Friday, March 31, 2023

day eleven - water on the wrong side of the boat

Glassy calm morning, under power at 7:10.  The running tide sounded like a rushing river in the middle of the night.  Wind and full sail at 7:40.

Listening to weather radio I hear flood warnings for low-lying areas in Savannah, not from rain but from higher than usual tides.  This confirms my suspicion that higher tides are causing stronger tidal currents than the last two years.

Making 4.5 against the tide.  Round up at 8:00 to tuck in a reef.  Wind is building.  At 8:20 begin to round up to tie in a second reef.  A strong gust hits broadside and the port coaming goes in the water causing what my friend Barry calls "water on the wrong side of the boat."  I shake my head.  Not a problem, just got to get the water out of the boat.  I sail around the curve in the creek, drop anchor and begin bailing.  Sailing again at 8:35 with a double reefed main..

9:45 making 3.2 to St. Catherine's Sound.  Low overcast and cool, I slip on a sweater and foul weather pants.

Crossing a tide line near green marker "109" at 10:00, doing 4.3 with wind over the starboard quarter.  Looking over the marsh the Sound is in sight.  10:30 on St. Catherines Sound, water very bouncy with wind against tide.  

10:55 shake out a reef, making 5.0 on the flood tide.  Skies clearing and warming up.

11:30 put the second reef back in the main entering Johnson Creek.  12:40 at green "131" see we have a helping tide, 4.9 downwind.

Shake out a reef as wind drops.  1:35 no wind, under power on Sapelo Sound.  2:30 high, thin overcast, getting hot.  Cross some area of upwelling water.  Wind begins to fill in.  Sailing again.

3:30 Sapelo River, 3:50 on the Front River.  

Nice breeze and it is getting hot.  Long day it seems.

Tide low on the rivers winding through the marsh.  Muddy banks and oyster reefs along shore.  A waterman in a skiff motors by, gives me two thumbs up and a smile.  Anchor down Crescent River at 4:20.

 30.05 NM

Vegetarian Chili

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Monday, March 27, 2023

day ten - picture perfect

I wake to see a woman on a paddle board.  I take a few photographs of her.  Tuck away the sleeping gear and break down the boom tent.  As I'm getting ready to sail the woman passes by SPARTINA.  I tell her I had taken some photographs, ask if she would like to have them.  She gives me her phone number and I text her some images.

Sail off anchor at 6:55.  Wind out of the south but my tide app shows I should have a helping ebb tide for a hour or so.  It is slow steady tacking down Skidaway Narrows, sailing to just beyond the channel markers then coming about for the next tack.  I am pleasantly surprised with our progress.

It is a pretty sail with marsh and trees lining the Narrows.  We slip under the bridge at 8:20 at slack tide.  Soon I can feel the flood tide.  

I get a text on my phone from the paddle boarder.  She says thank you and tells me her name, wishes me well.  Then she texts again with photographs of SPARTINA sailing out of the anchorage at Isle of Hope.  Just beautiful.  

photo by Kelli

9:40 on the Moon River, making 3.4 against the flood tide.  More wind and it is getting chilly, put on foul weather pants.  Slip on to the Burnside River, one boat ahead coming up the river and one off the stern.  I slide to the side of the channel to let them pass.

11:00 fall off to port and sail onto the Vernon River making 3.7.  11:30 I've got a helping tide and making 5.5 towards Ossabow Sound.  A small sailboat with a broken mast sits up on the marsh to the south.  A handful of tacks to make it through Hell Gate, the cut behind Racoon Key.  Turn up the Ogeechee River and that helping tide is now an opposing tide.  

Excellent wind but against the tide we make just 2.4.  A crab pot float is nearly buried in the rushing tide.  1:20 surrounded by upwelling water.  SPARTINA is pointed in the right direction but the boat slides back and forth as water rushes up from below.  I don't understand it.  The wind fails, we motor out of the confused water.  2:00 back in swirling water.  

Low hazy overcast, choppy brown water and a tide line to starboard.  2:20 cross another tide line as we enter the Florida Passage.  Cross the head of the tide and sailing comfortably, 3.6

Anchor down on the Bear River at 3:35.  Early enough that I can relax under the boom tent.

Calm winds in the evening, the running tide point SPARTINA's bow to the west.

21.53 NM

Beef Stew


day nine - losing ground

Sail off anchor 6:40, steady but light wind.  Overcast, damp morning.  Sail out of the New River onto Ramshorn Creek, find a strong opposing tide.  Wind still light and I find we are sailing in place.  Wind falters and SPARTINA slips backwards in the current.  Go to use the outboard but it won't start, jibe back onto the New River.

While working on the outboard I look over the marsh and see three container ships transiting the Savannah River.  So I didn't miss anything after all, I would not have crossed the river with large ships in the channel.  Finally get the outboard running and motor down Ramshorn Creek.

9:25 crossing a tide line and the tiller shakes in my hand.  9:40 a second tide line.  At 10:00 I see there is a dredge and boom in the cut that leads to the Savannah River.  I'm unsure of the path between the two until a man comes out on the bridge of the dredge and uses both arms, kind of like the guys on the tarmac at the airport, to show me the way to go.  I find a fast current in the cut.  

10:25 on the Savannah River, 1:40 across the channel.  Raise full sail and motorsail into the current on the but behind McQueen's Island.  Pleased with the nice pull we are getting from the sails.  The cut leads to the Wilmington River where we pass beneath a bridge, find good wind on the south side.  

12:15 cross another tide line, making 5.4 with the ebb tide towards Thunderbolt.  Pass through the high end marinas at Thunderbolt at 1:40.  Very rough at the mouth of the Skidaway River.  Calmer once on the Skidaway, making 3.2 against the current.  

Wind falters and I find we are losing ground with each tack.  Motorsail up the river to red marker "42" where the Skidaway turns west southwest.  Afternoon wind fills in, tacking up the Skidaway and looking at the chart on my phone for an anchorage.  Isle of Hope seems to be a good spot for the night.  

2:45 drop the main and sail under mizzen and jib to where Isle of Hope sits on a sharp bend in the river.  Anchor down just outside the channel markers at 3:45.

 20.54 NM

Chicken and Dumplings 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

day eight - against the wind and tides again...

Carrying two bags I take the elevator instead of the stairs down from Webb's condo before dawn.  I take off and stow SPARTINA's boom tents and sail covers.  Just after sunrise Webb comes down to the dock to say goodbye.  The outboard is a little balky this morning but runs after a few minutes. 

Cast off 7:15, I motor out on to Skull Creek, raise sail and slip past the docks to thank Webb for his hospitality.  He takes a few photographs and waves.

Full sail making 3.5 close-hauled.  A light overcast and sailing against the ebb tide.  7:40 I slip on foul weather pants and boots against the cold, tacking into the wind and making 3.8 on a starboard tack.

Green marker "27" shows the ebb tide.  It is a stiff current under the bridge that connects the mainland to Hilton Head, we sail through at 8:45.

Some gusty winds, round up to tuck in a reef at 9:05, making 3.9.  Cross the head of the tide on to Calibogue Sound and now the ebb tide is, at least for the moment, a helping tide.  9:40 the gusts have left us, shake out the reef, full sail.  The sun is trying to break through the clouds.  10:15 tack off a white sandy beach surrounded by marsh.  10:40 very choppy water approaching the Cooper River as the tides of the river and the sound collide.

Still on Calibogue Sound the strong ebb carries us south, making 5.6 in the chop.  Soon on the Cooper River, water is calmer but making just 2.0 against the now opposing ebb tide.  Begin a steady series of tacks on the Cooper, making some headway but fighting the tide and gusts winds.  Slow going.

Make a little more headway as the river curves slightly to port.  12:40 less gusty but still plenty of tide running.  2:40 smoky and hazy, there must be a controlled burn going on somewhere in the marsh.

3:00 approaching green marker "37" the channel curves and shoals are exposed at low tide.  Markers for the channel rest on the sand.  

3:30 slack tide and making good speed to the New River just ahead.  The centerboard touches the shallow bottom a couple of times, I raise it a few inches.  Anchor down New River at 3:40.  Three other sailboats anchored on the river.

Evening, skies begin to clear.  I lower the mizzen so that SPARTINA will swing with the tides that will both flood and ebb overnight.

27.49 NM

Leonardo Fettuccine for dinner


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 (Webb points out that it is a raspberry, not a cranberry.  I make mistakes like that when drinking vodka.).  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.