Plans in motion – to Winyah Bay

Southwest winds 10-15 knots with gusts to 20 in the afternoon. That was the forecast. The weather folks weren’t kidding about those gusts.

We departed the Charleston Maritime Center at 7:30AM. Charleston is one of my favorite ports, and I was having mixed feelings about leaving. But, we had to take advantage of each and every weather opportunity – and it appeared we would have 4 days of good sailing winds. 4 days translates into 4 of our last remaining ocean hops. We could have also done an overnight and skipped the 4 hops….but they are just too darned tiring.

Day 1 – Charleston to Georgetown (Winyah Bay)
Day 2 – Winyah Bay to Cape Fear River
Day 3 – Cape Fear River to Wrightsville (Masonboro Inlet)
and Day 4 – Wrightsville to Beaufort.

That was the plan. And as we have well discovered on this sailing voyage – all plans are subject to change at any given moment. This would be no different.

The coastline between Charleston and Georgetown is laden with long reaching shoals that extend 6-8 miles from the coastline. The days of hugging the coast line (such as in Florida are over – and we have to stay further offshore to bypass the shallow spots. The water color is noticeably different as well. You can see the shoal areas by the color of the water. The water becomes a murky brown, as if completed churned up by the sand.

We motor sailed with the main only for the first 7 hours. It wasn’t until we turned toward Winyah Bay – that we started to get a breeze. The winds went from 6 to over 20. Just like that. Steady 20+ knots of winds pushed us up the long channel into Winyah Bay. The channel is flanked by a combination of submerged and visible jetty’s. The tidal current was working against us – so with the surf pushing us in and the current pushing us out – it was a bit of a rough ride toward land.

Heading toward a protected anchorage, our charts were showing a channel of 23 feet of water. It turned out to be closer to 5 feet. Not even close to 23 feet. Assuming that massive shoaling has taken place. Noticing that all of the fishermen in boats were hugging the shoreline – we aimed for shore. Sure enough, the depth returned and we set down anchor for the night.

By midnight, the winds settled down. I tried checking my standard set of online weather sources – only to discover that we were nowhere within Internet range. This gave me time to reflect upon what life was like before we became glued to the ‘net. Kind of hard to imagine. We would make our next offshore hop tomorrow without our brains exploding on weather details. I’m getting nervous.

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