The passage out of Charleston Harbor was pretty choppy. There was a fairly steady wind and we had a bit of a time getting the main sail up. Things settled down a bit after we left the channel. First order of business was to decide our watch schedule. We have used a variety of random decision helpers throughout the trip but resorted to the classic Rock, Paper, Scissors for this one. Julia and I “won” the first shift which meant we would be on until 1900 that night but would only have one night shift from 2300-0300.
We set a course out to the first waypoint. The wind was following and blowing directly where we wanted to go. It is a bad idea in a sailboat to run directly downwind because you can accidently jibe and cause serious damage to the boat and crew. We ran on a broad reach for several hours as far off the wind as we felt comfortable with the wave conditions, which I think is a bit easier than just steering to a compass heading. We had great wind and made really good time. We averaged about 6.5-7 knots for our shift. At one point I managed to hit 9.9 knots which is the current record right now! Since we couldn’t hit our exact course we had to tack back and forth a couple of times through the night in order to stay on the right path. Ryan and Jimmy took over at 1900 and Julia and I laid down to get some rest.
The conditions were just about the same but it was so difficult to fall asleep! I had a little trouble sleeping on our first offshore passage as well and it seemed to be the case for this one as well. I would doze off but then start awake to us bouncing through a wave. There were several times that I was sure that we had jibed but I would eventually convince myself that everything was OK and drift off to sleep again. After a fairly restless nap, Ryan came down and gave us the 15 minute warning. Julia and I bundled up and went up top at 2300 to start our shift. The conditions were just about the same as before and we continued to make good progress. I definitely didn’t have any trouble falling asleep once our shift was over at 0300.
I fell into a deep sleep until Jimmy called down to wake us up at 0620. The feel of the boat was very different and I could tell that the wind and waves had picked up. Jimmy was calling for all hands on deck for a tack. Julia and I scrambled sleepily to throw our clothes on as quickly as possible. This is much more difficult than it sounds! All of our clothes are in the front part of the boat which has the most motion in heavy seas. We were both cramped into the small walkway area trying to change. I lost my footing and hit the side of my head on one of the portlight screws. No blood so I kept on getting dressed. By the time we had layered up and gotten on deck, Ryan and Jimmy had furled the headsail and turned on the engine. They managed the tack by themselves but we stayed on deck in case anything else was needed. The wind had picked up to a steady 25-27 with gusts above 30 knots which is nearly gale force. The seas had increased fairly significantly and spray was flying all over the place as waves broke against the back corner of the boat. Jimmy was at the wheel and we managed to stay under control and keep our course. The closest point to duck in was still our intended destination of Brunswick/St. Mary’s area. We decided to head to Brunswick since it was a little bit closer. The timeframe and course that we were on had us coming into the beginning of the Brunswick channel right at sunset. We had three options at this point, none of which were very appealing. We could head into Brunswick, an unfamiliar port at night and anchor out near St. Simon’s Island. We could tack back and forth until daylight and then head in from there. Or we could stay out offshore and continue to head south until daylight and find a suitable port from there. We talked about it for awhile and decided to get out of the weather and head into Brunswick inlet at night. The guide said that it would be well lit and there was an anchorage near the inlet.
Julia and I officially came on watch at 0700 and we made a track for Brunswick inlet. This was not a fun watch at all! The sailing wasn’t bad. The wind died a bit and we had steady 20-25 knots. After about 30 minutes we had been splashed several times with waves and were both pretty wet. I was very happy with my decision to buy the nice foul weather gear at that point! We both had trouble staying awake but managed to work our way through the shift. Ryan and Jimmy took over at 1300. It was so great to get out of the cold and get into dry clothes! We made lunch and then quickly went to sleep. Jimmy and Ryan woke us up as we approached the harbor at about 1730. Ryan took the wheel and we tied down the main before heading into the channel. Jimmy was the only one with nighttime navigation experience so we were a little anxious starting out. I was on lookout for the red markers which we would put on our starboard side (Red Right Returning!). Julia was on the lookout for the green markers and Jimmy was down below keeping an eye on the chartplotter and letting us know which navigation lights would be next. We all did so well! Ryan did an excellent job of keeping a solid course. Jimmy would give him a bearing and he would keep to that until Jimmy gave him a new course. Jimmy would let Julia and I know which markers to keep an eye out for and we would usually be able to stay about two ahead of the current marker. We made it into the sound with no problems in about two and a half hours.
The inshore markers were a whole different story. We still had the chartplotter but the day beacons that we were navigating by were unlit. We had a big spotlight on board (thanks Dad!) and used that to check for those. We found our spot, dropped the anchor, checked for drag and then headed down to celebrate being out of the cold, wet conditions.
After an amazing night of sleep, we woke up and headed towards Brunswick. We needed to change the oil on the boat and had a few things to do in town. We squeezed under the 185 foot clearance of the huge Sidney Lanier Bridge and got ready to dock. We pulled into Brunswick Landing Marina and things were instantly better than our experience with the Megadock. Sherry, the dockmaster, gave us a packet of information with taxi numbers and restaurant suggestions and was very helpful as we got settled. Jim was hanging out inside and suggested Fox’s pizza for lunch. We took showers and headed out to see the town.
We explored Newcastle Street and enjoyed a nice lunch. On the way back Julia made friends with a couple of guys that were wandering around. It turns out that they worked for the National Park and Forest Service system and were currently doing the Federal Law Enforcement Training in Brunswick. We made plans to meet up and go out since it was Saturday night and we wanted to see the town. We had a delicious dinner of dehydrated meals and Mitch, Dean and Dan showed up during that. We offered them some food but they respectfully declined:) All three of them were from different parts of the country but they were currently involved in a fourth and half month training session in Brunswick. It sounded pretty intense! They had to do all sorts of hand to hand training, deal with simulated terrorist attacks and murder scenes, as well as all sorts of driver and other kinds of standard training. We headed out in their cars to Brogen’s Bar on St. Simon’s which had a shuffle board table and a few games. We played several matchups and headed around to a couple of other places. They were nice enough to drop us back off at the marina. We went to bed that night with plans to wake up early, change the oil and head out by noon or so. The wind was howling when we woke up the next morning and the conditions weren’t very good to start the next leg of our journey. We decided to have a lazy Sunday and finish taking care of things around the boat. We went to Jim’s Corner Café and had a nice breakfast there. We had accidently left our oil filter outside the night before so Jimmy and I decided to head out to West Marine to buy a spare. It was about a mile and a half away so we had a bit of a walk to get there. Things are much slower when you are in boat mode without a car. I had walked the day before to the Auto Zone to get the proper oil for the oil change (15W-40). We made it to West Marine and bought the proper fuel filter. We stocked up on cookies and snacks at Winn Dixie (it’s amazing how those run out first…) and headed back to the boat. We had plans to go see a movie that night but postponed them until the oil change was done. Jimmy and I (really mainly Jimmy) finished that up and Ryan cleaned up the boat for a bit after that.
We headed to Brew Burger’s to watch a little football and hang out until movie time. Around 6:00 we called for a cab to pick us up at 7:15 for our 7:30 movie (Over an hour’s worth of warning!). This turned out to be one of the most ridiculous cab rides ever! The cab showed up around 7:23 with two other people in the cab that weren’t paying for a ride so the four of us squeezed into the back seat. While I was getting in the car, the driver was waving around this plastic gun. I thought it was real at first but it was definitely fake. While messing with his Bluetooth headset, we were treated to an interesting account of his life and views of his work environment as he dropped off the other two guys and then headed towards the movie theater.
We made it to the theater at 7:45 and bought tickets for The Tourist. We missed the first little bit (one of my pet peeves) but the movie turned out to be fairly entertaining. It wasn’t the greatest movie by any means but we had fun. We called a different cab company after that and it turned out to have a more professional since of time. So once more, we went to bed ready to wake up and head out early. We couldn’t get the heater to work due to a pressure issue so we went to bed bundled up. We woke up this morning to below freezing temperatures and 30 knot winds! We fueled up the boat and topped off our water. One guy inside the dock house told us about Jekyll Creek which had a reputation for bad shoaling problems and we would only be able to make it through at high tide. High tide happened to be around 1:30 pm so that would mean waiting around until 11:00 or so before heading out. We checked our Waterway Guide and it confirmed the same thing. Arrghh! We were all very ready to leave Brunswick and keep working our way south. Jimmy was pretty uncomfortable heading out into a Small Craft Advisory so we went to breakfast at Salvador’s to talk things over. After several long debates and switched opinions we landed on the sad reality that we would spend another day at dock before heading out. So another forced lazy day! We are determined to leave tomorrow and make it down to Fernandina Beach or St. Mary’s. We are going to read and hang out around town and probably watch a movie in the boat tonight. The winds are expected to drop a little tomorrow so we should be fine to leave. The heater is still giving us issues so we are going to try and fix that today. We are anxious to leave but are going to wait out the wind for one more day. More to come soon! -Daniel