Coast Guard Approved

Friday November 16, 2012

When I got back to Serendipity after enjoying a few cocktails and playing with two adorable cats on Hideaway on Wednesday night Matt uttered some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard. The waves might still be too big to jump out tomorrow. We never discussed it much further after that, Ryan’s Painkillers had put me into a sleep coma, and we went to bed with the alarm set for six-thirty the next morning. As we were letting the engine warm up Matt made a comment about how far he thought we’d make it that night which I interpreted as another day on the ICW instead of going out Little River Inlet like we’d originally planned. As soon as the anchor was up I turned right into the ICW. We passed through some small towns and casino boats and came up to the town of Little River. Surprisingly we had been the first ones out of the anchorage that morning and the following current was pushing us along at over seven knots giving us a very big head start and making sure no one was behind us. Passing under a large fixed bridge there was a swing bridge ahead of us so I called in to try and get passage through. Coming back on the radio the guy immediately asks “How many boats are behind you?”. “None”, I replied. After going back and forth a few more times he could not comprehend that during the busy season for boat traffic there might actually be a time where there might actually be one all by itself without the chance of someone coming up behind them in the next few minutes. Still being polite about it he must have still thought he was right because he said it would be ten minutes before he could open, meaning that in that time surely someone would catch up. In the mean time we were now fighting the strong current trying to push us into this immovable structure. Handing the wheel over to Matt as usual he eventually couldn’t fight it any longer and had to start circling the area until the bridge swung open. At which point we passed through alone.

 Seeing that there were two more swing bridges along the way that day he started grumbling that we should have jumped out that morning as we’d be doing so much better pounding into waves than waiting for bridges to open for us. Promising to make him happy since we had always been going by what I want to do for awhile now I told him that we’d jump out at the next class A inlet and keep traveling until we hit Charleston. Turns out that inlet was sixty miles from where we had anchored that morning and now it was a race against the sun to get to it before dark. The day was another cold and crappy one which I actually have something to say about. I know I’ve been complaining about the bad weather lately but it is something that does have a huge effect on cruisers, especially if your boat isn’t fully outfitted like ours. I’ve talked about it being in the 50’s and then I start to get a lot of slack from our friends back in Michigan that I should be thankful for 50 degrees because it was now down in the 30’s there. That is true. If I were walking outside from my heated home to my heated car to the heated grocery store, wandering around in 50 degree weather for ten or twenty minutes at a time would be quite pleasant. But that’s not even close to what we experience. We get up at the crack of dawn when it’s still in the forties and put ourselves outside for ten hours at a time. The wind is blowing hard, the sun is not shining, and there is no escape. The only relief is when you run below deck for a few minutes and no longer have the wind blowing on you. The bus heater runs while the engine is on but the heat always escapes by bedtime and we’re left sleeping in a room that’s in the low fifties when we go to bed and in the forties when we wake up. And then we do it again and again and again. It’s all going to be worth it in the next month when we get down to warm weather and I’m happy to make the sacrifice for the benefits I’ll reap later, but when I start to complain about it, just let me rant because it’s the only way I have to deal with it at the moment. Sympathy votes actually do make me feel warmer inside.

This particular day was so cold though that even though we both usually stay up in the cockpit together all day we started taking turns to go below and enjoy the heat pumping into the boat for a few hours at a time. Then the rain started in and I was just happy we weren’t in the ocean. In late afternoon when the rain quit and winds were starting to die down below twenty we were both in the cockpit when we were hailed on the radio. At first I wasn’t sure if it was for us, they were calling for a southbound sailboat, but the only other boat I could see was a little powerboat and we were in a wide river with plenty of room to pass. When they starting getting more specific and asked for the southbound sailboat passing marker red whatever it was I knew the call was for us. It was a Coast Guard fastboat and they were preparing to board us for a routine inspection. The whole process was very easy, we were allowed to keep our course and speed, and two guys jumped on and brought out all their paperwork to start checking Serendipity and making sure she was up to code. I let Matt go below and show where all our safety equipment and necessary papers were while I stood behind the wheel next to the other guy who was just asking basic questions. In the end we were all up to code except we didn’t have a sticker for waste and that was just a write up but not a fine. They were on the boat less than thirty minutes and it was painless and easy. They said they usually never stop sailboats but their numbers were down and they needed to meet quota. Oh well, I’m sure it would have happened at some point and now if we’re boarded again we just flash them a little paper and they leave. Which I’m happy about going into Florida because I have a feeling the Coast Guard there isn’t always as cordial as these two guys (basically boys) were.

Right after they left we were in the home stretch for the inlet.  Getting myself prepared I popped a Dramamine and put on my pressure point bracelets.  I was ready to go.  Entering the channel in pitch black the waves began to roll in and throw us side to side.  I kept a close watch on both the chartplotter and the lights ahead of me to make sure we stayed right in the middle and didn’t bash into the rocks on the side.  It was a very long channel and took us almost an hour to get out.  I thought we’d be much better off once we turned southwest towards Charleston since we should have had the waves on our stern now, but there was a large shoal we needed to go around so there was another hour of bashing into waves.  Matt came up to relieve me for my 9:00 sleep time and we had also gone far enough to switch to our desired course.  Most of the waves were now on our stern which did make for a more comfortable ride overall, but every so often one would hit us on the side.  Those weren’t so bad while sitting in the cockpit, you just braced yourself a little more, but down below deck it threw around all our belongings and trying to put them away while pitching side to side was not doing wonders for my stomach.  Finally I was able to take off my gear and lay down, counting the seconds between rolls.  One, two, three to one side.  One, two, three to the other side.  I’m not even sure if I fell asleep during that shift.

Waking up for the next shift I was told there was twenty miles between us and the beginning of the channel to Charleston.  I think the math was a little wrong and we were going much faster than anticipated by doing 6-7 under headsail alone and just as I was getting Matt up for his 3-6 shift we were coming up on the channel.  Staying up with him a little longer to spot beacons I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and went back to bed.  This channel is also so long as well that when I woke up three hours later we had just entered the harbor and were making our way to the Ashley River to anchor.  The sky was just light enough that we could make out where we were going and could miss the unfortunate sunken ships in the harbor.  Dropping anchor at 7 am we passed out and did not wake up until afternoon.  With the winds howling outside and my stomach still on the fritz we stayed on the boat all day and did nothing but lay in bed and watch movies.  There was a nice visit from Anthyllide later at night as they had gotten in just a few hours before us.  We all made it in safe but what I realized is  the overnight trip was basically for nothing because even if we kept on the ICW we would have gotten in tonight, well rested and with a boat that didn’t look like a hurricane blew through it.


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