Saturday, July 6, 2019

Charleston to Cape Fear via Winyah Bay

July 6
33.3N 79.0W
I returned to Charleston on July 1st and after celebrating Independence Day there, we departed early yesterday morning for Winyah Bay. A new crew member joined LIsa and I on Intermezzo. Amy was taking a sailing course to earn her "bareboat" certificate and met Lisa while staying in the marina. She made a good impression on Lisa and when I met her I understood why. Amy had to have her lower leg amputated a some years ago and seems to be doing more in life with one leg than she might have done with two. She has accomplished a lot so far- triathlons, surfing, training mustangs and now, sailing- and has great spirit and personality.
The first half of the 50 mile passage to Winyah Bay was a pleasant downwind reach under partly cloudy skies. Then the thunderclouds looming ahead of us grew bigger and darker. We altered course to try and avoid them, put a reef in the mainsail, and soldiered on. We skirted the edge of a big storm cell for awhile but then there was no way to avoid another one directly ahead of us. As we approached, the wind rapidly increased to 25 knots with bigger gusts, so we dropped the sails and motored along. Then the rain came.
I haven't seen or felt rain that hard since Panama in 2017. It rained so intensely that visibility was reduced to just a few hundred yards. We got soaked to the skin before we had a chance to put on rain gear. And it was COLD rain. After months of sweltering, I was now shivering! I had to pull out my heavy rain weather gear, foulies I haven't worn since leaving Northern California in 2015! I also turned on the fog horn, another piece of equipment not used since California.
Then the lightning started. Thankfully it was cloud-to-cloud lightning rather than dangerous cloud-to-sea, but the big bright flashes and the deafening crackling booms were frightening nonetheless. It didn't take much to imagine what it would be like if a bolt so powerful were to strike Intermezzo's mast.
What a great experience for Amy's first ocean passage! Lisa, meanwhile, missed the drenching and outdoor adventure as she was seasick and spent most of the day prone in the salon, much to her guilt-ridden dismay.
The rain and lightning stopped as we drew close to the inlet to Winyah Bay and visibility was back to normal for our approach through the narrow shipping channel. We anchored at sunset just inside the bay in off small island with a pleasant sandy beach with low lying marshy vegetation. Once anchored, we enjoyed bracing cups of rum, followed by a hearty Thai vegetable curry, appreciating our remote little haven in the calm after the storm.
The currents through the anchorage are really strong, reversing twice while were at anchor. When we pulled up the trusty Rocna anchor before dawn this morning, I estimate that the ebb was flowing at over five knots.
We're now on our way to Cape Fear. The forecast was for showers and thunderstorms this morning, but the sun has come out and the sky ahead is mostly blue and clear, with just a line of smallish cumulus clouds off on the horizon. I'm hopeful that we won't experience what we did yesterday, but we are prepared if we do.
We pass through the Cape Fear inlet around 1900 this evening, our arrival timed perfectly for slack current. We'll either take a berth at a marina just inside the inlet or anchor out nearby. A front is supposed to pass through the area over the next few days, so we'll hunker down near the town of Southport, North Carolina to wait it out and do some exploring there before our next ocean passage to Beaufort.