Charleston, South Carolina
Friday 2nd December 2011
Distance run: 217 nmiles
From Beaufort we needed to go out of the inlet and down the coast some 220 miles to Charleston. This meant we needed to wait for a weather window that would provide winds with anything but a South in it, or onshore when we would be coming out of the inlet. This window did not open for several days, so we enjoyed another stay in Beaufort. The upside of being here after Thanksgiving was that most of the shops had sales on and we were able to pick up a couple of bargains whilst enjoying browsing. I found some excellent polarised sunglasses specially designed to fit over the top of prescription glasses. I am very pleased with them, despite the various comments from ‘friends’ that I looked very ‘special’ when wearing them!
We bumped into Hjalmar & Britt-Marie on Flying Penguin whom we had met in St Lucia, and enjoyed sundowners on their boat whilst catching up on where we had been since then. We paid a visit to Clawsons for supper afterwards, and received terrible service and the food was not much better. The manageress took the cost of the food off the bill, but we would not go there again. Whilst there, Anne & Michael bumped into friends from Bees Nees, and were able to catch up on news during the very long wait for our food to arrive.
Eventually the weather looked good to leave on Wednesday 30th, so we took one last run ashore to the coffee shop in the morning as we needed to wait for the tide to turn so that we could leave on the ebb. We lifted the anchor at 1430 and set off into the inlet channel. With the tide and the wind behind us, we expected a smooth ride. Wrong. The seas outside the channel had built up a big swell which was coming straight into the channel, causing quite large breaking waves even in the deeper water. We had a very wet and uncomfortable ride out of Beaufort, and were pleased to be able to raise the sails and sail out into deeper water.
Although from behind, the wind was stronger than forecast and the seas bigger, and we had a very lumpy ride. So much so, in fact, that I had my first ever bout of queasiness on Scott-Free. I took some Sea Legs and had a lie down, and when I emerged a couple of hours later, the sea had subsided a bit and I felt much better. We were sailing really well with two reefs in the main and most of the yankee, and making very good speed. However, the wind picked up even more, and with it the seas, and so we furled away half of the yankee and prepared ourselves for a lumpy night. We made such good speed that we reached Frying Pan Shoals around Cape Fear earlier than expected, and although we had planned to cut across the outer end of them, with the seas as they were we decided this might not be such a good idea. We changed course to take Cape Fear and the shoals further out, but shortly afterwards the seas and winds subsided enough to resume our original plan.
Having successfully rounded Cape Fear, we set a course for Charleston, with the wind and seas again picking up. At this point we were considering whether we would be able to enter the inlet at Charleston, and decided we might have to stay at sea and make for an inlet further down the coast. Unfortunately the only way in to shore on this Atlantic coast is through an inlet, and many of them become impassable if conditions are rough. It was not until after lunch on Thursday that the wind and sea finally subsided and made the going more comfortable and passage into the inlet feasible. In fact during the afternoon and early evening we had to furl away the yankee and use the genoa to get a decent speed as the wind dropped to around 10 knots.
We reached the Charleston inlet channel around 2200 and as this is a well buoyed and wide shipping channel we decided to make our entry in the dark. This was the first time we have done any night-time pilotage for a long time, and we both enjoyed picking out the buoys and leading lights from their flashing patterns and colours and safely found our way into Charleston Harbour and then to the anchorage in the Ashley River. We finally dropped the hook about midnight in a spot which seemed ok and which we hoped would be alright until the morning when we could sort ourselves out in daylight. We set the anchor alarm and went to bed, leaving the tidying up on deck and below till the morning.