A live-aboard life. What to expect from your first offshore passage as a crusier and visiting Charleston South Carolina.
Returning back to the boat after a week of luxury was a hard transition. But, as Joel loves to say, it’s “all mental”. With a few days back, we started to become accustom, comfortable, and even enjoy the lifestyle once more.
So, we moved back aboard and headed on down the waterway. From Carolina beach, where we had been docked for Thanksgiving, we shot on over to Southport, Nc. Carolina beach to South Port is a short and easy trip. But, we were racing a storm which kept things interesting.
We pulled into Southport at night and tied up to their free city dock. Though I don’t suggest this dock to anyone, it does have free shore power. Not only is the dock falling apart and sketchy to walk on, but it is fixed. With the six foot tidal range'', a fixed dock can make having the proper line adjustment tricky. The next morning we woke to a loud bang as everything that was loose on our starboard side bench flew to the ground. Low tide had us hanging from our lines. So, not wanting to deal with lines needing constant adjusting, we motored around looking for another spot. As we putted along, a man ran out from one of the restaurants to let us know of some abandoned floating docks where we could tie up. They too are slightly sketchy, but much better than the city dock.
We spent a good couple days in Southport. Our plan was to wait for a good weather window and take a trip on the outside (Ocean). It would be our first time on the Ocean, and with a little bit of jitters, we wanted to make sure we had some clear weather. Some good friends of ours, Adrian and Angie, have become our “sailing mentors”. So, Joel and Adrian talked back and forth and we made a plan to leave the upcoming Tuesday. Knowing we’d be staying put in Southport over the weekend, Adrian, Angie and their son Paul drove down to visit. It meant the world to us to have them drive so far just to see us. We always learn a lot when we’re around them. So, having them visit and check out our boat was great. Together we walked around town, grabbed some lunch, and watched Paul sail his rad little remote control sailboat. Thanks for everything guys!
Southport is a cute little town and we had a lot of fun getting to know it. However, not the best place for provisioning. But, at least a three-mile walk with groceries makes for a good work out. Either way, we defiantly enjoyed our time there. We roamed the town, spent some hours at the local coffee shop, and worked on the boat. They even had a great art walk for first Friday. We had fun to dress up a little and walk from studio to studio munching on their free snacks.
One thing that has been hard about our cruising lifestyle is that we’ve really missed having community. We've met a lot of people along our journey. However, the extent of our conversations was quick introductions and exchanges of routes and destinations. But, in Southport, that started to change. The people we got to know during our few days in Southport really started to feel like community. The man that came running out to tell us about the floating dock, ended up being our neighboring cruiser. They left the next day, so we didn’t have much time to get the know them then (but now writing this in Charleston, we’ve caught back up to them). As retired farmers, they shared with us their knowledge of things such as what vegetables are least perishable. Because of them, we will be adding cabbage to the provisioning list. And, now as we travel along, we excitedly greet each other every time our paths cross.
The next day after their departure of Southport, a young couple pulled in. They, along with their sweet little girl, are traveling south as well. For our last few days in Southport, we got to know them, learning some French, and sharing stories. I, for sure, was extremely thankful to make a cruiser friend that’s not only our age, but a girl.
While in Southport, we even got to know some of the locals. Being there for Sunday, we decided to roam around and check out a church. We didn’t have a plan, just walked into the first one that happened to be having a service when we passed. The guest pastor was from Ethiopia and mentioned how good the coffee is there. Ethiopian beans are one of Joel and my favorites, so we were stoked to hear a pastor talking about good coffee! Actually, we ran into the both the visiting and local pastors later that day. The local pastor, Gene, told us he actually roasts his own beans and invited us over for a cup. Yes! We had a great time getting to know him, drinking some good coffee, and hearing about His time in New Zealand. He even sent us on our way with some fresh beans and a few keepsakes from New Zealand. Thanks so much for taking us in and for the good coffee Gene!
Around eleven am, Tuesday morning, we checked the weather and made the final call to head out to sea. But, with everything on the boat, leaving was a little more difficult than we hoped it to be. Our dinghy engine lock had rusted (so much for the “extreme rust resistant” lock). So, Joel went to work trying to break the lock off our own dinghy. What a fugitive.
Finally, the lock gave way and we headed out to sea. We decided to do an overnight trip and make it all the way to Charleston. This meant twenty six hours on the open ocean. And, for our first open ocean experience, going overnight doubled our nerves. But, the adventure overpowered the nerves. So, stocked up on hot chocolate and coffee we headed out.
Have you ever found yourself at the edge of the night sea, with sand wedged between your toes, gazing past its breakers and into the endless darkness? There in the stillness , have you found yourself wondering what the ocean does after it's tucked into the blanket of night? I know I have.
And so, for me, being out in the sleeping sea was almost magical. As we traveled into the dark abyss, we took turns at watch. Though, sleep does not come easily. Even on your hours off watch, the dip and sway of the sea jerks you awake. At watch, the fifteen minute timer would sound, reminding you to check the horizon. 15 minutes. 15 minutes. 15 minutes. The night went by in slow 15 minute increments. Each 15 minutes got you closer to the end of your four hour shift. And so, we watched the horizon, studied the distant lights and checked our course.
Snapped a picture of our route in the middle of the night.
It was nerve racking. It was scary. It was exhausting. But, it was breath takingly beautiful. Phytoplankton carried us along like pixy dusk. The stars swallowed us. They stretched from horizon to horizon. The beauty gave me hope that no bad would come.
Taking over the helm again at 5:30 am, I eagerly awaited the morning sun. It's début would mean we'd made it. Well almost. It also meant I was half way done with my last shift before we arrive in Charleston.
That afternoon, as we pulled into the Charleston harbor, dolphins danced under our bow. They seemed just as excited as we for our arrival.
Charleston was an exciting goal for us. Though tired, this was a destination we’d been excited to reach. The weather was finally warm and once on land, we immediately shed our winter clothes. Our friend Adrian had helped us secure a marina that generously welcomed us. It was our first stay at a marina and after our long overnight journey, we were thankful for the comfort of showers, bathrooms, and land.
Under a bit of a time crunch, our time in Charleston was limited. But, we spent a full day touring the beautiful city. Taking the free trolley was half the excitement for us. We were excited to have such a convenient form of transportation. And with it, we got to see much more then we would have by foot.