Before I start my short description of how things went I would like to say first that my prayers go out to all the folks and families that were affected by the storms over the course of the weekend and throughout several states. Many were affected and over 40 lost their lives. It was a huge weather system and was extremely destructive, dangerous and deadly.
Sitting there in my boat listening to the weather radio I knew it was bad but I really had no idea just how bad. It was terrible and I feel for folks and hope for them better days.
I was able to get to Shem creek around 3:30. I listened to the weather radio as I prepped the boat for sailing. It sounded as bad as it looked as I was coming over the Ravenal Bridge. The bay was whitewater with chop and maybe 2-3 foot waves blown up from the 30 mph winds. I noticed how the bridge was swaying and how difficult it was just to stay in my lane of traffic. The forecast was for more of the same which included a small craft advisory and also a Tornado watch until 6 pm where it should start to improve.
I got into the creek and the tide was coming in so I wanted to feel out the current without getting into the bay just yet. It was swift at maybe 2.5 to 3 knots. No problem but it was going to take some effort just to make it the ½ mile of so to the bay. I headed out to the bay and then right back in. I decided to play the smart sailor and wait it out.
I had some buddies from work that were going to be at shem creek for a bachelor party, which was the other reason that I went ahead and came even though the weather was forecast to be so bad. But they would not be there until later.
I occupied my time by looking at the charts and refiguring my route. I had many lookers come by. The little cabin catamaran never fails to draw its share of attention.
At 6 o’clock the same forecast was extended until 8 pm. At almost 8 a nice 30 foot fishing boat with 2 huge outboards was launching and I asked which direction they were headed. They were headed up the intercostals too so I asked for them to radio me back on VHF when they got out there and let me know how it was. About a ½ hour later they said they were headed back in soon they passed the landing and waved while headed up the creek further.
I decided to go back down the creek and meet up with the guys. We had some great seafood and a good time. They had reserved a 50 foot catamaran for a sunset cruise but due to the weather it was canceled. Because the bachelor getting married missed his catamaran ride I offer to get him on the water. Les is one big guy and it was a great test for the boat which I figured now had over 750 lbs total on her. You can see how low she is riding in the water but we did well and made it easily back up to the boat ramp for a short boatride so he got his catamaran ride after all. I decided that I would take the boat out of the water since I did not want to leave it there unattended and go visit with them a while longer since the warnings were extended again until 11pm.
I got back into the water and finally got my adventure underway at 12:15, just after midnight and what an adventure it was. I will keep it short and just give you the highlights. The tide was rushing out of the creek and nearly at low tide. I bumped across every barnacle getting out of the creek in what must have been below normal tide and into now what did not seem like a bay at all but instead a huge mud flat. I came out of the creek and ran straight into what they call the crab bank. The wind was at my back and helping to empty the bay even more. I really needed to get off this bank and out of the bay. I got out my gps to help me find the channel which was around 30 yds away and now showing 2 feet of water instead of the 6 inches that I am now grounded on and being pushed onto further by my sail. Suddenly I thought about the tide that is still running out of the bay. If I don’t get off of this now I will be here for hours until the tide turns back in. I dropped the sail down and got out the paddle which was useless. Putting it away I unlashed one oar and started poling. At first it would only sink into the mud but then I figured out how to put it straight up against the boat and lever the us toward deeper water. This took a while , we made about 1 to 1 ½ feet on every pull. It got easier as the water deepened. Soon we were free and my new experience as the first time ever being stuck on a mud flat was etched into memory. It is not quite as fun as I thought it would be. 1 am in the morning , wind blowing at 25 mph plus watering up my eyes so I could not half see. Chop rocking the boat. Sticky mud getting slung everywhere but now we were free to continue. In the channel and closer to the shore it became a pretty nice sail. I was making 4-5 mph with the wind seemed calmer and the bay opened up. I heard a lot of splashing so I got out my spotlight. I saw at least 3 dolphins run aground on the shore in the mud and run slightly up a bank. They were flopping and I thought for sure they were beached and needed rescue so I headed that way only to watch them flip and flop their way back into the water so I continued on only to see them do it all over again not much later so again I headed to the rescue. I was not about to let some dolphins die in the mud. I have surfed with them for years not far from where I was at folly beach. As I got close this time even more beached themselves and then wiggled their way back into the water. It was very dark but there must have been 20 or 30 in the area and intent on getting themselves stranded so I circled and splashed the water trying to head them in the direction of the canal of the intercostal waterway about ½ mile away. They finally departed and we had a sail together into the channel of the intercostals where it once again became very rough and much winder. The wind was really funneled and got much worse. As I turned left into the waterway I found the wind blowing right down the channel and 2-3 foot chop. I knew that on the outside it was forecast to remain at 6 foot waves until daybreak and I wanted no part of that so it was time to find a location to anchor for the night. A bright light marked a boat ramp on Sullivan’s Island and a dock so that is where I headed. It was a challenge getting there and I blew right past the dock and back into the dark. I was only 20 feet from shore so I grabbed my bow line and lowered myself slowly into the water feeling for what I knew would be sharp rocks of some sort from the look of the shoreline on the island. I stopped the downwind progress away from the dock when I touched but knew I had to go slow the 30-40 yds back to the dock. I could feel my way along in waist deep water and it was not long before I knew I was doing damage to my reef shoes. It only got worse as I went but I had made my decision to go for the safety of the dock instead of the unknown as I had never been in this area before. I got tied up on the inside away from the 1 ½ foot chop which was blocked by the floats of the dock, much nicer than bobbing on the outside of the dock and being rammed into it for the rest of the night. My reef shoes were shredded and I had at least 3 cuts on each feet. Not bad but bad enough to need some attention and stop the bleeding. Everything I needed to take care of myself was onboard and I was thankful for having gone through the inspection from the Everglades challenge back in March now. I got dry quickly and into dry clothes since it was around 50 but it felt like 30 with the wind. I took care of the feet and slid them into some neoprene booties in case they started to bleed again. I got something to eat and then bedded down in the cabin just after 3 am. I had just gone through another one of the things that I knew I eventually would if I kept up the adventure sailing which is dragging a boat over oyster beds. Fortunately I had taken good advice and had reef shoes and now I will even buy some better ones.
I slept like a baby and in the morning before daylight listened to the weather and found out that the forecast did not pan out as it said. The wind did not let up and it did not turn to blow from the north west. I was only around 5 miles from where I started. I decided to call it quits and try and get home at a decent hour and before dark. It was a great morning on the water beating into a 20 mile per hour headwind and tide against me. It took me over 3 hours to get back to the boat ramp up shem creek. It was an adventure and I learned a great deal. I look forward to my next one.
Note- you can see how differently the plans turned out, nothing that I expected for sure which is what I enjoy so much about sailing and trying to become a better sailor.
Another note-I found out what the dolphins were doing, they were feeding, I did not relieze it until someone told me. See a photos and description here. Now I feel bad for interrupting their meal!
www.flickr.com/photos/25411380@N00/3008105564/ MyBad! Now I know, it seems very neat to have witnessted it now.I have been preparing the boat for a short trip out of Charleston Harbor. I have not been sailing in the Ocean since I got back from the Everglades Challenge in early March so I am looking forward to tasting the salty air again. It will be a very short trip, I only will have about 24 hours on the water and one night. My float plan is to launch out of shem creek and head out of the harbor and go north up the intercostal waterway , try and sail through the night and maybe a 90 min. nap and try and make it to bulls bay. Then start back south when the winds change and go to the outside when it is safe and make it back to shem creek by 2-4 pm. Winds should be out of the south until around 2 am and then turn west to north west and push us back in the direction of Charleston but will be much lighter. Hopefully with the favorable wind change we will be able to cover some ground. 50 miles is the plan which should put is at bulls bay and back.
First thing Sat. morning I have to work from 5 till 11 and then off to Charleston so we should be in the water around 4 or after.
It will be interesting to see how much of the plans can be met. There are Thunder storms predicted until nightfall with winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour until around 10 pm. and wave heights of 6-8 feet. This is why my plan is to go intercostal while headed north and then after nightfall and things calm down hopefully I can go on the outside after midnight or at daybreak and the waves are predicted to be 3 feet. This is all part of the learning about sailing and having safe adventures.
In my next post I should be able to see how the planning turned out, if weather predictions are close to actual, how much of my high goals can be met and if I can go without sleep and still function. And most importantly if I had a fun safe adventure and learned something about myself and made good decisions.
4-20-2011, 2:10 pm, for now I am adding photos, I am at work on break, will add story of how it went tonight.
4-25-2011 Last charleston trip update.