East Coast Northbound: surviving 4th July

Leg 2 Charleston SC, to Little River Inlet 106NM

We left Charleston following the same pattern of the previous leg, leaving in light air and waiting for some afternoon wind, which came, as well as the much dreaded short period waves. We developed a little bit of sea sickness and generally tiredness when we had to dodge thunderstorms all night. We were lucky not to get too heavy squalls, but pouring rain got me quickly soaked. With little or no wind exhausted by the passage of these disturbances, I decided to heave to and just try to sleep in the cockpit.

At dawn, we decided to use the remaining daylight hours and the favorable tide conditions to bail out into Little River inlet, a nice inlet right at the border between the Carolinas. We identified a potentially good anchorage on the charts, on the lee shore of an undeveloped barrier island, Waites Island, and we went for it. Cruising life had already deformed our sense of time. We forgot that 4th of July weekend was underway. The memory came suddenly back when we started noticing a crowd of any possible craft roaming the inlet and generating continuous wakes.

We grew accustomed to all the wake and subsequent rolling of our boat and eventually, around sunset, the anchorage would become again our private property until the early morning brought new fast and furious vacationeers. We were happy to rest and we started to enjoy the show we were witnessing as if it was (and truly is) a fascinating natural phenomena, like penguins mating or wolves hunting. It was a truly American experience as we were not far from the popular Myrtle Beach, suns out, guns out!

Leg 3 Little River inlet to Southport NC 33 NM

After two nights at anchor we decided we were tired of Little River and left for a shorter leg, a daysail to Southport NC. From where we were, going around Cape Fear is a long way out and in again, and it makes more sense using “the ditch” to cut to the other side on Wrightsville Beach. Cape Fear river current is very strong and requires perfect timing so it makes sense to repair in Southport and time the next departure. We also had stopped here on our way south a couple of winters ago and we really liked the atmosphere.

Back then it was cold and not very populated, we gathered with fellow late migrators around the free town docks and shared meals and stories. This time, being the day before 4th of July we couldn’t find any spot in the anchorage or even at the marina. I performed few doughnuts around the fast running channel while Kate was making calls around to see where we could stop.

Provision & Co. in Southport, SC

Luckily the Provisions & Co., a bar and restaurant right on the waterfront, granted us permission to stay overnight at their complementary docs and leave the next morning. We enjoyed the downtown crowd and a nice meal at the restaurant, and smiled to the many curious customers who came to the boat asking any kind of questions.

Leg 4 Southport NC to Wrighstville Beach, NC 23 NM

It was still dark when we slipped off the floating pontoon. As soon as sails were up and we entered the Cape Fear River we noticed a big help from the current and the winds.  It was incredible to witness how the boat could sail at five knots on completely flat waters and very little wind.

The vast Army facility at Sunny Point

The quiet flat waters were racing at about two knots in the back bay while we passed Sunny Point, a big Army terminal which serves as “a transfer point between rail, trucks, and ships for the import and export of weapons, ammunition, explosives and military equipment”. The area surrounding the facility is intentionally uninhabited to create a security buffer in case something goes wrong, and of course anchoring is prohibited.

The scenery is stunning and a bit desolating at the same time, but at least is remarkably different from the monotonous waterfront property with dock facility that becomes ubiquitous after you go trough the Snows Cut heading towards Wrighstville Beach. At that confluence a powerboat approached us and an oversized fella at the helm saluted me with “Happy 4th Bro” wielding a beer. We were on the “other side”.

A video is worth 1000 words. Check Kate’s work on “eating wakes for breakfast”

We anchored for a few days in Wrightsville Beach waiting for good weather for the next offshore leg and enjoying the ability to come and go to the public dinghy dock, even though the best feature was definitely the access to free showers at the beach. We also needed a little provisioning as we were planning to visit Lookout Bight, a natural park with no shopping facilities.

Video: fair winds to all the sailing couples

There is always a mixture of happiness and sadness when you see your friends leaving. You are sad because you are going to miss them, and you are happy because they are set for an exciting adventure. You are also jealous, because this is ultimately what you want to do, but you have to wait just a little more.

Roberto and Vanessa aboard Tranquility in Fairhaven, MA
Roberto and Vanessa aboard Tranquility in Fairhaven, MA

With these mixed feelings we salute Roberto and Vanessa (check her blog!), and wish them all the best for their life.

Launching sailboat Atom

The past week I had the opportunity to help James Baldwin to launch his Pearson Triton “Atom”, a 28 ft sailboat that James took around the globe twice. Atom got back in the water after an extensive refit. The Columbia 29 and the Pearson Triton are very similar designs, so Atom it’s a an ideal example to see how to fit Tranquility as an offshore cruising yacht. James and Mei made an excellent job with this refit and Atom looks better than ever. The northerly wind offered perfect sailing conditions in the Marshes of Glynn and we made it safely to the dock enjoying the day on the water.

Sailing Tranquility

“I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirit.”  

Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way

Sometime during long night hours of boat porn on the internet, I feel my interest leaning toward very small craft and crazy long trips. The closer to the water and the narrower the boat, the better. Light displacement, few control lines, and just the ocean. During daydreaming the discomfort of cramped quarters and little equipment it’s not a real thing, I can just focus on the fun part. It’s such a strong dream that I don’t think about anything else and sometimes I find myself spaced out trying to understand what I was trying to do. No, unfortunately it doesn’t happen only when I am sanding.

Right now I feel like I am in a big calm ocean, but I am actually on land. Duties and bureacratic burdens are forcing me to a prolonged stop from sailing, and they call back my focus to proper life challenges, instead of ocean dreamin’. The calm undermine my spirit but calms give people the opportunity to fix things and get their shit together. There’s no time for that in a gale, when you have to run and fight and stay afloat and hope that things don’t fall apart. How to navigate in calms is probably a work of art: better stay calm in a calm but it’s better stay calm in a storm too. That’s why Tranquility is a perfect name for our boat even if Kate and I think about changing it sometimes as she went through too many plastic and structural surgery.

Well, she still is a tranquil old lady, she knows the ocean and what it takes to cross perilous time. In fact according to the legend in 1991 she survived Hurrican Hugo in St.Croix, she was beached, holed but she came back to life. I am somehow beached (luckily not holed) and I am looking forward to a similar destiny of redemption. Chop wood, carry water.

SUP in the Marshes of Glynn

About and about through the intricate channels that flow
Here and there,
Till his waters have flooded the uttermost creeks and the low-lying lanes,
And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,
That like as with rosy and silvery essences flow
In the rose-and-silver evening glow.
Farewell, my lord Sun!
Sidney Lanier – The Marshes of Glynn

When Sidney Lanier composed the poem “The Marshes of Glynn” the city of Brunswick was very different than today. But because the surrounding marshes are protected from development, what he was admiring more than 150 years ago is still there untouched. Marshland on Georgia’s coast makes up an estimated one-third of all the salt marshes on the east coast, a unique ecosystem created by rise and fall of the tide .

I took a standup paddleboarding trip around the “Marshes of Glynn” during one of the hottest day of the year. We rented the equipment at Southeast Adventure Outfitters, and launched by the docks at the Boathouse, just by highway 17. It was nice to be out there and see birds, fishes, turtles and dolphins.