Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Captain's story ...

Great plans! We set out from Daytona Beach's Halifax Harbor Marina with a freshly pumped holding tank, fuel topped off and twenty gallons more in Jerry cans, and a sunny day predicted for our jaunt down to Ponce Inlet at New Smyrna Beach. We considered the possibility of spending a night at anchhorage just off the inlet, but when we arrived it just looked too nice to delay, and we headed out into the Atlantic.

Our course took us directly into winds from the east that came down on our nose, but we persevered, motoring with the mainsail up for balance out toward the Gulf Stream. I figured we'd make the stream by evening, and once in it, turn north and, with the wind on our beam, shoot up the stream to Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina (or at least Beaufort, a bit south). Best laid plans, as they say ...

Winds from the east. Well, quite simply the Captain did not know enough about the Gulf Stream and did not take into consideration that it really doesn't run true north-south but bends eastward. We'd been in the stream (on the western edge, actually) for perhaps three hours when I finally began to understand my error.  But for a time it was pretty nice, and as the sun set gradually in the West, we had cocktails and enjoyed a not too unpleasant ride.

The problem by then, of course, is that we were committed for the night ... returning through Ponce Inlet, a good six hours back, at night, was not going to happen.  And, as the wind shifted more and more to the Northeast and headed into the current of the Gulf Stream, we found ourselves almost unable to go down below.  We were reduced to munching on hard boiled eggs, cooked chicken that I'd thought a good idea (this was about all we had while off shore), and and a few crackers.  As Penelope put it so well: "It was truly horrible!"

Next morning when the sun arose, we were barely abreast of St. Augustine, Florida, where, if we'd stayed in the ICW the day before instead of going off shore, we would have been when the sun came up.  It was depressing, and so Pen and I conferred and I finally decided it was too disheartening to go into St. Augustine now (a six to eight hour sail), so why not spend the day off shore and one more night and head out of the Gulf Stream and into the ICW around Port Royal, South Carolina.

This we did.  And the seas did calm a bit as we left the Gulf Stream, but we were beat up, tired, so much so that we never even put out a fishing line, and when we finally ghosted our way under sail into the ICW at
Port Royal, the inland waterway never looked so good to any sailors anywhere ... at least, that's our story!

So, mark this humbled Captain's words: know the waters you are going to sail in and talk to those who've done a fore you.  That is, unless you want to persuade your crew that the only thing you should do is keep your boat tied up to the dock and spend your days at the yacht club bar.

Fortunately, my crew gave me a second chance ... at least I think so, for here we are in the Chesapeake Bay, enjoying more adventures.


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