Our First Ocean Leg: Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina

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Please forgive me, this one is long. A lot of hours and details to cover…settle in.

Our ocean journey took us out of the Beaufort inlet, and then straight for a point off of Cape Fear, where we would make a turn to put us in another straight line before making the turn toward Charleston inlet and harbor.

I started out planning to document our ocean journey every so often, save it in  my lap top, and then just upload it to the blog when were in internet range again. It was a good idea, just not feasible at the end of the trip. Here’s what I started with:

6:30 am: We planned to leave at the first crack of light on the 15th. When the first crack of light came, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones with this plan. Two others boat near us fired up their motors, and other stuff went past the docks as well (ferries, fishing boats, etc). We waited until the big guys left, to avoid them passing us while pushing a wall of water in front of them, and leaving a painful wake.

7:00 am: The Beaufort inlet is very wide, much more so than what I’m used to in Ocean City, MD. And, thankfully, there is much less traffic coming out to fish. We are currently officially in the ocean, and things are good!

7:30 am: At 6 am, I gave Howard something to “calm” him, and hopefully prevent nausea, as we’ll get more “roll-ly” toward the end of the day. At first, It took the edge off enough that he wanted to walk around, jump up onto the “dashboard” area of the helm, go downstairs to look for food (he can’t have any for 6 hours), wander around the saloon and jump up onto the counters. All while wobbling around, and just missing falling and cracking his head. He is now fighting a coma sleep, with much eye squinting.

8:00 am: We are currently in one foot waves and 3-4 foot swells. There are almost always swells in the ocean, caused by far away winds. We don’t have any weather to speak of where we are, but weather happening farther north drives the swells south. This happens all over the ocean. In addition, local wind causes waves to develop on top of, and along with the swells. For the moment, this swell/wave combination is very tolerable.

12:26 pm: My 7 hour watch started at noon. I took a nap for about an hour, while Scott was on watch. Trying to sleep is a bit weird. The rolling motion below is  not completely from one side or another. Compounded by the noise of the waves and water down below, it was unnerving.  At Scott’s recommendation, I laid diagonally in the bed, to try an offset my movement. I wasn’t rolling all over the place, but  definitely moved. I didn’t get into a deep sleep, it was more of an in-and-out nap-state. It would have to do, because I wanted to allow enough time to wake up and go over some things with Scott, before my watch.

When I came up, Scott was munching on pasta salad, and watching a movie. Since there are no immediate things to watch for, this is completely feasible. He’ll watch for 20 minutes or so, and then pause it, to check horizon, instruments, radar, etc. He showed me what to be aware of on the radar, and we set up our two way radios, so I could wake him up if needed, without going downstairs. He went off to sleep, and I’m with Howard, who is now in a full-on coma.

Ok, so the thought/sight of the water depth and distance from shore that I was concerned about is not affecting me, which is great. So far, the movement is very tolerable. Every few minutes, swell and wave sync up, and we do a pretty good roll from side to side. We have the doors on either side of the pilot house open for ventilation, and there is considerable surf noise; makes sense, considering we’re rolling around and traveling through water!

The water color is gorgeous blue, with maybe a tinge of green. I’m sure our photos won’t do it justice. The color of the surf at our side, and in our wake is pure white, unlike the tea-brown of the Chesapeake. The Dismal Swamp was brown, but that was from tannins in the water. The good old mid–upper bay color is from pure ick. The water is also really, really clear. You don’t notice how clear, until some brown sea grass floats by (again, pretty brown), and it just pops in the clarity of the water.

We, especially Scott, are seeing a ton of flying fish out here. They are almost translucent in color, and their wings flap like some kind of remote control toy. Sometimes whole schools jump off to our side. They can really get some distance.

I have seen two boats pass us on the horizon, so we’re not the only ones out here. So far….ok.

That’s all I was able to “pre record.” Here’s the rest:

My watch was pretty uneventful. I got used to the rolling, which varied from side-to-side, to corner-to corner and back to front; it was never severe or jerky. As I mentioned before, there isn’t anything immediate to watch for. We only had to make two or three course changes, and there was little to no other boat traffic. What there was, never got closer than the horizon.

This made it very easy to leave the pilot house to use the bathroom, make something to eat or drink, etc. I also used the laptop to pour through our refit pictures (which will be added to the blog soon!) Scott slept off and on. He also did several engine room checks, spent time out on the bow and in a chair in the cockpit (one of his favorite spots to view the waves).

Eventually, we deployed the paravanes, with stronger winds predicted overnight. The “bird” in the water is actually 15 feet below the surface!

The birds make a vibrating sound, as they go through the water. It almost immediately drew a big pod of dolphins. Some were huge! They stayed and played of of our bow for at least an hour! Video coming…currently having technical difficulties.

We made our turn off the coast of Cape Fear, at Frying Pan Shoals before dark. There is a shorter route, closer to shore, but it also takes you closer to the shallow water. Swells can get pretty nasty there, so we chose to stay out in the deeper depth, and take a bit more time. We had no problems passing by. Now we were on the second straight course to Charleston inlet.

By 6pm, it was time for Howard’s second dose of “calming” meds. Since the first dose had worked so well, and we still had 18 hours left to go, I wanted to keep on schedule. Getting dose number two wad way more of a challenge. I tried mashing it up in some avocado, and putting it down his throat. This worked great the first time, but now he was wise. Then I tried dissolving it in water, and giving it to him with a dropper. I think a drop or to got into him, the rest went everywhere. I finally went back to the avocado, with more force, and was successful.

His second transition was much worse. I think that with all of my trying, I may have given him more than the required dose. In addition, I think that dose one was still somewhat in his system. He stared off for awhile, eyes slits and mouth a gap. Then he jumped to the floor suddenly (again, nearly cracking his head), and wobbled to the steps. I was betting it was the litter box that he was after, and I was right. The poor thing could barely stand up long enough to do what he had to, before slumping down in the litter. I pulled him out, cleaned him off, and placed him on our bed, making a pillow nest around him. Thankfully, he stayed there and the drugs leveled off.

My watch ended at seven, but I stayed up with Scott until it got dark. I wanted to avoid a panic attack, coming up at midnight to pitch black all around me. “Nautical” dark happens considerably later than on shore. I watched it slowly come on, and went down to sleep  at about 8:30, before pitch black happened….too tired.

At 10:30pm I came back up into the pilot house, wanting to give myself enough time to come awake (after more nap-sleep) before taking my watch. We have dutch doors on either side of the pilot house. Scott had the bottoms secured for the night hours, but the tops were open and our screens were pulled, so you could still hear the waves going by us in the dark. The darkness and sound of the waves outside the doors was pretty creepy to me. Scott was getting pretty tired by 11:30, so I told him to go ahead and sleep; I would start my 12-3 watch early. I asked him to sleep on the bench eat to me, because of the creepy factor.

Eventually, I became used to the night noises. We actually had some light pollution off of the starboard side; port side black. The moving horizon would catch my eye, making me realize that we were in a big roll. I decided to stop looking out. I’d check the radar and the other instruments, and then focus on things inside.

We had our ipod hooked up to the pilot house speakers, so I played a “mix tape” of songs. I kept the volume at sleep level for Scott, and dusted off some stuff I hadn’t heard in awhile (Better Than Ezra and Crowded House – a nod to my Bussing Court roommates!). I also chose to stand versus sit, to keep more awake and alert. Focusing on the music and my dashboard tasks kept my mind off of the dark rolling ocean outside, and I was on watch from 11:30 until about 3:15 with no issues. I woke Scott up, and went down to try and nap.

Scott was on watch until 6 am, and then it was my turn again until noon. Keeping the watches shorter overnight reduces the chance of falling asleep. Case in point, by the time I came back upstairs, Scott was fighting sleep. I came back up at 5:30, wanting to watch the sunrise. By now, I was very ready for light; it took forever (nautical dawn). The winds had increased overnight, so I was now nervous about the state of things outside the windows once it got light.

Today, was my birthday, and in addition to being irritated that the sun was taking so long, I was also complaining that I’d ushered in my birthday on watch in a dark ocean, and would be spending the next several hours still at sea. Scott surprised me with a slice of peanut butter pie, with a candle in it. Yum! That should hold me over.

We’d been hearing thuds outside the boat throughout the night. Scott discovered that flying fish had crashed into us, and to their death. In the am light, we discovered more than a few casualties!

We were now in bigger swells (6-7 feet), so I again asked Scott to sleep on the bench. The idea of him right there was calming. After an hour or so I acclimated, and told him to go down below.

My nap sleeps were catching up with me as well, and I was having trouble fighting sleep as I tried to do some computer work, so I went back to the iPod music plan. Food was also not cutting it; I wasn’t seasick, thank goodness, but just felt off.

At about 9 am, things started to deteriorate outside. Scott was up, so he took over, as we had to start  making our turn to Charleston inlet. We turned bit by bit, to reduce the amount of time that the boat had to be in a beam sea (side to side, everyone’s least favorite). Eventually, Scott told me that we were in for 90 minutes or so of nasty crap. Since he didn’t need me (thank God), I went down below with Howard. If I can’t see the big waves and impending pitching of the boat, it’s better for me.

For the better part of the next two hours, Scott maneuvered through 8 foot swells, with 2-3 foot breaking waves on top of them. Autopilot is useless in situations like this, so he was steering by hand. He said it was like driving over cargo vans. He admits that he was quite nervous about it at first. He’d steered in seas like this on a sailboat, but not in this boat. At one point, he looked over to the pilot house door, and saw a wall of water. He was convinced that it was coming inside, and right for him, but the boat rolled up, and then back down away from the wave.

Luckily, I didn’t notice nearly the pitching and rolling that I’d expected. I was, however, wearing ear plugs. Water that angry is damned noisy on the hull! Howard, who was more alert now, handled it like a champ. In his pillow nest, he didn’t move around, and he did well with the loudness that my ear plugs were muffling.

Sea life handled the sea state like a champ.We chose this boat for it’s hull design and weight, to handle well in big seas, and installed the paravanes to help in these situations. Both decisions proved right, and we were now coming through Charleston inlet, at approximately 11:30am. By 12:30, the motors were off; 30.1 hours after we turned them on in Beaufort.

We maneuvered our way into Charleston harbor, and then Scott slowed to bring in the paravanes. As of now, we are in a slip at Ashely Marina, which is on the west side of downtown. We’ll spend a week here, doing some boat work and projects. I have yet to organize the cabinets in both heads (stuff is just shoved in there), and our guest stateroom looks more like a basement, with all of the stuff that’s been thrown in there “for now.”

I ushered in my birthday on watch in the pitch black ocean, so once we got tied up and cleaned up, Scott took me out for a birthday dinner. He took me to FUEL in Charleston, where he’d eaten when here for a conference. It’s located in an old Esso gas station building. The atmosphere, food and service were all awesome. I highly recommend it: http://www.fuelcharleston.com/

Here are the photos of our ocean leg…before things got too dark and then too bumpy.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

2 thoughts on “Our First Ocean Leg: Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina

  1. This was my life dream, but found out 24 years ago, i was going to be a parent. I has been working out of Tortola crewing. Now at 52, my son grown and moved out, I’m reconsidering going solo with my dogs.
    Looking forward to following along.

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