by Mandi Sorg
MAY 1 – MAY 21, 2020 – – – DOCKED IN MERRITT ISLAND
At first, we were only going to stay a few days at Harbortown Marina, in Merritt Island, before continuing our journey north. This, however, easily turned in to almost a full month’s stay. Our slip was the T-dock, which we soon learned is now our favorite type of slip – you have the best views! We spent some time with family, a few friends, and did some maintenance on our boat. Having a place for mail to be sent to was a major advantage, given we had a lot of parts to order. Our steering seemed tight as we initially entered Cape Canaveral’s channel, so we spent time working our steering situation. We serviced our wenches, which we believe has maybe been done once in our boats lifetime, as the state of them were awful. We were surprised to find not many people in Florida seemed to take necessary precautions to protect themselves against Covid19.
MAY 22, 2020 – – – FIRST ATTEMPT TO LEAVE MERRITT ISLAND
We left our slip, and arrived to the Cape Canaveral Lock. Once inside, we were notified that the immediate upcoming bridge was on a curfew. We couldn’t believe we had forgotten to check the bridge schedule before leaving! After exiting the lock, east bound, we turned straight around for a west bound, and anchored just outside of the lock near a little mangrove island, awaiting our next chance to leave and sail the ocean.
MAY 23, 2020 – – – WAITING GAME
We waited out this day at our anchorage. There were a few more things we felt like preparing, and the weather for the next few days looked favorable. It was the perfect opportunity to establish our self-made snubber!
MAY 24, 2020 – – – SECOND ATTEMPT TO LEAVE MERRITT ISLAND
We picked up anchor in the morning, and successfully made our way past the lock and bridge. The skies were gray and overcast. There were some storms huddled around the south of Florida, but they were predicted to move north slowly. The mornings sail was beautiful! Our Garmin wind transducer was not brining us wind speed readings; but we estimate the winds to be averaged around 15 knots. The AIS did not seem to be working either, which caused me great worry for our overnight passages. The seas were between 3 and 4 feet, which were predicted to settle down as the day went on. Overall, we had a comfortable ride. I was unable to go below deck, however. Even though above deck the sail was beautiful, the waves were just enough to make it sickening if I went below. Because of this, I did not eat much this day. The night crossings, we find, are never much fun for either of us. When it’s dark, and you can’t see a moon, it becomes even more unsettling. We had a long talk while under sail about our future sailing plans. We began to question how far we really wanted to go, and if ocean sailing (especially overnight) was really our thing.
MAY 25, 2020 – – – BAILING OUT OF TROPICAL STORM BERTHA
By the morning, we were 100 nautical miles off shore, and feeling much better than the previous evening (something about that night sailing!). The seas were still 3 to 4 feet, with closer second intervals. Since I still couldn’t go below deck, I was taking bathroom breaks over the back of the boat, which was a highlight of laughter each time. Neither one of us had slept very well the evening before, and were groggy. By late morning, I was able to get in a short nap on deck. Brian woke me up with startling news. “What was our bail out spot, I think we need to get to shore”, he tells me. I’m shocked, and ask him what has happened. He tells me there had been changes in conditions – the seas were picking up, and the wind was beginning to shift to the north – and he had downloaded an updated offshore weather data. The data’s predictions resulted in an extremely unfavorable next few days. I told Brian that Charleston was our best and closest bailout point, and he quickly changed our course to reach its harbor. We would arrive in another 14 hours. The entire day we had seen no one else on the water, which made our predicament seem that much more ominous. We shortly after came upon a storm about 5 miles wide. Huge, low hanging black clouds, with a sheet of dark gray rain in the distance. We had no choice but to barrel through, and we were hit by the stinging downpour. Our head sail in, and the main barely out, our boat was still heeling from the wind. Waves came over the bow, and in to the cockpit. We were on the other side of the storm about an hour later. Without a working wind transducer, it’s hard to say what the wind speed was, though I suspect wind gusts in the 30 knot range. Our cabin below reeked of diesel fuel, and we feared we have a leak coming from the diesel tank underneath our bed. Brian did a quick check, and sure enough diesel seemed to have seeped through a loose fitting. Ill from lack of food and water, Brian slept on deck while I watched the helm through the night and early morning. The waves were something like I had never seen, at least 10 feet high. Our boat was rolling through them beautifully, we were on the perfect angle for them and the intervals were exactly what our boat needed. We arrived to Charleston’s port right on time, around 3am. The channel coming in took hours to get through. Many a large cargo ship waited near the channel, and we passed a huge dredger. The dredgers left haphazardly placed buoys that were difficult to spot until you were right upon them, and we are grateful that a fellow sailor in front of us hailed us over the VHF to alert us of them. The sun rose, and behind us was nothing but black skies. The waves in the channel were unruly, and our boat heeled over so far that the life lines repeatedly buried in the water. Once safely docked at a marina, we slept – and thankfully the burning stench of diesel was no longer an issue.
MAY 26 – JUNE 23, 2020 – – – TROPICAL STORM BERTHA
We awoke this morning to the news that Tropical Storm Bertha had been brewing right on top of us during our sail, and was currently making landfall on South Carolina’s coast. It is one of the fastest developing tropical storms, with almost no advance warning for those on land. We spent the day watching the rain from the safety of the marina, and could not believe what we had just sailed through was the seasons next tropical storm!
674 NAUTICAL MILES SAILED
MAY 27 – MAY 31, 2020 – – – DOCKED AT CHARLESTON MARINA
We decided to stay docked instead of anchor, especially since the tropical storm was upon us. The marina’s in Charleston have incredibly steep transient prices, and it turns out they have better deals were you to stay a month than a few days to weeks.