I telephoned Pelagic support yesterday afternoon and was directed to Mike Scheck, who is the owner of the company and his chief engineer. They could not have been more concerned at solving the problem, which is one they have not come across before, or more helpful. There are three components to a Pelagic system: The Control Head, which is the white box mounted in the cockpit; the Motor Drive Box, which is a black box mounted below deck, and the Actuator, which is what I call the tiller arm. They are going to ship me a new Control Head and a new Motor Drive Box and I will return my present components for them to investigate. It has been logically suggested that I first replace only the Control Head to see if that solves the problem. If so, fine. If not, I’ll replace the Motor Drive Box.
The hurricane season is upon those of us who live on this coast and I intend to return to Illinois and spend July and August with Carol, so I will not be able to make a prolonged sail, but I will to give the new components a test in June.
Three short videos taken during the Cape Lookout sail have been uploaded to YouTube:
Here is the log of the slow sail to Cape Lookout.
May 4, Thursday
0830 Left slip without difficulty. Light wind from the north, tide already running out moving GANNET sideways. I briefly used reverse, which I seldom do.
Clear of the marina I set the Pelagic to steer while I brought in dock lines and fenders. A 30’ power boat passed leaving two steep waves that caused me to hang onto to a stanchion.
As we powered out Skull Creek the wind increased to 10 then 15 knots.
At the mouth of Skull Creek I ran into a maelstrom with wind 18-20 on the nose and against strong outgoing tide. Steep 2’-3’ white-capped waves brought us at times to a dead stop. Lots of water over the bow. The Evo’s prop often lifted from the water. (I have decided to refer to the electric outboard as ‘Evo’ rather than ‘Spirit’. Shorter.) I set part of the jib, but it just carried us backwards. I needed to set the main sail but was too close to shoals to have time to do so. I couldn’t tack under jib alone, so wore ship and gybed. It was no better on the other tack. I furled the jib and gave the Evo full throttle and gradually we made headway. I had to hand steer to compensate for the currents and the force of the wind.
We got clear, but barely.
1030 The Evo battery was quickly discharging. When it got down to 15% I dragged the rode deployment bag and anchor onto deck. When it got to 10% I cut the engine and anchored in 55’ of water. We have only made 3 miles.
GANNET is rolling considerably.
I only planned to go another mile or two.
I will spend the day here and hope tomorrow sees more favorable wind.
1430 An hour after we anchored the wind started to decrease and is presently 10 knots. GANNET is rolling, but not nearly as much.
I have removed the Evo from the stern and stowed it, except for the battery which is being charged in the Great Cabin.
I also increased the gain on the Pelagic. It is set at the factory at 2 out of a maximum 4½. The manual suggests 3 for fin keel spade rudder boats, so I changed it to 3.
I also familiarized myself with the Pelagic remote, read poetry—Japanese and Louise Gluck—listened to Bach’s English Suites, and read more of Grant’s PERSONAL MEMOIRS, interestingly annotated by Elizabeth D. Samet, who teaches English at West Point.
Those were three hard miles this morning. Hard beyond my expectations. I am still learning.
1920 I am in the Great Cabin after having had a couple of drinks on deck, listening to my favorites playlist scrambled, and eating a dull freeze dry chicken teriyaki dinner. I bought it, so I ate it.
It is good to be here. Feeling the 10 knot wind on my skin. The motion of GANNET on the slight wavelets.
I have said that I am more a writer than a sailor, but I am not sure that is true. My three parts may be equal, if not completely compatible. Wind, words, women. All equally essential.
While on deck I found myself looking around GANNET and thinking how perfect she is for me: the perfectly simple and austere cell for a monk seeking the monastery of the sea.
Last week I was atypically around people and responded to a question by answering that I have long thought that a roughly 37’ boat is the right size for one or two people and that if something would not fit on a 37’ boat I did not need to own it. Now, if I were by myself—and I am not, nor do I seek to be—but if I were, I would say that if something will not fit on board GANNET I do not want or need it. But for my life with Carol, which is the great chance grace of my life, I would gladly live my remaining days on GANNET.
My life ashore is good. I live in silence, serenity and beauty. I born about as far from the sea as one can be, yet am somehow most at home in the ocean.
May 5, Friday
0830 Anchor up.
The wind went calm and the sound flat last night and I slept well, waking at 0630. Knowing high tide would be near 0900, I waited before getting underway.
I had out 150’ of rode in about 55’ of water. I brought the rode in to the 90’ mark, tied it off, and raised the mainsail, then returned and brought in the rest of the rode and the anchor, which came up clean as it always has around Hilton Head.
After moving the rode deployment bag and anchor onto the v-berth, I went aft, trimmed the main, unfurled the jib, and engaged the Pelagic.
Back below deck to stow the anchor and rode in the bow.
Back on deck to tack as we were heading toward a shoal off the island. The Pelagic tacked well.
1000 Making a smooth 4.5 knots on port tack in 7 knots of wind. Just off Hilton Head, the northwest corner of the island. Not an impressive headland. Perhaps once it was.
The Evo battery is on the cabin sole, still charging, though I may have knocked the charger connection loose during the night.
This Pelagic is decidedly quieter than the prototype I had before, a significant advantage.
About to eat my uncooked oatmeal.
32º 07’N 80º 33’W
COG 130º SOG 4.0
barometer 1021 mb
no day’s run
We are close-hauled on port tack. We just passed over the last shoal and are heading SE to get offshore. To tack would bring us back to land.
At 1030 the blue light came on the Evo battery indicating it was fully charged. It had been plugged in for twenty-four hours, except possibly for a few hours last night when I might have bumped the charger loose.
Until a few minutes ago we were making 5 and 6 knots. We may be beyond getting a boost from the outgoing tide.
When for a half an hour I had to fall off to a beam reach to avoid a shoal we were making 6 and 7 knots. Very nice sailing.
Now we are occasionally pounding into 1’ and 2’ waves and moving away from Cape Lookout.
1300 I tacked to starboard fifteen minutes ago a mile west of only two anchored ships. The wind has veered slightly and we are able to sail 045º to 050º which should keep us away from the shore until at least Charleston and is close to the rhumb line course to Cape Lookout which is 053º. The Pelagic again tacked perfectly at a touch of a button.
After tacking I tied the tiller down for a few minutes in order to adjust the gain on the Pelagic which can be done only in standby mode. It was steering well at 3. I wanted to see how it did at 2 ½. So far no difference and it should be using less power. There might be a difference in rougher conditions.
Sky complete light gray overcast.
1645 Wind lighter. Full jib and main set again. Our speed has dropped to 3-3.5 knots.
We are being set toward the land. I know not by what. The tide? Our COG shown in the iSailor app is 15º to 20º different than our compass heading shown on the mast mounted Velocitek. 035º to 040º in iSailor. 055º to 060º on the Velocitek. If the iSailor is right and the wind does not veer, we will have to tack offshore to the southwest before sunset.
1715 An air temperature gin and tonic, even with a slice of lime, standing in the cockpit accompanied by Bach. Our speed has dropped below 3. Part of the gin and tonic brought below and the music changed to Eva Cassidy. Freeze dry feast to come.
2000 Just tacked to port, heading SW, out to sea. Wind very light. Making less than 2 knots. Light rain falling. Not an unpleasant day, but also not a very productive one.
2045 A few minutes ago the wind veered to the southeast, backing the jib. The Pelagic does not have an off course alarm as does the Raymarine, but I felt it, went on deck, tacked, and now we are making 4 to 4.5 knots on a course of 075º which is taking us away from land and not far from the rhumb line to Cape Lookout. If this wind holds, in a few hours I will be able to ease off being close hauled
In the cabin I have moved my sleeping bag to the starboard pipe berth.
2147 Not long after I wrote the preceding, the jib backed. I assumed a wind shift, but when I went on deck I found that the Pelagic tiller arm had pulled out of it’s mount. I don’t know how that happened, but I can see how to fix it.
So I gybed, got us back on course and went below for a Raymarine. When connected the first one, which is the one I have been using, failed. I went below for another. This one worked and is steering.
Meanwhile the wind continued to veer. We are now sailing 4.5 knots 075º on a close reach and I am going to try to get some sleep.
May 6, Saturday
0610 I have been awake since 0345.
We had pleasant smooth sailing from about 2200 until then, making 3 and 4 knots on a close reach, but at 0345 the Raymarine off course alarm woke me. The wind had died and we have been becalmed ever since. I tried to get us back on course, but couldn’t, and after several attempts, going back and forth between pipe berth and deck, I furled the jib, put the Raymarine in standby, and let us drift. We essentially still are though I have the Raymarine engaged and it is keeping the bow pointing more or less east toward a pre-dawn orange glow and what appears to be an area of rain. Light rain fell intermittently during the night.
We have been off the loom of lights of Charleston all night, but we are still a discouraging 10 miles south of the entrance to the harbor, having covered thus far only 44 miles from Hilton Head Island.
0800 A busy morning. The Pelagic is again steering. Somehow it pulled out the socket into which its pin inserts from the mounting pedestal I made. I had a spare and coated it with Loctite and inserted it. The mount of the Pelagic has several holes. I drilled a hole in the pedestal and screwed a screw into one of the outer holes, which should keep the mount from coming loose.
I also listened to NOAA’s weather from Charleston. Once again it seems unlikely I will get to my intended destination. By late Monday wind is forecast to be 20 to 25 knots, too much for me to anchor under sail in a confined bight and the coast will be a lee shore. I saw this possibility on the GRIBs before I left, but hoped I could get in before that wind came up and wanted to sail and be back before Carol returns two weeks from today. Now it seems I cannot. What is not certain is what I am going to do. At the moment we are making 3.5 knots close-hauled on starboard tack on a course of 055º. I will give it thought.
32º 39’ N 079º 30’ W
COG 045º SOG 4.0
day’s run 63 miles
We are close-hauled on starboard tack. Although I have partially furled the jib, we are heeled 25-30º. Life on board GANNET is difficult at more than 20º. I suppose if it continues and gets no worse I’ll put up with it through the afternoon, but then reduce sail before sunset. Every action and motion requires handholds. Brushing my teeth was a chore, as is typing this. I am wedged at Central with four cushions.
We have the ocean seemingly to ourselves, but are only 15 miles from land.
At 1000 a large ship was stationary a mile directly in front of us. I stood in the companionway hoping he would move, so we wouldn’t have to tack. Finally, almost imperceptibly, he did.
We are under a dividing line in the sky. Behind us cloudy. Ahead clear and sunny.
The wind is supposed to be SE, but is E.
I am going to carry on and see what happens. I doubt we will get into Cape Lookout Bight and will probably head out to sea and then home.
Once again very little good sailing.
1400 Lunch of a can of chicken and a can of Zero Heineken in the cockpit. The wind has decreased slightly, so I have the full jib set. Sunny. Blue white capped ocean. A nice afternoon if we had a better wind angle. Again as yesterday afternoon our COG is 15 to 20º higher than our compass course and we are being forced toward the land near Georgetown. Many approach buoys ahead on the chart. Assuming the wind does not change, I’ll tack out to sea before 1700.
1545 The wind has veered 10 or 15º and we are now able to hold a course that will keep us off land tonight.
A beautiful warm, sunny afternoon, if only the wind would go decidedly SE. I wish it would veer another 15º.
1930 Beautiful on deck as the sun is about to set. Light wind. Blue sky and sea. But I am not at peace. This is not the monastery of the sea. I am tense. Land is too close.
I had dinner on deck of freeze dry Italian pepper steak accompanied by a tumbler of boxed wine.
The wind has veered some. We are now on a course to keep us off the continent for the night, but there are several buoys ahead that we could hit.
While I was on deck these past two hours, abruptly, within five or ten minutes, our SOG went from 2.5 to 3.5. Neither is great except in four knots of wind, which is what we have. We are inside the Gulf Stream, which would be giving us a boost anyway. So something beyond my experience is happening along the South Carolina coast.
The nearest land is ten miles away. I wish it were a thousand.
2100 Dying light and dying wind. I may shut down and drift tonight.
May 7, Sunday
0620 Becalmed as we were all night long.
I retired to the starboard pipe berth at 2100 fully dressed except for my shoes. I knew that wind would not hold. I woke an hour later and found that it had vanished completely. The sea was flat, glassy and lit by a full moon. The Pelagic was somehow keeping our bow in the right direction. I left the sails up until about 0400 this morning when I found the Pelagic had spontaneously gone into standby. GANNET’s bow was then and is now facing south. I furled the jib and left the main up. When I woke a few minutes ago I tried without success to turn us back north. So we drift.
0800 Still no wind, but at least small swells so there must be wind somewhere. Last night the ocean was flat and GANNET level and motionless. I needed a good sleep and got one.
We are fifteen miles offshore; fifteen miles south of Georgetown; and still 160 miles from Cape Lookout, which was only 250 miles distant when we started, so 90 miles made good in two days, and presently becalmed on a pleasant sunny morning.
0900 I am reading Grant’s PERSONAL MEMOIRS and am at the siege of Vicksburg. GANNET is slowly turning and I have to move from Central to sitting on the starboard pipe berth and back to keep the sun out of my eyes. Every ten minutes or so I stand in the companionway and look for wind. None so far. The ocean is completely glassy. A pleasant morning, but not a productive one—except for reading Grant.
0945 Underway. Making a knot in more or less the right direction. Barely perceptible wind from SE. Preventer on boom.
I took advantage of the lull to fill my four day water bottles. This was much easier to do from the 2.6 gallon collapsible containers than the 5 gallon rigid jerry cans. Also, of course, because we were completely still in the water.
1030 Making 1.4 knots under asymmetrical. The wind is so far aft that the main was blanketing it, so I lowered the main. The asymmetrical has not completely unfurled. The head is still wound. The wind is very light. I hope that it will fully unfurl with more wind.
The Pelagic has twice this morning spontaneously gone into standby. I am not pleased. Raymarine is steering.
Hot this morning. Sweating from my exertions.
32º 59’ N 78º 58’W
day’s run 34 miles
COG 073º SOG 2.5
Cape Lookout 154 miles bearing 050º
Asymmetrical now fully unfurled, though still only 4 knots of wind from the south.
Clouds to the SE might hold wind and rain, but sky mostly clear.
At last we are moving. I can hear water trickling past the hull.
The distance and bearing to Cape Lookout are deceptive because we have to go farther east to avoid Frying Pan Shoal off Cape Fear.
I am henceforth going to refer to the asymmetrical as the G1. In the past I have referred to it as the G2, but I was mistaken. G1 is written on the sail bag. In any event it is a North reaching sail.
1500 The G1 was overpowering the tiller pilot so I furled, lowered and stowed it. The wind is on the starboard quarter almost astern. We are making 4 knots under jib alone, but rolling more than we did with the G1 up.
I tried to lunch on Laughing Cow cheese, which I have found keeps for a long time without refrigeration, but not forever. This Laughing Cow was from my hurricane supplies bought two years ago and it had gone bad.
1730 An air temperature gin and tonic sipped standing in the companionway with GANNET making 4.5 knots under jib alone, often rising to almost 6 when she caught 4’ waves, listening to the sound track of a movie version of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which I have not seen, but the music composed by Jocelyn Pook is very good.
Also good, my decision to lower the G1 when I did. It could still be set and we would be flying, but I would have to be steering and no way to leave the tiller to furl it and I don’t want to sit out there all night.
I will, in fact, partially furl the jib tonight to slow down. The last I heard there will be 15-20 knots of wind tomorrow, gusting 25, and I am aiming at a Tuesday morning arrival at Cape Lookout, which is now 133 miles distant. But we had some good sailing today, both under the G1 and now under jib alone with 15-16 knots of wind behind us, and I am enjoying it.
2010 The wind instrument is showing 20 knots apparent. Under deeply furled jib, which I did a couple of hour ago, we are making 4-6 knots ahead of it, so the true wind is about the 25 knots forecast. Waves are 5’. Quite a contrast with last night.
I thought I saw a sail an hour ago astern and to the west of us, but could not find it when I looked out a few minutes ago.
Assuming these conditions continue I’m going to have to heave to to slow down tomorrow or head out to sea.
2000 After unsuccessfully trying to get to sleep for an hour, I got up, put on foul weather gear, and went on deck and backed the scrap of jib I have set and tied the tiller to leeward. We are now heading more or less east heeled more, but rolling less. We needed to slow down anyway. Whether I will get some sleep remains to be seen.
May 8 Monday
0610 Well, that is it. I just heard the NOAA forecast and the only day with less than twenty knot winds when we could possibly enter the bight is Thursday.
I woke an half an hour ago when a wave crashed into us so solidly I thought for a moment we had been hit by a boat.
I got some sleep. Enough. Difficult to find positions comfortable to sleep.
I got dressed, put on foul weather gear and made my way aft to turn off the stern light. Wind instrument shows 25 apparent which considering our angle to it I think is also true. Waves about 5’.
We are 18 miles SW of the outer light on Frying Pan Shoals, heading more or less E at a knot or two. Assuming we continue to clear the shoal, I will leave us this way until the wind abates and then work our way back to Hilton Head. According to the the forecast it is going to go N later in the week and also be 20 knots.
1015 Sky hazy blue. Sunny. Cloudless. Barometer down 7 millibars since yesterday noon. Wind still 25 knots and if not howling, then whistling. We are heeled 20º from the tiny scrap of backed jib. I still had a snatch block on the rail through which to run the jib sheet so it didn’t rub against the shrouds from the last time I came sailing. This apparently has become my norm.
This is far from being even a gale and at sea, depending on the desired course, would just be good sailing, but here close to the shore it is unpleasant. Our latest position shows that we are 17 miles from the outer marker on Frying Pan Shoals and almost due south of it, so the Shoal is no longer a lee shore.
One of the line bags I use in the interior for stowage has come off the hull. Because I can’t screw into the hull, I use adhesive to attach pieces of wood to it and then screw fittings into the wood. This bag was the one beside the starboard pipe berth on which I am sleeping. I don’t recall grabbing it for a handhold, but I might have. I think I have a tube of construction adhesive on board, but I am not going to try to repair it today. I stow in it my coffee cup, a few plastic glasses, a bag with utensils: cutlery, jigger, cork screw. It occurs to me that these could be stowed in the morning food bag and be more easily accessible.
33º 11’ N 077º 34’ W
COG 090º SOG 1-2 knots
day’s run 74 miles
Port Royal Sound 165 miles bearing 250º
Conditions about the same. Wind occasionally dropping to 20 knots, but at the moment 23.
1630 Having finished both volumes of PERSONAL MEMOIRS of Ulysses S. Grant, I put on foul weather gear and sat in the cockpit for a short while. I am beyond NOAA weather range, but the last report I heard was 5’-9’ waves and there are. GANNET is riding them like the proverbial duck, but I am getting tired of this and it may go on for another day or two.
There is a leak around the port aft shroud fitting. I know because a box of Kleenex has become sodden.
Also there was enough water in the bilge for me to seek my hand bilge pump while is stowed in the space between the pipe berths. While doing so I noticed that some of the wiring for the Pelagic has come loose from a mount. It is not disconnected and the Pelagic had power when I checked it after those four occasions it spontaneously went into stand-by mode, but possibly it did so after a momentary outage. I will check connections and test it again when conditions improve.
1745 The thought just occurred: I like living here. I don’t like sailing here. ‘Here’ being this coast.
I am sitting on the starboard pipe berth looking down at the passing water. It looks the same as if I were on a passage making progress toward the next port. But it is not. I am merely waiting out an adverse wind. Not even a gale, but as uncomfortable as if it were.
A wave broke over us and the compass leaked. I see the spot, but am inclined not to try once again to fix it, but to get rid of the compass.
1830 The wind has veered to the SW. I have turned us toward Cape Lookout. We are sailing smoothly at 6 knots on a port broad reach. Cape Lookout is 98 miles away. We should be off it well before sunset. I will decide then whether we will attempt to go in.
It is not necessary that I go into the bight; but it is necessary that I see Cape Lookout. I need to finish something.
Much. Much better.
1915 Down below after being on deck enjoying GANNET sailing well. Slashing through the ocean. Timing and wind angle may not be everything, but they are a lot.
The wind instrument shows apparent 20. Because we are moving ahead of it at 5 to 7 knots, the true wind is around 25, but the waves are not as high. Maybe 5’ where earlier this afternoon they were closer to 9’.
May 9 Tuesday
0700 I’ve been up an hour. We had some good sailing last night and are now 27 miles from the entrance to Cape Lookout Bight. SW wind has dropped to 15 knots.
I still don’t if I will go in and anchor. I again can receive NOAA weather and another front is coming with north wind gusting 25 and possible thunderstorms tonight. North wind would be useful for our returning to Hilton Head.
Interior is wet. A couple of waves broke over us when I had the companionway hatch open briefly. Changed into dry clothes this morning.
1100 We are 7 miles from the entrance into the Bight. Conditions are just as I want. 10 knots of wind from the SW. I have set the mainsail and moved the anchor and rode to under the forward hatch. We are making about 4.5 knots, so should be there around 1300.
1330 Anchored in Cape Lookout Bight.
With the exception of another sailboat that was approaching the entrance at the same time I was, it went just as I planned and hoped.
I moved the anchor and rode onto the deck a mile away from a red buoy that marks the entrance which is very difficult to see. From seaward sand spits overlap and look continuous.
I furled the jib and sailed in under main alone. You enter heading east then turn south. The wind was from the SW and gusting 18, but was mostly 15. I played the main sheet and anchored in the middle of the bight, away from four other sailboats at anchor in 25’ of water.
Finally I have actually reached a destination, which I haven’t since completing the last circumnavigation.
1830 We have had light intermittent showers for the past hour, but a few minutes ago a squall heeled GANNET far over in an instant. The wind peaked at 46 knots on the wind instrument and held above 35 for several minutes, then abruptly dropped to 12 and heavy rain began pounding on the deck. With her light weight and low windage GANNET is easy on anchors, but NOAA weather warned of the possibility of such squalls tonight, so I have out 125’ of rode.
I am sitting at Central. To my left is a glass of Botanist gin. The sound track of MASTER AND COMMANDER has been playing. My glass is empty and the music is about to end. I need to do something about those two and choose my freeze dry feast for dinner.
May 10, Wednesday
1400 A windy day in the Bight. Wind 20, gusting 24, is preventing me from inflating the Avon and rowing ashore to explore, so I have done some minor maintenance, listened to music, and read.
I re-glued the mounting block for the storage bag that came adrift and re-secured and checked the wiring for the Pelagic. It turns on and functions properly. I will test it on the return sail when I can be in the cockpit to keep an eye
on it. I tested the other two Raymarines. Both work. I write the year of purchase on the units with an indelible pen. One of the still working Raymarines incredibly dates back to 1915. It surely deserves to be in the tiller pilot hall of fame. I also went through two storage boxes and disposed of stuff that has corroded or which I never use.
Ironically this wind is from the north and would have given GANNET at least a 150 mile day on the way back home and according to the forecasts is the last favorable wind for a week. Slow up here. Slow back home. I expect to leave Friday or Saturday.
May 11, Thursday
The wind abated at sunset and the night was blissfully calm. I slept well.
Today light wind. I lubed the winches, sponged a couple of cups of water from the bilge, and have read and listened to music.
I had an unexpected visitor last evening. Richard, a sailor on a nearby anchored boat, powered over in his dingy to check if I was all right or needed anything. Of the six other sailboats anchored here last evening, GANNET is of course by far the smallest. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, but said I was fine. He said something about how small GANNET is and I could not resist saying I had sailed her around the world.
Richard came by again this morning and offered me a ride to the lighthouse, which I accepted. There is a pier over there and a dock for a boat that brings day trippers over. Also a tiny store with cold drinks and tourist trinkets, a museum that was once the lighthouse keeper’s home, and various boardwalk trails. Quite pretty.
This is a good anchorage.
I’m ready to sail home. I hope there is enough wind tomorrow morning to get underway.
We took a dreadfully slow four days to make the 250 miles up here, a distance GANNET can easily do in less than two. Maybe we will do better on the return.
May 12, Friday
0645 Anchor up.
0845. I woke at 0600 to find 7 knots of wind from the south. We also had the outgoing tide for another two hours.
I had out 120’ of rode and was then in 22’ of water. I brought in 70’ of rode, went aft and raised the mainsail, then forward to bring in the rest of the rode and the anchor. The anchor was hard to break free. When it did it came up covered in mud. With plenty of room around us, I cleaned it before dropping it through the forward hatch onto a plastic sheet.
In the cockpit I turned GANNET north, trimmed the main and hand steered out of the bight. A larger boat, about 50’, was also raising anchor. A man on the bow controlling a power windlass bringing in chain.
Clear of the bight, I set the Raymarine to steer, raised the jib, and GANNET began to do 3.5 knots close hauled port tack.
A pleasant, sunny morning. Some dolphin appeared briefly near the bow. Two pelicans glided past. A trawler was working ahead of us but moved east out of our way. Three ships anchored waiting to enter Morehead City.
I went below and made a cup of coffee which I took back on deck. I put the Raymarine in standby and engaged the Pelagic. Within a minute it spontaneously went from Auto to Standby. I put it on Auto again and again it quickly went to Standby. So much for the Pelagic this sail. I later took it below.
We are presently smoothly making 3.7 knots against about 6 knots of true wind on a course of 245º which is not far from the rhumb line course to Port Royal Sound 235º. However Cape Fear is in the way and unless there is a major wind shift, we will have to tack east before sunset.
1045 Wind veered slightly, so I tacked to starboard and we are now heading south at 3 knots.
34º 32’ N 076º 45’ W
COG 165º SOG 2.4
Hilton Head 239 miles bearing 235º but as noted we cannot sail the rhumb line
We are 12 miles from where we anchored, but having tacked have sailed farther. Also our COG by iSailor is 10º lower than our Velocitek compass heading of 175º. Wind presently 5 knots true. We are 10 miles offshore.
1245 Jib backed so I tacked to starboard. Now making 2.5 knots 260º. Sunny, pleasant afternoon
1445 The wind has backed some, enabling us to come up to a course of 235º. Ahead of us was a ring of buoys inside of which is written on the charts ‘Restricted Area. Danger Fire Area’. On our present course we are now going to stay clear of it without having to tack.
1745 Today has been fine, better than I expected. The wind has backed until we are on a course to clear Cape Fear and most of Frying Pan Shoals. Toward the eastern end of the shoals the water is 30’ deep and I would sail over it in the absence of breaking waves.
I am waiting while Santa Fe Rice and Beans with Chicken steeps. The soundtrack to THE PIANO, one of my favorites even without its memories for me of New Zealand, is playing, An empty tumbler is on the cabin floorboards. It did contain Botanist Gin. I have only three choices for a second glass. More Botanist. Boxed red wine. Laphroaig. I have yet to decide.
May 13, Saturday
0630 A pleasant day became an unpleasant night.
I tried to go to sleep at 2100. The wind increased and backed the jib twice. Then we started pounding off small waves. I tried sailing various combinations and finally at around midnight got us moving slowly under main and a tiny scrap of jib so I could get some sleep. I was up a couple of times and got up for good at 0530.
The wind is lighter and I unfurled the jib and tacked. We are now heading toward Frying Pan Shoal rather than out to sea at 2.4 knots.
The NOAA weather was garbled, but it seems we will have 20 knot winds from the SW and probable rain tonight, but tomorrow and Monday the wind will be from the north and behind us. I hope so.
33º 44’ N 077º 21’ W
COG 253º SOG 3.5
day’s run 57
Hilton Head 187 miles bearing 241º
This morning was much like yesterday, but a half an hour ago the wind headed us by 20 degrees and we now may not clear Frying Pan Shoal without tacking. Wind 9 knots. Sunny. I see a ship miles to the east of us heading south. I dozed off while reading at Central.
1400 Almost becalmed. Wind very light and continues to head us. SOG only 1.6. I don’t like being in this close and having constantly to dodge buoys and boats and capes and shoals.
1420 Jib backed so I tacked. We are now heading a little east of south at around 2 knots. This is not getting it done. Just waiting for changes in wind. Tonight we are forecast to have more than we want from the SW. I hope the forecast for tomorrow and Monday is correct.
1540 Wind backed and increased to 9 knots. I tacked and we are now making 3.8 knots due west. This will take us onto shallow areas of Frying Pan Shoal and we will have to tack back unless we get a favorable wind shift.
1800 A drink—Botanist gin straight; the tonic is gone— and music on deck while GANNET makes her way smoothly west at 3 knots in 5 knots of wind. A sparkling silver inverted triangle reaching out from the lowering sun ahead of us. An almost flat ocean. The largest wavelets less than 1’.
A roughly 45’ catamaran heading the other direction under power diverted course to look GANNET over. These boats are mostly enclosed, including the helmsman’s position and I saw no one. I waved. I do not know if they tried to contact me on VHF. I do not come out here to have conversations.
Smoked three bean chili steeping.
I will sleep fully dressed tonight, except for shoes, expecting significant changes in the wind. Assuming it comes up 20-25 from the SW which is a direct headwind for us as predicted, I will not beat up GANNET or myself by fighting it, but will heave to in one configuration or another with our bow pointed out to sea and wait for the forecast wind from the north tomorrow.
1845 The wind has backed and we are presently making 3.5 knots on 245º which if it holds will safely carry us across Frying Pan Shoals in these light conditions.
The chili was good.
1900 Knowing I am in the December of my life, I am enjoying the moment. Not that many are left. The ocean will be here as it has been for millions of years, but I won’t be. As I have written: That we have so little time is our dignity.
This is very pleasant sailing. Not fast. 3.5 knots close hauled on port tack in 4 and 5 knots of wind. Few other boats would be sailing. Engines would be on. Smooth seas. Put a glass of wine on the floorboards without being concerned that it will topple over. Temperature in the 70s. A wind shift in our favor. Sipping red wine. Listening to my favorites playlist scrambled. But for this old sailor it is not enough. I am pelagic. I need sea room.
I look around at the sea and sky as I always do before sunset and I must admit that I do not see the change coming.
May 14, Sunday
0615 Not the night I expected. I didn’t see the change coming in the sea and sky because it wasn’t. The forecast was wrong.
After we cleared Frying Pan Shoals at about 2200, I checked and saw the running lights of another boat. When I determined he was crossing ahead of us and heading in, I partially furled the jib in anticipation of the wind strengthening and shifting and went to sleep. I woke several times to find conditions remained the same. Wind light from the south. Sea smooth. It remained that way all night and is now, though the wind is slightly west of south.
I unfurled the jib, which has only increased our speed to 3.5 and made the ride a bit bumpier. We are sailing around 253º which will bring us to land in 40 miles near Georgetown. I won’t go that far before tacking out to sea.
I turned on NOAA radio and our forecast north winds have vanished. I was looking forward to them. We may have east winds tomorrow, but are going to continue close hauled today.
Swollen gold sun rising dripping from the sea astern.
1000 Wind veered slightly heading us, so I tacked to starboard. We can tack in 90º or less by the compass, but not by the course over the bottom shown on GPS. Now making about 3 knots on about 170-175º. Sunny. Only 4 or 5 knots of wind.
33º 27’ N 078º 31’ W
COG 175º SOG 3.0
day’s run 61 miles
Hilton Head 130 miles bearing 236º
Hazy sunshine. Continued light head wind.
This is our third day out and we are not quite half way.
1300 Headed. Tacked to starboard. Sailing about 255º at 3.5 knots. Without a wind shift we’ll have to tack back before sunset.
While we are not heeled extremely, I am growing tired of always having to fight gravity.
1545 Tacked to starboard, heading more offshore.
Course about 155º. Too many buoys near Georgetown.
Hilton Head is 119 miles away in a straight line. An easy day’s sail. But we can’t sail the straight line.
There may be rain to the south of us. The possibility is mentioned in the forecasts.
1820 There was rain over the land to the west of us, but thus far none out here.
The wind is very light. Unless there is a wind change we will make nothing tonight. I may let us drift. I will wake often hoping to find an east wind.
1915 A major wind shift, but not to the east, to the NW. I don’t expect it to last, but GANNET is presently making 2.2 knots on course 237º. That this pleases me is proof of how contingent our values are.
May 15, Monday
0630 We are sailing about 225º under full jib with 20 knots of wind almost directly behind us. Our average speed is difficult to judge. It varies from 8 to 4, averaging I think 6.
The NW wind last night quickly died and we were becalmed. I left the tiller pilot in standby, furled the jib and left the main up trimmed flat and went to sleep. At 2200 I woke when the main made a noise and found light rain and wind from the north. I put on foul weather gear and went on deck where I found wind. In profound darkness it took me a few minutes to orient myself and figure out where the wind was coming from. When I realized it was from the north I turned us toward Hilton Head. The wind was as now almost directly astern. Not wanting an accidental gybe, I lowered the main and set about 2/3s of the jib. We sailed under that, rolling, for the rest of the night. I got up at 0530 and at first light at 0600 went on deck, unfurled the rest of the jib and changed our course 10º to port to keep the jib from trying to gybe.
Back below I heard the NOAA forecast and it is seriously bad. This wind should hold through the day and then go south tonight. Then for several days conditions will be near gale force. I must get into Port Royal Sound tonight. I will go in after dark. We have 80 miles to go.
0915 Gybed jib to starboard. We are 25 miles off the mouth of Charleston Harbor. 68 miles from the outer Port Royal Sound channel buoy or be blown offshore for two or three days. If this wind holds we should be there before midnight. Fortunately low tide is around midnight, so we will have the current with us going in.
32º 32’ N 079º 40’ W
COG 257º SOG 6.0
day’s run 80 miles
Hilton Head buoy 54 miles bearing 241º
Sunny. Barometer has risen slightly and is high. Wind and waves the same. As already mentioned, it is difficult to judge our average speed because the readings vary so much and so quickly. Eleven hours to go at 5 knots. Nine at 6 knots. Actually a little more because we cannot sail the rhumb line with this wind directly behind us and will have to gybe at least one more time.
I had to take the tiller and hand steer to pass behind a ship leaving Charleston an hour or so ago. We were 21 miles offshore then. Now 14.
1245 Switched tiller pilots. The one that had been steering was giving off course alarms when I did not think we were off course. However, the one I switched to just did the same.
1700 No drink tonight until we are at anchor or hove to heading out to sea. Measuring distance from our noon position we are averaging 6 knots. We still have 25 miles to the outer buoy of the channel into Port Royal Sound. The wind has decreased slightly. Down to 17 or 18 knots. I am uncertain how close we will be back on the wind on the first leg of the entrance channel. I don’t want to have to beat up it and not sure we can.
1830 The heading up the first leg of the channel is 356º. I put the tiller pilot on standby and turned us to that course to see if we can sail it. A close reach. Even under jib alone we can.
May 16, Tuesday
0845 Anchored in Port Royal Sound. For the second time. I anchored first at 0130 this morning, having sailed in last night. I almost never enter harbors after dark. The last time was at Rio de Janeiro with Carol on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in 2001. However, it was rough outside and I wanted to get this done.
The channel into Port Royal Sound is buoyed. There are dangerous shoals on either side. I was able by GPS and then sight be off the outer most pair of buoys at 2300. The wind was blowing 18-20. I sailed under full jib alone, which is what I already had set. I also already had the running backstay in place. The sky was clear and star filled in the absence of the moon. The loom of light of the island off to port. I remained in the cockpit making minor adjustments to the tiller pilot. Although we were making 4 and 5 knots, it is 10 miles from the outer lights to inside the sound and it took a long time to get in. The seas, now ahead of the beam instead of behind it, were rough as we passed just outside the line of green flashing buoys. I left the first buoy to port, but couldn’t see it behind the jib, so moved just outside the channel and left the rest to starboard where I could see them. Distances at night are deceptive and each flashing green light seemed to stay abeam a long time.
After two hours we were finally in the sound and had some protection from the land and the water smoothed. At 0100 I decided I would anchor wherever we were at 0130 and I did, surprisingly in 38’ of water. Often in the sound I anchor in 50’. I put out 120’ of rode and went down below where I poured myself a small glass of Laphroaig. One does not gulp Laphroaig. At least I don’t and retired to the port pipe berth at 0200. Woke at 0500. Went back to sleep and got up at 0700.
I fit the Evo and raised the anchor at 0800. We were 3 miles from the mouth of Skull Creek and 5 miles from our slip. I didn’t believe I could power that distance against the outgoing tide. Very light wind from the east was not enough to overcome the outgoing tide even with both main and jib set. Although our bow was pointed the right direction, GPS showed us going sideways toward a shoal, so I pulled the not yet stowed anchor back on deck and anchored again.
The tide was due to change around noon and there should be more wind in the afternoon. I expected hoped to reach the slip before sunset.
1430 GANNET in her slip. The little boat can be tricky to dock. She is so light she carries no weigh/way? and wind easily stops her. Today the tide was pushing her sideways toward the slip and 14 knots of wind from the south was blowing her away from the slip. To maintain control I had to keep the Evo in gear all the way until I could step on the dock with dock lines.
I raised anchor at 1200 when light wind came up from the south and the tide turned to be with us.
Two and a half hours to cover the five miles to the slip. A blazing 2 knot average, but that is what we did most of the way up and back. I sailed the first three and a half miles until we were in Skull Creek where the wind died and then returned from the south heading us. I turned on the Evo and powered the rest of the way.
I put on the main sail cover and tiller cover, removed the Evo and outboard bracket from the stern and stowed them on the cabin sole, but was too tired to do more and walked up to the condo where I had a most welcomed hot shower. I’ll bike back tomorrow and sort out the interior and clean.
We had mostly very light wind both going up and coming back, except for the last day of each leg when we had good wind. Atypically I was usually able to receive NOAA weather forecasts on my handheld VHF. I know that meteorology is not yet an exact science, but the forecasts frequently caused me to be concerned about conditions that never materialized. I am weak and will continue to listen to NOAA when I can, but I prefer to be offshore where I can’t and to figure the weather out and deal with it myself.