Chesapeake to Charleston

Suzie Too - Western Caribbean
David & Suzanne Chappell
Thu 24 Nov 2011 19:48
We had been studying the GRIB and weather files for a few days and decided to leave last Thursday 17 Nov for the 400M trip to South Carolina. The wind was forecast at 25kts gusting 30kts from NW. So it looked favourable, an offshore wind at 90 degrees to the Gulf Stream and enough wind to power us through the adverse currents.
We got out of Hampton and into Chesapeake to put the sails up and I was quite surprised at the size of the swell for only 15kts of wind, but we were expecting 25kts, so hoisted to Reef 2 and set the Yankee and Staysail, heading for the tunnel section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get out to sea (because this is a large Naval Port they never build a bridge across the estuary, as all the enemy do is blow up the bridge and the ships are stuck in harbour).
We were roaring down the Bay at 11kts with the current and although a little lumpy all was well, even though the wind was very cold as the cold front moved down from Canada. As we got halfway out to Cape Hatteras I went down and left Suzanne on watch but within minutes we were hit with 45kts gusting 50kts. So back up on deck, no time for togging up drop the main sail to Reef 3, furl away the Yankee and leave the staysail, all in bare socks and it’s piggin freezing.
After a couple of hours with sustained winds the waves were about 6 meters and we dropped the main to just run downwind with the staysail at around 9kts, I got a new GRIB file – no 45kts indicated – listened to the WX Radio (the US version of Navtex) no mention. It took them about 6 hours to catch up and advise “Gale Force winds and 18ft waves off Cape Hatteras” – well thanks a lot guys – we really enjoyed that – all 18 hours of it. In the end apart from missing a few meals and getting cold the only casualty was a bottle of wine in the bilges, but it was French, it was red and its was Bordeaux – Bummer – I did wonder why I saw the bilge pump running.
The next morning the sun came out and we managed to get warm, but hadn’t slept much that night as it was too cold to stay up on deck – so we just set the timer and poked our heads out every 15 mins to check the horizon and radar. We thought about pulling into Beaufort for the day, but pressed on towards Charleston. As it got later in the day we decided to head towards Masonboro Inlet, so that we could anchor and get some rest for the night and keep out of the cold night wind. In the end we were too late and arrived about 1 hour after dark so anchored off the beach, but it was very rolly – still we got a hot meal, hit the sack and got some sleep.
At around 0300 I thought – that’s enough of this rock n roll shit, so I got up weighed anchor and hoisted the sails and headed south around Cape Fear. Suzanne came up at 0700 with breakfast and we were heading towards Winyah Bay, south of Georgtown for an anchorage, where we stayed for 2 nights and it was just beautiful, warm and sunny – then only 50M to Charleston.