June 23-24 Fort Pierce to Charleston
Updated: Jul 22
Because of a scheduled Falcon 9 rocket launch from Canaveral we departed Fort Pierce at 655 with the intent to reach Canaveral some 63 NM away by the time of the scheduled launch late afternoon. We then were to continue for two nights to Charleston. In total we planned on about two and a half days to cover the 350 NM. By skipping some intermediate stops we hoped to spend some time in the gulf stream and get its help north. The forecast was for another light day with motoring to Canaveral with winds building to 15 knots or so in the afternoon and continuing for a day or so. The winds were very light as we entered the Atlantic Ocean at Fort Pierce and we motored comfortably on flat seas for most of the day. A breath of wind around 1615 allowed us to fly the Code 0. The launch had been cancelled for unknown reasons (soon to be determined) so we continued towards Charleston. Around 1700 huge ugly clouds over Canaveral appeared and we changed course to avoid the worst of it. We encountered our first thunderstorm with lightening and as I have little experience with that on the West Coast I was a bit nervous. Fortunately Jack, a retired commercial pilot, and Jeff from Colorado are weather wise and kept us out of trouble.
I only set watches at night. During the day it is catch as catch can. Jack had the first watch from 9-12, I had the middle watch and Jeff from 3-6. Winds built through the night and we had a lively, if somewhat bumping sail through the night.
About 440 on June 24 I heard a bang while sleeping and ran on deck to see the dinghy acting as a huge sea anchor as we sailed along at nine knots. The dinghy bridle had parted at the inboard end at the engine allowing it to drop into the water. The force of the water pushed the bow of the dinghy through the davit. By the time we got the boat stopped the dinghy was toast. I climbed into the dinghy (with harness on) to configure a temporary line. We got it back up and headed on. The failure was in the splicing of the eye. It did not chafe through. While the engine had not been submerged, it had gotten very well soaked so I was concerned about its status. By 0700 the winds were in the low thirties, touching 34 knots, considered a full gale. The boat handled it well and we had no concerns, but it continued bumpy and Jack’s stomach revolted. We were flying at 13.5 knots across the bottom with the help of the Gulf Stream. We were way ahead of schedule and anticipated reaching Charleston sometime during the night.
Things slowed down as we departed the Gulf stream. In fact, we had a mild counter current. Our speed dropped from double digits to the low sixes. We dodged some huge thunderstorms early evening as we approached Charleston harbor. Just as we were about to enter the harbor we encountered the biggest rainstorm I have ever encountered. A complete white out. We were a couple hundred yards from the channel and a couple barges were inside of us. I throttled back and dove for the salon. We can steer and navigate from the inside but cannot control the throttle. We did a 180 degree turn and loitered outside the harbor until there was a break. We then headed in. We got socked again but were already in the channel. I didn’t want to try another retreat as a barge was passing us outbound. This one lasted a very short time and by midnight we had anchor down.
The storm that night in Charleston made national news and I got an email from a stranger saying she had been following our track on the web (we transmit or position using both satellite and AIS) and had been worried for us.