Wednesday, March 22, 2023

days six and seven - Chez Webb

Only five days into the trip yet Webb's place on Hilton Head is too inviting of a place to not stop and visit.  His condo on Skull Creek quite literally looks out over the ICW.  And though Webb has told me he is not sure how to be a "host," he has proven himself in the past to be an excellent host.

There is of course work to do on SPARTINA.  After just a few days on the water there is gear to dry out, duffels that need repacking, batteries to charge and water bottles to be topped off.

I ask Webb if he has time for a bike ride, and of course he does.  I put in a request to see an alligator so he takes us along a path that leads to a pond that has two alligators.

This time only the smaller, at five or six feet (I didn't get close enough to measure), is on shore basking in the sun.  The other bigger alligator that Webb calls Big Al is not to be seen.  Kind of makes me wonder where he might be.  I tend to prefer alligators that I can see.

A high-light is motoring SPARTINA around the dock so that she shares a finger pier with Webb's circumnavigator Moore 24 GANNET.  We have talked up rafting up over the years and some photographs might be nice too.  This is our chance and it is pleasing to see the two boats near each other.

Dinner on the second night at Webb's is Thai food delivered to the condo.  Excellent!  And Webb makes drinks he calls a "Webb" which involves Vodka, white cranberry juice, elderberry flower liqueur and a cranberry.  Also excellent.  After dinner we have some Laphroaig and talk about boats and sailing, San Diego and St. Michaels, friends that we have in common, and thoughts and plans for the future.

Webb keeps busy with his workouts, writing, reading and listening to classical music.  I am free to catch up on my log, check in with my girls and enjoy the wonderful setting on the shore of Skull Creek.  In the condo I stop to look at framed photographs of CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, the Drascombe Lugger that Webb sailed most of the way around the world.  I think back to the 1980s, living in Texas and driving to a bookstore in a mall to order a copy of Webb's OPEN BOAT, ACROSS THE PACIFIC.   (This is decades before Amazon and overnight deliveries.). I remember seeing those same photographs when I picked up the book at the mall a couple of weeks later.  And I think about how strange it is that decades later Webb is a good friend.    

Dinner the last night at Webb's is pizza and Webb makes martinis that we sip on the porch as we wait for the delivery.  It is good to see Webb, a very enjoyable visit.  It is time to get back on the water.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023


I never feel quite complete until SPARTINA is back on the water and escape is nothing more than throwing off the lines and raising sails.  This morning I put the boat back on the water.  I now feel complete.

I had not planned to sail today, just wanted to get SPARTINA tied up at the dock.  There was better wind than forecast, and it was warmer than I had expected.  So I set sail and enjoyed a couple of hours tacking across the Elizabeth River.  It felt good.  I did see a few snowbirds headed north, a couple of sailboats and a trawler.  It is that time of year.  

Monday, March 20, 2023

day five - once more with feeling

Calm night, cold cold morning.  Somewhere around 40 degrees, I put on thermals and the dry suit.  Cast off from the marina at 6:55.  Full sail at 7:05.  The north wind and ebb tide both in our favor.

We make around the marsh and shoals, wing and wing at one point.  I can bear bits of bugles playing mixed in with the wind.  Making 5.2 and then 5.8 in a gust. 

At 8:15 red marker "40" shows the strong ebb tide rushing around the piling.  

8:25 tuck in a reef and gps shows 6.4.  I can already look over Parris Island Spit and see the north end of Hilton Head.

A sudden gust and the starboard coaming goes in the water.  Round up to pump water out.  8:55 sailing mizzen and jib making 4.7.  9:10 round Parris Island Spit and jibe.  9:20 raise the double reefed main.  9:35 I can see the distant green marker for the Skull Creek entrance channel.  9:40 shake out a reef, then soon the second reef.  As I'm cleating off the peak halyard I glance up to see the red marker for Skull Creek.

10:25 enter Skull Creek and jib.  Gentle sailing on the main channel that rounds a sand spit.  Dolphins swim along side. 

Tied up Hilton Head at 11:20.  Webb is down at the dock to greet me.  It has been two years since we were last together.  I straighten out the boat and then we head up to Webb's condo.

In the afternoon I head back to SPARTINA to repack some gear and set up the boom tent.

Late afternoon Webb and I bike down to Skull Creek Dockside about a mile away, get some excellent dinner to go.   My Seafood Tagliatelle Pasta comes loaded with shrimp, scallops, calamari and lobster.

Evening in the condo Webb and I have some Laphroaig.  I can look out the window and see SPARTINA's two masts.  It is good to be in Hilton Head.

15.5 NM


Sunday, March 19, 2023

apps and outboard

MaryLou asked about apps.  She liked the tide app I used in the last post.  This is the Tides Near Me app, I believe it was free.  Very easy and convenient to use.

My main navigation app is the Navionics Boating app which gives a screen image like this, plus lots more information including weather, tides, anchorage and marinas (with links to the marina websites).  I do not carry paper charts on the Charleston to Palatka sail, I rely on this app on both my iPhone and iPad mini 6 for navigation down the ICW.

Click on the Navionics screen will bring up the option for the weather screen, above.  There is a fee to get full access on the app, including weather.  I don't recall what it is, it is not much and it is worth it.

At certain points along the waterway there will be tide markers on the charts.  (Go to the second picture in this post.  SPARTINA is the red arrow heading west.  Just to the left is a small blue tide marker showing an opposing tide).  Click on tide marker and above is the screen that you will get with easily understood tide/current information.

I use several weather apps for wind, I am not happy with most of them.  Above is the Windy app which gives a good visual representation of wind/gust speed and direction.  With the changing climate these day I am not convinced that weather modeling is accurate.  Often I will check a couple weather apps, including SailFlow, and try to extrapolate what kind of wind to expect.  

As for the outboard, a Suzuki 2.5 four-stroke, I found it was inconsistent when trying to start first thing in the morning.  Once I did get it started it would easily start for the rest of the day, i.e. when heading into an anchorage or a marina.  The outboard is with a friend/mechanic right now and he tells me he has it running very well.  The outboard is a good outboard, my old Suzuki (same model) would start easily on the first pull.  I expect my mechanic friend made some adjustments and did some cleaning.  

I hope to have SPARTINA back in the water this week.

MayLou, I hope to see you and Fred on the Spring sail on Chesapeake Bay.


Saturday, March 18, 2023

day four - down and back

Awake well before dawn and the first thing I do is start the outboard.  It starts on the first pull so I know I am good to motor out of the slip.  I've got time to spare, not quite light enough to get out on the water so I walk down the waterfront and enjoy the coming dawn.  It had been a peaceful night in the marina save for a little wind storm that came and went in the early morning hours

My tide app shows it will be high tide soon, I'll have an ebb tide to carry me down the Beaufort River, and with some luck maybe even the beginnings of a flood tide to carry me on over to Hilton Head.

Cast off 7:00, sails up with a single reef in the main at 7:05, making 5.0 kts.  Tack our way around the marsh that sits out in the middle of the river, 4.8 close hauled.  Strong ebb tide in our favor but with an opposing southwest wind making for very steep chop.

Sail under the bridge and find bigger chop on the south side.  The gusts are building, another tack and another gust, this one strong enough to put the coaming in the water.  Round up to pump out the water, tie in a second reef.  Try to continue downriver but it is choppy and there is more wind than I had expected.  With marshy Cane Island to port I know the river will curve and open up wider, probably rougher water around the bend.  

Decide it will be too rough, turn back to Beaufort at 8:15.  Gusts continue to build, bring down the double reefed main at 9:15.  Back to the dock under mizzen and jib, tied up at 10:00.

Hang up the gear to dry, walk up to the marina store to pick up a cold drink.  A little frustrated but think I made the right decision.  I email Webb that I won't be arriving in Hilton Head today.  He replies that there are white caps on Skull Creek, which he says is very unusual.

It is only in the afternoon that I look at a weather app that shows the morning winds had been at 15 with gusts to 33.  I think it would be more accurate to indicate winds at 33, lulls to 15.

Light rain in the afternoon.  The gear is dry so I tuck it away and set up the boom tent.  Forecast has the same ebb tide tomorrow, the wind swinging around to the north so it should be an easier passage down the Beaufort River.

8.48 NM


Thursday, March 16, 2023

day three - fifty tacks

Calm, peaceful night.  Wake to a light mist hanging over the marsh.  Expect that I'll have an opposing tide coming up the cut that leads to the Coosaw River so start up the outboard to get it warmed up.  It starts up on the first pull, then dies.  Several attempts to get it going fail so I pull off the cover and sort through the mechanics of the choke.  Make two small adjustments, still won't start.  Decide to take my chances sailing.

Sail off anchor at 8:00, nice breeze carries me down to the cut and I find the expected opposing current right away.  Think that I might have to turn back but decide to give the outboard one more try.  It starts up and runs perfectly.  Go figure.

On the Coosaw River full sail at 9 a.m., 3.4 kts.  Beautiful morning, cool and a steady southwest wind. Better wind at 10:00, make 3.8 against the tide in a gust.  

Pass Morgan Island and Coosaw Island, then with Lady's Island to port see the entrance channel markers for Brickyard Creek at 11:05.  

It is easy sailing even with the opposing tide, I lean back agains the coaming and enjoy some dried fruit.  

Looking back to the east I see two tugs coming up the channel behind me.  As I watch them I realize we would all get into the winding entrance channel at about the same time. 11:30 I tack to port near green marker "203" and let the tugs pass ahead of me.  Once they are past I turn back towards Brickyard Point.

In Brickyard Creek at 11:45 and I find both the current and the wind are on my nose.  My outboard decides it is not going to work so I tack to see if I can make headway against the tide and wind.  I make a little ground on the first tack, and a little more on the second.  I tack, tack, tack again.  Up to the edge of the channel on the west side, up to the pier that extend out to the channel on the east side.  Each tack about a minute or so.  The strong wind out of the south helps.  

At 1:00 reach Pleasant Point where the creek turns east and opens up.  In a little over an hour it was about 50 tacks to make our way up the creek.  Out on the wide part of the creek the gusts are building so round up and bring down the main, making 3.9 under mizzen and jib.  At Pidgeon Point the creek turns directly into the wind and I can't make headway in the chop.  

Things are getting a little hectic so I fall back to an anchorage marked on the charts.  I drop anchor there but find the anchorage provides no protection in the wind.  I decide to try the outboard one more time, it starts right up.  I shake my head thinking the outboard is now just out to mess with me.

We motor around the point and tie up at the free dock.  I am told the free dock can get you a nice fine should I stay there overnight.  So I cast off, pay for a slip at the marina for the night.

It is good to be in Beaufort.  I set up the boom tent and sleeping gear, then head to Luther's for dinner.

 24.40 NM

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

day two - against the tide

Sunrise comes clear, calm and crisp on Toogoodoo Creek.  A beautiful calm night, there was a crackling noise beneath SPARTINA's hull late evening that I took to be shrimp.  Early morning hours I could hear dolphin surface to breathe just off our stern.  A crescent moon hangs above us at dawn.

Under power at 7:00 with a helping ebb tide to carry us out of the marsh.  Foul weather gear against the chilly morning.  7:15 dolphins roll in the water at the mouth of the creek.  Sun over the horizon at 7:20 and I enjoy the hint of warmth.  We cross a tide line and approaching the Dawho River find the tide, still an ebb tide, is now against us.  Instead of fighting the tide we slip to the east of the channel and set the anchor at Slann Island anchorage.  I tidy up the boat while waiting out the tide.

8:55 anchor up and under power on the Dawho River against the tide.  Begin to feel hints of wind out of the south. 

 9:55 passing under the Dawho River bridge and on to North Creek with Whooping Island to the east.  10:25 turn southwest to Watts Cut.  10:45 we leave the cut and enter the South Edisto River.

Full sail at 10:55.  11:15 tack as we work against both wind and flood tide.  Easy, slow sailing.  12:20 making 2.2 to 3.3 kts, then more wind and doing 4.0.

Blue skies, white wispy clouds.  Several tacks fight the tide as the river curves to the west at Alligator Marsh.  I being with tacks across the width of the Edisto, then shorten up for quick tacks to round the point in close to the shallows at 1:10.  My app shows slack water at Fenwick Island Cut and we tack through the cut at 2:20.  Under power to pass through the Ashpoo-Coosaw Cut at 2:35m tall stands of trees blocking the wind at the cut.

Sailing on Rock Creek just after 3:00, anchor down on the creek just above the cut that leads to the Coosaw River at 3:30.

24.34 NM

Beef Stroganoff and tropical fruit for dinner