Breaking Free of Winter, or Not

Caption for main photo: Spoiler alert! Tom models our sailing attire this autumn wearing many layers including down vests, long pants, and wool hats. Baby it’s cold, even in Georgetown, South Carolina where this picture was taken.

We began our journey of sailing south for the fifth time, by sailing to Block Island, Rhode Island on a late September afternoon. Wind and current were with us. It was a beautiful short sail of less than four hours. We thought this would be a quick overnight stop before heading out to sea and straight for Hampton, Virginia.

Red skies at night sailors delight, right?

The forecast in the morning, was a shock, and turned out to be true! We were stuck for a full week in beautiful Block Island, with no hope of even getting ashore. Temperatures were cold, mostly 40’s and low 50’s. It rained a lot, inches! The skies were completely overcast and it was very windy with frequent 50 knot gusts. Even if we wanted to, we could not assemble our dinghy on deck in these conditions. The good news was we did not have big waves in the harbor as we were hugging the windward shore, close to “dinghy beach” where there is a wooden walkway across the marsh grass.

Mast-less windsurfer (kite sailor?) enjoying the high winds on our last day in Block Island
Raising the anchor after a week in Block Island

We stayed busy with small projects and chores. We ran the diesel cabin heater in the mornings to take the chill out of the cabin while constantly checking the weather for a break! We finally took Chris Parker’s advice and left on an overnight reach down Long Island Sound towards NYC. The predicted west winds would not have allowed us to go offshore from Block Island for another week. These same winds would work very well from NYC.

Setting off from Port Washington

Our 106 mile overnight sail to Port Washington was completely overcast and really cold. We were thankful for our pilot house which allows us to stay out of the wind and rain. We arrived as Pegu Club was leaving to go through NYC. We stayed on a mooring for one night and used the included water taxi to walk around a bit and shop for fresh produce. Sticker shock! We didn’t buy much. The next morning we left with the current to get flushed through New York City.

Riding the current, through NYC

It’s been 36 years since we sailed through New York City. It was not as scary as our memories. We remember many tugs and barges which needed plenty of space to maneuver in the narrow twisting rivers with 4-6 knot currents. This time we mostly saw ferry traffic. There were many fast moving small catamaran passenger ferries and of course the enormous Staten Island car ferry once we were through the city. I would go this way again.

There she is, Lady Liberty
New Jersey by night, ahh finally offshore!

The west winds were perfect for this passage! We could stay close to shore with good wind and no waves.

Cold weather persists in early October

We arrived in Hampton Virginia after two nights (295 miles) at sea. Still no relief from cloudy and cold weather as another reinforcing cold front was approaching.

Lone Star at the friendly Hampton Yacht Club

We don’t often splurge for a dock, but it was fun for a change and made our visit with my sister Janet and her husband Dale more enjoyable. Since they had a car we spent a day exploring the colonial parks at nearby York Town and Jamestown. Great history lessons! We really enjoyed their visit. It flew by too fast.

Monument at Colonial Park, York Town Battlefield

Soon we were sailing south again for Beaufort, NC. We had light winds on this 228 mile, two night passage around Cape Hatteras. We ended up motor-sailing about half the time. The benefit to motoring was enjoying a hot water shower in fairly calm seas, right before an off-watch sleep! That’s a four hour snooze on Lone Star. The hot shower is a sailors dream come true.

Anchored a bit too close to Carrot Island

When the full moon low tide arrived the rudder touched the soft mud. We moved Lone Star out a bit further after that.

Love the Wild Horses on Carrot Island
The sunset provided amazing light
Beaufort, NC a favorite stop for us

After three weeks, we finally had a weather window to continue south offshore, along the east coast of America. We decided to explore the western Caribbean this year, in particular the small islands offshore of Mexico and Honduras. We will be sailing off and on with our buddy boats, UJAM’n and Wild Iris. They were both still freezing up in Deltaville, Virginia. They were planning to leave there on this same weather window and plan to catch up with us soon.

The 186 mile overnight sail from Beaufort, NC to Georgetown, SC was a bit challenging. The inlet to leave Beaufort was rough and very bouncy for about a half hour, until we reached deeper water. When we turned south the elevator ride began in earnest. The seas were 4-7 feet. Although Lone Star is a trimaran and doesn’t roll like a monohull, we sure do ride the waves and surf. The inlet into Winyah Bay, SC was terrifying! We had wind, current, and six foot seas behind us. The inlet is fairly narrow with broken underwater sea walls along the edges of the channel that are a hazard rather than a help. The power of the seas locked the rudder and sometimes tried to turn the boat. Time seemed to stop as we hung on a wave. We found ourselves often looking at the sky through a salt covered windshield for 6-9 seconds, when we really wanted to see the navigational buoy that was right in front of us. After another mile and a few turns inside the inlet the waves and froth finally calmed down. Whew, glad that’s behind us! Sorry no pictures… too busy hand steering.

Lone Star anchored near the Steel mill in Georgetown, SC.

We enjoyed lunch out at a local restaurant with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club. It is always fun to catch up with each other. We never fail to learn from each other’s experiences. This time we were picking their brains on where to go down the coast as this is our first time seeking shelter south of Beaufort, North Carolina. Thanks friends, we know you’ll enjoy the Bahamas this winter.

We are the big white boat with a green center, heading south into a fleet of anchored cargo ships near Savannah, Georgia
Ships are much farther apart in reality. Here we have smooth sailing down wind and riding the waves

Our next passage was two nights and 214 miles to St. Mary’s Inlet on the Florida/Georgia border. This leg was much more sedate. We elected to head north, once through the inlet. We had heard great reviews about the trails and history at the National Seashore on Cumberland Island, GA. Four other cruising boats we know went south to anchor at the small town of Fernandina Beach, FL. The next day, Wild Iris joined us. What a fabulous place! We stayed here for a week and enjoyed many long walks around the park.

Mark, Lisa and Tom, with an albino horse in the background
We got to see a lot of wild Armadillos up close
And many Wild horses among the majestic Live Oak trees
Dungeness Castle ruins at the south end of the island
Mark and Lisa on the flattest longest beach I’ve ever been on!

Beach walking on the eastern side of the island was a must. Many trails led across to the beach. It was really fun to have Steadfast join us the day before Thanksgiving and host a potluck on their boat that evening. Great times!

Lisa and Janice (Steadfast) on a cold windy long beach walk. We pretended the beach was snow!
Rather than collect this beautiful shell, we took a picture!

There were bird sanctuaries here too, I have pictures of crows, egrets, flamingos, and others. Running out of space in this blog!

Walkways among the Live Oaks

We spent a week here and still didn’t see even half of the island. Nor did we make it to the two nearby towns that are a must see: St. Mary’s and Fernandina Beach. We will have to return!

One thought on “Breaking Free of Winter, or Not

  1. Tom, you are a beautiful writer. At times I felt like I was on the Lone Star sharing your incredible adventure! Pictures are awesome & truly enhance the story.
    God speed & safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

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