Friday, April 30, 2021

Hilton Head Island: out and back log


Here is the out and back log.  It is not a passage log, because a loop is not a passage.

The photos are of dawn two days before we reached Hilton Head and during the last night sailing along the coast.

April 19, 2021, Monday

North Atlantic Ocean

0830  Pushed GANNET out of her slip.  Had to use some reverse after I stepped aboard with 8 knot NNW wind pushing us sideways.  A sunny, pleasant morning.  Blue sky with a few high clouds.

I used the Torqeedo for a half a mile until the channel curved to the northeast where I set the jib and cut the Torqeedo, removed it from the stern and stowed it.  I am always glad to have that completed and GANNET a pure sailboat again.

A small cruise ship passed us heading south.  There were no passengers in sight.  And a 40’ sailboat was under power behind us.

I made a FaceTime call to Carol near the mouth of Skull Creek.  It was a pleasure to see her and let her see GANNET’s surroundings.  That should be my last contact with the shore for a while.

Once in Port Royal Sound I raised the main and for a few minutes we were sailing at 5 and 6 knots, but when we gybed the wind was too far aft, the jib was collapsing, so I furled it and we continued down the sound under main alone, rolling on 2’ waves.  I had left at low tide so the tide was against us as we headed out and our SOG dropped to 3.5.  70º/21ºC, but cool enough so I am comfortable in Levis and a long sleeved shirt, which also have the virtue of sun protection.  With my left leg still partially bandaged after skin cancer removal, I’ll wear long pants until it becomes intolerably hot.


32º11’N   80º34’W

day’s run 10 miles.   COG 090º   SOG 5.5

distance to Bermuda   780 miles  bearing 091º

(this is measured to a waypoint west of the island)

barometer  1011   (this from the barometer in my iPhone which I have found never to vary by more than half a millibar from readings at official nearby stations.)

I gybed near the second to last outer channel marker, turning east across the edge of a shoal that showed depths in places of 7’.  I knew we were at half tide and sat on deck, hand steering and watching the depthsounder.  We did not see less than 10’ of water.

Once back into 20’ I unfurled the jib and we continue  east on a port broad reach at 5 to 6 knots, though with occasional 6.

We sailed farther then 10 miles to noon.  That is the straight line distance back to the slip.

1420  Wind is almost directly behind us at 10 knots.  Having had repeated failures of masthead wind instruments, the last one no fault of the instrument, but the rigger dropping it, I have for the present given up and wind speed will be estimates based on my slight experience.

We are rolling on low waves.  I partially furled the jib because it is collapsing.

The land is barely a smear on the western horizon.  Not surprising.  It is all low.  I have the ocean to myself on a sunny afternoon except for a powerboat heading south several miles inside of us.

I tied the lines at the aft and forward upper corners of the port lee cloth to length, though further adjustment will be needed once they are under load.  

I will start the night sleeping to port, but the wind is forecast to shift to the ESE after midnight, so I may have to move to starboard.

I still had cell phone coverage twenty minutes ago and was able to see that the Yellowbrick uploaded a position at 1800 GMT as it is supposed to.  I did a manual upload a little earlier.

Forward hatch partly open.  A pleasant breeze blowing in.

1640  The land disappeared an hour ago.  We are now sixteen miles offshore sailing under main alone.  The jib was collapsing too often, so I furled it.  We are still making 4.5-5.0 knots.  The wind is down to 8.

It has been an easy offing.  While we are rolling on small waves, no water has come on deck and I have been able to sort out small details, such as the lee cloth lines relatively easily.  I found that the snap shackle I used in the past would not fit into the underdeck u-bolt.  Finally I realized that is because I had the riggers in San Diego replace the line ties with wire and move the turnbuckles from the bottom to the top where they are now blocking the u-bolt.  So I will snap the lee cloth line to the turnbuckle itself.

I have charged Boom 2 speakers, read some poetry and am about to pour a bit of Plymouth gin and have the pleasure of sipping and listening to Bach on deck. 


1835  Dinner of AlpineAire’s Creamy beef with noodles and mushrooms, which was new to me and quite good when I finally got to eat it.  I was interrupted by a sail change.  

The wind had gone too light to keep the main full and it was collapsing and refilling with a crash several times a minute, so, assuming the last forecast I saw this morning is correct and the wind is going to go SSE after midnight and be gusting 20 tomorrow, I gybed to meet it, lowered the main, and unfurled the jib.

This also meant gybing bedding and Avon dinghy and food bags below deck.  I did.  And then adjusted the lee cloth lines on the starboard berth.  

Better to do all this now than at 0200 and I didn’t even spill a plastic of boxed cabernet sauvignon I had just poured.

I then finished my feast.

All this accompanied by Bach harpsichord concertos.  And a few flying insects that somehow are twenty miles from land.

1915  This is so good.  To be heading out.  To be leaving the land behind.  To be on this little boat with everything to sustain life for weeks, months.  The beauty, the purity of the open ocean.  Even if it is only a loop out and back, I am heading out. 

April 20, Tuesday

North Atlantic Ocean

0900  Last night was as unpleasant as yesterday was pleasant.

First the wind went very light and we rolled around.  Even with a preventer the main was making too much noise as the wind was rolled from the sail, so I lowered it and we continued on a close reach under jib alone, expecting the wind to back to the southeast as forecast.

I got into the port pipe berth at 2030 and dozed intermittently.  

At 2300 I woke and found us sailing smoothly.  When I stood in the companionway I found the jib backed and the wind from the northeast at 8 knots.  I put on foul weather gear and a headlamp and went on deck and raised the main.  We were sailing east close hauled at 5 knots. Down below I decided to go back up and put a reef in the main.  I did.  Water was coming over the deck, so I disengaged the tiller pilot, tied down the tiller, and took the tiller pilot below.

We have continued under jib and reefed main, though I was up several more times to further furl the jib when we began pounding too hard off waves.  At present we are making 3.5 knots about 130º.  Partially sunny.  High clouds.  Barometer has risen 5 millibars.

I’ve been on deck and tacked three times this morning without being able to achieve any improvement.

The main halyard clutch is slipping worse than in the past.  When the wind is from starboard I can lead the halyard from the winch to a cleat.  When, as now, it is from port I can’t.  I bought a thicker halyard, but it won’t fit in the clutch.  Perhaps this one has stretched and is narrower than it was or perhaps the teeth in the clutch are worn.  Nothing I can do about it now.


31º42’N   79º11’W

day’s run   78 miles   COG  085º   SOG  5.5

to Bermuda   710 miles

barometer   1016

Instead of veering SE the wind has backed NE.  We were sailing east relatively smoothly, but in the last few minutes the wind has increased and we are pounding off some two and three foot waves.  I will have to go on deck and change something.

With the tiller tied down our course and speed vary considerably.  The COG...

1250  GANNET began crashing off waves and I had to stop the above and go on deck.  From the shape of the waves it was obvious that we are in the Gulf Stream with wind against current.  I tried reducing the size of the jib, adjusting the main traveler.  They brought us to a stop, so I decided to back the jib and heave to and await a change.  When I did to my surprise we began making 6 knots to the NE with the jib backed.  Obviously being carried by the Gulf Stream.  That is much better and easier on boat and crew than we had been doing.  We continue and we continue to await change.

What I was interrupted from saying is the the COG and SOG are estimated averages made after watching sometimes wildly varied readings for a while.

1630  A few drops of rain fell from low clouds an hour ago and now those clouds have disappeared and the sun is shining with a few high clouds.  The wind is lighter and we continue with the jib backed making 4 knots around 055º.  

I can go on deck without foul weather gear.

An area of high pressure was supposed to develop in this vicinity today, but the barometer has dropped two millibars since noon.  These are waters of change and I hope a change in wind direction is coming.

Bach early today.  Yo-Yo Ma’s, Six Evolutions, his third recording of the Cello Suites.

1900  I would like a quiet night.  I doubt I got four hours broken sleep last night.  But the wind has veered to the SE and is lighter, so I unbacked the jib and took a tiller pilot on deck, which is now steering.  We are making 5 knots around 080º.  I would like it to stay this way till dawn, but I expect change.  I hope it is not dramatic.

April 21, Wednesday

North Atlantic Ocean

0745  A pleasant morning.  We are making 6 knots east on a starboard beam reach. 

I slept deeply from 2000 to midnight last night when the wind decreased and veered to the SE.  I left the reefed main sheeted in because the wind was too light to keep it filled, unbacked the jib, and set the tiller pilot to steer.

We continued this way until 0400 when the wind died almost completely.  Somehow, probably with help from the Gulf Stream, the tiller pilot was able to keep us going, though GANNET was rolling considerably.

I saw the lights of a ship to the east at 0400 and a ship to the east when I got up at 0630.

The wind was then light and from the west.  I trimmed the jib and set our bow east both by the rising sun and the Velocitek, but when I went below and checked iSailor on my iPhone I found our COG to be 030º.  We were being carried north by the Gulf Stream faster than we were sailing east.  Back on deck I kept changing our heading until finally at around 130º by compass our COG in iSailor was around 090º.  This is a better wind angle anyway, bringing it onto the beam rather than almost astern.

Although the ship at dawn passed at a distance of several miles, long after it was gone the fumes from its engine reached me.


32º24’N   77º27’W

day’s run  98 miles     COG  090º    SOG  7.0

Bermuda   622

barometer   1012

Continued fine sailing with the wind on or just aft of the beam.  I am seeing some 8+ SOG.  12-14 knots of wind.  Three foot waves.  Dark blue white-capped ocean.  Scattered puffy white clouds, except for a dark line to the south where it may be raining.  I may have to lower the mainsail soon.  The tiller pilot is starting to have trouble keeping up.

My decision to wear long pants did not last long.  With some water coming over the bow, the forward hatch is closed and I was too hot in the cabin, so have changed to shorts.  The butterfly bandages are still in place.  The leg looks and feels fine.

This is the first passage that I have navigated solely using iSailor.  I think I have figured out how to do what I want to with it.

1245  Mainsail down.  Speed also down to 6-7 knots, but less of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

While I was lowering and securing the main and setting up a running back stay, the line of clouds to the south darkened deeply and a band of heavy rain passed ahead of us.

1710  Continued fine sailing, but the tiller pilot is working hard even with the jib furled two wraps.  14-16 knot wind. GANNET is rolling on waves and a little spray is coming on board.

I used a cup of water for a bath.  With some paper towels and a Wet One, I feel cleaner.

1915  GANNET continues to sail beautifully east.

I stood in the companionway briefly a while ago with a tumbler of Plymouth gin.  Years ago I gave a talk at the Plymouth Yacht Club.  This was before my appreciation of Plymouth gin and so I do not do homage at the distillery.

I am sitting on the starboard pipe berth and just glanced up at the white foaming crest of a wave on the leeward side of the hull.  Am I in the monastery of the sea?  I do not know.  Could I do this just by setting a distance, say a thousand miles out and then turn and work my way back in?  I do not know.  A passage is from one port to another, a problem to be solved by intelligence, experience, and body.

I am feeling my way in the dying part of my life.   I wrote:  as everyone must.  But then deleted because almost all just let their lives and deaths happen.

I am very glad to be out here.  To feel GANNET surging beneath me.  To see the sea, the sky, and no land.

Boxed sauvignon blanc in a plastic.  The music:  soundtrack of the movie THE HOSTILES.

Blue white foamed water rushing past when I look up.

2040  Too dark now, but I have watched the water flow past GANNET and there is a difference when sailing from one harbor to another rather than making a loop as I am now.  I will have to think about this.

April 22, Thursday

North Atlantic Ocean

0930  Just before first light—I don’t know the exact time; probably around 0600—the wind went north and backed the jib, heeling GANNET severely.  I untangled myself from the sleeping bag and found my foul weather gear, but couldn’t find one shoe.  I finally found my sea boots.  All this time the tiller pilot was hard over and its off course alarm beeping.  By the time I got to it, took the tiller, spun us in a circle, retrimed the jib, the tiller pilot was broken.  I went below and got another.

This took considerably longer than it takes to write about, during which considerable water got below.  Clothes, pillow, and sleeping bag wet, but not soaked.

In my foul weather gear I sat at Central and feel asleep.  I dozed off and on until an hour ago.  I have changed into damp clothes.  I have dry ones, but these will do, and drank two cups of coffee.  I have yet to eat my uncooked oatmeal.  I will after writing this. 

We are making 5-6 knots east under partially furled jib.  Wind still from the north.  The barometer has risen to 1017.  A high was forecast to form out here.  Perhaps it has.  North wind would be on the foreword side of a high in this hemisphere.  The sky is flecked with small white puffy clouds.  Almost like trade wind clouds.

I found my other shoe wedged beneath the port pipe berth.

Sometime this morning I bumped my leg.  A little blood is showing around the butterfly bandages.  

Also the spray hood ripped.  I have ordered a new one, but it will not be made until July.  I will try to duct tape the tear, but the hood is wet.


31º55’N   74º50’W

day’s run   137 miles    COG  090º    SOG   5.0

Bermuda   489 miles  bearing  090º

barometer   1018

At last a decent day’s run, but the wind has weakened in the past hour and I am about to set the mainsail.

I am tired and fell asleep again while reading at Central.

We may be beyond the Gulf Stream.

An hour ago we passed a mile north of a deep sea weather buoy shown on the chart, but I did not see it.  There is another more than two hundred miles ahead of us.

Looking at the chart of Bermuda there is a large ‘To Be Avoided Area’ west, north and east of the island.  I am likely not to sail around it, but turn back once the island is in sight.

1225   Mainsail set.  Speed 6 knots.

Velocitek and iSailor agree on heading.  We are out of the Gulf Stream.

1515  Sunny.  Wind lighter.  7 knots.  We are being thrown around by leftover waves.  I have a preventer on the boom, but the mainsail is still collapsing.  I see boat speeds all over the place.  I think we are averaging 4 knots.  Occasionally big swells, 8’-10’, roll through from the NNW.

Sleeping bag and clothes dry.  Pillow drying.

1830  A nice evening.  Scattered low white puffy clouds, like trade wind clouds but the trades are far south of us. Wind seven or eight knots from the NNW, just aft of the beam.  I may have to lower the main if the two foot high waves cause it to collapse too often, but at present we are smoothly making 5.5 knots toward Bermuda.  

When I leaned over to rinse my spoon in the ocean the water was decidedly colder than when we were in the Gulf Stream.

April 23, Friday

North Atlantic Ocean

1055  I was up at first light, disengaging the tiller pilot and setting us up steering with backed jib and the tiller tied down.  

Last night I retired to the pipe berth at 1930, fell asleep, got up at 2100 hours and put a reef in the mainsail because the tiller pilot was working too hard.  It continued to grind away all night.

I fell asleep again this morning sitting at Central.  I thought I got enough sleep last night, but apparently not.

I’ve just returned from being on deck where I unreefed the mainsail and got us sailing under sheet to tiller steering, making 4 and sometimes 5 knots in about the right direction.

Although it is sunny and wind only 7 or 8 knots, the day is cool and I am wearing my foul weather gear for comfort. The temperature in the Great Cabin is 68ºF/20C.

Today is Carol’s birthday.  Happy birthday love.


32º06’N   72º50’W

day’s run   103 miles    COG  090º    SOG 3 knots

Bermuda   387 miles   bearing 092º

barometer   1022

Wind too light and variable for sheet to tiller, so I’ve returned to sailing with the jib backed and the tiller tied down.  Barometer continues to rise. 

1515  A sunny warm afternoon, but barely any wind.  We are moving at 1-2 knots east.

1700 Spinning in slow circles becalmed.

April 24, Saturday

North Pacific Ocean

0645  Still becalmed.  I lowered the mainsail last evening to keep it from slating.  Sunny.  High hazy blue sky.  Flat glassy sea. We have made 14 miles since noon yesterday.  That seems familiar.

0805  We are sailing.  Sort of.  Close hauled on port tack at a knot or two off to the SE.  Tiller pilot steering.  Too little and variable wind to tie the tiller down.

I think I have changed the rules of engagement.  We are presently 413 miles from our slip.  I may head out until we are 500 miles from the slip and make this a thousand mile sail rather than continue to the waypoint off Bermuda.

1030 Gybed.  Headed in.  This is too much like the windless wastes on the passage from Panama to San Diego.  I’ve done this long enough.  When we were trying to sail east light wind from the SE repeatedly backed the jib, forcing us to swing in a circle and gybe.  A wind to sail west, not east. Now a broad reach.  Pleasant, if slow. Tiller pilot steering.    


32º07’N  72º43’W

day’s run  6 miles    COG  266º    SOG 5.7

home   409 miles   bearing 271º

barometer   1022

The day’s run is spurious.  We were becalmed for 14 or 15 hours and then sailed east for a couple of hours before turning west.  Had we continued east the day’s run would have been an enormous 20 miles.  Tiller pilot still steering.

1445  Fine sailing.  5 and 6 knots on a beam reach, wind 8-10 SSE, sheet to tiller steering.  Sky high haze.  No longer looks like a high pressure sky and the barometer has fallen a millibar.

1740  I enjoy sailing with sheet to tiller steering or the tiller tied down.  Silent except for the natural sounds of the wind and GANNET’s hull sliding through the water.  Wind, sails, tiller in balance.

Barometer down another millibar.  Hopkinson Smith playing the Sixth Bach Cello Suite on a lute.

This sail was an experiment.  I am trying to understand what I ought to do in the dying part of my life.  Sailing to an arbitrary waypoint does not seem to be it.  I am glad to be heading back.

1830  I am sitting on the port pipe berth, perpendicular to the centerline.  

I was not hungry.  Dinner was a Quest bar and a Tanaka bar.  Bach has been succeeded by Ismael Lo, an African singer.  I look up at the water streaming past us as I so often have.  We could be anywhere.  The Pacific.  The Indian.  The Atlantic.  The Southern.  They are all the same.  There is only Ocean.  But something in my mind has changed since I have turned west.  I am enjoying the present fine sailing, but the experience is completed by having a specific destination.

April 25, Sunday

North Atlantic Ocean

0630   First we were becalmed, then we were begaled.

I have been awake since 0200 except for a half hour or so after 0520.

I put a reef in the mainsail before sunset.  A good decision.


Around 0200 GANNET began pounding off waves—a wave just smashed into us.  I put on my foul weather gear and went on deck, lowered the main, furled the jib, set up a running back stay, left the tiller tied down and GANNET under bare poles.  Another good decision.

Within a few minutes the wind increased to strong gale force, followed by torrential rain.  Certainly more than 45 knots.  Perhaps 50.  I was on the port pipe berth.  While on deck my sleeping bag and pillow had slid beneath the companionway and were wet.  I turned the sleeping bag inside out and used the drier side of the pillow.  Even under bare poles, the wind was heeling GANNET far over.  More than 30º.  And I found myself wondering if, even with her limited freeboard and surface area,  it could press us under.

The heavy rain lasted a half hour, followed by another half hour of lighter rain.

I put a waypoint in at the position we first lay ahull.  We have drifted 6 miles NW since then.

The barometer is 1008, 14 millibars lower than noon yesterday.  That is a very substantial drop in so few hours.

Light to the east.  There is a dark cloud bank there.  The wind has decreased and GANNET again seems safe.  I will make a cup of coffee and see what dawn brings.

0830  Went on deck to see if I could get us underway.  Decided against it.  Always a big contrast between being in the Great Cabin and on deck when lying ahull.  Wind in the high 20s.  Waves 8’ and steep.  Darker clouds to the south.


32º26’N   74º23’W

day’s run  86 miles      COG  315º   SOG  1.7   lying ahull

home   324 miles   bearing 268º

barometer   1007 millibars

Sun is shining.  High hazy clouds.  Wind still howling strong from the south.  Waves 8’.  Some slamming into the beam.

I went on deck an hour ago and tried to get us underway, but we could make no progress in a useful direction, so still drifting ahull.  

1630  Underway.  Deeply furled backed jib.  Reefed main.  Tiller tied down.  Wind has veered NW, now about 25 knots.  Waves 6-8’ and steep.  We are making 3.5-4 knots in the right direction.  Rough sailing, but better than drifting north.  I couldn’t get much sleep this way.  There is a sense that this is weakening.

April 26, Monday

0930  The wind continued to veer and GANNET continued to follow it, until at midnight I found us sailing NW.  I went on deck and unbacked the jib and engaged a tiller pilot. I did not want to take the time then to balance sheet to tiller steering.

The tiller pilot kept us heading west on a beam reach until first light when I changed into clean, dry clothes, put on foul weather gear and went up and got us sailing with sheet to tiller.  Wind in the north 8-10 knots.  Lovely sunny morning with scattered puffs of clouds.  Waves 3-4’. 

Back in the Great Cabin I drank orange juice and promptly fell asleep at Central.  I did not get much sleep night before last.

For a few minutes this morning we had no GPS signal.  Now we do again.  I had forgotten to put the plastic sextant back on GANNET.  I had intended to take some noon sights during this sail.  With no sextant and no GPS I would have been reduced to sailing west until I saw land and then figured out where I was. 

Barometer back to 1019.  Quite a roller coaster ride in two days.


32º19’N   76º14’W

day’s run   95 miles   COG  270º   SOG  4.7

home   230 miles  bearing  269º

week’s run   603 miles

barometer   1020 rising

Nice day.  Good sailing.  I would gladly ride this wind the rest of the way, but that won’t happen.

As usual the week’s run is the total of day’s runs between noon positions.

1500  The GPS satellites must not be aligned for this patch of ocean today.  Slow acquisition.

A lovely afternoon.  Trade wind sky, though we are not in the trades.

1815  Mountain House Yellow Curry steeping.  One I have not had before.

For the first time on this sail, drinks and music on deck.  Although no sooner did I get set up than the wind went light and I had to spend time adjusting the sheet to tiller steering.  I have moved a tiller pilot back on deck because I expect the wind to go too light tonight for sheet to tiller unless I get up every half hour or so and make adjustments which is not going to happen.

April 27, Tuesday

North Atlantic Ocean

0815   Becalmed.

I have been up for two hours and enjoyed a lovely pre-dawn sky.  

As expected, the wind went too light for sheet to tiller steering, so I engaged the tiller pilot which managed to keep the bow more or less pointed west, while the Gulf Stream carried us north.  And still does.

No wind at all at present.  I’ve furled the jib, but left the main set.  We are rolling a little on low swells from the north.

I’ve taken advantage of the calm to top up the daily water containers, of which there are four, and to sponge an inch of water from the bilge which made its way below during the gale.  

The Mountain House Yellow Curry for dinner last evening was good.

We are drifting NNW at 2 knots.  Currently on the latitude of Charleston.  Home is 178 miles 260º.  I have no idea when we will get there.  I am about to brush my teeth and resume reading Erich Maria Remarque’s ARCH OF TRIUMPH, which I read several decades ago

A nice day if you aren’t trying to sail.


32º53’N   77º21’W

day’s run   67 miles   COG 271º   SOG  3.5

home  176 miles   bearing 257º

barometer   1024

Conditions have much improved in the past half hour.  Still very high pressure.  Wind has backed from WSW to SSW.  4-5 knots.  And our COG as shown by iSailor has gone from 330º  to 271º.  We are no longer drifting toward the shoal extending thirty miles off Cape Fear.  Maybe we are inside the Gulf Stream or at least have wind to counteract it.

Around 1100 two ships passed several miles east of us heading north and in sight of one another.

1430 Making 5 knots close-hauled port with tiller tied down around 255º on course for Hilton Head.  Blue sky.  Blue sea with scattered white-caps.  7-8 knots of wind.

1700  Continued fine sailing at 5.5 knots close hauled port tack with tiller tied down.  154 miles to home.  No way of predicting when we will arrive when the only constant in these waters is that whatever wind is blowing will soon change.  I have hopes for Thursday.

I was just on deck moving a snatch block in preparation for possibly sailing with the jib backed tonight.  I will be surprised if this wind lasts until midnight.

A ship passing far to the east.  Only the top of her superstructure visible. I couldn’t tell which direction she was going.

About to stand in the companionway and sip something and listen to music.  

1740  Standing in the companionway was lovely.  I 

am usually sitting while sailing GANNET.  Standing is good.  I came to sea this time a little out of shape, not being able to workout for the preceding weeks because of the skin cancer removal stitches.  My back has been bothering me slightly, so I did a hundred crunches on the pipe berth yesterday and today.  They helped.  A slightly cool breeze against my failing skin.  The little boat moving easily through the water.

Time to find this evening’s freeze dry feast.

April 28, Wednesday

North Atlantic Ocean

0830  I’ve tacked three times in the past hour.  

The wind lasted through the night, but backed and headed us.  When I woke a couple of hours ago we were sailing 300º.  We want 252º.  The wind now has backed a few degrees  and we are sailing about 270º at 3 knots in maybe 4 knots of wind.  Full main and jib.  Tiller tied down.  GANNET precariously balanced.  A pleasant morning, but not for sailing to Hilton Head.  GANNET’s slip is 96 miles away. 


32º39’N   79º06’W

day’s run   90 miles      COG   251º     SOG  3.4

home  87 miles   bearing  253º

barometer  1022 steady

The wind has backed and now it is a pleasant day for sailing to Hilton Head.  

I had an escort for part of the morning.  

Around 0830 I saw a large Coast Guard ship a mile or so south of me.  It kept pace for a couple of hours, only gradually moving ahead.  Considering that I was only making 2 knots I don’t think that was her standard cruising speed.  It is possible that she called me on the radio.  I have a handheld VHF on board and she was within range, but I do not come out here to have conversations, so did not turn it on.  If she wanted to talk to me she could have come alongside.

I neglected to mention that yesterday afternoon I saw an unusual blob of multiple colors ahead.  As we neared it was a bunch of balloons tied together which had made it a long way to sea after some celebration.

1415  Wind backed and has headed us.  Now able to sail only 285º.  Heading directly for the entrance to Charleston Harbor thirty miles ahead.  If nothing changes, I’ll tack before sunset.

I was using the oldest tiller pilot, dating from 2015.  It was the only one still working at the end of the passage from San Diego.  I write the date on the back of each so I know which is still under warranty.  I had planned to use it until it failed and then switch to one of the three newer ones.  However it was exceedingly noisy, growling and grinding constantly.  I am now using one dating from 2019 and it is almost unobtrusively quiet.

1800   I spent more time on deck late this afternoon than usual.  Lovely sailing smoothly at 4 and 5 knots in about that much wind.  The wind has backed and we are almost on course for the entrance to Port Royal Sound.  I have GANNET pinching which reduces her speed to 4.5.  If I ease off, it goes above 5.

We passed ahead of a stationary ship, presumably waiting to enter Charleston, and another leaving Charleston passed ahead of us heading south.

I am about to prepare the other half of AlpineAire’s Chicken Gumbo.

This tiller pilot continues to be admirably quiet.

1900   This is making landfall after a passage that wasn’t.  Still it is landfall and this one complicated by offshore buoys marking fish havens and shoals and wrecks as well as unreliable wind.  I will have to set alarms, but haven’t yet figured out when.  I believe I am inside Charleston shipping lanes.

I am held together by band-aids.  The butterfly tapes the nurse put over the incision in my leg when the stitches were removed are still there.  She said to leave them until they fell off naturally within a week or two. Tomorrow will be two weeks, but not perhaps weeks as she expected.

When sleeping on the windward pipe berth I often brace myself with my knee against a cushion stuffed inside the lee cloth.  I feel some pain last night and this morning found a gouge in my left knee.  Now cleansed and band-aided.  Likewise a gouge on my left elbow whose cause I do not know.  And another on my right forearm that came this afternoon when I tightened the main out haul and my hand slipped.  GANNET is an uncompromising boat.  Good.  

April 29, Thursday

North Atlantic Ocean

0630  We got a break from the wind last evening.

I retired to the pipe berth at 2000, having set an alarm for 2300.  We were sailing close hauled on port tack with the tiller pilot steering.  It is disconcerting to try to go to sleep knowing you are on a course that will in a few hours put you on the shore.  However I woke at 2200 to find that while the tiller pilot had obediently kept us on the compass heading, the wind had backed sufficiently for us to sail a course southwest parallel to the coast which we did smoothly in 7 and 8 knots of wind ten miles offshore under an almost full moon.  Fine sailing.  I woke without setting alarms every couple of hours and then got up for good at 0400.   Light outside now, but not quite dawn.  I’ve had orange juice and coffee.  Wearing foul weather gear because of dew on deck.

0900  I have learned that in most conditions we can cut across the shoal east of the entrance channel into Port Royal Sound.  The chart shows depths of as little as 6’ and 7’, in one place 5’, but in sailing over them I have not seen less than 10’ on the depthsounder.  There are oddly shaped waves and currents there and I would not attempt  this in severe weather.

We made it across safely and turned northwest into the Sound.  A few power boats were heading out.  We were the only boat heading in.  A fine sunny morning.

1000  Wind increasing.  Gusting 15 knots.  On the beam.

Once in flatter water I lowered the mainsail and furled the jib and let GANNET drift while I brought the Torqeedo on deck and fitted it to the transom.  After making certain it would start, I tilted it out of the water and partially unfurled the jib to sail to the entrance to Skull Creek.  I had to hand steer some of the time, playing the gusts, and tacking three times, before near the first Skull Creek green marker, I lowered the Torqeedo back in the water, started it, and furled the jib.  The wind was blowing directly out of the creek.

We powered even more slowly than usual with both wind and tide against us.  Splashing white water to starboard proved to be dolphin either hunting or playing.  When they surfaced nearby they appeared quite calm.

A good many power boats, big and small, passed us heading out.  Two about 45’ long deliberately slowed as they neared GANNET reducing their wake, a courtesy which I acknowledged by tipping my hat.  Most did not.  Their wakes were the biggest waves we’ve seen for days.

Docking was complicated by the strong outgoing tide which kept trying to turn GANNET sideways as I neared the slip.  We managed without mishap and were tied up at 1145.

I removed the Torqeedo and Autohelm and stowed them below.  Put on the mainsail and tiller covers.  Straightened lines and walked home.  I’ll go down and do the rest tomorrow.

Not an ocean passage, though it felt like one.  Out and back is over.

Day’s runs

April 2021

19      10

20   78

21   98

22     137

23     103

24         6

25     86

26     95         603 week

27     67

28     87

29     88 855