We check the weather. We check it again. We check it on multiple websites and apps to be sure. We REALLY want to sail on this next passage! The weather calls for wind 15-20 knots, seas 4-7 feet for several days. This means we can sail!
We wait until ten o’clock in the morning to leave Charleston so we can hitch a ride with the outgoing current. Stephane’s on the bow pulling up the anchor, I’m in the cockpit moving the boat to help him get the anchor up properly. And then, as Steve S. warned might happen, we hit YET ANOTHER SNAG. Some old chain that someone left at the bottom of our anchorage wrapped around our anchor. Seriously? This is not a sailing skill we are looking to acquire except we are getting uncannily good at it.
Thankfully with a good, strong reverse-and-punch-it, we are able to free our anchor and leave Charleston on schedule. Thank goodness it did not turn into an epic.
We get out into the Atlantic. The day is gloomy and the waves are pretty big (for us), but guess what else was out there? W-I-N-D. We switched out our yankee (smaller jib) for our genoa (larger jib for light air), got it flying, raised the main, and away we went! No motoring this time! We figured out our best point of sail for the direction we were going, set Mark (we named our auto-pilot Mark. Most people name their auto-pilots “Otto” haha), and settled into the wind and waves.
Early into the night, Mark burned out. For good. No more auto pilot. We knew that Mark was underpowered for our kind of boat but realized later that he is meant to steer a 16,000 pound-max boat -we are 30,000 pounds + so, it makes sense that Mark couldn’t hang, particularly in these conditions.
The wind kept picking up and the waves got bigger. We reefed once and then once more (reefing is making the mainsail smaller). We were running (sailing downwind) so it didn’t feel as scary as it would have been had we been sailing into the wind. So here we are, middle of the night, winds getting stronger, waves getting bigger, and no auto pilot. So we have to take shorter shifts/watches. It’s really hard to stare at a compass for hours at a time, fighting the wheel to keep your heading. Plus it’s kind of boring too.
We continue the short watches through the morning and by mid-morning we decide to duck into the next safe inlet we can. We’re tired and cold and ready to be out of the wind. We sail into Saint Andrew’s Inlet, drop anchor just outside Jekyll Creek / Jekyll Island for the night, and breathe a sigh of relief. Canned chicken never tasted so good! (Actually it was canned turkey. Still, tasted good).
Tomorrow we’ll take the ICW for a change and complete the final 20 miles to get to Cumberland Island, GA.