Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Hilton Head Island: sailing home

Rocky put GANNET in the travel lift early Sunday afternoon just as he had said he would and I painted the areas previously covered by the cradle and pretty much put an entire third coat of antifouling on the bottom.  At almost $300 a gallon I did not want to leave any in the can.

At 5 p.m. I went on deck for a drink and to listen to music on the Boom 2 speakers.  It was low tide.  I was amazed and shocked by the lack of water.  Two boats on the inside of the dock beside the haul out point were solidly in mud and there was only a narrow strip of water between that dock and an island of mud opposite.  This is the strangest place I have ever seen a boat yard located.  Land must have been cheap.

I was awake at 6 Monday morning.  Being in the travel lift was assurance that we would be handled first.  At 9 I heard voices outside GANNET’s hull and poked my head on deck.  It was Rocky and his crew.  He asked if I was ready.  I said I was any time he thought there was enough water.  High tide was not for another hour or so.  He said there was enough now.  So we did it.  They directed me to go out in a different direction than I had approached, keeping close to the private docks along the shore to the east until we reached deeper water.  I did and was glad when the depthfinder displayed 10’ and I could move to the middle of the channel.

I powered at two knots.  With electric outboards there is an inverse ratio between speed and range.  I had left the anchor on deck in case I needed to change batteries.  In the event it wasn’t even close.  In an hour and a half we emerged into the St. Marys River with the Torqeedo’s  battery at 61%.  This was a totally different experience than the way in using the Evo.  Going out there was only light wind and little current against us at the beginning and some with us by the end.

Once in the river, I raised sails and turned the Torqeedo off and tilted it out of the water, and the wind died.  The outgoing tide drifted us slowly toward the ocean five miles away.  The sunny morning soon became broiling hot. The Levis and a long sleeved shirt I was wearing to protect my skin became intolerable.  I changed them for shorts and t-shirt and lots of sun screen.

After a half hour of drifting wind returned from the south and in smooth water and with a clean bottom, GANNET began speeding along.  She is a joy to sail.  With almost any wind she becomes as alive as any object built by man.  After three long tacks we passed the ends of the channel breakwaters and entered the ocean at noon where after staying on deck until we were beyond three commercial trawlers, I put GANNET on a glorious reach with 12 knot wind just aft of the beam.  She romped north at 6.5 to 8 knots all afternoon across a sparkling blue sea.  This is of course what all sailing is like.  Or so the salesmen tell you.

The wind increased a few knots and GANNET began to yaw faster than the tiller pilot could keep up, so I furled the jib to half size, and as I have often found we continued to sail as fast at a reduced angle of heel. 

I spent most of the afternoon out of the sun, reading in the cabin subversively a novel by Jeff Sharra, THE FATEFUL LIGHTNING, about Sherman’s march to the sea and into the Carolinas at the end of the Civil War; but of course came out for two air temperature gin and tonics and Bach at 5 p.m.  I drank the first sitting in the Sportaseat and the second standing in the companionway.  I prefer standing in the companionway.  For a few moments it was as though I were on an ocean passage.

With the continued south wind I started to consider going in to the south end of Hilton Head island where I would have the wind behind me all the way to the marina.

At sunset the wind veered until it was coming over the stern and the main was blanketing the jib.  I needed to slow down anyway to delay our arrival until Tuesday dawn, so I lowered the main and unfurled the jib.  On a passage this wind would have resulted in at least a 150 mile day.  Probably 160.  GANNET continued to sail at 6.5 knots.

We sped past eight ships anchored off Savannah and past the south end of Hilton Head Island.  I would enter Port Royal Sound after dark.  Its mouth is two miles wide. The south end of Hilton Head most definitely I would not.  The channel there is narrow and twisting and surrounded by shoals.

I got only a few hours of broken sleep, being so close in that I had to be on lookout for ships, other boats, and various buoys.  Though most think of the land as safety, it really is easier to be a hundred miles offshore than ten.

I set an alarm for 0515 Tuesday morning, but as usual woke before it went off.  First light would not be for more than an hour, but I had calculated that we would be nearing the outer buoy marking the channel into Port Royal Sound about then.  I stuck my head on deck and there it was a half mile away.

GANNET does not need to stay in the channel so I lined her up just to the south of the buoys as we headed in.  We still had nine miles before we would reach the sound,  Then five more to the entrance to Skull Creek and almost two from there to the marina.

I checked Aye Tides and found that we had lucked out and the tide was with us and would be until about 1000.  

I had a cup of coffee and an RX bar on deck at sunrise.  

Once the water flattened inside Port Royal Sound, I furled the jib and let us drift while I exchanged the Torqeedo battery for the fully charged spare.  The wind was due south and would be on the nose in Skull Creek and was now gusting at 15 to 18 knots.

After the battery change, I partially unfurled the jib and we sailed up the sound at 6 and 7 tide assisted knots.

Just off the green marker at the entrance to Skull Creek, I furled the jib and started the Torqeedo and GANNET turned from a soaring bird into a snail.  Again to conserve battery I powered at two knots, but these two knots against wind occasionally gusting to 20 knots required considerably more RPMs than had those going out the Sweetwater Branch Monday morning.  Even with her small freeboard the wind pressed hard against GANNET and the tiller pilot could not hold course, so I hand steered, anxiously glancing down frequently at the remote throttle display to check the battery level.  The anchor was on the v-berth where I could quickly reach it if necessary.

The morning was overcast  and cool.  I was still wearing only a t-shirt and shorts and was cold, but didn’t want to duck below even briefly.

Slowly, ever so slowly, GANNET inched her way along along Skull Creek toward the marina.  I was pleased to observe that battery level went down equally slowly.  As we came around the final bend and the marina was only a half mile directly ahead, I knew we were going to make it.

As we approached the dock I could feel that the tide had already turned and was against us.  I like to dock at slow speed, but against strong wind and current, I had to go in faster than I wanted to in order to maintain control.  I turned into the slip at two knots when usually I would be making 0.5. When the bow was half way in the slip I cut the Torqeedo and stepped onto the dock with the bow line.  As I expected ultra-light GANNET was stopped instantly by the wind and current.  As I did not expect that wind and current also instantly started to push her back.  I quickly cleated the bow line.  My legendary reputation would not be enhanced by being dragged into the water.

It was 11 a.m.  Twenty-six hours from boat yard to slip.

Living on GANNET for a week was good, enjoyable, and important. I made a significant decision and I found that she is well provisioned and that all equipment and systems work.  Were I so inclined I could set off around the world tomorrow.  I am not so inclined.

Back in the condo I placed an order with Amazon for a 300 watt inverter, a pair of boat shoes, several Lightning cables, a very sexist USB male to USB C female adaptor, a Treva fan, and a two tubes of Lifeseal.

ePropulsion has listed on their site a direct 12 volt charger.  My impression of ePropulsion is that they like making products, but they don’t like dealing with customers.  They refuse to ship the charger directly and require it be ordered through a dealer.  I telephoned the dealer from whom I bought the Evo.  He said he had never had anyone ask for this charger but would check.  He has never gotten back to me.  I hope the 300 watt inverter will charge the Evo battery on board.

I took an old pair of boat shoes along to wear while painting.  When It came time to paint I could not remember where I stowed them, so I painted with the shoes I was wearing and inevitably got paint on them. I came across the old shoes before the second coat.  I buy a new pair of boat shoes every year,.  Just a few months earlier this year.

I wish Apple would make a phone that charges via USB C.  Lightning cables do not last on a boat.  The connecting end corrodes.  I found that the two I had been using would not charge my phone, which as you may know is my primary chartplotter, though I can also use my iPad Pro.  Fortunately the third cable on board still worked.  The adaptor is to use a MagSafe charger for the phone.

One of the two Treva fans which run both off USB and batteries had died.  The other worked and made life in the boat yard more pleasant.  They are cheap, so I disposed of the failed one and ordered another.

The Lifeseal is also spares.

I shot a few videos on the way down, while there, and on the way back.  They have defects, including my thumb covering part of the screen in some, but I will probably post them in a day or two.

8:24 pm.  The sun has set.  Above is what I am seeing when I look up.


Phil said...

It’s very enjoyable reading about your passages. Thanks as always for sharing.

Shawn Stanley said...

Excellent news. I also have my boat on the hard for anti-foul, but my boat is about 500 yards away and an easy bike ride from my house (the yard I haul is closer than the marina where I keep her). I am hoping your inspiration will keep me moving to get launched before the week is out.