An Afternoon Sail, then Off to Daytona Beach

Felix, the Argrabright's cool cat

Felix, the Argrabright’s cool cat

Thursday and Friday were maintenance and cleaning days aboard Beatitude.  We changed the oil and filter in both auxiliary engines.  We replaced both the Racor fuel filters and the engine fuel filters.  We also adjusted the alternator belts on both engines.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we were running on fumes as we entered Charleston Harbor last week.  This was obvious as I changed the port fuel filter which was thick and black with debris and grime which was sucked from the bottom of the port fuel tank.  No wonder the engine stalled a couple of times on the way in!    Cindy and I also constructed portable screens for the two forward salon windows and the rear sliding window.  They turned out pretty well and will hopefully allow some ventilation in the salon in the evenings without letting in all the insects and pests.  Additionally, we did some general cleaning inside the vessel.  I added to the cleaning list when I put my knee on the edge of the settee in the salon, somehow activating the fire extinguisher beneath and spraying this fine, sticky powder over half the salon.  Oh my!

A day in the pits

A day in the pits

On Friday, we “Uber-ed” to the laundromat where we dropped off our laundry for their wash and fold service.  The laundry at the marina was out-of-order.  Five minutes after being dropped off, I realized Cindy had left both of our iPads in the back seat of the car.  Of course, by the time I called, he was already on his way to downtown Charleston to pick up another customer.  So, we walked over to West Marine for spare filters and had lunch at Steel City Pizza.  Our driver agreed to come back over to pick us up to take us back to the marina, thereby reuniting us with our electronics.  Thank God!

Steel City Pizza Decor

Steel City Pizza Decor

On Saturday morning, Cindy joined Shera (Argarbright) to help select materials for their kitchen remodel.   Meanwhile, Justin brought over our new 6-person Winslow Super Light Offshore Plus Life-Raft. After securing the life-raft in its appropriate stern compartment, the ladies joined us for an afternoon sail on Charleston Harbor.  There is a very strong current flowing through the marina and throughout the harbor.  Initially, I was frustrated that I was only able to make about 5 knots or so in 15 knots of wind.  My frustrations were relieved as I reversed direction and sailed with the current instead of against it, reaching over 9 knots!  Charleston Harbor can be a pretty busy place to go for a sail, especially on a Saturday afternoon.   Adding to the excitement of sailing along at 9 knots, was the challenge of dodging the other sailboats, tugs, and cargo ships that were coming and going.  After a couple of hours on the water, we re-docked Beatitude (not without some difficulty given the strong current and wind blowing me off the dock) and enjoyed a nice Lasagna dinner.

Shera and Justin

Shera and Justin

Careys and Argabrights

Careys and Argabrights

Justin atop the bimini to assist in raising the mainsail

Justin atop the bimini to assist in raising the mainsail

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The best seat in the "house"

The best seat in the “house”

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Arthur Ravenel Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Bridge

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Justin at the helm

Justin at the helm

Charlotte Harbor

Charlotte Harbor

Passing beneath the Ravenel Bridge

Passing beneath the Ravenel Bridge

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Dinner on Board

Dinner on Board

Today, we awoke early and climbed into the car just before 5 a.m. to make our way to the Charleston International Airport for a 6-day trip to Daytona Beach.  I’ll be working this week in the emergency department at Daytona’s Halifax Medical Center.  This means I now have two locations at which I can do locums work.  We arrived early, giving us the rest of the day to relax before a very busy week.  For lunch today, we dined at the always fun Bubba Gump’s. We are staying on the beach, and from our oceanview room we watch the waves rolling in off the ocean.  In a little over a week, we’ll be passing by in Beatitude just a few miles offshore. 

Cindy, next to Tom Hank's  outfit he was wearing on the bench in Forrest Gump

Cindy, next to Tom Hank’s outfit he was wearing on the bench in Forrest Gump

Hank's  Military Outfit in Forrest Gump

Hank’s Military Outfit in Forrest Gump

Me and Jenny

Me and Jenny

This week will include lots of time in the emergency department for me.  Cindy plans to take advantage of the proximity to Lakeland to visit with some old friends.  We will also meet up with our good friends, Tim and Annie, while we are here.  They are live-aboards here in Daytona who were previously in Titusville, where we had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with them when we returned from the Bahamas in April of this year.

A view out our hotel room window in Daytona

A view out our hotel room window in Daytona

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Charleston – Part Deux

We picked Charleston for our a brief interlude on our journey south for two reasons. First, our visit here in June was wonderful. And second, because we get to hang out again with our friends, the Argabrights. We arrived in town at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, and after getting caught up on sleep, our friends picked us up at the marina and took us to their home for pizza and the opportunity to watch our Georgia Bulldogs on their 70″ big-screen TV (which made me a little homesick for the theater room in our former house which boasted a 108″ screen). The pizza was great and the Dawgs won. What more could a person ask for?

Large numbers of Monarch butterflies at the marina

Large numbers of Monarch butterflies at the marina

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Heaven. That’s what Sunday morning was like. Cindy and I took the free resort/marina trolley to downtown Charleston for the 10:30 worship service at St. Phillip’s Church. I was so deeply affected by all the beauty that I must have spent half the service in tears. From the opening introit sung by the choir to the magnificent edifice with its arched ceilings and Corinthian columns, and from the challenging message to the choir’s performance of Handel’s “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” from the Messiah, throughout the liturgy I was translated to some other-worldy place. Gratefully, that feeling has lingered throughout the past few days. After enjoying Sunday lunch at the Rutlege Avenue Cab Company with the Argabrights, the rest of the day was spent aboard Beatitude.

A building in Charleston's French Quarter

A building in Charleston’s French Quarter

St. Phillip's Church, The Mother Church of the Diocese of South Carolina, established in 1680.  The present building dates to 1835.

St. Phillip’s Church, The Mother Church of the Diocese of South Carolina, established in 1680. The present building dates to 1835.

The beautiful interior of St. Phillips

The beautiful interior of St. Phillips

The old graveyard at St. Phillips, which contains the remains of John C. Calhoun and Charles Pinkney

The old graveyard at St. Phillips, which contains the remains of John C. Calhoun and Charles Pinkney

Graveyard sign at St. Phillips

Graveyard sign at St. Phillips

Selfie after church on Sunday, sitting on a bench waiting to be picked up for lunch

Selfie after church on Sunday, sitting on a bench waiting to be picked up for lunch

One of the many horse-drawn carriage tours in Charleston.

One of the many horse-drawn carriage tours in Charleston.

Lunch at the Rutledge Cab Company

Lunch at the Rutledge Cab Company

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we rented a car to do some errand-running. We’re beginning to think of all the things we need to do before we leave the country again. When we depart this time (which could be less than a month away), we may not be returning for several years. We’re trying to prepare Beatitude for an extended stay away from the United States and to purchase the equipment that we need to safely navigate to all the places we’d like to visit. The task is a little daunting, but very exciting at the same time.

Apples in Sweetgrass basket we bought at the Charleston City Market

Apples in Sweetgrass basket we bought at the Charleston City Market

Cindy with Ashley, who made the sweetgrass basket we bought. She learned the skill from her grandmother.

Cindy with Ashley, who made the sweetgrass basket we bought. She learned the skill from her grandmother.

The boardwalk at the Charleston Harbor Marina.  The U.S.S. Yorktown and the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in the distance

The boardwalk at the Charleston Harbor Marina. The U.S.S. Yorktown and the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in the distance

On Tuesday, the 20th, Cindy and I celebrated our 36th wedding Anniversary at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Charleston called the Peninsula Grill where we enjoyed delicious steak and an amazing coconut cake for dessert. One year ago, we celebrated at a French Restaurant in Coral Gables as we were preparing to cross the gulf stream into the Bahamas. My, does time fly!

Ready for our Anniversary Dinner

Ready for our Anniversary Dinner

36th Anniversay dinner at the Peninsula Grill

36th Anniversay dinner at the Peninsula Grill

My lovely bride of 36 years.

My lovely bride of 36 years.

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

The best coconut cake in the world at Peninsula Grill.  Bobby Flay calls it the best dessert he's ever eaten.  It was amazing!

The best coconut cake in the world at Peninsula Grill. Bobby Flay calls it the best dessert he’s ever eaten. It was amazing!

On Wednesday, while traveling down to the Yanmar Dealer on Wadmalaw Island to pick up some spare engine parts, we made a return visit to the Irvin House Vineyards and Firefly Distillery for some wine and spirits tasting. It was nice to mix a little pleasure with business.

Cindy has her shine on at the Firefly Distillery

Cindy has her shine on at the Firefly Distillery

A bunny at the distillery

A bunny at the distillery

Ocracoke, NC to Charleston, SC

Our dilemma: Should we attempt the Ocracoke inlet, a questionable and little used inlet by cruisers, and risk running aground? Or, should we go west and rejoin the ICW and risk losing our mast on one of the two bridges? I posed the question on a Facebook forum and received varying responses, some of which were, “Don’t do it! It is dangerous and treacherous and should never be attempted!” Some were less alarmist, and one gentleman gave me the name of a local fishing captain to call who is familiar with the inlet. I spoke with Captain Steve who admitted he’d never taken a sailboat through the inlet, but felt confident that the markers were clear and accurate. I also spoke on the VHF with the Coast Guard, who also assured me that the passage is well-marked and accurate. They both thought it was doable given my boat and my draft (4’3”).

Pamlico Sound:  Shrimp boats at Sunrise

Pamlico Sound: Shrimp boats at Sunrise

Although, the decision cost me a little sleep, we decided to to through the inlet. Those who ought to know thought it would be fine, and I clearly was not looking forward to the anxiety of clearing those bridges on the other route. We awoke at 4 a.m. in order to arrive at the Ocracoke Inlet near high tide with just a little bit of incoming current (to oppose a current vs. waves scenario). In the three-hour pre-dawn portion of our trip across the Pamlico Sound, we enjoyed watching the Big Dipper stand on its handle, shooting stars streak across the ebony sky, and Mars and Jupiter chase Venus up above the eastern horizon. In addition, the bioluminescence in our wake was spectacular. At 8:20, we entered the Big Foot Slough Channel which leads from the sound down into Okracoke. The inlet was much easier than many others I have traversed. Granted, the weather was perfectly calm and we had timed the tides and current correctly. But, the decision, with which we had wrestled anxiously, turned out to be the right one. Thanks be to God!

Good Morning, North Carolina!

Good Morning, North Carolina!

Sunrise on Pamlico Sound.

Sunrise on Pamlico Sound.

This is what most of our pictures of dolphins look like: ripples in the water from being a second too late.

This is what most of our pictures of dolphins look like: ripples in the water from being a second too late.

We got one!

We got one!

The village of Ocracoke, the place of Blackbeard's death in 1718.

The village of Ocracoke, the place of Blackbeard’s death in 1718.

This is why planning a route in a new area is stressful.  The chart plotter says there is no way through here (The Ocracoke Inlet).  It's also why you can't rely on your char plotter.  If you notice our path, we have cut across 2' depths and are now on land!  Believe me when I say, we were in the channel in about 10 feet of water at the time.

This is why planning a route in a new area is stressful. The chart plotter says there is no way through here (The Ocracoke Inlet). It’s also why you can’t rely on your char plotter. If you notice our path, we have cut across 2′ depths and are now on land! Believe me when I say, we were in the channel in about 10 feet of water at the time.

After passing the last green can leading out into the Atlantic, we turned to starboard, making our way southeastwardly under a cloudless sky, calm winds, and three-foot rollers off the ocean. This would make the fourth consecutive day of travel in which winds have been less than 5 knots. It makes for pleasant conditions, but it also entails motoring. With 25-30 knot winds in the forecast a couple of days down the road (with the accompanying waves), my main concern was speed. I hoped to beat the weather all the way to Charleston. So, motoring with both engines at 2500-2600 rpm all day allowed us to make over 7 knots of headway.

The last green can leaving the Ocracoke Inlet

The last green can leaving the Ocracoke Inlet

Pelicans!  We haven't seen too many of these since we've been north.  It's good to see our southern friends again.

Pelicans! We haven’t seen too many of these since we’ve been north. It’s good to see our southern friends again.

Calm Atlantic Waters

Calm Atlantic Waters

Late afternoon on the Atlantic.

Late afternoon on the Atlantic.

The day passed with little excitement. I put both fishing lines in the water, but solicited no interest from the piscine community below. The afternoon brought some visitors to Beatitude, however. First, one little bird showed up, then another, and another, and finally one more which was being chased by a large hawk with 3-foot wing span. I’m not sure if that is what drove the previous three birds to join us, but it definitely was the driving force for the final creature. Poor thing! Flapping his tiny wings with all his might, likely for miles (we were at least 10-15 miles off shore at the time), he found refuge just in the nick of time. The predator, seeing that his prey had found sanctuary, circled Beatitude two or three times, before turning back to land. Cindy and I were now running the Beatitude Bird Wildlife Sanctuary. These four lemon-sized birds stayed the night with us. The next morning they were up just before sunrise flittering around the boat, eating some of the dead bugs which had met their doom at the wrong end of a flyswatter. Soon, they were all gone but one. He was a friendly one, or at least he was when he was the only fowl left aboard. While the birds had been more than willing to come right up to us, they wouldn’t allow petting. This little fellow would step onto your hand if you offered, and would climb all over our head, shoulders, and arms. Our flying friends offered quite the crew of Beatitude quite a diversion. (The friendly fellow was standing on my hands as I typed this.) 🙂

What follows are multiple pictures of our fine-feathered friends!

What follows are multiple pictures of our fine-feathered friends!

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We had lost cell-service by late afternoon, and would be running 30-35 miles off-shore for the next 24 hours. Due to the large extensive shoals jutting southeastward off of Cape Lookout and Cape Fear, and the concavity of the seashore between them, we were destined to pass too far offshore to connect with civilization. That is, except for posting updates on Facebook through our Delorme InReach Satellite tracker. We assumed our usual watch schedule for the night, three hours on/three hours off, and passed the hours of darkness without incident. Around midnight or so, the winds did clock around to the west and picked up in intensity which meant we would be pounding into 2-4 foot wind-driven waves for the foreseeable future. This also slowed our progress to around 6 knots, pushing our projected landfall a little further into the future. As had been the days, the night sky was cloudless, revealing multitudes of stars only visible away from the city lights. The moon has been setting in the early evening, rendering even the light of the moon inept and blocking our view of the stars. The night watches were passed with more shooting stars in the sky and bioluminescence in our wake.

The sun setting over North Carolina from about 30 miles offshore.

The sun setting over North Carolina from about 30 miles offshore.

During the daytime hours of Friday, the winds did us no favors. They shifted to the southwest and increased to over 20 knots with higher gusts. This was, unfortunately, the exact heading of our destination. We expected a brief shift in the winds, but not quite for as long or quite as intense as we experienced it. We expected a wind velocity of 10 knots, not 20-25 knots. Oh, well! So, our speed slowed even further to 4-5 knots as we pounded into short but steep waves. Other than that however, we made steady progress on a heading of 240° toward Charleston under cloudless skies. A heavy salt wash coming over the bow spread a fine saline mist over the salon roof and into the cockpit. If not for the pounding from the waves, which was considerable, temperatures in the 70s made for an otherwise comfortable afternoon. Once again, the fishing lines were out all day with no apparent action. However, Cindy mentioned a couple of times that she thought she heard the reel clicker on one of the rods. I looked and listened and saw and heard nothing, so I ignored it. However, when I pulled in the line the wire leader had been broken. Likely there had been a nice fish on the line. Next time, I’ll check.

Finally, around 10 p.m., the winds moderated and shifted to the NNE, making for a much more comfortable ride on into Charleston. Around 1:30 a.m. we entered the maze of confusing lights known as Charleston Harbor. Without the aide of a chart plotter, I’m not sure how it would be possible to find one’s way into the muddle of blinking and constant red, green, and white lights. By 2:30, we had tied up to a temporary spot in Charleston Harbor Marina, Beatitude’s home for the next two or three weeks. We were in bed by 3 a.m. and slept soundly until noon on Saturday. We, then, pulled over to the fuel dock to fill the near empty tanks and move to our “permanent” slip on the end of B-dock.

Fueling up in Charleston: We took 146 gallons (our tanks only hold 150, so we barely made it.)

Fueling up in Charleston: We took 146 gallons (our tanks only hold 150, so we barely made it.)

It’s nice to be still for a couple of weeks. We’ve covered a considerable number of miles (550 to be exact) over the past six days on our trip from Annapolis to Charleston. We’ll spend the next week doing boat work and relaxing before a trip to Daytona Beach for 5 days of work. Then, we’ll return to Beatitude awaiting the first weather window to continue southward.