here only for a butterfly’s cough. Cherish any moment you can. I try to.
I turned on the Velocitek and saw SOGs of 7 and 8 knots. I looked over the side and saw water moving past the hull at what I would judge 5 or 6 knots. The current being with us would reduce that motion.
I sailed over RESURGAM yesterday. Or close. She was a great boat, but the memory of sinking her and the long swim more than twenty-seven years ago is distant, almost as though it happened to someone else, like someone you loved when young.
GANNET looks good to me on deck. There are two small tracks near the mast I never use and need to remove, but after 24,000 miles I think I have this figured out.
130 miles to the waypoint just off Hilton Head Island. A six knot average would see me in my slip at Skull Creek Marina by this time tomorrow. iNavX and iSailor show my ETA at the offshore buoy around noon tomorrow. I secretly harbor a hope of outrunning the wind shift. I would rather not suffer. We will see.
2030 Quarter moon reflecting silver on water.
We are sixty miles off St. Johns River. Yet we are alone. Millions on the shore and we have seen no one since before sunset Saturday off the Florida Keys.
January 23, Tuesday
0430 Up at 0400 as has become standard for this passage. We are 52 miles from the outer Hilton Head sea buoy and no longer in the Gulf Stream. SOG of 6.5 is all due to sail. Specifically the jib. The main has been down since an odd event at 2230.
I woke then to feel the jib flogging and went on deck to find the jib sheet and jib furling line wrapped together around the port winch. Fumbling in the dark, I couldn’t clear them. Ducked below for a headlamp and was finally able to. I do not understand how that tangle happened.
The wind had backed directly astern. The main was blocking the jib, so I lowered it, and then gybed the jib. Going back below, I remained on the starboard pipe berth.
The wind has increased. Perhaps 16-18 knots from the SSW. Light rain. I got up when a gust heeled us over far enough so that the food bags on the port berth fell on me.
Sitting here in foul weather gear, drinking grapefruit juice, waiting for dawn.
1100 Twelve miles to go to sea buoy, nineteen to the corner of the island.
Strong wind earlier had us surfing at 10+ knots under deeply furled jib and reefed main. A container ship was visible a few miles to the north, seemingly stationary. Finally she moved away or we did. In either case, she disappeared.
Wind still on the beam, but less strong. Our SOG was dropping below 6, so I unfurled the jib and unreefed the main. Now back to 6 and 7, but thick fog. Visibility less than a quarter mile. No good. Particularly with no depthfinder.
day’s run 163 miles COG 340º SOG 6.2
Hilton Head sea buoy 6 miles
I never dreamed we could be here in three days. I seriously underestimated the Gulf Stream and I should know better. After I sank RESURGAM I had a day’s run of more than 120 miles with no boat at all.
Sun has yet to burn off the fog. Visibility perhaps a quarter mile.
I have dragged the anchor and rode bag from the bow to near the forward hatch. I will be happy to anchor for the night if necessary in Port Royal Sound.
I will lower the main as we near the sea buoy and partially furl the jib to reduce speed as we try to feel our way into the sound.
1900 I anchored at 1700, just before sunset here in Port Royal Sound seven miles from GANNET’s slip at the Skull Creek Marina.
The fog remained dense until after we passed the sea buoy. I heard it, but could not see it at a distance of two hundred yards as shown on the chartplotting apps. My eyeglasses kept getting wet and needed wiping. Without a working depthfinder, if I had not had GPS chartplotting, I would have had no choice but to turn back out to sea. I was switching between iNavX and iSailor, but as we continued in, the sun finally burned through and by the time we reached the third set of buoys, I could see the length of Hilton Head Island.
I knew from the AyeTides app that the tide was running against us. While the wind remained on or just forward of the beam, it was gusty. Sometimes less than ten knots. Sometimes near twenty. I had lowered the main at the sea buoy and was rolling and unrolling the jib like a venetian blind. Too much sail and we rolled onto our beam, too little and we sagged off toward leeward shoals. I hand steered the last two hours, engaging the tiller pilot, which couldn’t keep up with too rapidly changing forces, only when I had to let out or reduce the jib. Sailing to windward with jib alone often results in significant lee helm. I know that and compensate. Tiller pilots don’t.
Just inside the mouth of the sound, the ebbing tide and gusting wind stalled us. For an hour we sailed and sailed and sailed and made little progress.
In a lull I wrestled the anchor and rode bag on deck and in another lull as sunset neared, let the anchor go in about 40’ of water according to iNavX.
Assuming I can get a Torqeedo started tomorrow morning with the tide with us and hopefully with less gusty wind, we will reach our slip, though we will have to sail the first four miles.
January 24, Wednesday
0830 Anchor up Port Royal Sound. Fortunately I remembered a pair of waterproof grip gloves I bought to handle the anchor rode, but almost never use. The temperature was in the low 40sF and the water cold. My hands were already numb. The gloves helped considerably.
I knew from the AyeTides app the the tide had just turned and was with us. I had already put the new Torqeedo on the transom and started it, but the seven miles to the marina is pushing its range too close to the limit, so I raised the jib and tried to tack up the sound against six or seven knots of wind. Even with the tide’s help, we weren’t making much progress, so I raised the main and GANNET began making 5 and 6 knots.
When we could lay the green marker at the south entrance to Skull Creek, I lowered the main and when it was a half mile distant, put the Torqeedo in gear and furled the jib.
Coming into Skull Creek for the first time was beautiful. A sunny sky. Wind light. Mansions along the shore. A flock of birds standing on a sand spit off the Pickney Island Nature Reserve to the north. A dolphin broke the surface and came and swam companionably beside GANNET. A pelican glided past.
I had telephoned the marina that I would be coming in this morning. They were on the lookout for me and as I slowly approached, Fred, the dock master, called that he would walk down to help with my lines. He did, standing first on the end of the dock, then going to my slip. I glided in. Tied up at 1030 and thanked him.
I looked ashore at our condo.
GANNET is home. She has never really had a home port. Now she does.
Days runs to noon
January 20 12