We left Miami on the 14th of February to head home (read about the first leg from Miami). Under ideal weather we could have jumped on the gulfstream and sailed all the way to the Carolinas and made it home in under three days to Carolina Beach, NC. However, ideal weather was not what we got. First, there was a front coming through points from northern Florida along the coast north. Then another front was expected a couple of days later. So, we chose to pull into St. Augustine for a night and check the weather.
After arriving in St. Augustine, we went ashore and found a hotel with free WIFI. We found out the other front was if anything moving quicker than expected. We would barely have two days to make it from St. Augustine to North Carolina. And, the wind would be on the nose and strong even close to shore.
We got up early the next morning (February 16th) and went to a marina for fuel. Then we began motoring north. The seas weren’t too bad initially, and the winds were ok. But, as the day progressed the winds got stronger and waves more choppy. We hugged the coast as much as possible. When we reached Jacksonville, the tide must have been coming out. We had even bigger chop and that combined with the winds really slowed us down (we were barely making 4 knots over ground for a while). We briefly considered going up the ICW from Jacksonville to St. Mary’s – but, realized it would be dark and we would have to stop.
The constant headwind combined with chop made for a bit of a bouncy ride, but the real problem was the slowing of our speed. Even past the Jacksonville inlet we were often not making more than 6 knots (with the same engine RPMs we would normally make 8 knots with no wind). I began worrying I didn’t buy enough fuel, and that we wouldn’t beat the weather front which would produce 30+ knots of wind off the Carolinas and storms.
That night, we had some fresh Mahi Mahi from the catch back near Miami. It was delicious! But, the winds continued to bend almost directly on our nose (as forecasted). We were a bit nervous because there was no moonlight until the last-quarter moon rose later in the evening. This was prime mating ground for Right Whales. But, at our speeds they would presumably move out of our way. We never saw any. We occasionally had to run the generator a bit to warm up the cabin – temperatures were in the 50s or lower outside. It was a bummer after the warmer Florida weather. We had a similar problem with the out-going tide at the Savannah inlet and had to slow again for a bit.
After sunrise, we evaluated the situation and realized between greater fuel consumption, lower speeds (due to the headwinds), and the upcoming front off the Carolinas, that we would not be able to get to North Carolina in time. So, we plotted a course for Charleston, SC instead. We made some cell phone calls as we approached Charleston and found out the City Marina could accommodate us. The winds started dying off (naturally) and we had a delightful motor into the Charleston harbor shortly before sunset. We had a large container ship pass us while going through the inlet (see pictures). We also passed Fort Sumpter, saw the downtown area, and witnessed some Optimus sailing going on just before sunset as we approached the Marina. GPS Track seen to the right – download track into Google Earth .
Arrival time: 5:55 PM on February 17th. Total distance: 228 nautical miles.
A few photos – mostly of Charleston (we didn’t take many during the long motoring phases at sea):
We were glad to have on-shore services again. We immediately made plans to head home for a day or so rather than staying to wait out the weather. Our kids needed our help with a few matters. So, we rented a car and left the next day to drive home.
It turned out to be a good decision as both Carolina Beach and Charleston had a very windy and stormy 36 hours. It was already windy when we left the next morning. On the 19th of February, we drove back to begin the final leg the next day.