Bald Head Island, South Carolina Position 33:52.628N 77:59.998W

Bill and Judy Stellin
Sun 11 May 2008 02:58
Well it isn't Charleston but in some ways it is even better.
We are now 115 miles further north.  In fact, we are just a grunt from the Chesapeake and way ahead of schedule because we didn't go to Bermuda.  We are ever so glad we didn't go there.  We've been there, but never here.
Right now we are in a very upscale golf and marine real estate development village called Bald Head Island, NC.
Getting here was not without a great deal of work.
Before noon yesterday, Friday the 9th., it was obvious making Charleston in a full blown gale, and fighting the Gulf Stream was futile.  Luckily, the eastern seaboard is a big target, and since we didn't have to be anywhere in particular, we just altered course to the north a little, always mindful we didn't want to get to Cape Hatteras.  Wherever we made landfall had to be somewhere south of that dreaded graveyard of the Atlantic.
Our electronic charts are detailed from Jacksonville Fl to Norfolk VA so we felt confident we could make any port or harbor without much trouble.  This entrance to the Intercoastal Waterway ( ICW ) looked to be about right.
It appeared to have enough aids to navigation for a night time arrival and was far enough north to make the effort worthwhile.  Fortunately, our C-Map charts  (electronic) were up to date and the new ones show marinas and their services.  This one, Bald Head Island Marina, is the first one inside the river mouth that is the entrance to the ICW.  Finding it was straightforward although it was a little like finding a needle in a haystack.
It is off a branch of the Elizabeth River and is in a basin which is back off from the river.  All along the river are big beautiful single family homes.  In between two homes is a narrow cut, about like a streets width and down this cut is the basin.  It is almost like finding a driveway.  The marina is part of this real estate development with a golf course and not visible from the river. Despite that, we found the cut with no problems at about 10:30PM and turned to enter.   We were in the flood tide period and there was a powerful current in the river that almost swept us past the cut.  I had to use an ungodly amount of power to overcome the current and keep us from being taken against the cuts entrance wall.
Our eighth day at sea Friday, started beautifully.  It was like a magic carpet ride.  Fast with smooth seas and puffy trade wind clouds.  We had the spinnaker up for a while but soon changed to our standard off the wind combination a poled out genoa and main both on the same side.
This picture gives you a little idea of what the setup looks like.
It is very effective and easy to handle.  Releasing the genoa sheet and rolling the sail up is all we have to do to reduce sail. We take care of the pole later after the sail has been rolled up.
During the early morning we were watching the sky and noticed a change in cloud pattern that always signals a weather change.  Sure enough with in a couple of hours, the wind strength picked up enough so we doused the genoa and flew with the main only.  While we had everything up we hit speeds of over 10 kts several times.  In fact we had a contest to see who could get the highest during their watch.  Judy had it at 10.4 kts but finally I hit 10.6.  You can see from the pictures, there was not much sea, so it was almost all just lots of wind and lots of sail up.  At first we expected to arrive in Charleston in the late afternoon, however with the speed we were making a late morning arrival seemed possible.  Anytime during daylight would have been ok as entering strange harbors at night should be avoided.
The wind strength kept building and about this time we were in the middle of the Gulf Stream with a 3 knot current sweeping us north.  So long as we could keep a lot of sail up, we could overcome the stream and stay on course.  However, as the winds increased we had to reduce sail and slow down.  Soon we had just a double reefed main still doing up to 9 kts. All of this was in the pitch dark all night long.  It was exhausting work and made doubly so by the motion and heel of the boat as well as very slippery decks.  We had SOSpenders on and were clipped to the boat in two different places all the time.  This made moving about difficult because we had to always be mindful of where and what we were clipped to.  It had to be something substantial, but within reach of whatever job we were doing.  I prefer anything near the centerline of the boat.  That way, if you fall it is less likely you will fall overboard and be dragged alongside until you drown. For the most part, there is no need to leave the cockpit, but even in the cockpit we were always clipped to the proper attachment points.
After one particular sail change, I went down below to turn off the spreader lights which we used to see what we were doing and in the process turned off the pilot by accident.  The breaker switches are one on top of each other and in the rolling and pitching, my finger hit the wrong one.   I didn't realize it until seconds later when the boat started to violently turn with all sails up.  We became back winded for a second, but with no damage to the sails, thank god.
I pushed a lot of buttons on the pilot control and it still wouldn't come back on.  It took me a long time to figure out  the switch was off and this was the reason the pilot stopped working.  We thought the pilot had just given up. ( I think we have a faulty control head. Some years ago it got wet inside and did the same thing as this time.  Maybe it got wet again.  Hopefully it will dry out and be ok.  We have two control heads so it is only an inconvinence until I repair or replace it. )  Finally, when it dawned on me the spreader lights were still on, I went below and noticed what I had done. However,  when the pilot came back on, it was erratic, so we hand steered until I could sort out the problem.  I noticed the pilot settings for rudder response had changed so after I reset them the boat steered as fine as usual.  After several hours the problem occurred again and the control head was making some weird  beeping noises.  The setting had changed again so this time after resetting them I just disconnected that head.
The winds blew at between 28-35 knots all day and we recorded true wind of 41 knots sometime during the trip. We were in a full blown gale that ripped up the southeast seaboard and did a lot of damage to homes and spawned a tornado.   The seas became truly awesome.  I was sitting facing backwards for a while, but I became so unnerved watching these behemoths roar up behind us, I just looked away from them most of the day. There were individual waves whose crest was sometimes 25 feet above the stern of the boat and only maybe 50 feet behind us.  I thought for sure one would break right into the cockpit, but never, did anything except spray, come on board from the stern. The boat handled them perfectly, but for the first time I felt we could be stressing our pilot.   We had too much sail up even though it was only a double reefed main.  Again rather than have an accident or damage  the pilot,  we hand steered all day until about 8 PM.  It was so tiring, we only did one hour watches on the wheel all the while getting soaked. Each wave that broke against the side of the boat sent buckets of water into our faces.
Ours is a boat that must be sailed 100% of the time.  It is so responsive to anything,  we must be always working it.  This is good because it goes fast which is fun and also it gets us off the sea quicker so as not to be exposed to the elements any longer than necessary.  It also means there is a lot to do all the time.  If you couldn't stand a lot of sail handling, trimming, reefing etc  you wouldn't be happy on Jaywalker.  It does give us a tremendous flexibility in that we can tackle passages that most people wouldn't dream of making.  In short, not only can we "sail the weather" the boat gives us the ability to do it with confidence.
Our passage was 1249 nautical miles ( 1437 land miles ) over a period of 7 days and 14 hours.  As you can see from the blog map, it was straight as a string except for the last 100 or so miles after we diverted to Bald Head Island.   Had we chosen this destination further out in the Atlantic, it would have been the same distance as to Charleston.  But by not changing our minds until we were so close we ended up sailing two legs of a triangle instead of just one.  Coming on the heels of 7 days of hard sailing with little sleep didn't make it any easier.  It added 100 miles to what was already a long day. Despite everything that occured, Judy had a hot delcious, made from scratch dinner, every day.
From here, we will take the ICW to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. This way we avoid hazardous Cape Hatteras and save about 59 miles.
This last passage in most likelihood be our last major ocean experience.  I am glad we did what we did.  We have confidence now that we can go almost anywhere and tackle almost anything with Jaywalker.   She is the finest boat we could ever have imagined.  There were no breakdowns or issues that compromised our safety.  Plus, she is such a  pleasure to sail,  it makes every passage a real adventure, not something we just have to endure and get behind us.  A few weeks ago our log turned 28,000 miles.  Now it has 29,380 nautical miles on it.
It is a real joy to be back in the comforts of the US and good marinas where the people smile and are truly happy to have us here. It will be fun to explore the Chesapeake and who knows where after that.  When I think about it, for us, moving long distances in this boat is no big deal.
In the "what a coincidence department",  today, a guy walked over to the boat looking very serious who I first  thought was from the marina management to collect or tell us to check in.  Instead, it was a gentleman who thanked us for naming our boat after him.  He introduced himself as Jay W Walker. He even gave me his card to prove it.
It was on May 19th 2000 we began this adventure.  In a few days our ninth year will begin,  who'd a thunk what all we've seen and done.  Stay tuned folks; like someone once said, "it ain't over till the fat lady sings."