Two cities with the same name, but not the same pronunciation, were our endpoints of our offshore trip when we left the ICW. Our only regret in Beaufort NC (pronounced BoFort) was that we didn’t take any pictures. We had been there last year, so the sights were not new, which gave this lovely town a homey feeling. Hoping that the pot luck supper at the local wine bar was still a happening thing, we ventured over with our hot pot of stew. Happily, we found the same folks setting up the spread on the long counter. We were welcomed like long lost siblings, and enjoyed a fabulous meal of excellent food and even better conversations.
Eager to move along, we headed out the cut two days later and found ourselves in the company of two boats we already knew, Kismet and Allegria. They had departed a few hours ahead of us, from Point Lookout, which is a piece of land jutting out near the entrance and is known for spectacular wildlife. Another year… We were also greeted by friendly dolphins who stayed with us most of the day.
This trip was a downwind run with gentle small seas. Sounds like a time to just sit back and read, right? Wrong! Always sumpin on a boat. First, I noticed a sound. My hearing is not great, but I always seem to find the weird sounds. It was a clunking in the aft cabin and I was sure we had a steering problem. Bill, my fixer-of-all-things hero, had just replaced our steering cables and surely nothing could be wrong already! My ears and my hero didn’t let me down; Bill finally found the tiny source: a hydraulic piston was a bit loose. After taking apart the aft berth and diving head first into the deep bilge there, he tightened the bolt and Voilà, silence.
Again my ears detected a problem. A bit later, in the dark, on my watch, I was startled from my reading. The mainsail became surprisingly quiet. It had been thwapping as we rolled gently. The makeshift preventer and Walter Brake tried to keep the boom in place. This is a nearly useless apparatus that is supposed to work like a boom vang which pulls the boom down toward the deck, disallowing the wild upward motion resulting when the boat rolls and the wind tries to fill the sail when the boom is 90 degrees to the centerline of the boat. Quiet. Uh oh. No moon. No visibility. Get a bright head lamp (ask Bill how much I hate that thing!).
I tried to draw a picture of what the sail SHOULD look like. The sail is supposed to be behind the spreaders at all times, but with a big roll, the sail and boom flopped upward, giving the sail a big “belly”, and somehow, the top part of the sail snuck in front of the spreader. And the batten, a stiff fiberglass “board” to flatten the sail, was keeping it stuck there. Releasing the Walter and the preventer, I tried to bring the sail toward the centerline of the boat as I steered more upwind. No luck. I was sure the sail was going to rip as it was getting sawed by the sharp wire stays. Time to wake up my hero. Groggily, Bill came into the cockpit and took the helm. I went forward to the mast (yes, I was tethered to the boat!) to drop the sail, but of course it wouldn’t fall; it was hanging by the spreaders thirty feet up. Luckily, those same seas that caused the problem, gave us another roll and just as he headed straight into the wind, with the sail trying to pull straight back, it popped out of its jam. Sure that I’d find a huge tear, it looked fine. Weird. I bet not many sailors have had this problem, or have been able to get out of this jam without climbing the mast. And climbing a mast in the dark while the boat is rolling around is a bad idea. Problem two solved.
Problem three: maybe my hero is sometimes a bit too “strong”. He and his brother, Ben, have this theory: “when there’s a problem, just get a bigger hammer” . This comes into play when we go aground. My instinct is to back up to get back to deep water, while Bill’s instinct is jam the throttle forward to power your way through. So this time using the bigger hammer caused a failure. We were raising the cruising gennaker which is a beautiful light fabric sail that looks like a spinnaker. It comes in a sock (or condom!) that has to be raised to release the sail. So we got the sail up, the sock holding it tight to the forestay. Raising fifteen feet was smooth, then it jammed. Bill tugged. Then harder, then harder…RIP. Uh oh, down with that sail. Back to the heavy genoa in these light airs.
This lovely downwind two day sail to Beaufort SC (pronounced BewFort) was punctuated with excitement, but entering into the St Helena’s channel luckily was not exciting. We had heard that hurricane Matthew had rearranged sandbars throughout the southern US coast, and that the channel markers may have been blown off course or need to be moved to highlight new sandbar locations. Heaving to (a method of sailing where you set your steering and sails to cause you to drift very slowly) to await daylight, we arrived just at daybreak enabling us to see the unlit marks. No buoys in this entrance have any lights. We hurried in, as the current was about to build to be strong, hampering our progress.
Traveling up the Coosaw River, we saw countless accounts of Matthew’s destruction. So sad. Some say that the river needed “a cleaning up; let the riffraff get pushed ashore” but my heart broke every I saw a damaged boat or home.
Pulling into Factory Creek to drop anchor, we saw Moondancer, who we had sailed with last winter throughout the Western Caribbean. A nice welcome! Staying in Factory Creek a few days allowed us to enjoy time with Steven and Linda on Moondancer, Molly and Dee on Allegria, and the many folks involved in the Lady’s Island Marina.
Friends also came almost five hours from Atlanta to visit which topped off our stay in Factory Creek. We met Tracy in 1985 and have never let miles keep us apart! She embodies the cruiser spirit, even though she is not a sailor herself. She travels the world every year for work and pleasure but takes every opportunity to reunite with old friends. We enjoyed biking, dining out and dining in, and exploring new beautiful places around our anchorage as well as their rental home on a creek. Normally Tracy and Marty would have stayed aboard, but one of their two dogs would have been traumatized by the dinghy ride and any Alembic time.
We are sad to leave Tracy and Marty, Lady Island, and Beaufort SC, but the southern waters are calling us. And Lindsay is about to arrive at Jacksonville Airport. We are eagerly looking forward to a few days with her!!