Not sure if anyone cares, but I figured that I'd at least follow up on the trip from Jacksonville, FL to (notionally) Morehead City, NC.
Prior to departing, I had hired a captain (Capt Mike Bancroft), who was fantastic. Prior to the trip, he kept in contact throughout the provisioning and fitting out phase, and also taught me a lot about the weather. We watched it weekly the last month prior to departure, and daily about a week out. Prior to departing, we reviewed the NOAA Mid-Atlantic briefing (link provided for information - really useful: Northwest Atlantic WX Briefing Package
We ended up departing on the day that we initially planned for because the weather was good. So, 8 Apr, we departed from the dock. The crew was Captain Mike, my dad, and me (my brother ended up not making the trip). We left the St Johns River sea buoy to starboard about 1030 or so.
There was a high pressure system over the sailing area, and so we had no wind initially. We expected it to fill in, and expected a pleasant sail with winds from the SE. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us after we were underway, the high pressure system merged with a second high pressure system, creating a "Blocking High" no wind zone (effectively). With a low pressure system and associated storm forecasted to move into the sailing area on Thursday, we decided to put into Charleston. Major decision-making factors were the storm, lack of wind, and fuel remaining (we ended up motorsailing a lot over the first 30 hours, and so we made the conservative decision to assume that we'd have to motor all the way into Charleston due to the lack of winds). We were 50 NM from land and 90 NM from Charleston when we made the decision to put in there. We did get a little wind in the evening of that second day, and from the southeast (around 4-5 knots - nowhere near the 10-15 kts forecasted). We were able to reach with it, which was really pleasurable.
We put into Charleston (always a great port) on Wednesday around 1500. The low pressure system had stalled and was expected to hit the area around Friday night, so we took the Intracoastal north to Georgetown. There, we enjoyed a really nice port visit. Captain Mike departed for his next job, and my dad and I stayed in Georgetown on Friday while the storm rolled over. We enjoyed a cruiser dinner (my first!) with the couples from three other boats at the Harborwalk Marina (hosted on Syringa
, with couples from John Dee
, and Serenity
- all of whom were wonderful folks and really a lot of fun).
We departed Georgetown on Saturday via the Intracoastal, and arrived in Little River, SC. I ended up leaving Zephyr
there, where she will remain until I can get a few more days to finish the trip. My brother, dad, wife, and I are deciding if we want to do a day outside to Morehead City then finish with the Intracoastal, or just cruise the Intracoastal all the way. (I'm leaning to sailing outside...)
The biggest thing that I got out of this was confidence. Captain Mike approved of the fitting out and provisioning. He was there because I wanted to ensure that we were all safe - but he let me practice my seamanship, navigation and command skills. His vote of confidence was invaluable. He's also won my recommendation for anyone else who wants to hire a captain for some additional experience! (After all, it takes a special person to jump on a small boat with a dad and son, and integrate himself as well as he did!)
I also found out that this is definitely the lifestyle that I want to live. Cruising and passage making were awesome. Going to sea in such a relaxed style was fantastic. I found that I had the knowledge, and the right decision making capabilities. I also found that I get seasick (boo!) but I'm going to take more precautions for next time!
And of course - the best moment of all - seeing the stars on the night watch. It was a new moon. There were so many stars that they looked like clouds. It was gorgeous. I can't stop thinking about them. (The dolphins and sea turtles were a close second, the Navy's gunnery practice third, and the Air Force breaking the sound barrier over us a fourth... We had a lot of neat experiences!)
Anyway - that's the story. We're still working our way up to Norfolk - via Morehead City - we'll just be doing it month by month until I make it to the destination. And I'm loving it!