April 26, Tuesday
1100. Left slip at 0945. Wind ten knots on the beam. I was concerned about not getting the bow across the wind and being pushed back on the dock or other boats. It was not a problem. I was able to walk GANNET back and turn her into the wind and push off. I didn’t even need to use reverse. There was an anxious moment when I thought the Evo hadn’t started. It had, but is very quiet, much quieter than even the Torqeedo.
Once clear of the marina I set the jib and cut the Evo. The Evo’s battery was at 89% when we left the dock. It was at 87% when I turned the outboard off. With the wind well aft the jib had us sailing at three knots out Skull Creek. I soon set the main. I left the Evo in the water. Even with the prop turning it is quiet. On the brief occasions I left the Torqeedo in the water under sail, the prop made a loud whine.
Turning in Port Royal Sound brought the wind onto the beam and our speed to seven and sometimes eight knots with the tide with us. I glanced back and the Evo was quietly charging. 100 nautical miles from the mouth of Port Royal Sound to the entrance of the St. Mary’s River.
Lumpy seas at the mouth of the sound. I partially furled the jib and have let us continue SE at about three knots, wanting simply to be in position for the shift to the north forecast for after midnight. The shift will probably be accompanied by an hour or two of rain. Tomorrow and Thursday are supposed to be clear.
1400. Nine miles offshore. I see ships east of me. A racing sailboat about 40’ flying the Swiss flag passed close astern heading north. Three people on deck. I waved. One of them waved back.
I have just tacked to starboard. Sailing around 235º at three knots. Not trying to go harder into low waves.
1730. Potential thunderheads are building over the land. I put on my foul weather gear and put a reef in the mainsail. Wet on deck with steep 3’ waves close together. We are nearing the shipping channel into the Savannah River. At least four ships anchored to the east of us.
I am about to sip a small glass of boxed red wine with cold leftover pizza at Central and listen to some Bach.
1830. Thunder and lightning over the land. We were being forced too far that way, so I came about and backed the jib, tied the tiller down to leeward, and have hove to. I brought the tiller pilot below. This is pointing us out to sea and toward the ships. Just as I have been writing the wind has weakened. GANNET is wallowing. I am sitting at Central in foul weather gear awaiting developments. I wish I had sea room and no ships in sight.
1930. So far the darkest clouds and the rain have passed north of us, but the wind has died. I furled the jib. Left the reefed main up. Tied the tiller down to leeward and we are drifting. We are in only 50’ of water. I considering anchoring until the wind shifts and may still.
2000 Wind has returned from the north. This is several hours earlier than forecast and may not last. It is so far astern the main is blanketing the jib, so I lowered the main and we are sailing south at a couple of knots under full jib being slowed by leftover waves;
I could not see if the masthead tricolor was on until a few minutes ago. It is.
April 27, Wednesday
0200. Light wind continued to veer. North to east and finally disappointingly south, heading us again. The tiller pilot repeatedly backed the jib. I just left it backed, disengaged the tiller pilot, tied the tiller to leeward, leaving us effectively hove to, heading east out to sea at a knot or less. We are ten miles south of the half dozen ships anchored off Savannah whose lights I can still see.
0500 I slept in my foul weather gear. Woke and went on deck to find the wind had continued to veer and was now west. We were heading south hove to. I unbacked the jib. Engaged the tiller pilot and we are sailing in the direction we want at a knot or two.
0630. I woke and at last the wind is NW. I went on deck. Unreefed the mainsail. We are making 4.5 knots smoothly on a starboard broad reach.
1000. Pleasant sailing. The wind continued to veer until the main was collapsing the jib, so I lowered the main. We continue to make 5 knots under jib alone on a very broad reach, rolling on 2’ waves. Sunny here and ahead. Clouds to the north. 55 miles to a waypoint off St. Marys. We will not make it before dark. I did not expect to. The water is shallow enough to anchor offshore if it is not too rough.
1200. Solid low overcast. I gybed to a starboard broad reach to close with the land. We were 22 miles offshore. Rolling on waves now 3’. A waypoint off the entrance to the St. Marys River is 44 miles away. Bearing 215T. We are making 5.5 knots 230-235. Going to be just too late to go in tonight. Tired.
1730. Pleasant downwind sailing ended about three hours ago when I found us on a lee shore. The Georgia coast was nine miles away, but we were going to close with it north of the St. Marys River. I gybed, but our course over the bottom continued toward land. I realized I had to set some of the main and so raised it with the second reef in. This was not enough. I undid the second reef and tied in the first. All this required more work than these words convey. That sail combination is successful. Our bow is pointing around 110. Our course over the bottom is about 135, which is safe, but we may still be blown past St. Marys, which is 26 miles SSW. I will try to figure this out tonight based on our position and wind strength and angle. The wind is 20-25 now.
I have made a perhaps surprising decision. I am not sailing to Iceland. I may explain that in time. I may not.
If the angles aren’t right for St. Marys I will move farther offshore and work my way back to Hilton Head.
1900. The waypoint off the entrance to the St. Marys River is 25 nautical miles away, bearing 219. GANNET is sailing somewhere around 120 at 3 knots. How to bring those together tomorrow at dawn I have yet to know. When I turn GANNET her speed will significantly change.
I am sitting on the port pipe berth looking out through the companionway at the water passing. That is the essence of the experience left to me. I have done enough epic. I may only go to sea again for a week or two at a time, seeking good wind angles and then working my way home. Destinations no longer matter. Just the experience of being in the monastery of the sea. Is a week or two long enough? I do not know. I have not figured out the dying part of my life. I have made false steps. I am trying.
1730. Music playing on the Boom 2 speakers. At the moment George Winston.
I poured myself a small amount of Laphroaig.
We are heading away from St. Marys. The wind has decreased from the 20 to 25 knots it was. This was never serious weather, though there was a Small Craft Advisory out. But as I experienced off the Bahamas on the passage from Hilton Head to Panama ultra light weight Moore 24s can be slowed and swept sideways by waves and currents unless perhaps they have three crew sitting on the weather rail. I do not have such and so must respond differently.
April 28, Thursday
0500. I set an alarm for now, but woke an hour ago.
A decent night. The seas flattened after sunset as I expected they would. I turned off the wind at midnight and headed toward St. Marys. When I woke at 4 am we were making 6 knots over the bottom according to iSailor, but heading a bit north of the river entrance. With the wind almost directly behind us, I lowered the reefed main and gybed the jib. We are eight miles from crossing the line of buoys marking the channel and eleven miles from the mouth of the river. High tide there at 7 am. Seven more miles from there to the boat yard. We should be able to sail most of them. Tidal currents here are strong.
1200 I am at anchor in 8’ off St. Marys Boat Services at mid-tide with the tide going out. I think I have enough water to stay off the bottom.
I sailed under jib alone all the way to the entrance to what is called on the iSailor chart the Sweetwater Branch of the St. Marys River which winds its way in several bends to the boat yard. It is difficult to measure the distance because of all the turns, but it cannot be more than four miles. Probably only three. When I turned on the Evo the battery was at 87%. Although we had many hours sailing more than four knots, that is what it was when I turned it off in Skull Creek. I saw the charging symbol often illuminated while while we were sailing, but essentially it did not charge at all. Hmm. A second ‘hmm’ is that the battery did not last all the way to the boat yard. We were powering against the outgoing tide and sometimes wind of 18 knots. As we entered the second to last bend, I heard three loud beeps from the battery. I leaned back and saw it was at 20%. We continued on until the battery was at 5%. The anchor was already on deck, so I anchored. Removed the Evo, dug out the Torqeedo and it took us the last quarter mile. Despite the battery weighing twice what the Torqeedo’s does, 20 pounds versus 10, it does not appear to have greater range.
I have spoken by telephone to Andy, a friend who keeps his boat here. I have emailed Rocky the yard manager. I have repeatedly tried to telephone him, but there is never an answer and he does not have voice mail set up. They haul boats only at high tide. High tide here will be around 9 tomorrow morning. If I have not heard from Rocky by then I will either pump up the dinghy and row in or take GANNET over to the dock by the travel lift if there is any space.
1500 The tide has turned. I did have enough water at lowest tide not to touch bottom. By inches.
April 29, Friday
Now Friday afternoon. Above is a photo of St. Marys Boat Services. Unfortunately I just took it from GANNET. We are still in the water.
At 7 a.m. I raised the anchor and slowly powered toward the dock near the travel lift. Before reaching it GANNET’s keel touched bottom. Her designated draft is 4’1”. I backed away and anchored in 6’ of water within easy shouting distance from the dock. High tide was due around 10 am.
Through Andy via telephone I learned that three boats were to be hauled ahead of me. I waited. Three were, but high time came and passed and they did not have time for me. Allegedly they will haul me tomorrow morning. I learned this only through Andy. No one from this boat yard has ever communicated with me in any way. Phone. Email. Text. Carrier pigeon.
It is pretty here. The ebbing tide is strong enough to hold GANNET’s stern into the wind resulting in a pleasant breeze blowing through the companionway.
During the sail my new halyard clutches prevented the sag in the main halyard the old ones allowed. I discovered that there is again a small leak where the masthead wires pass through the deck and another from the port side halyard clutch despite my having used both butyl tape and Lifeseal on it.
I also discovered that neither of my two portable inventors are powerful enough to charge the Evo’s battery. I tested one while in Skull Creek and it started to charge the battery, but I did not leave it on long enough. After a few minutes it shuts down. The inverters do charge the Torqeedo battery. It is possible that the Evo is a $3,000 mistake.