Monday, October 22, 2018

Skull Creek: Saint Michaels, Maryland, to Hilton Head Island sail journal

        Below are the journal entries for the sail from Saint Michaels, Maryland to Hilton Head Island.
        People simplistically divide all sailors into racers or cruisers.  I have long refused to be either.  When once asked what then am I, I replied, “A sailor.”
        I do not consider Saint Michaels to Hilton Head a passage, so this is not a passage log.  However, it was definitely a sail.
        I have included early journal entries that have already been posted because I believe the experience should be considered as a whole.
        There are also some videos.  I am not sure when I will upload them.  Possibly tomorrow.

October 9, Tuesday
Chesapeake Bay:  underway

At 11:40 am GANNET and I are sailing at 1.4 knots in about that much wind about five miles from the Chesapeake Maritime Museum dock from which I cast off at 9:30.

I enjoyed Saint Michaels and the Museum, but I must confess to an instinctive pleasure as we cleared the dock.

We powered in flat calm for an hour.  Once we cleared the outer shoal in the channel, I cut the Torqeedo and we have sailed.  Sort of.

In another mile we can turn WSW and nine miles later, if we make it that far today, south.

It is good to be underway.  One of the few things of which I am certain is that you don’t get closer to your destination tied to the dock.

The Yellowbrick is active, sending up positions at six hour intervals.  I sent one manual about the time we left,

The tracking page is:

38º52’N    76º14’W
day’s run 5 miles   COG   347º   SOG   0.8

Sunny.  Becalmed.

4:30 Anchored .7 of a nautical mile offshore in 14’ of water.  Almost no wind all day.  We sailed 2 knots at most and that only briefly.  SOG generally less than 1 knot.  I was going to try to sail until 5:00 pm but the wind died completely a half hour ago when we were in 50’ of water, so I slowly Torqeedoed us into 15’.

Even though we are completely exposed here, it is as smooth as any good anchorage.  I doubt there will be any wind tonight.  If enough blows to wake me, I’ll sail.

Day’s run:  9 miles.

I brought the Torqeedo battery below and am charging it.

I’m going on deck to sip something and listen to music.

October 10, Wednesday
Chesapeake Bay

I woke several times during the night and there was always light wind,  No waves.  GANNET comfortable.  At 3:30 AM I got up, put the fully charged battery back on the Torqeedo shaft, tilted the shaft out of the water, raised the anchor which came up clean, and set sail.

We covered a mile at 1.5 knots before the wind died.  We drifted for a half hour before it returned, again from the south and are now actually sailing for the first time since leaving the dock yesterday.  4.3 knots on a close reach down Eastern Bay, waiting for dawn.  Bow wave gurgling.

3:00 PM  I anchored an hour ago five miles up the Little Choptank River in about 11’ of water, depending on tides, which only range 2’ today.  I have out 120’ of rode to a well set Spade anchor, with good protection from the north and northwest, the directions from which the strongest wind is expected.

Ten knots of wind from the SSE came up late in the morning and I was able to sail all the way in and anchored under sail.  GANNET sails faster than she powers.

I expect to be here until at least Saturday, so I put the mainsail cover on, tied the tiller down, and after lowering the Torqeedo into the water and starting it to see if it would, I removed it and brought it below.

Low country with tall trees and a few scattered houses.  One large building I passed on the way in may be a condo.

Lots of birds, pelicans, terns, gulls.  No gannets.  And yesterday I saw a crab swimming.

I believe we sailed 29 miles today.

October 11, Thursday
Little Choptank River:  landlocked

Rain at dawn soon ended and 14 knot wind from the south has diminished to only a few knots.

Two commercial boats have been moving about.  One dropped a trap a hundred yards from GANNET this morning and lifted it a while ago.  I couldn’t see what if anything was in it.
Yesterday as I was sailing in one commercial boat cut close across GANNET’s bow and then the two men in it yelled at me that they were towing something.  A net or a dredge.  I had to change course and yelled back that they should have passed behind me, which they easily could have done.
I expect that some of the watermen, as they are known on the Chesapeake, resent ‘pleasure boaters.’  On GANNET they just see an old man sailing, but we know that I could do what they do, but they couldn’t do what I do, and I resent the arrogant and ignorant discourtesy.
There is what I think to be a duck blind off a point of land to the north.

I am landlocked.  Surrounded by complete overlapping 360º of land.  I know the way out and the overlap makes for a good harbor, though there is a several mile fetch to the SSW, but I will be glad to be back in the main part of the Bay, and even happier to be back in the Atlantic Ocean.

The strongest wind and rain is due between midnight and dawn.  Tomorrow’s wind is forecast still to be too strong for me to get out of this river, but if they are wrong, I will.  If not, Saturday morning.

A quiet day so far at anchor.  I’ve been reading and listening to a classical music station in Washington, D.C.

October 11, Thursday
Little Choptank River

5:40 PM.  I was sitting on deck until a few minutes ago, sipping a tequila and tonic and listening to music, but have been driven below by rain.

I tied a line around the clew of the jib so it can’t unfurl.

I put shock cords on the halyards in an attempt to prevent them rattling against the mast.

And I let out 30’ more feet of rode.  While I prefer to anchor on all chain, one of the advantages of mostly line rodes is that line is so easy to bring back in that I do not hesitate to let out more.  GANNET’s rode is 20’ of ¼” chain and 200’ of plaited nylon line, which I think has a breaking strength of 6000 pounds, enough to lift the little boat three times.
Hurricane Michael is due to pass 80 or 90 miles south around midnight.  That will be low tide, when GANNET will be in 10’ of water with 15-1 scope.  Being ultralight and with minimal windage she is easy on anchors.

The latest GRIB indicates we may have only 35-40 knot wind.

I like, perhaps even love, being on the water with a minimal membrane between me and the elements.  Tonight may test that some, but I don’t expect seriously.

The rain has increased and is pounding hard on the deck.

I finished my tequila and tonic and just poured one for my friend Michael who has developed an MRSA infection.  I had to google to learn what that is.  I am not under the delusion that life is just.  So I am going to drink his drink for and to him.

Prevail against injustice, Michael.

October 12, Friday
Little Choptank River: 

I went to sleep about 9 p.m.

Wind woke me at 3 a.m., gusting 37 knots and pushing GANNET around,  but there were no waves and she remained mostly level.  That was the highest wind I saw before I went back to sleep.

Sunny and continued windy this morning, gusting into the mid-20s.  If it decreases to be consistently below 20 knots, I’ll leave, even if late in the day and sail overnight.  If not, tomorrow morning.  The final mile or so out the river mouth will be a beat against this cold northwest wind.  Once out in the bay the wind will be behind me until sometime Sunday.

A friend who lives in the Outer Banks reports flooding and maximum wind of 82.  I don’t know if that is mph or knots.  Either way a lot of wind.
October 12,Friday
Little Choptank River

3:45 PM  The wind has finally decreased to 10-11 knots with no 20 knot gusts for the past half hour, but there are only about two hours of daylight left and it will take me one of those to get to the river mouth, so I am going to wait until tomorrow morning.

A sunny day, but the north wind is cold.  I am wearing Levis, two shirts and socks.  Tonight’s low will be in the 50ties.  I will sleep in the lightweight sleeping bag and use the heavier one as a blanket.

I brought in 60’ of rode and now have out 90’ which is more than enough in 10’-12’ of water and moderate wind.
I also removed the line securing the clew of the jib and the shock cords holding halyards away from the mast.

No watermen working the river today.

Quite a contrast with last night.

Accompanied by NZ freeze dry roast chicken and mashed potatoes, one of my favorite freeze dry meals, two gin and tonics—mine and Michael’s—Yo-Yo Ma’s third and allegedly last recording of the Bach Cello Suites and now Sona Jobarteh’s album, FASIYA.

I am now going to take Michael’s drink and stand in the companionway and watch the dying of the light.

Octobner 13, Saturday
Chesapeake Bay

I woke at 5 and got up.   Had orange juice and coffee while waiting for enough light to see, which didn’t come through a low overcast sky until almost 7.

I raised the anchor in light rain.  It was well buried and I had to pump the chain up and down over the bow roller several times before it broke free and came up with a lump of sandy clay.

We sailed off under mainsail with light east wind that stayed with us all the way down the river making for an easy exit with no tacks to clear the shoals at the river mouth.  I set the jib inside the river.  GANNET was sailing at 3 and 4 knots with the tide with her.

Several boats were working the river and more outside.
Light rain continued to fall intermittently.  I was dry and comfortable in foul weather gear and several layers of clothes.  I went to Levis and a fleece yesterday.

Not until 9 am could we turn south.

The sky continues overcast, but it is not raining at the moment.

The wind continues from the east, not the northwest as forecast.  About seven or eight knots and GANNET is making 5 and 6 on a port beam reach in smooth water.

I just ate a protein bar for breakfast.  There would have been no problem in preparing my normal uncooked oatmeal, but this late in the morning, I didn’t bother.

1:15 PM  Just before noon the wind backed to the northwest and quickly increased to 15-18 knots.  I gybed the sails and GANNET took off at 7 and , 8 knots, but the wind veered north enough so that the main was blanketing the jib and in danger of an accidental gybe, so I lowered the main and have continued under jib alone, which is now partially furled.

I had a couple of possible anchorages in mind and we are now headed for Cornfield Harbor just inside the north shore mouth of the Potomac River.  We couldn’t reach the others before dark and I don’t want to do another allnighter,

Broken clouds and some sunshine,

4:40 PM  I couldn’t get into the Cornfield Harbor.  When I made the turn into the Potomac the waves were too steep, like 4’ saw teeth, straight up and down, and the wind too strong.  They stopped us dead and poured over GANNET’s bow, so I have turned south and will run before the wind, which is suppose to diminish tonight.  If it does I might be able to anchor.  If not, I’ll go all night, thought I would rather not.

Mostly sunny now.

6:30 PM  About twelve hours to first light tomorrow morning.  We are making 5 and 6 knots under a jib furled to less than half size.  The wind is forecast to decrease significantly before midnight and be 5 knots from the south tomorrow.  On Monday it will  be gusting 25 knots from the southwest.

Assuming we make it through the night without running into anything or anything running into us, I will decide at dawn what to do next, depending on what the wind lets me do.  I have considered multiple alternatives.  All I am certain is that tomorrow I will be a tired old man.

8 PM  You may have noticed that I give the time here conventionally, where on passages I use 24 hour time.  I don’t quite know what this is, but it is not an ocean passage.  Generally, though not at the moment, I have cell phone and Internet connections.      This is not the monastery of the sea.

I do not know what the wind will do tonight, but I have a waypoint named ‘exit’ at the northern gap in the Chesapeake bridge/tunnel and iNavX showed an ETA there tomorrow morning.  I expect the wind will die tonight and that won’t happen, but I immediately fully unfurled the jib in hopes that it will.

8:30 PM  A lot of lights.  The red port light of a ship to the east heading north.  The green starboard light of a ship also to the east but coming down from the north.    And a cluster of white lights ahead on a ship whose direction I cannot determine.  In addition a flashing green on a buoy.  The first sliver moon.  And various lights on the shore.  Plus stars.  The night is clear.

October 14, Sunday
North Atlantic Ocean

Noon  36º58’N    075º55’W
day’s run 118 miles (from 7 a.m. yesterday tp noon today)

Becalmed nine miles west of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel  on the edge of the shipping lanes leading to the harbor   No COG  No SOG

We sailed smoothly through the night under jib alone.  I got a little sleep sitting at Central, but have been awake since 3 a.m. when I had to navigate through 
more than a dozen anchored ships waiting for dock space.

We passed through the northern bridge gap at 8 a.m.   I was very glad to be in the open ocean again.  But then the wind died.  We have only made 9 miles in the past four hours.

It comes and goes.  Is very light.  The tiller pilot can’t react to the vagaries and backs the jib.  I have tacked countless times.  In such light wind, the mainsail full battens catch on the backstay and every time I tack, I have to ease the main halyard until they can clear the stay and then tighten it again.

Naturally I am tired.  I’ve fallen asleep here at Central, but have to keep on the lookout for ships, of which five or six have entered the harbor this morning.

I just want to get away from here, but can’t.

4 p.m.   I sat in the cockpit for two hours, chasing fleeting breaths of wind and managed to get us south of the shipping channels

For the past twenty minutes we have had light but steady wind from the southwest and the tiller pilot has been able to steer without backing the jib.  Earlier once when I went on deck I tacked three times in one minute.  That includes partially lowering and then reraising the main after the battens cleared the backstay.

Unless the wind steadies more than I expect it willI, we will drift tonight.  I need sleep and am not going to get up endlessly to unback the jib.

A few scattered raindrops under low overcast most of the day, but the sky has cleared in the past hour and the sun is shining,

GANNET making 3.3 knots on a course of 172º .

October 15, Monday

10:00 AM  GANNET is more or less hove to.  Not because of bad weather, but because I am, or was,  exhausted.

We made better progress last night than I expected.  

I tacked us to head offshore at sunset and the wind remained steady enough for the tiller pilot to steer until 3 AM when I woke to find us heeling too much and went on deck to partially furl the jib and put a reef in the mainsail.  We continued that way until I got up at 7, furled the jib to a tee-shirt and tied the tiller down slightly to leeward.  We continue making a knot or 1.5 more or less east.

I went below and fell asleep at Central until 9 AM.  I feel better now, having had breakfast, shaved and brushed my teeth.

The wind from the SE or S is sometimes gusting 18, but at the moment only 13.  I may resume sailing, but the wind is forecast to go north tomorrow, giving us a run to Cape Hatteras and I may take the day off and wait for the change.  

Nice to have sea room.

36º22’N   75º19’W
day’s run   46 miles  COG 123º  SOG 1.8

I did try to sail.  We were making little progress, so I gave up and will wait for north wind.

I had us turned back toward the land, intending to head out to sea again at sunset.  But the jib just backed and we are heading out to sea now.  I will turn us west again soon,

I repaired a minor tear in the spray hood and tightened the backing line on the starboard aft lower shroud.  Also sponged a couple of cups of water from the bilge.

Sky mostly cloud covered, but with a few patches of blue and enough sun  to cast shadows.

6:30 PM  Sunset finds us making 1.6 knots toward the Outer Banks which are 14 miles away.  We were making 3 knots, which is more than I want, so I furled the jib even smaller.  I will turn us back out to sea when I retire to the pipe berth.

The wind after Michael last Friday was cold, as was the wind Saturday and the rain when I raised anchor, so I changed into Levis, a long sleeved shirt and a fleece jacket beneath my foul weather gear, even socks and a pair of fleece lined gloves Carol gave me.  In the low 80s in the Great Cabin today, so I shed all and am back to shorts and t-shirt.

We had gusts to 22 knots this afternoon.

Waiting for north wind, promised by NOAA radio today and all the sources I reviewed yesterday when I had an Internet connection,

October 16, Tuesday
North Atlantic Ocean

6:40 AM  Up twenty minutes ago.  Sun has brightened the sky to the east orange and peach and gold, but has yet to rise above the horizon,

Wind has veered WSW at twelve knots.  I quickly got us sailing under reefed main and partially furled jib at 5 knots to the south.  Pounding some.  I hope the wind continues to veer.

9:00 AM  Wind now on the beam.  I let out more jib.  Making 5-6 knots.  We could go faster, but would kick up more spray and be heeled beyond my comfort level.  Sky behind us dark gray.  Ahead lighter.

I turned GANNET out to sea when I retired to the starboard pipe berth at 8:00 PM.  (Because I don’t consider this a passage, I have kept time by normal shore time, rather than a 2400 clock during passages.  I’m not sure what this is, if not a passage, but it is something else.)

On the new course, the scrap of jib backed twice, causing me to go on deck and sort it out.  The second time I decided to furl the jib completely and see what happened.  I thought that perhaps with no jib, GANNET would fall too far off the wind, but she didn’t.  She continued nearly close hauled at 1 to 1.5 knots under reefed mainsail alone, which was an improvement.  With the scrap of jib as well as the mainsail, she had been making 2 to 2.5.

I woke several times during the night to look around, and once saw the lights of a ship well to the east, but always quickly got back to sleep.  Counting the naps I took, I had at least twelve hours sleep yesterday, and needed it,

9;25  Just as I finished writing the last entry, the wind instantly veered 90º from west to north, increased to 20 knots, and backed the sails.  I gybed the jib and lowered the main.  We continue on a very broad reach to a run under half furled jib alone.  Running backstay set.  The seas haven’t caught up with the wind and are still coming from the west.

35º51’N    75º20’W
day’s run   31 miles (hove to)  COG  182º  SOG  5.1

We seem to be encountering adverse current.  Our SOG is less than GANNET seems to be sailing and the waves are atypically steep.  

Sunshine a half hour ago has been lost behind total low cloud cover.

46 miles to waypoint off Cape Hatteras

We left St. Michaels a week ago today.  It does not seem that long ago.

5:40  Loreena McKennitt singing.  NZ freeze dry Pasta Vegetariano steeping.  Most of a gin and tonic drunk.  GANNET sailing south at 6 and 7 knots on a beam reach.  Hazy blue sky.  Sun a half hour from setting.  Cape Hatteras twelve miles to the WSW.

About an hour ago I was surprised by email notifications on my iPhone.  I was about ten miles off of the Outer Banks and had acquired cell phone coverage.  I sent an email to Carol, downloaded a GRIB and checked other weather sites.  Disappointingly they told me we are again going to be headed by the wind around midnight.

Being headed with only the jib set for following wind leaves few desirable options, so I partially furled the jib and raised the still reefed mainsail.  The wind has veered far enough so we are on a beam reach with no risk of an accidental gybe.  The result:  GANNET began sailing beautifully with an extra knot or two of speed,

I stood in the companionway for a while, playing Russian roulette with waves that were not quite coming on board.  These are not open ocean waves.    Shorter, steeper.  Ten miles offshore I am in 70’ of water.  These waves are interesting, but I love the grandeur of the open ocean with thousands of feet of water beneath me.

I do not like what I am seeing from the GRIB, which is not what I am hearing from NOAA weather radio, though the station I can now get doesn’t give forecasts for waters south of Hatteras.

We have 14 miles to go to the waypoint off Cape Hatteras where we make the turn to the southwest for  Hilton Head Island, 300 miles distant.  If this wind held I’d be there before Thursday sunset.  It won’t.

8:00 PM  The wind has died almost completely.  SOG 2.2 knots.  I can see Cape Hatteras light  nine miles to the west and three miles north of us.  We still have five miles south to clear the Diamond Shoals.

October 17, Wednesday
North Atlantic Ocean

7:15  AM  I went to sleep last night after writing the last entry.  I woke at 9:30 PM to find we had passed the Diamond Shoals waypoint and could turn from south to SSE.  The wind was light and behind us, so I had to set a course higher than the next waypoint off Lookout Shoal. GANNET was sailing level.

At midnight the wind went very light and variable.  The sky to the east lit up with lightning, though far enough away I did not hear thunder.

 I chased the wind until 2;15 AM when I gave up, furled the jib, tied down the tiller and brought the tiller pilot below.

At 6 AM still in complete darkness I found us heading back north and toward land.  The wind which had been south, now northwest.

I took the tiller pilot out, got us pointed in the right direction, and set some jib, in addition to the reefed main I had left up.

The waves are not big, but we were pounding off too many of them, so I just reduced the jib, making 4 to 5 rough, wet knots more or less in the right direction.  Complete low cloud cover,

34º42’N   076º08’W
day’s run  86 miles   COG  221º  SOG  5.4
Skull Creek Marina 274 miles

A continued gloomy day, but the sailing has been smoother than I expected.  We are making 5 to 6 knots on a beam reach without taking water into the cabin or pounding off waves.  Several times I have let out more or taken in more of the jib.  About to let out more.

1 PM  Full sail set.  I completely unfurled the jib a half hour ago and just removed the reef from the main.

Clearing sky.  About half blue.  Seeing SOG of 6-7 knots.

1:35 PM  Blue sky did not last long.  Almost complete cloud cover again,

3:00 PM  Odd day.  Again mostly sunny. 

4:30 PM  Wind has dropped to 4 and 5 knots.  Our SOG to 2.8 knots.

5:30  PM  The light wind has veered to the stern, causing the main to blanket the jib and causing me to lower the main, and has now caused me to gybe the jib to port.  I haven’t checked our SOG but it must be 2 at best.

Gray sky; gray sea.  Multiple levels of clouds.

We have also had an invasion of insects of several species.  We are twelve miles from land.  By their dimensions this is thousands of miles.  What would they be doing out here if GANNET had not chanced by?  They are slow and easy to kill, which I do.

About to heat water for my yet undecided freeze dry feast.

Eva Cassidy singing on the Boom 2s.   

Not sailing.  Just flopping around. 

6:30 PM  An odd sky and odd sunset.  Bands of peach and gold to the west and the east, but to the southwest the sun’s reflection on the lower sides of clouds turns them blood red fading to rust in uneven facets as though from a cut diamond,

We are becalmed.  I hear on NOAA radio weather of winds tonight of 25 knots from the north, but the forecast area is also north of us.

I expect change,  I hope for change,  Being becalmed is not what life is all about.

October 18, Thursday
North Atlantic Ocean

9:00 AM  I got what I wished for.  Even more.  And a fiasco that could have become serious.

Wind returned by 9 last evening, but from forward of the beam.  Not desirable under jib alone, but I expected it to veer to the north and it did.  I partially furled the jib.

By 11 PM the wind was 20-25 knots and GANNET was spinning too rapidly for the tiller pilot, so I furled the jib further.

A few hours later GANNET was again moving too fast, so I went to furl the jib down to a scrap.  Waves were 6’ and steep as one would expect with wind against Gulf Stream.  When I attempted to furl the jib, it began to flog and wrapped itself around the headstay so I could neither furl it in or let it out.  I was wearing foul weather gear and, reluctantly, went to the bow to try to untwist the sail by hand.  I couldn’t with one hand.  I had to hang onto the pulpit with the other.  I crawled back to the cockpit.  All this time the sail was constantly violently jerking the headstay, the entire rig.  By alternately playing the furling line and the jib sheet in and out, I managed to get the sail to unfurl before it brought down the mast.  I then furled it to tee-shirt size and we continued on.

I did not look at my watch when I first went up on deck, but the drama was over at 3:30 AM and I had trouble getting back to sleep.

Wind continues at 20-22 knots from the NNE, but is decreasing.  I am seeing some readings of 18 and 19 knots.

I heard a forecast from NOAA Wilmington.  While it does not extend as far as Hilton Head Island, it is bad news.  Wind decreasing today.  Going south tomorrow.  Then southwest.  And on Saturday being west at 20-25 knots, gusting 30.

We should be off Hilton Head Island on Saturday, but won’t be able to enter Port Royal Sound in that wind.  I don’t know when we will get in.

Mostly sunny with some high clouds.  The ride is mostly smooth, but every once in a while a wave slams into GANNET like a hammer.

33º35’N    077º34’W
day’s run   98 miles   COG  209º   SOG  3.7
Skull Creek Marina   180 miles

The wind is now showing 15-19 knots and has backed directly astern.  I just gybed the jib to starboard in an effort to keep it filled as we cross the outer edge of Frying Pan Shoals about where we crossed going north a few weeks ago  The waves are steep.  Currently we are in 70’ of water.  We may get into depths of only 38’.  

Today is a lot like the day I passed Cape Hatteras going north.  Sunny.  Mostly light blue sky.  Dark blue white crested sea.  This time the wind is behind us and that makes all the difference.

5:00 PM  Wind still 15 to occasionally 19.  I have twice let out more jib.  Now perhaps half furled.  SOG 5-6 knots.  Waves down to 3’-4’.  Earlier some 6’+.  I thought they would become higher as we passed over Diamond Shoals, but they decreased.  153 nautical miles to a waypoint at the outer channel buoy into Port Royal Sounds.  Bearing 241º.  I’d like to get as many of those miles sailed as possible before we are headed by SW wind and then stronger west wind.  There has been considerable static on the NOAA radio weather transmissions and I have yet to hear one clearly for these waters.

7:00 PM  Gybed the jib to port board reach.  As all too often the wind is blowing directly from astern of the course we would like to sail.  So we have to sail either too high or too low.  If the wind clocks as forecast, we will in this instance have better wind angles by sailing too low and farther offshore.

October 19, Friday
North Atlantic Ocean

9:00 AM  A smooth, easy sailing night under jib alone.  I left us on a port very broad reach until 5 AM when I gybed to starboard, putting us directly on the rhumb line to the waypoint off Port Royal Sound.  Now 75 miles ahead.  The wind is 13 knots and still from the NE.  We are 35 miles ESE of Charleston, but unable to get NOAA radio, so we will continue sailing as we are until the wind changes and we can’t.  Our present ETA to the Port Royal Sound is 11:00 PM.  Low cloud covered sky with a few small blue patches.  Silver gray sea.  3’ waves.  Three small flying fish in cockpit this morning.

32º26’N   079º26’W
day’s rub  116 miles   COG 241º  SOG 5.5
Port Royal Sound channel  61 miles   251º

Wind continues NE  10-12 knots.  Cloud cover complete.  Barometer high and steady.

I gybed to port, trying to keep the jib from collapsing but may soon gybe back.

Ever since Cape Hatteras we have been sailing against the Gulf Steam, but its effect has been negligible.  Our SOGs have been what I think GANNET is sailing.  If the Gulf Stream is slowing us, it is doing so at only .5 knot or less.

3:00 PM  Wind continues from the NE at about 10 knots.  Raining out to sea.  Clearer over the land to the west.

 I finally got weather from NOAA Charleston.  The forecast continues to be for wind from the NE, veering SE, S, SW and then west, being tomorrow 10-15 knots from the west, which should be fine for entering Port Royal Sound.

7:00 PM  A gray world.  Sky.  Sea.  A few post-sunset shades of salmon and white,  

The wind has gone very light,  Less than 5 knots.  The surface of the sea glassy. i listen to music, sip from a plastic, and glide on,

October 20, Saturday
North Atlantic  Ocean

Midnight.  The wind has veered east and is less than five knots.  Half moon.  Silver flat sea.  We are making 3 knots with 20 miles to go and an ETA at the entrance channel waypoint of 7 AM.  I considered raising the main, but don’t think it would add much and the timing for reading the entrance channel is right.

2:30 AM Wind veering.  Now south.  I just set mainsail.  On a port close reach.

4:30 AM  By 3:00 we were close hauled on port tack and being forced toward a shoal marked on the chart as St. Michael’s Breakers.  Why a saint has breakers, I do not know.  I tacked away at 4:00 and partially furled the jib.

Lights of several fishing boats were ahead of us out to sea.  I couldn’t tell how far, but they were not close and as we sailed toward them at 4.5 knots did not seem to become closer.

The moon having set, the sky was clear and starry.  Orion was high overhead.

I drank a bottle of orange juice and watched GANNET’s progress.  The waypoint was 4.5 miles abeam.  Normally this would be close enough with first light not until about 6:30, but I did not want the veering wind to head us even more and increase.

5:10.  I made myself wait until 5:00 to tack.  We are now again close hauled on port tack heading directly for the outermost entrance channel buoys.

7:30  Dawn a few minutes ago found us two hundred yards from the entrance channel buoys.  I sailed between them, crossed to just outside the green buoy, and turned north.  Although there are shoals that must be avoided, GANNET’s 4’1” draft does not require her to be in the channel itself.

The wind is 16-18 on the beam as are 3’-4’ waves.  With eased sheets, GANNET is making 6-8 knots.

Sky clear pale blue.

Eight miles before we reach the mouth of Port Royal Sound, then a turn to the NNW for five more miles to the mouth of Skull Creek.

8:30  The edge of Hilton Head Island is abeam.  We are in Port Royal Sound.  The worst that can happen now is that the Torqeedo can’t power us against strong wind blowing directly out of Skull Creek and I’ll have to anchor to wait it out.

An odd thing happened on the way in.  Actually twice.

GANNET was sailing on a steady course steered by the tiller pilot.  Two roughly 40’ power boats came out of the sound a half hour apart,  both cutting diagonally across the channel which with their minimal draft is of no significance to them, both making 20+ knots, both on collision courses with GANNET.  Neither ever deviated a degree.  In both instances, I had to disengage the tiller pilot and change course to avoid them.  Both cut directly across our bows, less than twenty yards away, throwing up waves that slammed into us.

For those who may not know, GANNET under sail had right of way.  These were not deep draft ships confined to a channel.  In fact none of us were in the shipping channel.

I do not have an explanation for their behavior.

10:00  Smooth water in the sound.  GANNET is making 3 to 5 knots under mainsail alone on a close reach in wind 15-18 knots, occasionally gusting 20-22.

I furled the jib and let the mainsail out perpendicular to the center line to slow us so I could fit the Torqeedo, which started as it should.

The tide is due to change at noon.  So we will have the weakest of the ebb against us for an hour.  I won’t know if the Torqeedo can power us into Skull Creek until I lower the main, and I am uncertain of what her range will be in those conditions, so I’m am going to sail until we are right at the mouth of the Creek.

A nice sunny morning with the temperature in the 70s.

A kite boarder is enjoying the 20 knot gusts, whizzing back and forth close to Hilton Head Island’s Dolphin Head.

Noon.  GANNET is in her slip.

I started the Torqeedo and lowered and furled the main just off the green and red buoys marking the entrance into Skull Creek and then increased the throttle until the Velocitek showed us making 2.8 knots.

I am beginning to know these waters.  It would be possible to sail into Skull Creek even against the wind, but it would mean many, many short tacks.

I like Skull Creek.  A few birds were on the Pickney Island shore.  A dolphin rose lazily to port.   A few small power boats were anchored fishing.  A 35’ ketch powered past with reefed mainsail set.  We exchanged waves.

I put out fenders and dock lines.

The wind would be blowing on GANNET’s starboard beam as we docked.

I checked the Torqeedo battery level frequently.  It was dropping rapidly, but we didn’t have far to go.  

The remaining charge when we reached the slip was 56%, but I had been using higher RPMs than usual to push against wind and tide.

As I approached the marina and turned into C Dock, I saw Fred, the dock master, wave from my slip.  I had not called ahead, so he must have seen me and came down to take the dock lines.  He is a good man.

I cut the Torqeedo.  Glided into the slip.  Handed Fred the bow line.  Secured the stern line myself.  Shook his hand and we talked a bit.