Delivery of Wind Gypsy
I was offered the opportunity to help Captain John with the delivery of "Wind Gypsy", a 35' Catalina to Miami Beach FL. Our plan was to leave on Monday morning and jump offshore at Beaufort for a run down to Miami Beach. We expected to take about five days if there were no problems. Our alternate plan was to travel parts of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) if the weather was not cooperative.
We started out first thing Monday morning with a strong cold wind blowing up the Neuse River with a 2 - 3 foot chop. After the turn into the ICW the wind and waves lessened. Reaching Morehead City we were greeted by dolphins as we turned to follow the ICW. The forecast was for a cold front to move through the area during the night and being out in the upcoming blow was not appealing. We chose to follow the ICW to Wrightsville Beach and then jump out the Masonboro Inlet. Our first stop was in the town of Swansboro. There is an area there that is a marginal to fair anchorage, if you can get the anchor to bite. After four tries we decided to try another location a few miles further along. Our attempt to anchor here was given up when we went aground. Yes, our first day and we were already aground. We were able to back off and went back to Swansboro to check into a marina for the night. During the night the front went through with the forecasted strong winds.
The next day started with dolphins greeting us as we motored down the ICW. This stretch passes through Camp LeJuene Marine Base and their artillery range. We also had our first bridges to deal with. Some bridges open on the hour and the half hour and others only on the hour. We made it to our first bridge with only a fifteen minute wait but missed the next bridge and had to wait just under an hour for an opening. Eventually we made it to Masonboro and were able to tie up at the marina for the night. Our only excitement of the day was when John stepped off the boat onto the dock. He missed and went into the water. I heard a splash and looked to see him holding the stern line and trying to get onto the dock. Fortunately he was not hurt, just wet and cold. John lives a couple of miles from this marina so his wife was able to bring him dry clothes and get everything washed and dried by morning.
In the morning there was frost on the docks, a sign that it had gotten cold during the night and we needed to get going south. We made the decision to go out the Cape Fear River rather than the Masonboro Inlet. By doing this we would not have to go as far offshore going around Frying Pan Shoals off of Cape Fear and would actually make for a shorter trip. By the time we reached the Cape Fear River the forecast was calling for another cold front on it's way toward us. With this information we decided to continue following the ICW and would make another attempt to jump out at Georgetown SC. We stopped for the night at a convenient marina when it was apparent we would not reach our target marina that evening.
It is now Thursday, day four of the trip and we are in the Myrtle Beach SC area. There is a lot of development along this section and more being developed. We even went under a gondola that carries golfers over the waterway. After traveling through this dredged section we moved into the upper section of the Waccamaw River. We were to follow this down to Georgetown. The river starts out narrow but widens out as you move downstream until it is a very wide and deep river emptying into the ocean. It is a relief to be traveling in 30 - 40 feet of water instead of the 15 feet or less that we have been traveling in since Morehead City. We went to one hour shifts to stay warm and out of the weather since it had also started raining. While at the dock we had a heater keeping the boat warm but underway we had no heater. To take the chill out of the cabin we resorted to a clay flower pot over a flame on the stove. It takes the chill out but since you have to have good ventilation with this technique it is hard to get very warm. We finally arrived in Georgetown, got tied up and called it a day after having dinner and going out for a beer. During the night the front went through with high winds and rain, not the kind of weather I would want to be out in if I didn't have to be.
Finally, into the Atlantic.
Getting up Friday morning it was still blowing and raining so we went back to bed for a couple more hours. After it settled down it was time to head out. A quick stop for fuel and we were headed down the channel and out the inlet. Once we were clear of the entrance we made our turn south and set the sails. We sailed until the winds dropped in the evening then lowered the sail and fired up the engine and motored through the night. We saw nine ships during the night but never came close to anyone. It was a cold night, I ended up with six layers of clothes to keep warm during my watches. I looked and felt like Randy in the movie "The Christmas Story".
The next day we raised sail again attempted to continue under sail. We were following the edge of the Gulf Stream so it was necessary to make several course changes to avoid getting into the north flowing current. With a north wind the swells were building and causing the sails to collapse when coming off a wave. We rolled up the Genoa and motorsailed under the Mainsail. We continued this way for the rest of the day and the following night.
Sunday we were running low on fuel so we attempted to sail again. We had trouble keeping the foresail filled so we rolled it up again and sailed that day with just the main, still going 5 - 6.5 knots. We had one of our waypoints off of Cape Canaveral so we proceeded to that waypoint and turned in to follow the entrance to the harbor. When we turned towards the harbor we started the engine to motor in. Unfortunately we had too far to go and too little fuel. We ended up running out of fuel a couple of miles out from the harbor entrance. Since we were in sixty feet of water and were drifting with the current we dropped anchor and waited for tow boat to come out and get us. We were towed into the harbor and tied us up for the night. As a side note: I saw anther Pearson 424 in the Cape Marina. I believe it was Krysta Lynn but I could only read part of the name but I did get a photo.
In the morning (Monday) we checked out the fuel system, replaced the filter and filled the tank. Fortunately our problem was just that we ran out of fuel. We headed out with the sails down and motored down the Florida coast. I was on watch when the sun set. I have to say that it was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. It was one of those that just kept getting better as the sun moves below the horizon. I tried taking pictures with my digital camera and will post some of them for you. We could tell we were getting further south since the night was not as cold as it had been earlier in the week.
We arrived at our marina in Miami Beach about 12:30 on Tuesday. Our five to six day trip ran a little longer then planned. After a lunch on shore we set about cleaning and getting the boat shipshape. After a good nights sleep John picked up our rental car and we started the long drive home. It was 75 degrees when we left Miami with a forecast of eighty. As we drove north I got to watch the temperature gage on the dash drop until it hit a low of 33 somewhere by Wilmington NC. After that it climbed to the high 30's as we got nearer the coast. We dropped John off around midnight and I finished off the last couple of hours getting back home and crawling into my own bed again around 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning. I dropped the car off the next day and the trip was officially over except for the laundry.