November 8, 2012 by Last Star blog
6 November 2012,
Winyah Winyah Chicken Dinna’
So on Tuesday when the election was being decided we were trying to get another 30 plus miles under the keel with a southbound heading and our overnight destination of Winyah Bay South Carolina. We spent the night at Murrells inlet and awoke to somewhat better conditions than forecast. The anchor was still trying to make up its mind regarding the wind OR the current but at least it was holding fast. We got started about 7:00 AM as the rain and stronger winds were now forecast for the afternoon so we hoped to beat those conditions to the punch. Murrells inlet has no access to the ICW so if you enter you must leave via an ocean sail too; we knew the second day could be nasty–again that Low that is torturing the North East is affecting us as well.
We hastily made some coffee and a hot breakfast and got the motor going and traced our steps out of Murrells. As we got to the ocean we unfurled the main and left it at about 80% as the forecast called for 15-20 knots with gusts. As we took up our heading it was apparent that we would be going straight down wind with a horrible lumpy following sea courtesy of that pesky low well to our North East. We elected to put the waves and wind at about 120 degrees to our aft and let out the head sail and settled in….if that is the right term. With the head sail out and most of the main we were doing about 7+ knots and mostly in the desired direction. As we headed further and further out to sea the waves and wind were increasing and the ride was becoming rather hellish. If you have heard the expression “fair winds and following seas” well that sounds all good and well but I think it deserves a caveat! I’m all about fair winds–like fair trade coffee for example (laughable) but that following seas can really kick your butt. Things below were being tossed about. No matter how much you secure stuff and put it on the ground and stow it eventually the sea will toss it out. It is just a matter of how much of a mess it makes. Patricia did a good job of securing most everything and the things that were “released” were mostly noisy and just needed picking up later rather than cleaning up.
The cockpit was a nightmare too. The cushions we sit on all day were now vinyl “skim-boards” sliding all over the place. The rain did not help matters as the enclosure panels had to be open and closed with all the sail trimming and adjustments needed. With the wind nearly at our backs the rain was being driven into the open zippers and flaps–not helping. We pressed for a couple of hours on our heading and then had to make a heading change to correct back to course for Winyah. The question was tack or jibe? I decided to bring in the head sail as I felt it would be one more thing to deal with in these strong conditions (mistake in hindsight) and that the speed and weight of the boat would take it through the tack. Well we started to bring in the head sail but about half way through it became VERY difficult to continue rolling it in? I thought my crew-mate was again playing tricks on me to see me strain at that damn winch handle again. I gave her my best withering stare to no avail. What actually happened is the halyard that normally raises the asymmetrical spinnaker and lives on the bow pulpit had gotten caught in the headsail during the luffing and bucking in the waves and now been wrapped once or twice about the forestay–damn ( this is the PG version of what actually came out of my mouth–it was much worse, it had not been a good couple of hours so far)! OK, easy enough to unwrap a bit of the headsail and free the halyard. Problem was that pulling it into the headsail had loosened it even more and it was now flapping all over the place and trying to time wrapping the headsail and Patricia releasing the jib-sheets in concert with the pitching of the boat would be pretty difficult for anyone. Well the obvious solution would be for someone to go out on deck and tighten the halyard. As any good Captain I needed to stay at the helm where it was warm and dry and keep an eye on things. I asked for volunteers to take care of this latest nuisance. The cats returned their usual blank stares–I think they were a bit numb. The first mate failed to respond on the first query and the second time I asked for volunteers I was met with a “dagger like stare” that I felt I had experienced before–odd feeling. Fine, I’ll do it. Here’s a little photo of what was going on outside.
Now the boat came with some sort of thingy that tells you how much it is tilting or heeling but it doesn’t really work and truth be told the “number” it yields is meaningless to me. I know what is comfortable and what is not. In this case the photo above (which doesn’t do it justice) would be in the “not” category, the little clasp on the hatch cover is one indicator of the heeling but I like big picture information and the horizon tells me a lot. So I pop out the side of the enclosure with the comforting thoughts of “be careful” echoing in my ears from my trusty crewmate (no shit!?). The rain was refreshing, the sea-state challenging. Naturally I have super-natural Ninja Windsurfing skills so I danced out to the mast and took the offending halyard and tightened the crap out of it. There and back in less than a minute–easy-peezy. I think I might have made it in less than thirty seconds but I had to stop and throw away the underwear I was wearing as I think about half way through the trip they became unsalvageable–we were well out to sea beyond the legal limit for solid waste.
Once the halyard was out of the way we brought in the headsail. The first attempt to tack was met with a very large wave and we had to fall back, I fired up the diesel and we plowed through the next one. Once turned we set a new course and resumed our jaunt to Winyah Bay. During the next few hours of hell we were again visited by a small bird; very similar to the one from the day previous.
He stayed a bit and then again took off into the awful conditions. As w neared Winyah Bay the wind had freshened to the forecast 20ish and the sea was a mess. Getting in the main would be a challenge as the process of getting it into the mast must be very neat and wrinkle free or getting it back out will be harder. Patricia did a great job of keeping the boat into the wind and waves and we got it in on the first try. We then motored into the channel and after about 40 minutes (long channel) we turned and got a bit of land too shelter us from the hammering we received all morning. All this to cover about 30 additional miles south. The two ocean legs did save us about 80 miles on the ICW and the fuel and wear on the engine–it’s all a balance of resources.
We had a nice little sheltered area to anchor, we got the antennae up to watch the news during dinner and saw some early election returns. Most shocking was the forecast low for the area was 41 degrees that night. That’s freaking cold on a boat, the temperature the next morning was 49 degrees inside the boat. Next stop is Charleston SC and the weather is supposed to be nice the next few days. We’ll linger there a bit and get rejuvenated and refreshed before we keep going south into SC. If anyone has details on good stops on the coast please share.
Oh and Patricia has a version of this day too….her’s may be a bit different than mine.