Friday, July 9, 2010

Leg 2 - Morehead City, NC to Jacksonville, FL

Ok, I get the hint, you want to hear the story. Ok, ok, I was hoping I could get a few more sessions of therapy in before getting into it but apparently it's not to be.

Leg one left off in Morehead City, NC after some horrible weather put a stop to our trip the first time around. So that's where we will pick it up from now. But before I go into the details, let me start with 2 very important lessons learned from all this...

1) Going south in June is a very bad idea. (Here is why...the winds are prevailing from the south west continuously. I have never seen anything like it. SW winds every day, every night and that's the direction you want to go, SW)

2) Having a schedule to adhere to on a sailboat is also a very bad idea. (Now this one I knew, but I had no idea to what degree this would come to)

So with that said, here are the details.
I got to the boat on Friday June 11th to start prepping for the trip. My crew was due in the next day and I wanted to be ready to get out early if at all possible. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. On Saturday morning, the winds were whipping at 30 knots from the, you guessed it, SW and there was no way we would be able to leave. As well, I had to get the head sail back up after the repairs and the wind would not have let us do that regardless. We decided to stay put and work on the boat while we had the chance. As it turns out, our time at dock was extended as the winds kept up through Sunday, so Monday was now our planned departure time.

With the boat ready, we left late Monday at around 3:30 on the slack tide. If you have never been to Morehead City, the tides through the area can reach 4 to 5 knots and makes for very tough maneuvering around the dock, so slack tide it is.
Winds were down now and we were able to motor pretty well until we hit the inlet. There was a fishing tournament going on and the fleet was coming back in with the days catch. Bottom line, we got creamed by the massive wakes of these boats, one after the other. A fine start to a long trip.
We made it out past the third channel marker and made our turn SW to pick up the rhumb line to Cape Fear. That was about 5:00 pm Monday.

The winds were light and it was hot. The previous days winds made for some nice four foot swells that unfortunately played havoc with my crew mates stomach. It didn't take long until full blown sea sickness took over. It was a very slow next few days and the heat at times was unbearable. We eventually made it past Cape Fear and I was quite relieved to see the outer marker, actually a huge platform, go by to port as we crossed the shoals. The winds were very lite and of course from the SW, so progress was extremely slow.

On Friday though, things took a turn for the worse and my crew member had to get off the boat. We were back at Oak Island, NC at the Southport Marina by Friday night at 5:00 pm. About 4 days on the water, most out of site of land. I love that... :)

I now had to find a replacement and fast. Dockage at Southport was not cheap although it was a great marina. As a side note, the town of Southport was beautiful and the folks were fantastic. And best of all, I was able to find conch fritters at one of the local restaurants. I am always in search of a good conch fritter and I was not disappointed. All of the water front places had great food but I went back to The Provision Company for those fritters. If there, I highly recommend the place as well as a conch fritter if you never had one.

So Saturday I pulled out all the stops and started looking for help to finish the trip. None of the folks I knew were free at the time so I posted a crew wanted add on, a place on the web were you can talk sailing all the time, and waited.
Not long after, I had a call and the rest is history. Lets just say I got very lucky. Scott Watts, a delivery captain/mechanic/electrician/shipwright/master of all nautical answered the call and was available. I wonder if knowing what he knows now, he still would have answered. :) Oh well...we will never know...unless he posts a comment. :)

Anyway, he was at the boat on Sunday and we were prepped to leave Monday. We left the dock at around noon and immediately faced SW winds at 10 knots. Another great start to the trip. For the next 3 days, we knocked our brains senseless beating into SW winds the entire time. At this point, it was time to motor, but as I had mentioned in past posts, the motor and it's components have seen better years and it was nothing but problems. (One) of the biggest problem we ran into with the engine was all of the gunk at the bottom of the fuel tank getting sucked up into the fuel line and killing the engine. Eventually, we had to bypass the old tank with a new plastic tank on deck, but I will get to that later.

All said and done, and this is the very short version, we made it to Charleston, SC on Friday the 25th. A total of about 450 miles from Washington, NC and about 130 miles from Oak Island, NC.

There is one notable entry I did want to include on this leg of the trip. It happened about 20 miles off of Georgetown, SC at about 11:00pm. We were beating as usual into 4 to 5 foot seas heading SW in about 15 knots. We had a reef in the main and about half the jib out driving as well as could be expected into the seas. All of a sudden, and this is no joke, the winds completely died and the seas went flat. It was in an instant and I barely noticed it before I got a look at the15 foot wall of water coming directly from the stern, 180 degrees from the direction the winds and waves were just a minute prior. Somehow, Scott realized what was happening, got the tiller pilot off and lined up in the best possible spot to catch the wave just right. We got soaked as part of it broke over us, but Skylark was able to ride over the rest before getting put over on her side at about 35 degrees. We really did go flying, but Scott was able to get her back under control and turned around before two more waves, somewhere in the 10 foot range passed behind the first. No more than 30 seconds after the third wave passed, the winds picked up out of the SW again and the 4 footers were back as well from the SW.

Scott has been around the world multiple times on a sailboat and has never seen anything like it, especially in the Atlantic. There were no large ships around that could have thrown a wake like that and no one else that we could find that experienced the waves. We have no idea why they formed or where they came from but they were real and I would swear to it on a stack of whatevers. Rogue wave maybe? Well maybe, but who knows. I do know that if it hit us on the beam, it would have rolled us for sure. Lesson learned...when it's your watch, pay attention.

We wound up stopping at the Charleston Harbor Marina for the night...this is Friday the 25th now. Another really nice place, but a bit crowded for my liking. It was here that I made the decision to jump ship as I had to be back at work Monday and it was an easy place to leave from. I was really disappointed to say the least that I was not going to finish the trip, but I knew Skylark was in good hands.

This is another part that could go on and on, but lets just say the next few days were very eventful with the engine. Due to the weather on the outside, it was decided that Scott would finish the trip down the ICW from Charleston to Jacksonville. Well, after quite a few break downs and a new tiller post bracket and fuel tank, Scott and his buddy Gary made it to Jacksonville where Skylark will call home.

Bottom line, Scott and Gary got through a lot of issues to finish the trip and was as professional as you can get. There was never a time that Scott felt he couldn't complete the trip and did everything in his power to get his crew and the boat to it's destination safely. I would recommend Scott to ANYONE who needed a boat moved, built, restored, repaired, or anything boat related anytime. He works out of St. Augustine Florida and has a website, that shows what he can do. Please check it out.

So that's the story. I know it's a little condensed, but I think you will get the general gist. Keep an eye out for the upcoming adventures on the St. Johns.


  1. Knowing what I know now, I would still have gone on the delivery. I would have taken the time to ask for forgiveness for all my sins first, however!

  2. I think there were times where we both wished that we could have walked on water !

  3. Glad you have finally made it to your new home. Sounds like you had a great adventure with a few unexpected twists and turns.