D15: Offshore to St. Simon 11/9/2019

The alarm at 2:15 am was not a welcome sound. Or as my friend Rick Toomey said “0 dark hour”. I was deep into my REM sleep - finally. The temperature down below was not as cold as we anticipated, so that was a good thing. Then again, Cathy had the great idea to sleep in our super warm clothes with lots of blankets on top. Good idea, but I was cooking all night. I ended up with one blanket and a thermal shirt.

OK. Why did we need to bundle up on the boat? We had no heat. Because we decided to leave by 3 am and it was predicted to be very cold, I disconnected the power before we went to bed. This made it really easy to disconnect and get away from the dock.

We needed to leave at 3 am because we wanted to sail from Beaufort to St. Simon Inlet offshore and we wanted to come in the St. Simon Inlet during daylight. We could have left Beaufort in the afternoon, sailed all night and arrived in the morning. But, staying up all night is really a strain on the system with two old people. The other alternative, which we took, was to leave early to arrive in the inlet before sunset.

We wake up early anyway, so leaving a few hours earlier did not seem that painful. The downside was having to navigate down the Beaufort River and exiting the Port Royal Inlet in the dark, neither of which had we ever traversed.

I was afraid that the north winds would be really strong, so disconnecting the dock lines would have to be precision team work, but the winds did not seem that bad. We did however execute precision team work. Cathy was dressed like a Samurai with all her multiple layers, so I made her wear her life jacket and clip onto the life lines when she handled the bow line in the dark. I did not want to lose her.

We drifted away from the dock easily but encountered several boats that were anchored out of the mooring field without anchor lights. I am lucky I noticed them. When the wind shifted, they were hanging out into the channel. I felt like giving them a big blast from my air horn as we went by, but I was busy.

The river was well-marked, but not all of the marks matched the charts. Note to mariners: Most of the red marks in Beaufort River are not lighted. Using radar and a spotlight I confirmed the location of most of the red marks. Going under a bridge in the dark is a bit of a nailbiter, but really not hard if you line up the green lights on the bridge and trust that the bridge is really 65 feet high.

The inlet was a lot of work. Not hard or scary but we had a cross wind from the NE and we had to work to stay in the channel going from mark to mark. I decided to go out the full inlet channel even though the chart showed some places where I could have sneaked through the shoals. In any case, it did not really take us much farther out and the inlet runs toward the south anyway.

Once we turned southwest toward St. Simon Inlet, the sun finally made its presence known, but not visible. Offshore clouds blocked the view and the light. We had to dodge a few freighters that were heading into Savannah, but otherwise we were alone. The wind was steady between 15 and 20 knots, but directly behind us with big waves. The waves made it tough to keep a Genoa full, so we motor-sailed most of the way with just a “prevented” mainsail. One other sailboat, named Scissor Tail, finally appeared on my chart via AIS and they ran about 5 miles ahead of us for the last half of the trip. They went on past St. Simon, so I do not know where they were going.

The GPS plotter started acting up again. The response rate was very slow. In addition, the radio which includes the DSC feature was not getting a GPS position, so it was giving an alert every four hours. I suspected the radio must have been configure (by the installer other than me) to use the secondary GPS plotter down below for the GPS position. Anyway, that is a story for tomorrow. The radio worked fine but did not know where we were. This, of course, is a feature that was never even invented 10 years ago. Not a big deal, other than the fact that I don’t like having equipment that does not work properly.

We finally reached the St. Simon Inlet at 3 pm and started the slog down the channel with the wind on the beam. Worse than the wind were the waves that were coming out of the northeast. To accommodate leeway, I had to point the boat way above the red marks to make it between the red and green. Shoals were pretty shallow on the north side and questionable on the south side.  

Up ahead I noticed a large vessel hanging around the inlet close to shore. Turns out it was a large cruise ship waiting for permission to enter Brunswick. Fortunately, he did not get in our way. Also, I saw this large shape on the horizon within the harbor that I assumed was an island. As we got closer, I realized that it was a ship but it looked odd.

The GPS plotter started acting up again. The response rate was very slow. In addition, the radio which includes the DSC feature was not getting a GPS position, so it was giving an alert every four hours. I suspected the radio must have been configure (by the installer other than me) to use the secondary GPS plotter down below for the GPS position. Anyway, that is a story for tomorrow. The radio worked fine but did not know where we were. This, of course, is a feature that was never even invented 10 years ago. Not a big deal, other than the fact that I don’t like having equipment that does not work properly.

We finally reached the St. Simon Inlet at 3 pm and started the slog down the channel with the wind on the beam. Worse than the wind were the waves that were coming out of the northeast. To accommodate leeway, I had to point the boat way above the red marks to make it between the red and green. Shoals were pretty shallow on the north side and questionable on the south side.  

Up ahead I noticed a large vessel hanging around the inlet close to shore. Turns out it was a large cruise ship waiting for permission to enter Brunswick. Fortunately, he did not get in our way. Also, I saw this large shape on the horizon within the harbor that I assumed was an island. As we got closer, I realized that it was a ship but it looked odd.  See photo below.

Blob on the horizon

Turns out we were approaching the capsized Golden Ray, the car carrier that was on the news about a month or so ago.  Anyway, we navigated around that and headed up the Frederico River up to the Morning Star Marina – Golden Isle to stay for the night. The current was wicked. I have handled current in many marinas, but this was surprising. When we were docking, it was worse than anything I have experienced at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown.

The staff at the marina were great. The marina is unusual in that it is part of a resort, so I never really warmed up to the place. After washing off the salt on Flight Risk and Cathy cleaning up down below, we decided to eat on board and relax. Given our early rising, we also went to bed a bit early and we both slept very, very well.


Golden Ray capsized in St. Simon Sound

Doozers on the Golden Ray

I suspect the words you can't see are "This Side Up"

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