Armchair Sailing

If we hadn’t dropped the hook ashore to make some bank, we’d be planning our migration. However, since we’re not going anywhere, what we have as an alternative is armchair sailing. Here’s our armchair trip to Florida.

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October is when we have the Whitby Rendezvous. The rendezvous is in Galesville Maryland. Previously, it was a two day trip from Deltaville. When we move Red Ranger to Herrington Harbor, it will be a day sail.

This is followed by the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis. This is a wonderful day sail from Galesville.

Then the Hampton Snowbirds Rendezvous. This is about three days down the Bay. We can make it four days if we stop in Poquoson.

They’re great events, helpful preparation for the trip south. And the travel up and down the Bay is the perfect shakedown. In the past we’ve done significant repairs along the way.

We like to spend a week or so in Norfolk on the hook by Hospital Point. We also need to top off the fuel. The trip from Deltaville to Annapolis to Hampton is can be about 40 hours of motoring; we would burn about 50 gallons of diesel.

It takes about week to run down the ditch to Beaufort. The docks are expensive, but there’s an anchorage by the Coast Guard station that’s wide open and sets the stage for jumping outside. We’d spend at least a few days there topping off fuel and water.

In previous years, we went inside the ICW to Wrightsville Beach. If we go outside, it’s 80 nm to the Masonboro inlet. That’s about 16 hours — too far for a day sail. But if we leave about 14:00 from Beaufort and make 5 kts all night, we could be there in the morning. The alternative is three days in the ditch. 

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For a night journey like this, we really need flat seas. This usually means almost no wind, or — at most — less than 10 knots in exactly the right direction: out of the SE or NW.

We love Wrightsville. We’ve spent weeks there. But it gets cold and we need to press south. It’s 110 nm to Charleston, 18 to 22 hours. The problem is that we need to get down the Cape Fear river: it’s another 25 nm: a 5 hour slog. So, the general policy is wait for a fair current, pull the anchor up just before nautical twilight starts (about 48 minutes before dawn) and plan to arrive in Charleston sometime just after dawn.

Since we get to do much of this trip in daylight, flat seas aren’t required, but they’re helpful. We’re willing to deal with winds up to 15 kts, but the seas need to be flat. Anything above 3’ can lead to sea-sickness, especially if it’s an overcast night or there’s no moon.

A dawn arrival is glorious. The Charleston light is visible at least 26 nm away. That’s a solid four hours of watching it work its way higher and higher above the horizon. I get to watch that during the tail end of my watch. CA follows it during her watch. We can often see the lights on the buoys marking the channel as we get closer. Plus, of course, the shipping. 

Then the sun comes up and we can see the shoreline. 

At this point, we’ve done at most 46 hours under power in flat seas. That’s about 60 gallons of fuel. We’re ready to refill the tank in Charleston. And eat Shrimp and Grits. And perhaps wait for Thanksgiving before pressing south.

It’s about 145 nm from Charleston to St. Mary’s Georgia. This is a plump 24 to 29 hours. We’re (again) waiting for flat seas and fair winds to make the jump. This is dawn departure aiming for a mid-day arrival at St. Mary’s. 

Then it’s time for a longer break. Hiking around Cumberland Island. Perhaps visiting Fernandina Beach. It’s a 20 mile day sail to the St. John’s River. From there it’s a 30 mile day sail to St. Augustine. 

If we play our cards right, we’ve burned another 40 gallons or so of fuel, and we’re far enough south that Winter is Fun. 

Bahamas or Coconut Grove? 

Armchair sailing. 

  © Steven Lott 2016