Friday, October 31, 2014


Ladys Island, SC

Libby would like to try using sweetgrass as well as pine needles in her baskets.  In Charleston sweetgrass baskets are sold everywhere.   I wanted to get some for her, but the only source I find online would cost $15 for a tiny bundle of only two ounces of grass.  Outrageous.

I'm told that sweetgrass grows  near the marshes (and also told not to pick it when it is purple).  We are in the middle of marshes now, and we will be in marshes all the way south to Matanzas.  But I must confess ignorance. It is not the predominant reeds that we see everywhere.  I need advice on where to find some to harvest myself.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Go/Don't Go

Lady's Island, SC
32 25.192 N 080 39.540 W

Looking at the weather, we see that today, tonight and tomorrow are favorable winds to jump offshore for a 24 hour passage to Florida.  But wait.  The tide is against us and we could not get out past Port Royal Sound before sunset.

Worse, there is nasty weather coming in Friday night.  It will blow 30, perhaps 35 knots (which is the threshold for the word "gale")   We would not want to be out there in a gale.

So, if we race we could beat the gale just, and arrive in Fernandina Friday night.  Should we do it?  Hell no.  The literature is full of stories of sailors who thought that they could beat the bad weather to a safe port.  In the stories we read about, they almost always choose wrong. Pilots call it "get there itis"  it is considered a mark of poor judgement, which we try to avoid.   (Of course the ones who choose right. and arrive before the storm, don't write stories, but who pays attention to that?)

It is the responsibility of the captain to look out for the safety and comfort of the crew.

So we'll spend a lazy three days here a Lady's Island and Beaufort.  This is a very nice place with nice people, so the stay will be enjoyable.   Prospects for a noon-Sunday to noon-Mondaty passage to Fernandina look good.

Following The Magenta Line (Navigation)

Bull River, SC
32 30.450 N 080 33.838 W
We made it almost all the way from Charleston to Beaufort on Wednesday. Good progress. Along the way we spent a lot of time following the magenta line. That's my topic for today.
In the picture above, you can see a magenta line printed on the chart. We see the same line on our GPS. The idea is that the magenta line is the "standard" way to navigate between points A and B. Compare it to the white line down the middle of the highway.
If you do follow the magenta line there are benefits. First, you should avoid shoals or other dangers. If you choose your own line from A to B, then you must check every inch along that line for hazards.
Second, the magenta line often has compass headings and distances printed alongside the line. That information is useful.
But there are caveats. The magenta line is very seldom updated, and can be very much out of date. The most infamous such case we know is at the entrance to The Alligator River in NC. Shoals have shifted since that line was first drawn. If you follow the magenta line there you are guaranteed to run aground. Worse, if you follow the red/green markers (which are more authoritative and up-to-date), your charts will show that you will pass over a shoal only three feet deep! USA charts and magenta lines were only updated once every 10 years, but someone made a mistake in this case and missed the changes at the Alligator River, so that line on our charts is 20 years out-of-date. (The US government will not longer print paper charts. I presume that they will also update the electronic charts available for download in real time.)
A more important caveat is to use your eyes and all available information. The red/green markers and buoys are the "official" guides in most cases. However, sometimes they get knocked down or dragged to teh wrong place, so a "notice to mariners" goes out to tell us about the anomalies. Today, most cruisers have enough ways to get those corrections that we should not be surprised.
In rare cases, information is contradictory. Last year, we heard Coast Guard warnings on the radio about a buoy at the entrance to WInyah Bay being off station. An hour later we passed that exact spot, and the buoy in question seemed to be exactly where it should have been. ALARM! CONTRADICTION! HIGH ALERT!
But more dangerous and sometimes more amusing, are the cases where inexperienced boaters follow the magenta line slavishly. We were passed once by a sailboat. Five minutes later the same boat had slowed and it was getting dangerously close to us. I took evasive action, but as we passed I looked into the other boat's cockpit. I saw a woman sitting at the wheel with her nose 2 inches from the chartplotter slavishly following the magenta line without looking around. In your car you would never follow your GPS without looking out the windshield would you? Oh God, please don't tell me you do that. DON'T DO THAT!!!
Following The Magenta LIne in Life sounds like a very rich metaphor for another blog post for another day when I'm feeling philosophical.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Add Charleston to Our Short List

Charleston, SC

As a rule, Libby and I don't like big cities very much.  As a rule, the bigger the city, the more we avoid it.  But for a long time, we had three notable exceptions from our travels: San Francisco, MontrĂ©al, and Copenhagen.  Now we have to add a 4th city to our very short list: Charleston.  What a fun place.

We have been remiss at exploring Charleston.  We were spooked by a very nasty experience at Charleston City Docks in 2005, on our first time through here.  After that we avoided Charleston except for a couple of brief stops at the Maritime Center.  We had dinner here once, and we shopped for groceries, but we never explored the downtown.  We did so yesterday and today and we learned what a great place this is.

The bridge.  The bridge is highly visible 25 miles out to sea where nothing else from the city is visible.  It is right near our slip for the night.  Below are night and day views.  Note the giant container ship going under the bridge at noon.

In Schenectady, we used to live in the historic Stockade neighborhood.  We thought that to be charming (and it is).  But now, we saw first hand how grand and charming Charleston's historic district it.  We love the old houses and especially that alleys between them.  I took a ton of pictures but posted only a couple of them below.

After some thought, I realized why Charleston's district is so unique.  The houses are far too close together, and the streets are too narrow.  It is a massive fire waiting to happen.  Indeed, almost every similar urban district like it burned long ago.  It is a miracle that it hasn't burned yet.  If you haven't seen it, come quick while it lasts.  They can't dodge the fire bullet forever, even with modern technology.

Jen, you in particular would love Charleston.  Have you seen it?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bah! Bad Passage

Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
32 47.354 N 079 55.455 W
I confess, we're spoiled. Avoidance of discomfort outweighs pursuit of pleasure.
Case in point, our offshore passage from Little River to Charleston.
The traditional parting salutation for sailors is "Fair winds and following seas." That is what we were supposed to have yesterday according to That National Weather Service. What we got was the opposite. We had head winds and head seas.
Tarwathie performs poorly in those conditions. Under sail, we make only +-60 degrees into the wind. Under power she porpoises. That means pitching fore-aft. The pitching dissipates mush or her forward momentum into the approaching waves. That slows us drastically. We might be doing 4 knots under power, when she porpoises into a wave that slows us down to 1.5 knots. Bah. I hate that.
Bottom line, we survidpved it, but I would have rather stayed in the ICW yesterday. We also miss out on get togethers in Beaufort with friends Richard and Penny, and cousin Janet and Gordon.
Anyhow, we'll play tourist in Charleston for a day or two. Any suggestions? We are berthed at the base of this bridge.