4 December 2021: TODAY WAS THE DAY!
4 December 2021
South Santee River, SC, USA
Stono River, SC, USA
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
A perfect 12 knots, if it wasn’t perfectly on the nose
Unusual day, what seemed like light fog in the morning never really lifted. Did not smell like smoke, unidentified haziness.
Cooler, jacket back on – but still reasonable. Cannot complain!
Dry, thank goodness!
Alas, I was determined to be the first boat gone in the morning and upon departure I was tied for second. But was moving by 7AM sharp so was happy with myself. Might have gotten moving 15 minutes earlier, except I was trying to determine what was happening with the fog. I did not want to leave with fog and worry about boats and crab pots but at the same time it was not heavy set in and a quick glance at the forecast calling for sunny and 21 degrees Celcius suggested that it was not going to stick around.
In retrospect, I am not sure it was fog as it stuck around all day but just as a general haze. Reminiscent of light forest fire smoke that feels like it was blocking the sun, but it did not smell like smoke. Was it smog? Never determined.
Today had two goals, a big 55 mile move and get fuel. Ambitious really to try and get both in as 55 miles is an ambitious day with these frustrating currents against you in the ICW anyways.
I had my sights set on the St Johns Yacht Harbour for fuel just before the anchorage I had selected. Though I was not entirely sure I needed fuel. The guage had been flickering around the 1/2 mark and around the 1/4 mark, but with me doing 50 miles for the next couple of days I just wanted to be sure I was sorted. And I feel like the safe thing to do, especially when in tight waterways is to go with the more conservative decision and assume it is at 1/4 full.
With an even loftier (too lofty maybe) plan for the next day, fuel today was a priority. With tight timelines and currents still not as favorable as I thought, it was hard to plan with all the inlets to the ocean when you will be on a rising tide and when you will be on a falling tide. I had a couple of backup anchorages but no real backup fuel plans!
But good plans always go awry and this time it was because it was my turn to earn my stripes on the Intercoastal Waterway. As I approached the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge just before Charleston here in South Carolina, I could see a sailboat aground ahead of me off to the left. Where the channel theoretically was.
The boat, whom I had chatted to briefly when it passed me the day before, radioed me to let me know safe water was 20′ to 30′ in front of its bow (to the right of where it should be). I also had a large 45′ monohull sailboat in front of me that had just passed me shortly before and I thought I would just follow in his shadow.
Well as it turns out, you should really not assume that a 45′ sailboat has a deeper draft than you as this boat only drew 3.5′ and I draw 5.25′. So where he cruised on by, the bottom of Tala’s keel got to play in the mud for a bit. Luckily, because the other boat Night Hawk was aground, I was already going slow so any touches were gentle. And when I did touch it was a very soft, thin mud which I tried to power through initially realizing I was still too close the Night Hawk. As I push on slowly feeling the muck below me and seeing the dreaded 5′ flashes on the depth gauge, I was able to make it to the channel. But I almost immediately touched on the other side!
I tried to power through there and get back to the channel but without knowing for sure where it was did not know which direction to aim for! Luckily, back in 2018 in Rhode Island I remember a friend visiting the boat and his advice on running aground and on board One-O-Six it happened twice on the on Intercosatal Waterway so I was not stressed. Especially because the mud was so soft and it was a really low tide and only coming up. I was prepared to wait and hour or so and was sure I would be floated off the bottom by the rising tide and on my way.
However, a brief moment later and friends Sea Wind threaded the needle right between me and Night Hawk (cannot wait to see their footage as they had their cameras out) so I knew where the channel was for certain! I decided to put one last concerted effort into it and threw the old girl into a strong reverse. This did the trick and thanks to Sea Wind I knew exactly where I need to go to carry on.
Poor Night Hawk left to wait for High Tide and Sea Tow US (though they were in good spirits)!
But moral of the story – I thought I was going to get away with it but – TODAY WAS THE DAY! As they say, everyone on the Intercoastal Waterway has either run aground or lied to you. And not the worst running aground story you could have, minor delays and soft mud on a tide that would have risen shortly if I needed it. That’s the kind of problem that I will happily take!
As I waited for the Ben Sawyer Bridge to open, I now had a little less time having wasted half an hour on an already packed schedule! I decided to go to Safe Harbour Charleston City Marina to fuel up as I didn’t realise in my planning how close it was to the Intercoastal Waterway.
It had double advantage of:
- Friendliness – the St Johns Yacht Harbour phone attendee was rather rude and unhelpful when I called to inquire about hours and tie up; their only useful description was that the fuel dock was all the way down the fairway which sounds like a pain when I couldn’t even get out him which side my fenders and lines should be setup on.
- Familiarity – I had been to the Safe Harbour Charleston City Marina before in 2018 on One-O-Six. Though it had bad memories associated with it, surely they would not be repeated (let’s just say I was well within my US Visa window this time with the proper cruising permit; nobody wants a visit from US Customers and Border agent when they are just trying to fuel up)! But knowing the area and know the current famous in Charleston, I was much happier heading here!
I forgot how bougie this marina was as I had to wait for a large super yacht and its crew to dock in a slip that seemed to be about the exact length of their boat. Switching my fenders to the opposite site as I waited as this marina was a happening place and they were allocating spots to fuel up very last minute as they became available. I ended up in a narrow fairway, having to turn around to motor up into the current and dock between two boats. But the dockhand now free from the super yacht came and caught my lines (I bet they tip better!) and I squeezed in by the skin of my teeth. I filled water and fuel and got on my way to make it to the nearest anchorage on the waterway by dark! Just!
This time noting down the hours on the engine for the fuel to actually see how long my 60 gallon tank lasts me and noting the date and time of my water fill for the same reason. I am still currently running the same experiment on my propane from a fill in Maryland. Though the fuel gauge was flickering to 1/4 at times, it was only half empty as it took 28 gallons to fill (and this was with a slow fill hose as previously I worried I wasn’t fully topped up because the fuel hoses were so high powered it would come out my breather before it was maybe all the way full). Now we know for sure and I can keep better track of it going forwards!
Whew, that felt long and rambling but it was a long and semi-eventful day! With a brain that is mush and hopefully another big day ahead of me tomorrow – it is off to bed!
“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.”
– Robin Lee Graham