We decided to leave our anchorage in Beaufort the day before we planned to do the overnight passage to Charleston as we were a bit concerned that taking up both our anchors might cause some difficulties and delay an early start. In the end we had no problems but were still glad that we could choose slack water and a warmish afternoon for the departure. We motored for 2 hours back to Cape Lookout Bight, where we had stopped a week before, and this time found it completely deserted on a grey drizzly weekday. We had strong winds overnight and felt quite lonely and apprehensive about starting out on a 220 mile passage in forecast strong winds and very cold temperatures.
We got away at first light (6.30 am) on Friday and yup, it sure was cold and windy – one of those times when you feel you are earning the right to this way of life! On the first day we sailed mainly under reefed genoa alone and the winds were up in the force 6, 7s and occasional gale 8 the entire time. The seas were very rough and the cold air blew straight in the back of the boat so that we tried to stay below most of the time. Even then, we were fully dressed in many layers, oilies and hats and covered ourselves with a duvet as well, when trying to snatch a doze in the cabin. Luckily “Goldcrest” is a great performer in these conditions and gives you confidence that she will cope and keep you safe. In fact we wouldn’t fancy going out into those conditions with a smaller or less sturdy boat; the inevitable lurching and rolling below is much less violent than it would be on a less motion-friendly yacht. Think we would definitely have been a bit seasick on most boats!
The winds continued just as strong during the night but a 40% moon cheered things up a bit in the early hours and before its appearance the stars were magnificent. We snatched what sleep we could in shifts wedged into our favoured bunk for rough night passages and listened to the water rushing past the hull at up to 9-10 kts as we roared along. We only saw one other vessel the entire time. (Most boats heading south use the Intra Coastal Waterway route which is a much more sheltered option, but our mast is too tall for the bridges along the way.) The benefit of strong winds (in a good direction) is that you make fast progress and we approached Charleston around 9.30am on Saturday morning after covering over 180 miles under sail in 24 hours (a new record for us). Just after the sun came up, skipper noticed an puzzling thin layer of mist blowing along just above the surface of the water which he thinks was due to the unusually cold air (7C in the cockpit) passing over a relatively warm sea (15C).
The whole eastern US has been experiencing a very sharp cold spell this week and unfortunately it has followed us down to South Carolina. At the moment we are sitting at anchor (we couldn’t get into a marina as this is such a busy period for “snowbirds” moving south) and reluctant to launch the dinghy to go ashore in the cold and wet. Charleston is supposed to be one of the loveliest cities in the US so we hope it won’t be long before we do start some sightseeing, after the next strong front passes tomorrow.