It’s been kind of hard to write a post since leaving Oriental, mostly because it’s much more fun to write about the fun exciting days of cruising than the crappy, everything-goes-wrong-broken-boat days of cruising. But that’s exactly where we are.
The passage from Oriental to Beaufort was uneventful, and we spent a nice evening checking out the town. We needed to make up time after our week+ out of commission though, so we decided not to spend more than a day. We didn’t even intend to stop at Swansboro (our next port) but there was some nasty weather rolling in, and we decided to wait it out there. Swansboro was a great little town, and I spent most of the time hanging in in the little coffee/beer/homebrew place across from the docks – which was fortunate, since the whole area completely flooded when the weather came in. We literally could have rowed our dinghy down the street!
Shortly after leaving Swansboro, things started to go downhill…
We had the current going with us and 20 knots of breeze on the quarter. We rolled out a bit of headsail for an extra boost and were rewarded with 8+ knot speeds motorsailing. I was down below making some breakfast with Vicky at the helm. All of a sudden I hear the engine throttle back, and Vicky called down to me “Can you come up here the markers are a bit confusing” – and then *bam* the entire boat lurched to a halt. The pots flew off the stove and anything unsecured fell to the floor in a jumble. Immediately realizing what happened, I dashed up the companionway to release the jib but it was too late.
With our wing keel, the minute you touch ground, you have only a split second before the keel digs in like an anchor, firmly rooting you in place (at that point there is no chance that the dinky little 23hp diesel is getting you unstuck).
We were in the worst possible scenario – both a strong current and 20+ knots of wind pushing us further and further aground. Our little engine strained, but didn’t move us an inch. Fortunately a (big) passing powerboat was kind enough to stop and take a line from us and towed us off. We were rattled, but none the worse for wear, and pushed on.
Everything went ok for the next few days, we watched the charts like a hawk, and were careful to the point of paranoia around any areas that had ActiveCaptain “Shoaling” warnings – we also had a fantastic “navigation briefing” in Southport, by Hank of Carolina Yacht Care. It was amazing – Hank put together a huge amount of resources including USACE surveys of tricky spots, warnings where current shoaling/problem areas are and user submitted reports together into a packet of data covering SC all the way to GA! This definitely helped us navigate some tricky areas (Like around Mclellanville).
Then we came to the Isle of Palms. Just before Charleston, there is a really nasty area of shoals and sandbars between the Isle of Palms fixed bridge and the Ben Sawyer swing bridge.
We had done our research on the area, and had heard reports that even the worst areas still had 4′ MLW. We got there about 2 hours before low tide, and decided to see if we could make it through. In hindsight, trying to go through on a falling tide was mistake #1. We inched through as slowly as possible, passing the first marker without incident. As we moved on I began to be a little concerned that I wasn’t seeing the next mark… and then it happened – the depth went from 16′ to 2′ in a split second. I threw the engine in reverse, and we began to back off but the strong wind and current caught our stern and spun us around broadside and pushed us right back into the ground.
Realizing we were once again not going to be able to get off under our own power, I decided to suck it up and call BoatUS for a tow. They were there in less than an hour and we got the towing bridle hooked up ready to be pulled off. The captain started doing his thing, and I became a little uneasy as I heard some nasty cracking and groaning sounds from under the stern. Once we were off, the other shoe dropped – we had no steerage. The wheel was not turning and there seemed to be no response from the rudder. Unable to proceed, we were towed back to the Isle of Palms marina, where my fears were confirmed – our rudder was gone. Not just damaged, but completely sheared off the boat – only the (bent) post and some twisted metal of the frame remained. Not the best way to spend Thanksgiving…
After the holiday weekend we were towed up to Charleston City Boatyard, and now here we sit, looking at a minimum of 3 weeks in the yard waiting for a new rudder + other repairs. I guess it could be worse, fortunately there was a good boatyard nearby. Insurance should cover the repairs, but it is still frustrating. It’s hard to stay positive with a broken boat and all your friends heading south leaving you in the dust, or the wake as it were… At this point we have started to seriously consider heading offshore rather than continue the ICW. Guess we have to cut our teeth on it sometime, and there are several short hops we can make down the coast that should not leave us exposed for more than a day at a time. At least we have plenty of time to plan while sitting on the hard…