Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"It was a goose. It's dead."

 A friend left me a voicemail wishing me a Happy Fabio Day.  How could I have forgotten?  It is interesting to know how I will be remembered.  March 30, 1999.   I am told a lot of publications run this photograph every year on this date.  

A few years ago I met the woman who was handling public relations for the event.  She told me she spent all day talking with media about Fabio and his bloodied nose.  From those hours of interviews only one of her quotes made it into the stories.  That quote is the title of this post.

a brief autopsy

After doing the final shaping of the new mizzen mast today - cutting the "key" that fits in the mast step, drilling the hole for the halyard block hardware - I performed a quick autopsy on the failed mizzen mast.  Using a band saw I sliced through the failed mast every 3/4 inches or so below the break.  I found that the breaks in the wood went at least three or four inches below the fracture, and all those breaks were in the wood itself, not the glued joints.

It was interesting that when I picked up some of these slices of wood they simply crumbled in my hand.  I think the mast, after 14 years of sailing, had multiple stress fractures throughout the wood near where it passed through the deck.  It was worn out and during the hard jibe on a windy day down in Georgia those stress fractures gave way and the mast failed.

The new mast will be home tomorrow where I will finish it with Bristol varnish and add the hardware.   I hope to be out sailing soon.

Note to self:  In ten years or so start building a third mizzen mast before the second mizzen mast fails.

Monday, March 29, 2021

day seven - Georgia on my mind

I walk the half mile from Webb's place to SPARTINA in darkness, the yellow duffel with clean clothes slung over my shoulder, carrying the pelican box with charged batteries in my hand.  A heavy dew and the boom tent and sail covers are soaked.  Just as it is getting light Webb arrives.  A brief goodbye and he's asking me which line I want him to throw off first.  No wind and calm water, I motor out of the marina as Webb takes a few photographs.

The piling for green marker 15 shows a helping tide and we make 4.7 at idle speed.  Under the bridge at 7:00 with Pinckney Island to starboard and I find the tide has changed already, working against the beginnings of a flood tide.  3.5 under power, I can see the Hilton Head lighthouse across Calibogue Sound.  Wind arrives 7:45, full sailing making 1.2 against the incoming tide.  We track alongside some crabbers, pelicans diving for discarded bait.

Approaching Daufuskie Island at 8:45 the ferry boat Haig Point Pelican slows down to reduce her wake for us, I give a wave of thanks.  Looking southeast across the marshes I can already see the bridges in Savannah.  Still making way against the flood tide I notice the current is strong enough to pull the crab pot markers under the surface of the water.  

At 9:10 passing Haig Point, the north end of Daufuskie Island, we turn slightly to starboard and enter the Cooper River, the flood tide now in our favor.  Making 3.2 in light winds.  White sand beaches along shore, brown marsh grass and a deep blue sky.  Beautiful.  

Just after 10:00 at green marker 37 turn to port on to Ramshorn Creek, live oak trees in the middle of the marsh draped with Spanish moss and filled with egrets.  Looking south across the flat marsh I can see a huge container ship heading up the Savannah River.  A turn to starboard on to Walls Cut where I round up off to the side of the channel to let a tug with a barge pass by.  

Wind fills in and heading down Fields Cut to the Savannah River, no traffic in sight on the river and I am very glad for that.  12:20 motor sailing across the river, an easy passage.   Only after crossing the river do I realize we are in Georgia.  Light winds on the St. Augustine Creek that carry us with the flood tide to the  Wilmington River, 1.3 kts and it is getting warm.  

I see a bridge up ahead, check the charts on my phone and see the vertical clearance is 21'.  That should be plenty but I want to check with the bridge tender.  I hail the tender on channel 9.  "Cap, come back," I hear.  I explain I've got a 19 foot air draft and want to make sure there is room.  "Hang on, Cap, I'll check."  A few minutes later I hear "Cap?"  I respond.  "Board says 24', Cap."  I thank him.  "Have a good day, Cap!"  I drop the main to pass under the bridge.  

Once past the bridge full sail, good wind and making 3.3.  Tacking through Thunderbolt, passing by a couple of marinas and shrimp boats docked along shore.  About a mile past Thunderbolt a man calls out from a dock.  "Where you headed?"  Florida, I tell him.  He has more questions but the wind carries us on our way.

On the Skidway River 3:40, light winds and against the current.  I start looking for an anchorage and settle on Grimball Creek.  

Anchor down 4:40, low tide and surrounded by mud flats on the tiny creek.  Beef stroganoff and mandarin oranges for dinner.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

days five and six - a Hilton Head weather hold

Wide awake at 5:00 a.m., sleeping in a bed that does move gently with the tide will do that to me, I decide to check on SPARTINA.  I leave Webb's condo and immediately realize three things.  One, it is colder than I expected.  Two, there is a light rain falling.  And three, I had neglected to ask Webb for the code to get back into the condo.  Still dark.  I might as well get some chores done. 

It is about a half mile walks from the condo to SPARTINA.  I empty the head and take out the trash.  Neaten things up inside.  Grab breakfast - an Rx bar and a Tanka buffalo bar - to carry back to the condo with the hope that Webb will be awake to answer my knock at the door.  He is

Webb is an excellent host.  He makes sure I have what I need - he offered some of his his own supplies for breakfast but I already had my own - and he keeps busy with his reading and writing as I take care of my list of jobs.  First off I need to catch up on the log, I had not transcribed my notes from both the first and fourth days of sailing so I take care of that.  

My main gps had lost connection with the marine charts while sailing down the Broad River, I think it had taken a hard fall to the cockpit sole while heeling in the stiff wind near Cotton Island.  I boot up the older, backup gps to make sure that it is working, and then with a little effort get the main gps to connect with the marine charts on the micro sd card.  All is well in the navigation department.

I text Doug, who had given me a gallon of gas on the Dawho River, thanking him for his generosity.  I am pleased to tell him I did not need the gas after all, reaching the fuel dock at Skull Creek with over a gallon of unused fuel in my can.  But I cannot put a price on the sense of relief that having that emergency fuel can gave me.  I think I will always carry that spare gallon can, both for me and anyone else who might need it.

Webb and I head down to the marina, he wants to see SPARTINA and I want to see GANNET.  Two small boats just a few slips from each other, one having sailed around the world and the other sailing around the bay.  I still cannot get over the small size of GANNET.  I remember seeing her the first time in San Diego years ago.  At the time her mast was down and she looked like, well, a kind of big stand up paddle board.

Both day five and six are relaxing days.  Cleaning up SPARTINA, washing and repacking clothes.  I work on my log, Webb works on his projects.  Webb is correct about the weather.  Cool and rainy, maybe a small craft warning offshore. 

We take a bike ride out to the white sandy beach at Dolphin Point.  I enjoy takeout lunches from the Driftwood Eatery right near the marina.  (I swear I ordered a healthy salad the first day, but while my mind is saying "club salad" my mouth is saying "burger medium rare, and fries, please.")  Cocktail hour at 5 p.m. (how civilized) and great takeout dinners from the Old Fort Pub.  Life on Hilton Head is pretty good, even with the Spanish moss swaying in the wind and rain.

All gear packed on the evening of day six.  I think I hear Webb mixing a martini for cocktail hour.  I enjoy an excellent New Zealand Chardonnay from the Driftwood Eatery.  Old Fort Pub takeout of an excellent Chipotle Shrimp of me, Mussels Mariniere for Webb.  

If I have to wait out the weather, this is the way to do it.  Very enjoyable to see Webb.  I find myself hoping I attained my goal of being a low-maintenance guest.  I know Webb reached his goal of being an excellent host.  Tomorrow's forecast is good.

Monday, March 22, 2021

day four - the back way to Hilton Head

I wake to a beautiful day, clear skies and sun just coming up.  I guess it is ok to sleep in now and then.  Just after 7:00 tracing yesterday's path back out of Brickyard Creek.  The ICW heads south past Beaufort and down to Port Royal Sound.  I would like to visit Beaufort someday, everyone tells me is a very nice place, but visiting little towns during the pandemic is not a lot of fun.  Instead I raise sail with a single reefed main on the Coosaw River.  

We head east on the Coosaw with a great southerly breeze, rounding the point of the marsh and turning west towards Whale Branch.  I jibe as we round the point and that jibe unfurls the JW pennant at the top of the mast.  It had hung up on some hardware up there a couple days earlier.  It makes me surprisingly happy to see it flutter in the breeze and I cannot help but smile.  Making 5 kts on the Coosaw but it doesn't feel like that, the tide must be helping me on my way.

My joy gives way to concern, one I've had for weeks since I considered taking the back way to Hilton Head.  The Whale Branch bridge is listed with different air drafts on various charts.  One shows a 20 foot clearance, a newer one shows 19 feet.  The main mast is 18' 3" and sits a couple of inches above the water.  Add to that the full moon extreme tides.  Can we make it through?  

Best case if I can't make it through I have to turn around and get to Hilton Head by way of the Beaufort River and Port Royal Sound.  Worst case, I damage the main mast or get the mast caught under the bridge.  I follow the channel up to the bridge but I am not convinced I can make it under.  But a span off to the side seems to have a high clearance so I motor up to it to find there seems to be a couple of feet to spare.  I motor on through breathing deep sighs of relief.

Sails up and I'm a little confused as to which way to go.  I'm surrounded by small marsh islands.  I turn one way and then the other before finding my bearings.  I finally orient myself as the wind starts building out of the southwest.   It is a series of tacks, pointing up in the gusts as dark clouds move in.  The river bends to the south and I get a reprieve from the wind as it is blocked by trees along shore.  Calmer water and easier sailing past Long Point.  Just after f11:00 pass Little Barnwell Island, stronger wind and round up to tuck in a reef.  I try to sail the channel between Barnwell and Cotton Islands, wind and waves too strong.  We fall back behind Cotton Island, SPARTINA heels in a sharp gusts and takes a little water over the side.  I tuck in the second reef, still too much sail and drop the main completely.   

Under power with the jib flapping - I wish I had brought it down - we push through the waves between Cotton Island and Whale Branch Landing.  Just at noon we slide out on to the Broad River and turn so that the wind is on the beam.  Calm, easy sailing under mizzen and jib, ebb tide and we make 6.5 to 7.1.  Cloudy with rain showing to the south and southwest.  

Just after 1:00 we pass under the Broad River bridge, the bridge's pilings showing the helping current.  I call Skull Creek Marina and tell them I'll be coming in this afternoon.  I email Webb with the same information.  1:25 wind dropping, round up and raise full sail, 5.7 with the tide.  2:40 the white sandy beach of Dolphin Head in sight, at 3:00 sailing up the narrow side of Skull Creek, wind on the beam and the current slack.  Skies clearing and it feels like summer.

Round up, drop sails and motor into the marina, docked at 3:30.  I put on the sail covers, set up the boom tent.  I call Webb who is at his condos with some contractors doing some work.  Webb invites me to stay at his place for two days, there is some weather coming our way he tells me.  I accept his invitation.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

day three - fog, strong currents and fine sailing

Wake at 6 a.m. to an unexpected heavy fog.  I can hear birds calling from the nearby marsh but can only see a dark grey line about 15 yards away.  No wind.  Just after 7:00 a light breeze.  Full sail and creeping along against the flood tide at 1.4, wearing the drysuit against the moisture in the air.  Around the bend in the river 2.6.  The marker, the red "v" shaped cursor, confuses me.  Moving slowly the cursor seems to spin around but I can tell from the compass I am not turning at all.  I focus on the track line that leads to the cursor, trying to keep that in a consistently straight line.

Off the mouth of Watts Cut we struggle more against the tide as water comes up the Edisto and flows both upriver and into the cut.  I hear an outboard engine coming towards the cut, I cannot see it in the thick fog.  I grab my air horn, worrying less about making ground and more about not being hit by a speeding boat.  I strain my eyes looking through the grey.  Nothing.  I can hear music and laughter, still can't see it.  And then a clear voice across the water, "I see it" just at the dark shape of the boat comes into view.  They had spotted me out on the river.

Under power to get away from the cut, sailing again at 9:30 as the river widens.  A little sun breaks through.  Skirting the marsh on the west side of the river, 2.4, the fog lifts.  Wonderful tacking back and forth across the river.  It feels like the tide swings in our favor, wind fills in and making 6.3 off of Alligator Creek. 

Fenwick cut, a narrow land cut between the Edisto and Ashpoo Rivers, at 11:30, losing my helping tide and motor sailing through the cut on to the Ashpoo River.  I head up the Ashpoo River to the next turn but a large power boat looks like they will get to the narrow turn just as SPARTINA would so I round up and let them go through first.  I try to motor sail through turn on the Ashpoo but the water is boiling as a strong ebb tide rushes down the Ashpoo and splits in two directions.  We fall back,  tuck in a reef in the building gusts and make another attempt but still can't get through the churning water.  I turn up the Ashpoo to anchor in a shallow area marked on the charts on the south side of the river.  I put the anchor out only to feel it bouncing along the bottom in the rushing tide.  I add a 10 pound mushroom anchor and still can't get purchase.  Haul in the anchor and turning downwind and down current we fall back to anchor about a half mile from the cut.  Checking the app I see it is full ebb tide.  What else to do but lunch and a nap as we wait out the tide.

At 2:00 the app shows the current falling off, sails up and powering through the cut then motor sailing up Rock Creek and the Ashpoo-Coosaw cutoff.  Main and jib down we motor dead center down the narrow waterway lined by mud flats in the falling tide.

Out on the Coosaw River at 3:15, sails up with a single-reefed main doing 5 kts on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Off Morgan Island 3:45, 4.5 to 5.5 on smooth water.  At green marker 195 gps shows 6.7 kts, we round up and tuck in a second reef.

Enter Brickyard Creek just after 5:00, anchor down 5:25 behind a small mud island that separates us from the main channel.  Omeals beef with lentils, a self-heating meal, at the end of a long, rich day on the water.


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

day two - brother can you spare a dime (or maybe a gallon of gas)

A peaceful night on Rantowles Creek.  The tide rushing by like a river, the occasional train rumbling across the bridge half a mile up the creek.  

I wake much too early, 5 a.m. only to realize the sun won't begin to rise ufor over an hour.  I am anxious to get on the way, but nervous too, wondering about the tides and currents.  I tuck away the sleeping gear, sit in cockpit, relax and nod off for a short nap.  

Under power in the creek at 6:35, out of the creek and on the Stono River a few minutes later, 4 kts and feeling some help from the flood tide.  Wearing my foul weather bibs and a wool sweater against the morning chill.  Sun up over the trees at 6:50, it feels good.  

7:40 speed down to speed down to 3 kts against the last of the flood tide.  While the flood tide had helped me on the Stono River I had passed through the Church Flats where tide changes directions - the flood tide on the Stono was with me, passing through Church Flats the flood tide comes up Wadmalaw Sound against me.   The waterway opens up on Wadmalaw Sound at 8:35, just the hint of a breeze on the pretty morning.  A cormorant dries its wings on a channel marker, terns dive on baitfish nearby.  The southbound powerboat JOY slows down, a woman opens the door and takes a photograph.  

By 9:00 the tide seems to be in my direction and gps shots 5 kts.  I raise the mizzen hoping for wind.  Approaching the Dawho River I see a distinct line in the water, the tide line marking two different currents.  Not enough wind to sail and I've been motoring more than I like.  Anchor down off Slann Island.  I check my gas can and I've burned more fuel that usual, motoring against currents impacts the mileage more than expected.  I eat lunch, take a nap, scan the apps for the next fuel dock and there doesn't seem to be one nearby.  

Something of a breeze begins to fill in just after 1:00.  I look back towards the sound and see a Marshall Sanderling catboat headed my way.  It has got to be Doug from the ramp on Wappoo Creek yesterday.  He greets me with a wave just after I raise sail.  He lowers the peak on his catboat HORSERADISH to slow down and sail alongside SPARTINA.  We're both heading up the creek and trading tacks, enjoying the day.  I ask how far he is headed.  He says the boat ramp just under the bridge ahead.  With that in mind I ask him if he has any gas to spare.  He reaches down below his seat and, as if he had it ready for me, and sets a gallon can of gas on his side deck.  Once again he spills his wind, allowing me to sail up close and grab the can.  I am confused, I thought I might stop at the marina, get the gas from his there.  What should I do, pour the gas from his can to mine?  Hard to do while sailing.  I ask Doug and he shrugs his shoulders.  "Whatever" he says.  I sail back alongside and hold out a $20 bill for the can and the gas.  He shakes his head no. "Next time somebody needs gas, you help him out."  It's very kind of him.  Soon Doug is dropping his sail, heading in to the boat ramp.  We wave goodbye.

After slipping under the bridge over the Dawho River on to North Creek, a puff of wind pushes SPARTINA on her way.  It is getting to be low tide and the creek is very, very narrow with mud flats on either side.  Up ahead I see a big power boat, maybe a $50,000 kind of boat , just a little bit off the center of the channel and they are sitting on the bottom wondering when the tide will come in again.  

Mid-afternoon the channel turns to the west southwest on Watts Cut, very gusty wind on the nose.  Motorsailing and working hard to stay in the center of the narrow cut.  Finally we leave the cut and sail out on to the Edisto River.  I take a deep breath and relax on the open water.  It's a slow series of tacks down the river but I soon realize it could be dark before reaching the next anchorage - both the light wind and the running tide are working against me.  I come about to head back up the Edisto past the cut and around the curve where I drop anchor in about10 feet of water between Jehossee Island to the north and Sampson Island to the south.  

Fettucini with mushrooms and beef for dinner with a side of mixed tropical fruit. 

These tides and currents are interesting.

Monday, March 15, 2021

day one - the running tide

Arrive Wappoo Creek public boat ramp, patchy foggy morning, after an hour-plus drive from Georgetown, SC.  Cool comfortable morning that clears quickly.  No rush to rig and launch, need to wait for a favorable tide through Elliott Cut.  Rigged and ready, I get a visit from instagram friend Pete who has shared his advice and offered assistance over the internet.  And soon Doug is there, a small boat sailor who knows the area well.  We enjoy talking about small yawls and boatbuilding and his recently bought Marshall Sanderling Catboat.  Soon I drop the jeep and trailer off at a storage company and Lyft back to the ramp.  

12:40 cast off with an ebb tide running.  Anchor behind a small marsh island to wait out the tide.  Anxious to get on the way I raise anchor at 1:00 and head for the cut.  Approaching the cut at 1:15 I see my speed against the current drop from 1.6 to 1.4 to .8 and we're not even in Elliott Cut.  Push the tiller over hard and head back to the anchorage.  

Anchored again I watch light grey dolphins swim along the shoreline.  Topping off the outboard fuel tank I notice the tide is already slacking.  

Under power 2:00, my phone app shows .4 kts current in the cut.  By 2:15 in the cut and doing 3.0 against the fading tide.

Out of the cut 1:25 and full sail on the Stono River.  Clear blues skies and warm, wind aft of port beam, water calm and making 3.8.  This is what I have been dreaming about.

3:00 steady 4.3 kts and wonderful sailing.  River bends to the west, which doesn't feel right but that's the nature, I learn, of the ICW.  It is a winding path.    The Stono Curves round a slight bend, wind forward of beam and gps shows 5.3.  Tack at 3:15 with shallows showing on the gps.  At 3:35 Marker 28A piling shows a running tide helping me on my way.

River narrows and the wind falls off.  Waiting to long to make a tack SPARTINA slides suddenly and silently into a mudbank.  Centerboard buried, as is the rudder blade.  I raise both and try to push out with the oar.  The oar sinks into the mud.  Whatever few inches I gain by pushing on the oar I also lose when I try to pull the oar out.  I hop over the side, feet sinking into the mud, and recall my days trying out for the freshman football team as I do short stutter steps into the mud.  

At first nothing.  Then an inch or two, then more, and suddenly SPARTINA is free.  I am surprised and pleased, and also very dirty with mud from the knees down.  I give a good push and hop aboard, cranking up the outboard and motoring back upriver a few hundred yards to Rantowles Creek.  

Anchored about two hundred yards up the creek I clean up the boat, fix dinner and rig for the night.  I wake twice, the first time when I hear a barge pushing up the ICW, lights glowing under a bright full moon.  The second time I wake early morning to the whooshing sound of water.  I feel like it I am anchored on a fast moving river.  It is the full tide running.