Holding pattern…in Charleston

Our time is “up” at the Charleston City Marina – and we departed for the adjacent anchorage on the Ashley River — while we wait for the “right” weather window that will allow for northbound travels back to Baltimore, MD.Our plan, is to off shore sail / coastal hop – i.e. a series of day sails that will take us:

Day 1 – from Charleston SC to Georgetown SC
Day 2 – from Georgetown SC to Southport NC
Day 3 – from Southport NC to Wrightsville NC
Day 4 – from Wrightsville NC to Beaufort NC

Once we arrive in Beaufort, we will take the intracoastal waterway to Norfolk. Pat would prefer to sail on the “outside” …but this stretch from Beaufort to Norfolk would be approximately 220 miles — and I’m not sure my skill set is ready to captain the boat – as we each would need to take watches. Unfortunately there are no shipping inlets along this stretch — so day sails are OUT. Soooo, the compromise is to do the ICW from Beaufort to Norfolk VA.

There is one fixed bridge along this stretch of ICW that is recorded as 64′ high – so this could pose potential issues for us (our height clearance is 63.5). We will have to load up with 400 gallons of water…and top off the 90 gallon diesel tank to lower our profile…plus remove all electronics at the top of the mast — before we attempt passage.

Waiting at anchor in Charleston looks something like:
Tuesday, April 1 — Depart the Charleston City Marina. Can we say “goodbye” to boat / dock life? Cat Maudy is located on the tip of the “I” Dock…and I’ll take you thru a guided tour of getting to the boathouse and land…here goes:

A day sail in the Charleston Harbor — accompanied by sailing vessel 5-Star (Hugh & Alison) — allowing us to take pics of each other’s boat.

Wednesday, April 2 — very windy – to 30 knots….our anchor holds…tho we enjoy sleepless nights watching to make sure! Too windy (and winds in the wrong direction) to travel. We wait.

Thursday, April 3 — Up at 5 am. Spend 2 hours analyzing weather info. Light winds…too light…and from the north. We dinghy ashore to the City Marina to enjoy (a) showers and (b) I walk across the peninsula for some final sightseeing, shopping and grocery stock up and (c) a sushi dinner with friends Hugh & Alison at The Boathouse in downtown Charleston. Thinking we might depart Friday

Friday, April 4 — Up at 5am. Analyze weather info. Dense fog in the AM till 11. Very strong winds after that….from the south. Rough seas….turbulent air…strong storms rolling thru. We decide to wait another day. What’s with this weather? Either tornado style winds…or nothing at all. We stay on anchor all day. I’m getting stir crazy.

Saturday, April 5 — still feisty winds…from the south…rough seas. We analyze weather information for hours. Aiii…we’ll keep waiting. Maybe tomorrow we can depart. We dingy to shore for (a) showers and (b) supplies. I head off walking across town to re-stock up on grapefruit, apples and dried fruit. Strong storms approaching.

The dingy motor won’t start. Pat tries a zillion ways to get the motor to start…but nada. She needs service. Oh boy. The Charleston City Marina calls TowBoat US for us…but TowBoat US doesn’t answer the phone. Fortunately, someone at the City Marina had a cell phone# for the local operator of TowBoat US….and we made contact. Kindof odd that they don’t respond to VHF calls or phone calls eh?

Anyway, a TowBoat US captain arrives in 45 minutes– and they tow us about 200 yards to anchored Cat Maudy. The TowBoat US captain tells us a story about how earlier in the day a sailing vessel lost engine power near the jetty entrance to the Charleston Harbor. He said that he refused to help the guy cuz he had already worked 5 hours that day. Hmmm….I try to imagine myself in a dicey situation…and TowBoat US refuses to help you (or answer VHF or phone). Glad to have TowBoat US arrive to tow us to our dinghy…but Yup…I’m a bit conflicted about TowBoat US at the moment.

Captain Wuus sails offshore…twice!

On nearly a perfect sailing day with 15-20 knots of winds from the southwest, we departed the Charleston Harbor for a day of off shore sailing. A first for me…Captain Wuus. Ocean sailing. Deep breath here. OK – I can do this. The “O-C-E-A-N” word that is.

Pat did a phenomenal job in selecting a day with very minimal ocean swells, and steady southerly winds. (aka he knows it had better be ideal for me!) It was a most memorable sail. We sailed straight out of the Charleston Harbor past Fort Sumter…and then along the jetty’s in the shipping channel eastbound for approximately 12 miles.

At mile 10 – I could no longer see land. While initially this was a tad unnerving – I discovered the really cool part is all of the dolphins who track with your boat. The dolphins seem to let you know that you can relax — you’ve got friends out there.

Some offshore observations:
· The sea-state (surf, wave action) tends to be most pronounced when you leave the harbor. Probably has something to do with shallow waters and currents. The further offshore, the seas became more relaxed / steady.

· The winds tend to be stronger and more gusty closer to land. The further we traveled offshore, the more steady the winds became. The seas were actually more enjoyable then sailing on the Chesapeake Bay — probably due to the shallow waters of the bay can make for choppy waters

· Trans-Atlantic shipping freighters travel A LOT faster than shipping vessels in the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe they have to put their brakes on in the bay? These vessels coming into the channel heading for Charleston are easily doing 20+ knots. They blew right by us – and we were cruising under sail at 11 knots. I was watching the water action at the bow of one of these shipping vessels, and noticed what appeared to be jumping fish. Looking closely — it was our dolphin friends — putting on a sea world act of jumping and flipping in front of this fast moving shipping vessel. Very entertaining! I tried to get this dolphin excitement on camera….but my camera has a delay…and I kept missing the action. Oh well.

Pat selected a second day for us to go offshore — and the weather was similar to our first day offshore. The winds may have been a bit stronger – in the 20-25 knot range. Again winds from the southwest. This seems to produce minimal ocean swells. It was a great sail again. I saw a shark this time….maybe a shark in distress? Noticed a large object that seemed to float at an angle. As we approached – I could see it was a fin – but not straight up. The shark seemed to be floating near the surface (he was big – 15-20 feet!) at a bit of an angle. Not fond of sharks. I was ready to see my dolphin friends again.

When sailing offshore – we have two added safety rules.1. mandatory to wear an offshore PFD (self inflates) at all times 2. always remain tethered to the boat. Each of our PFD’s has a 5′ tether line – allowing attachment on one end to the PFD…and the other end to any fixed object or jackline. Pat has setup a jackline (blue line that is connected around the perimeter of the boat) – so that if you have to go forward on deck — you are constantly attached to the boat.

Tornados hit Charleston

We have managed to experience some violent weather while dockside in Charleston. Let’s start with the tornado on Saturday, 3/15. Just prior, tornadoes had done some hefty damage further inland to Atlanta GA — but Atlanta seemed so far away from us. It just wasn’t on my radar. Born-n-raised in upstate NY — we don’t have tornadoes. So, I have to admit I was a bit naive when it came to “Tornado Watch” and “Tornado Warning” weather alerts. When Pat and I heard that we should find a large building and hide in the basement….we kind of just looked at each other and said “huh”??? Living on a boat docked in the potential path of a tornado….might not be the kind of shelter the weather weasels were referring to – but that’s where we were.

First, we watched the barometer fall….basically DROP to a REALLY low number (995). Not a good sign. Ok, next observation. Most of the other folks living on their boats at the marina — were nowhere to be found. And lastly, the weather pics I was able to see online JUST before weather arrived — had bright red blotches heading our way. Time to turn off the computer (after I snap these images of course!).

So, Pat and I readied ourselves. We got out our foul weather gear (jackets) from the closet, and put a flashlight in the pocket of each jacket (in case Pat & I got separated). Not really sure what the point of that preparation was….but it seemed like we were “doing something” — so I didn’t ask too many questions. By 8:30PM, the sky was filled with lightning, thunder….and finally hail. Sheets of rain came down in horizontal blasts….and then….the winds came. It was incredible. I couldn’t have escaped along the dock – even if I wanted to. Would have been blown right into the Charleston harbor.

Our wind readings went from 15knots to 55 knots in about 3 seconds. It felt like the boat was lifting up – and all of a sudden I became VERY concerned. We put our jackets on.

And within the course of no more than 3 minutes….the weather was over. The winds stopped. The hail & rain stopped. And the thunder and lightening continued on by us. We had missed a direct hit by the tornado. Tornadoes did touchdown on James Island — less than 2 miles from our boat. I can assure you — that a boat would NOT be a safe place in a tornado. We took our jackets off now.

One final note….Soxy, our cat, didn’t seem to be too concerned thru any of this. Soxy – takes a snooze thru the tornado warning

Coast Guard to the dinghy rescue…

I’m definitely no dinghy design expert. But here are some observations:
1. buy the biggest and BEST dinghy (most likely to stay to stay afloat) you can possibly afford.
2. your dinghy gets you back and forth to shore…so make sure it can handle some waves and wind eh? Now, go back to # 1 and repeat

More high winds today….up to 55 miles per hour. Our instruments are already registering 40 knots. We noticed a Coast Guard boat racing by Cat Maudy. This is pretty unusual – since this is a no-wake zone and they usually travel very slowly near the marina. Not today. They were on a rescue mission.

A person on a dinghy from a nearby anchored boat was trying to get to the City Marina dock. Less than 100 yards. They didn’t make it. The dinghy capsized in the high winds – and the person had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Below are some pictures of the Coast Guard recovering the failed “cheap-O” dinghy. Time for an upgrade!

Mast climbing adventures…

It was a rare calm day, and Pat had to install the tri-color light onto the top of the mast. This light fell off (and broke) when Cat Maudy had a brief encounter with the top of a bridge along the intracoastal. Unfortunately, the NEW tri-color light, was of a slightly different design from the OLD tri-color light. This meant that more than 1 trip to the top of the mast would be required. Three trips to be exact. Pat was lookin’ like an ol’ pro going up the mast. I had him secured with the halyard and a second safety line – and equipped with my Rambo “powerdrill” to do all the heavy lifting.

The third trip up the mast was the “charm” – and the new tri-color light was successfully wired and installed at the top of the mast.

Now, it’s my turn. I decided this sure looks like fun. Ok – I didn’t go all of the way to the top of the mast, but I have to admit it was pretty cool bein’ UP – even if it is only barely halfway. The most amazing part, is that while hanging out in the bosun’s chair – sittin atop of the world…the dolphins whom have never more than just come up for air…put on a SHOW for me. That’s what I believed anyway.

It was like being in front row seats at Sea World! Two dolphins were doing their “Flipper” routine — completely coming out of the water – in pairs, arching…and then diving. Again and again. It was a magical moment – and I’m gonna get further up the mast next time!

Dragging anchor in 40 knots of winds…

The instruments were really reading up to 40 knots….Visualize how 40 knots feels. The boat shakes. It is very windy here — average winds in the mid 20’s, with gusts to 40! The winds are from the East – so they push the water up from the Atlantic Ocean…into the Charleston Harbor…and up the Ashley River! I have to get in a LOW position when walking along the dock – to avoid getting blown off the dock. Small Person Advisory.

While doing some computer work, we looked out the salon windows – to a rather odd sight. Two sailboats – rafted together, and anchored not far from us — are now dragging anchor (due to the extreme winds) and are being blown up the Ashley River toward the James Island Bridge. Woa! No one appears to be on either of the boats – so Pat radio’s to the City Marina for help.

The City Marina sends out one of it’s boats to check out the situation – and then calls in the Coast Guard. Moral of this story – don’t leave your boat unattended AND rafted to another boat anchored on a windy day!

EMS to the dock rescue….

Grace, is a Chris Craft steel hulled motor yacht – and is moored adjacent to Cat Maudy. Nick, the owner of Grace – is a lovely person who lives on nearby James Island. Nick’s son, who attends the Citadel (the “southern” version of West Point) – was hosting an afternoon spring break boat party with friends and acquaintances. What started out as a college-kid boat party on Grace – Tuesday afternoon, turned quickly to an emergency situation. One of the femmes accidentally stepped thru Grace’s skylight – getting a deep cut from the glass, and her leg jammed between two metal rods (that were designed to prevent someone from falling thru).

Thus her leg was stuck….she was stuck….and had a deep wound in her calf. EMS was summoned. More like the entire City of Charleston Fire & EMS department (30+) showed up. They came out with a huge ‘jaws of life’ hydraulic steel cutter….and snapped the rod that pinned her leg to the boat. Kudos to her college friends who kept her calm during the ordeal….and of course kudos to EMS for the rescue!

Nick’s son (the party host), tho had a problem. He had to ‘splain all of this to his dad. Rumor has it that Citadel attendees were not allowed off campus that day. Oopsie!

Earl lives large on 8 remaining lives, and plans for the future.

Just 3 months ago while sailing offshore, Earl was on death row. But, he came back. With one of those 9 lives used up somewhere in North Carolina, Earl now rules Cat Maudy with a diet of 3-5 cans of wet food per day. He shares some of this with Soxy – our other cat. He also enjoys daily rub-downs, and his perch on a comforter, in the windows of the salon.
But alas, Earl was a tad concerned about the current state of the economy. A recession could limit the food supply – and of course this would be completely unacceptable. Earl is all about food.

Soooo, Earl put in all of his good vibes and wishful thinking, focused much of his thoughts on “Chicken of the Sea”…. And wanted a recession proof idea for ensuring the food supply would continue …irregardless of the value of the dollar against the euro, the fact that the stock market was crumbling, Christmas toys are tainted with poison (oh my!), a crazy man lives in the White House, no one can afford health care, and the fact that the Chinese would soon own all of the homes the Americans foreclosed on.

Wow. Earl is on top of current events. What a mess this world was in…and Earl decided it was time to do something about it. Kitty style.Earl, aka “King Earl” laid out an elaborate plan. First, he would get the “female-one” (Jane) to stock up on brown rice from the asian food stores. With a big boat pantry and lots of plastic storage bins – it would be easy to stockpile bags of rice — and have at least 1-2 years supply on hand. Brown rice mixes nicely with any of King Earl’s favorite meat dishes.

Next, Earl willed the “big-guy” (aka Captain Pat) to acquire a rod. Not just any rod, but a rod with a string attached. One might refer to this as a deep sea fishing pole. Being a savvy shopper, Earl encouraged Pat to use eBay to find a fancy-dancy fishing pole — on the cheap. Earl doesn’t mess with retail price or coupons.

Earl was thinking fish thoughts – and had me research what type of saltwater fish and HOW MANY could be caught per day. He especially liked the big quantities such as:Sea Bass – 20 per person per dayBlue Fish – 15 per person per daySheepshead – 20 per person per dayEarl liked looking at these pictures, and felt confident that we would have no problem catching the daily limits.

While Earl was pleased with the progress so far (brown rice stockpile, purchase of fishing pole) – he remained a tad concerned that we might not know what we were doing with this getup. The rod and reel have arrived – and we were proud to style these for King Earl. Observe the “fishing position” modeled by the First Mate & Captain below. Upon closer observation, no string (line) or lure exists. OK….Details. But we were lookin’ good – and Earl was well on his way to a lifetime supply of food!

Reconnecting with Cat Maudy…

Back and forth between Charleston SC and Silver Spring, MD — I packed as efficiently as possible, and still managed to have 3 large & heavy bags of stuff along with my tennis rackets. A suitcase filled primarily with Trader Joes food and specialty items only found at the local Asian food stores (gotta have my bulk dried foods and sesame oil!)…my skates and skate gear, and one last bag of laptop, books, CD’s and any item that wouldn’t fit in the other two bags. Wowie-Zow. This is packing light. I’ll be traveling south to Charleston one last time on land…on the midnight Amtrak express train – and expect to arrive in Charleston at 5AM.

Sat next to a delightful woman named Anna. Anna lives in the Isle of Palms, and makes frequent Amtrak trips north to Philadelphia PA to care for her 93 year old mother. We shared many stories about caring for our 90 year old parents — including stocking the freezer full of foods, ensuring they can use their computers for emails, and just enjoying simple ‘time’ with the parentals! Life is good. Anna is a retired computer geek from the Chicago area – who started her second career as a watercolor artist after retirement. Her work is currently featured at the Seagull Gallery in Mt. Pleasant. I am planning to visit this gallery on a sunny day via bicycle — a combined sporting-artismo event if you will.

Well, by 11PM, everyone on the train was snoring…not me. I remained wide awake…listening to all of the snoring ….sigh. Despite a late start out of DC, the train made up time – and arrived on schedule in Charleston. Pat picked me up at the train station, and we arrived at the City Marina just in time for sunrise. It was beautiful.By 8AM – I crashed. So much for sleeping on the midnite train….I would be catching zzzzz’s for the bulk of the day on Monday. It’s now boat-time.

The temperatures have improved considerably since the last time I was in Charleston. It’s T-shirt and short weather now. Having ‘thermal-ed UP’ just 3 days prior – to skate in 18 degree weather in Baltimore…T-shirt and shorts is a very pleasant change.

Charleston…boat repairs…and crack addicts…

North….Two weeks back in Maryland – land-based, filled with work, work, work…taking care of my Dad, family stuff, hooking up with a few friends…and a swim debut.That’s right – swim. My least enjoyable sport. But, since I am in training for a sprint-TRI – I guess I need to find my way back into the swim lane. 3 days at the Martin Luther King Swim Center — and I was up to 40 laps (sidestroke…the only stroke I know how). OK, I guess I can do this as long as I don’t have to put my face underwater. I packed my swimsuit for Charleston…just in case a swim opportunity arises.

…meets South ….My road trip to Charleston was uneventful for a change (whew!). I made 2 stops…first stop at the Welcome Center in North Carolina. Spent an hour updating a document – and sending emails. Next stop at EXIT 181 in South Carolina. Sound familiar? Yep, it is the same exit and Hess Station that possessed my VW Beetle a month prior. Had to rid the spot of bad Ju-Ju — but just to be safe, kept my keys, purse, cell phone and food on me at all times – and rolled down the windows just for added assurance.Arrived at the City Marina at approximately 3:30PM…to a beautiful 70 degree day. Decided to go on a small walk….which morphed into a brisk high-energy walk along the perimeter of the Charleston Harbor to the opposite side of the peninsula. Two hours later…I returned to Cat Maudy – completely invigorated.

It was time to do some sightseeing in Charleston – and take my husband out for exercise at the same time. With me on skates, and him on the bicycle, we left the City Marina for a cruise around the peninsula and an opportunity to view some of the historic homes that line the harbor. Words won’t do this any justice – so I’ll just let these pictures (and subtitles) do the talking…

Meet Charlie Siriski
Charlie is the high-tech welding man who fixed our rigging – and in the process became a delightful friend as well. Pat and Charlie had already made the “Italian connection” – and when Charlie started talking about food choices that he and his wife Kay make (She makes her own soy milk, tofu) – and they eat “greens” for breakfast….I knew we would get along fabulously!

We had decided to get together for sushi on Saturday night – at a place called Osaka – located on James Island — a few minute drive from the City Marina. Osaka Restaurant 100 Folly Road Charleston, SC 29412

Charlie (from Charleston area) and his wife Kay (originally from Michigan) make you feel like you’re family. We sat down for sushi at 8:30…and proceeded to hear about Charlie’s experience with FIVE GUYS ( a Washington DC based hamburger and fries chain that has recently added a restaurant to the Charleston area). Apparently, Charlie and Pat had an earlier conversation about how decadent a burger and fries are (I think Pat is tired of eating healthy!)….and sure enuf – Charlie went to FIVE GUYS to experience the burger and fries deal. He apparently loved it. So much for that healthy food conversation we had a few hours prior.
Irregardless, the sushi was phenomenal at Osaka – and very reasonably priced. We will be making another visit here.

…with gale force winds, I decided that I ABSOLUTELY MUST combine exercise with my other favorite pastime…FOOD. Being on a dried fruit “kick” – I wanted to experiment with more fruit varieties – and thought maybe I would have good luck at the Whole Foods Market located in Mt. Pleasant.

Going there… on my bicyle…was a breeze…literally. I was flying. Obviously I had an excellent tailwind carried me across the peninsula and over the Route 17 bridge. I barely broke a sweat – and was passing cars and busses along the way. I didn’t even need to downshift going UP the Route 17 bridge. Soon, I was going so fast on the descent into Mt. Pleasant – that I had to hit the brakes a ton — just to avoid going airborne when my wheels hit irregular surfaces on the bridge.

I’m guessing it was a 10 mile ride total to the Whole Foods Market. I lollygagged for about an hour in the Whole Foods bulk food section…before hopping onto my bike for the ride back to Charleston. As soon as I started the ramp back UP the bridge toward Charleston – I realized what a huge tailwind I must have had coming in the opposite direction. The headwind that I was about to experience was pretty strong. Digital signs were flashing on the entrance ramps “Caution – Severe Crosswinds”. I know they meant “headwind”.

I had to downshift to SECOND GEAR (I never downshift below THIRD gear)…in order to make the ascent….and then PEDAL HARD just to take the descent into Charleston. OK…I was lovin’ every minute!

Thanks Emma. I’m feelin’ like I need to RUN today. THANKS for getting me registered in a TRIATHLON. I haven’t run in nearly 9 years since the 1999 NYC Marathon….so my pace was incredibly slow – nearly in reverse (sigh). I managed to run across the peninsula – a whopping 3 miles….of course to YET another FOOD STORE….and then walked back.

The “Derrick live-aboard” situation was rapidly deteriorating. It became obvious that we had a crack-addict on board. It also became obvious that he was far LESS knowledgeable about boats, than he portrayed. We were investing more and more money to fix his mistakes… It was time for Derrick to be “set free”.

Writings and journeys, flavored with spice…

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