After two nights in a real bed and incredibly delicious meals with family, we were delivered back to the marina to prepare for our next offshore adventure. After the stress of days of shallow waters, we were ready to take on the high seas once again, and the weather appeared equally prepared to provide us with a reprieve from rain and cold. It looked like we would have at least four days of calm winds, so we were poised to skip over the Georgia portion of the ICW, rumored to be shallow and winding, and arrive in sunny Florida after two nights at sea.
We ran into Bob and Jane across the dock on Voyageur. They’ve run the ICW several times before and were also planning to head out from Charleston Harbor, so they invited us over for post-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and passage planning. Late the next morning we left together to take advantage of high water and favorable current. We had them in sight ahead of us almost until dark, when we started to think about revising our St. Augustine destination.
With neither wind to sail nor fuel to motor all 199 miles to St. Augustine, we could either wait for wind or start heading West toward land and a closer, safe-looking inlet. The wind picked up a bit after dark, enabling us to sail a little west and then motor a little south; a compromise. Jon and I took three to four hour shifts through the night, and while it wasn’t the greatest sleep of our lives it was enough to keep us functioning.
Flat seas and a rare moment of wind in the sails.
In the morning the wind died again. We were forty miles off-shore, and whether or not we had enough fuel even to make it to a closer inlet without help from the sails was questionable. Since we had until Tuesday before we needed to worry about uncomfortable conditions, our determination to get to Florida won out and we spent the day very literally drifting along with the current, sometimes at about 0.5 knots! However, we really didn’t mind as we’d finally fulfilled our goal of finding warm weather, and enjoyed lounging around on deck in seventy degree heat. The other benefit of calm conditions was the ease in preparing real food. Jon made us French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast and I made chicken enchiladas for dinner. Lunch, if you were wondering, was the usual tuna sandwich jazzed up with some fresh tomato slices and held together with unrefrigerated, month-old mayonnaise. Still good!
As the sun went down, again the wind picked up and we were able to make good progress both South and West, finding ourselves just thirty miles from our alternate destination, St. Mary’s inlet and Fernandina Beach, FL, by morning. With the wind behind us, we sailed slowly on through the building swell. Without a whisker pole for the jib, with light winds and any swell it’s frustrating to try to sail downwind on our boat because each large wave causes the boat to lurch; the wind then spills from the sails and the slow building momentum is lost. Still, we managed to make it within 12 miles of the inlet, where we fired up the engine and rocked our way in to the fuel dock at Fernandina Beach. From there it was only a couple more hours of motoring before we arrived at a protected anchorage where we could both get a real night’s sleep.
Considering our last offshore experience of way too much wind, this time we erred on the side of caution and ended up with the opposite: not enough. Maybe our next passage will be just right.