December 2, 2018

Making Ground: Borealis sails South Carolina and Georgia

We absolutely loved our time spent in Beaufort, S.C. We stayed on a mooring at the Downtown Marina of Beaufort, which is steps away from the seaside town's waterfront park and little strip of local shops and restaurants. The historic area has large, old plantation-style homes with beautiful gardens and 100-plus year old live oaks covered by Spanish moss.

The Virginia and North Carolina coasts felt familiar to us, and this was the first time on our journey that we felt like we were visiting a new and different place. The locals were so friendly, and we'd definitely recommend it as a destination for a low-key vacation.

We've been cruising for a month now, and we've had several 5-7 day periods of not stepping foot off the boat, so it was great to go ashore several days in a row and stretch our legs (we even got a few workouts in and crashed a Turkey Trot). Also, nothing beats a long, hot land shower at a marina! 

We stayed in Beaufort through Thanksgiving - our first holiday aboard Borealis! It was a warm, sunny day, and earlier in the week we found a 4-pound turkey breast at the market that was just the right size to fit in our compact oven. We made all the traditional side dishes on our two-burner stove and had a really enjoyable day aboard. 

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we saw a short weather window open to make another offshore hop down the coast. We left Beaufort around 12 noon to take advantage of the ebbing tide, and by early afternoon we were offshore and headed downwind again for the 125 nm sail to St. Mary's Inlet on the Georgia/Florida border. The overnight sail took 21 hours, and we had fair winds and mostly calm seas for the majority of the trip. 

The only real excitement happened at sundown as we passed through the big ship-entrance to Savannah. We were closely monitoring commercial traffic on our approach to the inlet and were more than halfway through the channel when we were radioed by a pilot boat. (In major ports, marine pilots familiar with local waters board incoming cargo ships to help them navigate into port.) 

The pilot was letting us know that we were within a 2-mile radius of the pilot boarding area, and that he would be coming past us to board the OOCL Korea, a 1,200-foot long and 157-foot wide container ship coming up the channel. We were plenty far away but got a somewhat up-close look as the pilot boat neared the ship, a door on the side opened, and the pilot climbed a rope ladder into the boat. 

Cautiously avoiding commercial shipping traffic outside a busy port while night sailing

Nick logging our night sail at the chart table. Like many other boats Borealis has red overhead lighting, 
which is easier on the eyes at night

We arrived at St Mary's Inlet around 8 a.m. on Sunday and made our way through the long channel to Cumberland Sound to anchor just outside Cumberland Island National Seashore, a narrow, sandy barrier island just off southern Georgia.

During one of the days visiting, we took our dinghy to shore for a nice 4-mile trail hike around the island to explore its saltwater marshes, moss and fern draped oak trees and sandy beaches, and we were thankfully able to spot a few of the island's wild horses! 

There are also ruins on the island from a mansion built by industrialist Thomas Carnegie and his wife, for $200,000 in the late-1800s, which burned to the ground in the 1950s. The estate included dozens of outbuildings, many of them dilapidated, which are maintained today by the U.S. Park Service after the Carnegie's abandoned the property in the 1920s. 

A campsite on the island; there are no cars allowed,
so campers arrive and leave by ferry and must haul in all their camping equipment.

As Midwesterners, we were thrilled to see an armadillo for the first time
While there, a low pressure system swept across Georgia and Florida that dipped overnight temps in the 30s and 40s. We had done well until that point staying south of the frost line, but we had a few breezy, 50 degree days and crisp mornings; thank goodness for our Webasto diesel heater (commonly used in semi trucks) to bring the interior temp up in the morning from 50 degrees to a much warmer 70 degrees! When we arrived we were among a dozen other boats, but the cold must have chased everyone away, since we were nearly alone by the time we left. 

We also saw our greatest tidal changes so far in that anchorage - more than 7-feet between high and low tide! - so we made sure to anchor in plenty deep water. Tidal swings are a fairly new phenomenon to us, since the water in the Chesapeake Bay swings only about 1 - 2 feet between high and low tide. 

After three days, on Thursday, November 29, we left Cumberland Sound around 3 a.m. for a 60 nm offshore sail to Vilano Beach, Florida, just north of historic St. Augustine. We ran into a lot of commercial and fishing traffic around Jacksonville, just as the sun was coming up, but we had light winds and the calmest seas we've experienced yet. 

Our arrival to the inlet took about 10 hours. As we where coming into the channel we heard a series of calls on the radio and were incredibly lucky to pass by and wave off Stanley Paris aboard his vessel Kiwi Spirit II, who was headed out to sea with a parade of boats for his fourth attempt to be the oldest person (at 81) to sail the fastest, non-stop and solo passage around the globe. The current record from Bermuda to Bermuda is just over 150 days by a 71 year old! 

We've arrived in Florida

We'll be hanging out here in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the U.S., for a few days to finalize some items on our cruising to-do list; it's our first visit and we can't wait to explore!

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