Saturday, March 11, 2023

Hilton Head Island: a tangled web(b)


If you followed my Yellowbrick track as shown above, you know that I am ashore, having tied GANNET in her slip at noon yesterday in rain.

I anchored the preceding night at 10 pm in 60’ of water 13 miles off the entrance to Port Royal Sound.  In dying wind I knew I was not going to make it in and with a high barometer I judged that the night would be quiet.  It was.  The wind died completely and small waves rocking GANNET went flat after a while.

I woke at 5:30 am to the sound of unexpected rain on the deck.  I got up and though I was beyond cell phone coverage, I could receive NOAA weather on my handheld VHF and learned that there was a small craft advisory for 20-25 knot winds.  Such winds are mere inconveniences to GANNET under sail.  At anchor in the middle of no where with zero protection they are serious.  With all possible speed I mounted the ePropulsion on the stern and raised the anchor.  I had out 150’ of rode, all but the last 20’ ½” plaited nylon.  As I have written many times all chain rodes are best, but GANNET cannot carry that weight and using mostly nylon has the advantage that I do not hesitate to anchor in relatively deep water.  The rode came in.  The anchor came up clean.

We had the fastest sailing of the week on the way in.  At first under full sail, then as the wind increased to the forecast 20 knots with a partially furled jib, making 7 knots and an occasional 8 in smooth seas and intermittent rain.

In foul weather gear and sea boots I was on deck, adjusting the tiller pilot’s course and sail trim.

Some of you may recall that when I charged the ePropulsion battery at anchor the first night in Port Royal Sound I could not determine how complete the charge was.  When I connected the battery to the shaft I was pleased to see it at 94%.  Still I sailed all the way to the first marker at the entrance to Skull Creek, completing the last half mile under partially furled jib alone, before I turned it on.  I knew I was going to be powering in Skull Creek against both wind and tide.

I furled the jib and powered slowly, attempting to maintain 2 knots, but our SOG varied from less than 1 to 3.  I saw wind strengths of 20 knots to 8 knots.  We were in the first third of the outgoing tide.  I have no way of knowing its strength, but could see its varying effect on our speed.

There is a long curve to the west in the Skull Creek channel, when I reached the apex of that curve, I checked the battery level and found it at 59%.  With a half mile to go I knew we were going to make it to the slip.  I had been prepared if necessary to anchor at any time and spend the rest of the day and night recharging the battery, but I really did want to get in and go home and have a hot shower and a cold drink.

Rain had fallen intermittently all morning.  The sky was completely overcast.

I put out the fenders and attached the dock lines.

As we approached the marina, there was a dark line in the clouds to the west over Pinckney Island that I knew meant heavy rain.  Still I removed my foul weather gear and sea boots and put on my usual boat shoes to be able to move more easily when I docked.  I hoped the rain would hold off for ten minutes.  In now more than 80 years I have come to understand that my hopes have no standing in the universe.  Before I made the turn into A dock heavy rain began to fall.  The air temperature was in the mid-60s F, but it made me cold and worse made it more difficult for me to see.

I most see and feel the Skull Creek tides in docking GANNET.  I like to dock at bare steerageway.  Yet slow too much and the tide moves the boat in undesired directions.  

We docked.

I got the dock lines in place and retired wet into the Great Cabin where I sat for an hour until the rain eased.  I made a FaceTime call to Carol.  I checked the barometer in my iPhone which I have often tested against shore stations and found to be accurate and saw that the barometer had fallen 13 millibars in 14 hours.  That is a quick and deep fall.  I am surprised the weather was not more extreme.  I removed the ePropulsion from the stern.  Put on the mainsail and tiller covers.  Put my devices and the still largely full bottle of Laphroaig in my backpack and wearing my foul weather parka in light rain walked home.

I had the desired and much appreciated hot shower.  I sipped cold martinis.  I ate a microwaved Cuban pork dinner.  I watched part of a Robert Redford movie, THE CONSPIRATOR, and went to bed.

I slept until 7:30 this morning.  I don’t recall when I last slept that late.  During the passage I sometimes fell asleep while reading at Central.  GANNET has a very quick motion and three of the five days we were sailing were rough, but I begin to wonder if I am growing old, though of course we know that cannot be true.

Today I moved slowly.

I was still feeling GANNET’s motion more than twenty-four hours after we docked.

I biked down at noon and wrestled the little boat’s interior into harbor mode.

I brought a knapsack of food I had taken to the boat back up to the condo.

I took some videos while sailing.  I watched them yesterday and did not think they are of much interest.  I will watch them again and if I post any will let you know.

I kept a log.  

I have not reread it.  I expect I will do so tomorrow and decide whether to post it.

I have already received emails observing that the Yellowbrick failed to upload positions for eighteen hours.

Much of the sailing was rough.  The Yellowbrick was knocked from its mount without my being aware of it until I found it under a food bag.  I might have knocked it off the mount myself climbing up or back from the deck.

I will write more about the sailing.

It was not the vision I had.

I simply wanted good sailing.  I had some, but I had a majority of rough conditions that kept me off the deck and sailing GANNET from below with only brief moments standing in the companionway to trim sails.  I can with a remote adjust the tillerpilot course from the Great Cabin.

I have considered whether this was a good thing to do and have concluded that it was.

I did not enter the monastery of the sea, though at times when 150 miles offshore I had the ocean to myself I almost felt I had.

I am still uncertain of my present relationship to the ocean.

I expect to sail again in May.  Perhaps again I will simply seek good wind angles.  That would be purest.  Sailing for itself.  But I sense that I need a destination.  In my logs at noon I record our position, our course, our speed, the barometer pressure, our day’s run from noon to noon.  On this sail changing course so often with the wind, the day’s runs made no sense.  I think I need that they do.



Jim Norman said...

Hello Webb, Having read of your prior voyages since completing your last circumnavigation, when I saw your track heading back home, it also occurred to me you need a destination. You seek to enter the monastery of the sea, but it may not be something you can pursue directly. Sort of like the pursuit of happiness, which comes more from striving for worthwhile goals, seeking meaningful relationships, etc. Far be it from me to know what your destination should be. On your circumnavigations you had ports as destinations of course, but your overarching goal, or purpose, was the circumnavigation itself, not a mere geographic location. You could no doubt set some sort of record as “the oldest solo sailor to __________”, but I don’t think that’s your style. Glad to see you getting out on the sea again. Take care.

Webb said...

Your comment is prescient.

Another reader asked: What is your relationship to the ocean? Which I partially answered in the most recent journal post. And: Do you now have purpose now that you have completed circumnavigation six?

I like to believe I am more than just a sailor, but I am still striving to answer that.

I have a five year plan that I don’t know if I will live long enough to fulfill or even if I do I will have the will to fulfill. You are quite right that I would not even consider doing an ‘oldest’. I don’t think youngest and oldest records by a few days or months or even years say anything significant about the human spirit.

I have lived far longer than I ever expected to. It would have been easier to have died younger as did Amundsen and Cook and countless artists and writers, but I didn’t. So I am still trying to understand what I ought to do, what I want to do, at a rare old age. That is my job and there is no retirement and no pension.

Clark said...

Hi Webb,

Your post is a masterpiece of how to assess all conditions of ship, sea and sky, and then put that assessment into well planned and well executed action. Your words help create a protective cloak for the rest of us pilgrims. In your eyes it was a short trip, to myself and Skipper it beautifully describes the essence of a sailor being one with mind, body, spirit and the physical world. And the dock. There is always a docking story. We learn from you lessons, and look forward to continued teachings.

From our perspective, keep doing what you do and sharing your love are learning. It is who you are, continue to set the bar for those who want to be and you help shape the spirit of our seafaring tribe. Just as we have all drawn from the past to orient our present, your adventure to and reporting from the edge will inspire and inform countless generations yet to come. Some speak, some listen, few write. Your words remind us to be present. Theses threads weave a fabric around our watery globe, sustaining our maritime culture. The words and deeds will transcend time, few in our tribe will have that kind of impact. Your contribution to the story of being is endless.

You are loved
Kent and Audrey

Unknown said...

Welcome back. As a Moore sailor I'd go for a Wind Angle trip before a destination. The Just reaching and surfing waves for as long as you like in relative comfort. Think about some of the best sails Gannet has shared with you over the years and bet most of them were off the wind. A Moore is such a pleasure to experience when the when get aft of beam. Besides circumnavigating, going off the wind it one of their better virtues lol.
Always enjoy your logs and Following your sails
Crazy Horse #21

Webb said...

That was the plan, Richard, but it didn’t work out that way and I found I missed being able to record a meaningful date’s run. I plan on going for an ocean sail again in May. Whether I will be guided by wind angle or a destination I have yet to decide.

Unknown said...

Webb, I understand. Watched the wind while you where out on and it was all over the place. Come May perhaps the wind and waves will be in your favor.
Regards, Richard