Friday, June 06, 2008

Crossing the Gulf Stream, heading to the USA June 2008

After consultations with Chris Parker, it now appears that we should have a good opportunity to get across the gulf stream and head north. May not be enough time to get to Beaufort as we would really like to do, but at least get us somewhere on the US east coast, and closer to home.
We pulled up anchor and headed our 0830 on Tues. May 27th with a reefed main. It was like RAFT didn’t want to leave, the engine started overheating as soon as we cleared the anchorage. A quick check of the possible problems showed that the water intake valve was half closed, our 1" rubber hose on the handle which was to stop this from happening had jumped off sometime in the past few days…said it was a bumpy anchorage. Easy fix this time.

As we approached Great Issac the winds had increased to 25+, we had reefed both sails. By morning we were in the Gulf Stream. Wonderful sailing, traveling the Gulf Stream was a delight, 10-15 knots of wind with a 3.5 knot current had the boat rocketing along all day and night long. We covered 175 NM with ease and best of all very little boat traffic, the seas to ourselves.
We were making good progress in the Gulf Stream until midnight when the wind shifted to the north putting it right on our nose of course, this causes big seas in the Gulf current so we were forced to bail out of the stream early for safety and comfort sake. We are now 45 miles south of Charleston and trying to decide if we can make Cape Fear or pull in there. The weather guru says there is time once the winds shift SE but that won't happen until this evening. So we started tacking up the East coast at 3-4 knots. Hopefully the wind will shift before we get to Charleston. We traveled 132 NM yesterday. Slow progress now in lumpy seas.
We had to motor sail for 24 hours. Weird eddy currents south of Charleston and stronger than expected NE winds dragged down our potential to put some miles under the keel. But we persevered. Still managed to do 127 NM pounding into waves and then finally late Thursday afternoon…NO WIND. So we turned the boat NE and headed for Cape Fear. We have another 50 miles to go and need to tuck in soon because of bad weather Sunday/Monday.
We feel the temperature change as we head north. We now wear sweat pants and long sleeve shirts in the evenings now. No shoes or socks yet. The blue water is gone and the brown/muddy ICW awaits us.
Decided to bail out at the Cape Fear River. This is Vixen’s (our buddy boat) home stomping ground so we let them lead us in. What a culture shock!! As we entered the ICW, after a 105 hour sail, we are bombarded by jet skis, fishing boats, people waterskiing and tubing in the channel, kayakers, swimmers (on the beaches) tons of buoys (remembering we need to put green to the right) and shoaling waters. We knew that we shouldn't be on the ICW on the weekend, but our Bahama crossing ended on a Saturday. And in the middle of this, the shackles on the boom and traveller broke, so Ross is on the deck jerry rigging the main sheet with Bev on the wheel. We did get anchor in Wrightsville by 6 pm, very tired after 108 hours -- our longest passage ever!!
Called US customs and they were insisting that we go to a local marina and check in, immediately!! It was now 1900, getting dark, winds blowing 25+ in the anchorage, and we were dead tired. We tried calling the marina and found out it was already closed. Finally the US coast guard intervened on our behalf, getting permission for us to delay the boarding until the morning provided we didn’t leave the boat. No problem all we wanted was a good night sleep.
Next morning we were off to the marina, as required. While we waited for customs to arrived, we were able to fuel, and water up, and do our laundry. Nice people at Sea Path Marina, so guess they are used to this routine.
Once customs arrived, it really was easy. He sat in the cockpit, copied our document info onto a plain piece of paper (reminded us of Luperon), and stamped our passports. He never inspected the boat in any way, or asked us any questions about what we had on board, or where we had been, except for last port. Obviously not many boats check in here, most boats go to Charleston or Beaufort. One advantage to us…we didn’t have to find our own way to the customs office, which are often at the airport requiring transportation.
We are spending a couple of days in Wrightsville, Paul and Denise have friends they want us to meet which means we will have access to a vehicle to take us grocery shopping!! After all the time in the Bahamas RAFT’s cupboards do need some restocking. Plus we have the traveller to fix.