Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Written in Beaufort SC
2010 10 26

Our sail from Beaufort NC to Charleston SC was pretty uneventful.  Except that we wanted to sail to Georgetown SC to meet with friends. 

Departing Beaufort was a bit bumpy but wind was with us even if waves were not.  It made for exhilerating conditions.  Then the wind died.  If only it had been part of a murder suicide with the waves simultaneously passing from this mortal plane.  Not so lucky were we.

There is nothing quite like bobbing idly in the salt, going nowhere while being thrown from side to side with each passing wave there being insufficient wind to fill a sail and provide some much needed stability of motion.  Tediously we made our way with infinite care further offshore searching for what we hoped would be the point of compression of the very light onshore breeze.  Sailors will recognize this: the land heats up faster than water, the air over the land becomes less dense and is forced aside by cooler denser air from the water.  The result is a breeze. 

However such a breeze can be light and fluky.  As the air rises (or is pushed upwards) by the cooler water air it moves offshore at altitude.  Ultimately it cools and descends back to the water's surface.  All that air moving from water to land has to be replaced somehow.  This is the precise point we find wind.  The wind descending from altitude is being compressed.  It has energy.  Just a half mile outside this point the wind is blowing and decompressing.  Decompression involves the loss of energy and so the wind has less oomph to give your sail.

Search as we might we never found the right spot.   Finally it was diesel on.  We wound up the headsail, which wasn't doing anything anyway, and reduced the main to a double reef, just to give some steadying of the boat while we generated wind with our Beta 43. 

That was it for the rest of the trip.  Except that with the boat just south of Cape Fear we encountered a pod of boats out of the Cape Fear River which were enduring the same fossil fuel experience as we.  A couple of hours after dark one of the boats developed a problem with its drive train.  We were closest of the boats out there so we pulled  back a bit and rode safety, maintaining a listening watch and some diaglogue for the stricken vessel. 

We knew a good mechanic in Georgetown and the friends we had hoped to visit sailed out of that scenic if bucolic harbour.  But it was pitch black and to get to Georgetown it was necessary to make 10 or 15 nautical miles up Winyah Bay.  Not the best option if you have a better choice.

So it was on to Charleston where we pulled into to Charleston City Marina about 6 a.m.  Things were still pitch black.  We were punchy and  exhibiting the nascient signs of lack of sleep.  Logic functions were beginning to suffer and objects took on odd and threatening shapes in the dark.

Depositing our companion boat on the Megadock we decided to drop hook in the anchorage just off the City Marina and catch a few minutes of sleep.  The bridge under which we needed to pass to reach our usual Charleston anchorage at Wappoo Creek did not open until sometime after 8 anyway.

We pulled up about 2 boatlengths from a Catalina named Sojouner and dropped our anchor just off its stern quarter.  I suggested the Budget Committee drop about 150 feet of chain which was total overkill for a 2 hour stop but we err on the side of caution.

She never had a chance.  The anchor had barely hit the wet when the boat beside us erupted in a stream of effluence.  The skipper of Sojourner was insulting my wife as she stood on the bow. 

"You are too f*(*ing close. "  he began.  "Haven't you ever anchored in this river before".

Budget Committee is tough but always chooses politeness when faced with confounding situations.  This was one such.  "Yes, we have anchored here before.  We don't like it here very much".  As you could imagine our estimation of the Charleston anchorage was not ascendant.  "We are not too close to you.  Why don't you wait for us to finish falling back on our rode."

Our belligerent neighbour did not choose this path.  Not for him to be swayed by the bleetings of a mere woman.  Nope.  He took it to the man.  I was the man. 

And sitting in the cockpit I had been forewarned. 

As he stormed from bow to stern I made out that the guy was white haired.  (Probably white faced too based on his apoplectic rage.) Just another grumpy old man.  He took up his cause with what he presumed was the master of the vessel.  The man.  Now, any guy who sails with his wife understands full well who runs the ship.  This guy obviously sailed alone.

I presume spittal flew from his angry maw as he took up the argument with me.  "You are going to hit me when the wind goes against the tide.  Why did you have to drop your anchor so close to me.  YOU ARE TOO CLOSE."

I asked him how much rode he had out and he replied he had out 150 feet.  It was perfectly clear we constituted no threat to the safety or security of his vessel.  We anchored 2 boatlengths off his stern quarter and had dropped 150 feet of chain.   For a 2 hour wait.  This guy was garbanzo beans.

He was back on the attach but none too articulately.  "YOU ARE TOO DAMN CLOSE".  I guess using words like damn makes his attack more effective.

This was a moment whose arrival was much anticipated by me.  Years had passed since I was told by another sailor the magic answer to this statement from a neighbouring boat and I yearned to use it. 

"So"  I replied.

The BC and I went below with our sputtering friend still yellling something.  We had some tea and laughed, nervously I admit, about our grumpy old neighbour.  We catnapped while we waited for the 7:30 dawn.

About 9:00 a.m. we rose, cranked on the diesel and made our way to Wappoos bridge and safe anchorage beyond.

Our friend was still on deck pacing as we motored away. 

Next post I will report on why using the "So" defence can be ill advised.

As to anchoring

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