Diary of a Mad Galley Wench

(Part 5)
by Teri Robbins
(This is the continuation of Ms. Robbins' 6 Month diary.
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 were published in past issues)

July 1, 1992

We ended up getting hit and beat up pretty bad by a terrible Norther (in June, I might add!!!!), and it almost stopped us dead in our tracks. Winds at 35-40 knots, on the nose of course, and seas at 6 to 7 feet! So, after hours and hours of fighting it tooth and nail we finally had to turn around and back-track and head into Beaufort, South Carolina. We had complete lost touch with "To Boldly Go" in the storm, and I was a bit concerned, especially when they didn't arrive in Beaufort the following day. I could tell from their last transmissions that they were getting beat up just as badly as we were. It was an absolutely miserable leg. "Patience" would again rise on the waves until you could only see sky ahead, and come CRASHING down as if landing on cement as she cleared them, looking as though she was taking a swan dive into the sea. The constant pounding and pounding and pounding is enough to DRIVE ONE MAD! Especially when you AREN'T GETTING ANYWHERE! Once we turned back, however, the sailing got smoother (relative term in this case), and we ducked into Port Royal Sound. We had never navigated these waters before, and didn't have charts of this particular inlet other than ICW and ocean charts. This always makes me a bit nervous because we are traveling unfamiliar territory. As a general rule we don't even attempt this unless absolutely necessary. Welp, it was apparent that it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! I was convinced that if I didn't get off this boat, and I mean SOON, I was going to JUMP AND SWIM!! This is the firsttime I have ever felt like a complete caged animal. I think the mixture of being so close to home, yet so far away, and the constant pounding of the sea, which was inhibiting our progress home almost completely, was more than I could bear. It was impossible to even accomplish mundane (but necessary) daily tasks, and after over eight hours of this incessant beating, along with the constant attempt to keep order on "Patience" (those darned potatoes INSISTED on rolling around my galley floor! And the charts were totally AIRBORN!) I was beginning to get quite hungry and fatigued! This inlet, however, is where my Cap'n finally caught a beautiful King Mackerel, but evidently something even BIGGER got to it also because the rear half was GONE, leaving only jagged tooth marks! That's okay, though, because Dave finally caught his FIRST fish of the journey, and there was more than enough for us to eat for several meals. This triumph took the edge off this day's adventure! I decided not to swim for it, but rather hang around for this palatable treat!

We pulled into Beaufort, South Carolina around 1300, and "Thirsty Whale" was already there and dinghied over to chat with us. We set our anchors beside "In-Tuition", a sailing vessel who was anchored nearby inFernandina. Boy, this is getting more and more like the Abacos! Can't go anywhere without running into someone we know! It's great! Strength in numbers, I always say!

We have good friends in Charleston, Rose and Ladd, so we dinghied to shore, showered, and called home and friends. Rose and Ladd had invited us to stay at their home when we reach Charleston, but we've gotten so good at this boating stuff that we politely declined. Some good friends of mine from St. Petersburg, Florida, who I haven't seen in 12 years or so, are planning to arrive in Charleston for a visit as well the same day. This should prove to be interesting. I hoped to see "To Boldly Go" when we get there. I was truly concerned.

July 2, 1992

Lovely morning! Cap'n Dave and I dinghied to shore and did some window shopping. This is a charming little waterfront community, catering very much to boaters. Everything is within walking distance. Food, drink, hardware, museums, library, bank... you name it, it's there. Horse-drawn carriages as well. This is another "pirate" community. Sister town of Beaufort, North Carolina., though they hate to be compared to one another. I walked to the library and looked up the eating habits of hermit crabs (remember Herman??). We returned to "Patience" and ate some of the most delicious fresh caught and grilled King Mackerel I have ever tasted. I had gone to market and bought some badly missed fresh veggies, smothered them in lemon juice, herbs and oil, wrapped them in foil and grilled them along with the fish. Had bought some good imported white wine and freshly baked French bread from a delightful bakerynearby (can't compare to "Albury's Bakery" of "Hope Town" and "Marsh Harbour", however) and Creamy Havarti cheese. God, a virtual feast!

We noticed "Cur-Non" and "Kamma-D" pull into the harbor, apparently ducking the storm as well, and shortly before sunset a crew member from "Kamma-D" dinghied over and offered us some of their catch. We all had more food than we could eat at this point! Happy campers!

Full and happy after our feast we hooked the TV up in the V-birth (since we finally could get some reception here in the States), and settled in for an early night. We had decided to head out early in the morning. There is a draw-bridge here which only opens on the hour, so we wanted to make it at least by the 0800 opening, so we settled in for some now quite foreign to us TV.

July 3, 1992

We were up-and-at-em by 0700, brewed fresh coffee, had breakfast in the cockpit, and were ready for the 0800 bridge opening. I looked forwardto this day's journey. Going north from Beufort, after you pass the bridge and round the bend in the ICW, huge, absolutely gorgeous, southern ante-bellum mansions come into view, dotting the waterway and surrounded by live oaks. You can almost see Scarlet waving from the columnar porches! These are the type homes that you would never see unless making this ICW journey because they are typically set far off the beaten path. Huge plantations, mostly restored to their original beauty, however some are abandoned or show their age gracefully, and you can see, in your mind's eye, their tragic and historical pasts. This is our first ICW venture this leg of the trip, and it was nice to have calm, serene waters to journey upon. It was calm enough that I got out my macramé and shells I had accumulated from the "New Spoil Banks" (remember the man-madeislands created from the dredging of the Carnival Cruise shipping channel off of "Great Guana Cay" where you could stand and see the "Whale Cay Passage" during a "rage"?) and proceeded to make a hanging for our friends we were soon to meet in Charleston. With each shell I picked for my hanging came memories flooding back to me. Funny, because I could remember each and every shell, and remember where I was when I had collected it, who I was with, etc. Each one was special to me, and I was once again "homesick" for Abaco. After completing the hanging I couldn't bear to part with it, so I hung it in my galley. So much for bearing gifts from the islands! I wasn't about to part with one single solitary memory of some of the most wonderful and interesting parts of my life. Call me stingy!

I was getting quite anxious about nearing Charleston. Me and my fears. Apparently we had horrific conditions on our journey down, because we had stopped in Charleston as we headed for the Abacos, and there is a part of the ICW just south of Charleston called "Elliot's Cut". My God!! This was junction of the Ashley River and the Stono River, and the tide between them is about one hour, and it absolutely SCREAMS through Elliot's cut like nobody's business! Elliot's cut is extremely narrow, and has rocks on both sides. Once we entered this channel we realized that we in no way could turn around. There simply wasn't enough room! And the tide was ripping through so fast and strong that we were virtually making no headway, which also made it difficult to navigate "Patience"! If the tide had caught the bow and steered us off course just the slightest we would have been bashed against the rocks! We were very cautious to gauge the tide-tables just right on this return trip, though, and fortunately the tide was with us and carried us across that water at about 8 knots! This cut about an hour off this journey's leg! Just ANOTHER instance where the conditions were as different as night from day, which was good, because over the past months I have had enough excitement for one adventure!

We arrived at the last swing bridge around 1800 and had about a half an hour before the bridge opening. We spied "Kamma-D" and anchored near them. As we pulled into Charleston Harbor we spied "To Boldly Go"!!!! My heart LEAPED with joy and relief! I was so very, very happy to see them! We had not heard hide nor hair from them since we hit that bad norther heading up from Fernandina Beach. I simply COULDN'T WAIT to set the anchors and give them both a BIG HUG! I immediately switched on the VHF and hailed them. I was at the point to where if we didn't see or hear from them by Charleston Harbor I was going to call the Coast Guard just to ease my mind. I was quite certain, however, that if any real harm had come to them we would have heard on marine radio warnings, but one never knows, and can't help but be concerned.

Pulling into Charleston Harbor we were surprised to see the number of boats anchored there. Again, we had no practical charts of the harbor, just the major shipping channel markings, so pulling into the anchorage was quite tricky. The depth went from one extreme to another, and as we maneuvered into the anchorage we would have 16-18 feet of water, then suddenly 6-7. When it dropped down suddenly to 4.5 (we draw 4.5-5, depending on our load) we backed off, circled around, and re-evaluated our situation (especially after we saw several ship's captains climb on deck and start waving their arms!) (We quickly assessed that they weren't greeting us a jolly "hello"!) We anchored within polite distance of "To Boldly Go", and it wasn't long before Dave and Peggy were hailing us on VHF inviting us for "happy hour"! MEMORIES!!!! So, anxious to get to shore to phone our friends we dinghied over for a quick meeting on "To Boldly Go". We told them of our concern, and discovered it was WELL WARRANTED! During that bad Norther they had run one of their two diesel fuel tanks completely dry and had gotten air in the lines. This requires going to the engine compartment and bleeding the lines. Doing engine maintenance below while being engulfed by rough seas is next to impossible to do. So, having no engine to fight the awesome wind and waves they simply had to "go with the flow" and drift out to sea until the wind and waves ceased and they were able to do their maintenance. Remembering my anxious frustration while we were fighting the elements, and wanting to SWIM to shore, I suddenly felt quite foolish when I learned of their dilemma! They did, however, arrive in Charleston safe and sound (beating us, as a matter of fact!), and I was ever so thankful for it. I had this gut feeling something was amiss! But, being a firm believer of destiny, I am thankful in retrospect for that Norther because it forced us to stop once again in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is indeed one of my very favorite boating stops!

Having had a cocktail with Dave and Peggy from "To Boldly Go", we boldly foraged our way into the city marina, which was pretty much abandoned and in severe disrepair from hurricane HUGO. Right on the waterfront, however, overlooking the anchorage we found a quaint little sea-side pub where we were able to get a cold frosty brew and chat a bit with the local boaters. It was there that we learned for $1 you could get an all day "trolley pass" and ride all around Charleston, getting on and off as you choose. This was wonderful for boaters, having no car. The trolley took you to all the historic parts of the city, including the Straw Market (a "must" if you go to Charleston). We ended up catching the trolley and wound up in the historic downtown district at a nice pub called "East Bay Trading Co." where we called our friends who met us there for drinks, later visiting "Shem Creek" for some absolutely heavenly locally caught seafood and "shrimp boil". Charming town. The ravages of hurricane Hugo are still quite visible in the not-so-prosperous districts, but, for the most part, everything looked impeccably restored!

Heading back to "Patience" we once again visited with "To Boldly Go" and decided, if weather permitted we were going to head out with the dawn. The tidal range in this anchorage was more extreme than we had ever experienced before, and the current was quite strong. It didn't make for a very comfortable anchorage, though quaint and convenient to town, made us somewhat nervous. Listening to the weather on VHF we soon learned there was a pretty severe depression headed our way, so we all decided to sit tight on our plans, being in no hurry really, and venture out with a good weather window. No more of this "go ANYWAY" stuff for us!

July 5, 1994

Well, the depression finally passed, hitting us with 30+ knot winds. Today brought us fair weather with gentle southwest winds, so we decided to go for it. We left Charleston harbor about noon and headed HOME! As we were preparing to leave I looked up and saw Pat and Nelson from "Harambee" come from "Elliot's Cut", heading north. We hadn't seen them since "Manjack Cay" (where the barracuda decided to take up residence under "Patience"). I, of course, hailed them on the VHF, but we were in the center of about 50-75 boats and I'm quite sure they didn't spy us. They did acknowledge our call tho, and were headed to Carolina Beach, which is about 5 miles south of our home port in Wrightsville Beach, so we were hopeful we would reunite with them there. They had just returned from seeing Jeff and Liz from "Sea Lure" in Florida. I envied them in that respect. If you remember, Jeff was my old high school comrade I hadn't seen in over 20 years, and the first human being we encountered after our tremulous voyage to "Memory Rock" (!!!@#*%$). They became very special folks to us.

Pulling out of Charleston Harbor is a bit tricky. It is a MAJOR port, and the channel markers can get quite confusing because there are many, many channels converging into and out of this one huge harbor. Today was my day to navigate so Cap'n Dave could rest. I was on the "edge of my tiller" with anxiety! Trying to stay out of the path of these huge ships, both coming and going, barges, tugboats, raceboats, day-sailor-racers who insist on racing around channel markers, not to mention deciphering which channel I was to stay in, kept me on guard. Cap'n Dave showed no signs of concern, and said he had total confidence in my navigation abilities, all the while I found myself grasping that tiller until my hands cramped! I was scared to death!

The mouth of the channel extended well out into the ocean, with jetties on both sides for what seemed like miles! We kept "To Boldly Go" in our sights the whole way, and once we rounded the final sea buoy the wind picked up and we had a magnificent full sail! Lots and lots of porpoises (and JELLYFISH!).

The day sailed along quite smoothly and uneventful. Other than time-to-time contact with "To Boldly Go", not much action to speak of, except we had a WONDERFUL full sail. It was one of those sailing days that just seemed to fly by because everything went just right. Nice broad reach, tacking here and there for adjustment. Beautiful, sunny, breezy day! The kind of day every sailor lives for.

One group of porpoises was quite amusing. I spied one porpoise at first, jumping across the water making way towards "Patience", and it was as if he was saying to his fellow porpoise buddies "HEY, GUYS, HERE COMES SOMEONE TO PLAY WITH!!" because as soon as I saw the first one jump, they seemed to come from absolutely EVERY DIRECTION bounding through the waves towards us. They all "looked" like they were smiling and leaping with JOY to see us! They played around "Patience" for about a half an hour, again skimming along our hull almost close enough to stroke their backs, each and every one making eye contact. I could do this ALL DAY. I really felt as if we were communicating with one another on some level. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, they vanished.

Dave took over the helm until midnight, and I took it until dawn. Right before dawn, however, the wind changed course and the sea roughened SEVERELY! Wind and waves right on the nose, of naturally! Once again, the incessant pounding and pounding and pounding! We again, too, lost contact with "To Boldly Go". We heard them trying to hail us on the VHF for about an hour, but obviously could not hear our responses. For this to be mid-summer we SURE WERE GETTING ALOT OF NORTHERS! We had to duck into Little River Inlet, which all-in-all was about 24 water miles out of our way (almost 5 hours under these rough sea conditions!), and sailed the ICW the remainder of the way. HOMEWARD BOUND!

There's nothin' like the ICW after a good pounding. Sort of like the old saying "why is it so great to beat your head against the wall? Because it FEELS SO GOOD WHEN YOU STOP!!!) The atmosphere is so totally different! The wind is pretty much blocked, there are no waves to speak of. No tacking, no charts flying or potatoes rolling. And Bart,(remember Bart???) can at last sit on his perch rather than cling for dear life to the side of his cage! Sort of like easing the tension on a rubber band that's about to SNAP! It was nice. Gently rounding a bend (after settling into this attitude adjustment) we were totally engulfed by the sweet aroma of hyacinth and jasmine, mixed with the smells of outdoor barbeque. Smells I hadn't experienced in six months! God, there's no place like home! Saw the weeping willow trees slowly swaying in the summer breeze, and the tall Live Oaks decorated with hanging moss. Yes, we were indeed HOME!

We finally reached Wrightsville Beach and headed for Banks Channel, our previous resting place for "Patience" and dropped anchor around 2100. We noticed "Intuition", a vessel we had met in Beaufort, was already here. We anchored right in front of our old slip, but, alas, another sailboat was in our place! Happy to be home anyway these weary travelers called it a day (and what a LONG day it had been).

Excited to be home I awoke at sunrise, took Bart and Herman (remember Herman???) on deck for fresh North Carolina air and sunshine! The sunrises here seem to pale in comparison to those in the Abacos, but they are fine sunrises just the same! I fixed some fresh brewed chickory coffee which lovely Kay from "Blue Whale" had traded me for some peanut butter in "Marsh Harbour", stretched out the hammock, and basked in the morning light. An old faithful mallard family swam over, remembering, I'm sure, that I always had a cache' of goodies hidden away somewhere for them. I saw ole' Mr. Bradshaw, our slip owner, on his balcony pruning his flowers and I just wanted so badly to jump up on the cabin top and shout "Look, Mr. Bradshaw, WE MADE IT!!!", but my Cap'n was still catching up on his much needed rest, so I refrained. This is surely going to be another beautiful day in PARADISE!

Today's plan is to clean poor "Patience", who looks tired and rattled after our long, long journey, and then try to find her a nice, safe resting place (for a WHILE, anyway). She certainly deserves it!

Our wonderful adventure has come to an end. We pulled anchor and headed back south down the ICW to Whiskey Creek and found a nice home for "Patience" at Masonboro Boatyard. After tying up and entering the office, the dockmaster recognized "Patience's" name and informed us that "Harambee" had been trying to hale us for the past hour on the VHF from Carolina Beach, North Carolina, about 6 miles further south on the ICW. Unfortunately, being so close to home, we didn't even have our radio turned on. So, we secured "Patience", got in our car (which we had left there 6 months previously since this was our point of departure), and, without even unloading a thing, drove HOME! Not, however, without first stopping at the first Golden Corral we passed and ate FRESH, CRISP VEGGIES for TWO HOURS until we could EAT NO MORE! Why, oh why, do fresh, crisp veggies taste so good after 6 MONTHS AT SEA!!!

This has indeed been an experience Cap'n Dave, Bart, Herman (remember Herman) and I will remember for the rest of our lives. The memories of the beautiful people and places we encountered in our many adventures will bless us always. Even the rough times were "interesting" character builders. My heart will always be aglow, when I remember Abaco.

Farewell, for now, to all our "fair and foul weather friends":

Jeff & Liz, SV "Sea Lure", Fred and Barbara, SV "Orion", Jim &Sandy, SV "Ocarina", Kim & Kay, SV "Blue Whale",Dave & Peggy, SV "To Boldly Go", Richard Tigwell, SV "Gone With The Wind" (and his dog, "Scarlet"), Artist and Sculptor, Donny Woods, SV "Mystery" "Rusty Pipe" (Donny Woods' dachshund),Harry, SV "Odyssee", Worth Hester, SV "Tortuga", Alex, SV "Seeker II", Terry Waldon (gigolo), SV "Lady of the Lake", Pat & Nelson, SV "Harambee", Jim & Ronell, SV "Dublin Dragon" Floyd, SV "Nimbus", Bill, SV "Sarawak", (our first "encounter" in Marsh Harbour"), Bill & Linda Mueller, SV "Wind Weaver", Mike & Debbie, SV "Anna", Dick & Doreen, SV "Salty Seven", Bill & Joan, SV "Skylark" Tom Hutchins, SV "Mystic", Aaron, SV "Perpetual Motion", Char & Dave, "Southern Stitch", Rick, SV "Tall Cotton", Don, SV "Sea Fox", Peter, SV "Cur Non", Jim & Karen, SV "Kamma-D", Gene & Nancy, SV "Diacole" Maggie & Don, SV "Diara", Gene & Eyvon, SV "Mouvin-On" ,Jerry & Helen, SV "Windigo", Al & Karen, SV "Thursday's Child II", Phil & Barbara, SV "Plan B", John and Maureen, SV "Sunrise", Ted, SV "I-Do" Allen, Other Shore Club, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Nelson & Carmine, Tiki Hut, Marsh Harbour, Candy, Conch Inn, (where you can go to the Conched Out and order a Conch Crawl, Marsh Harbour) (I hate conch!) Nick & Jonsie, Jib Room, Marsh Harbour, Roy, Captain Jacks (best rum drinks in the Abacos) (I HATE RUM!!), Hope Town, Buck & Kim, Pete's Pub, Little Harbour Hulio, Pete's Pub, Little Harbor, SunSail, DooDa, (who makes the "best conch salad in the "oilands"), and Hope Town.

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©1996 - Terri Robbins
21st Century Adventures - March/April 1996