Published: March 21st 2006March 21st 2006
Jen at the healm, offshore sailing from Charleston to Fernandina.
We finished with all the final preparations in Charleston and the Rum Runner was ready for the adventure ahead. It was a stressful last week with tons to do. On the last night in Charleston we were hanging out with friends who asked us if we were ready. Well- we realized that we may never really be ready, but we were ready enough. It was time to go off and make our way South.
We left the dock at 8 am on Saturday and made our way down the intercoastal waterway, our goal was to get to Beaufort for the night. Unfortunately we ran aground 4 times while trying to get through a narrow passage off the Edisto River, about 40 miles south of Charleston. It was around 1 in the afternoon and was low tide. We were exhausted and frustrated. While trying to figure out what to do we watched another sailboat with only a 4 foot draft run aground as well. Seeing that we draft about 6 feet we realized that there was no way we could get thru, at least not until high tide. But then it would be too dark to travel on the intercoastal waterway.
Pelicans in front of the Fernandina Marina.
So we had to change our plans.
The good news about where we ran aground is that Steamboat Creek (where we had anchored before) was just 1-2 miles down the river. So we decided to call it a day and anchor there again for the night. Then we would wake up early and jump out for some offshore sailing. We decided to sail for 24 hours and get into Fernandina Beach the next morning. This way we could make up some time and we really wanted to see Fernandina Beach and nearby Cumberland Island. We had heard that it was a really great area to explore and we were ready to be in Florida.
So we head offshore and are having a great day of sailing. The wind was on our nose which slowed us down a bit, but the seas were calm. We actually only had to tack 4 times, which isn’t that bad considering we sailed for 180 miles. And then we start sailing into the night. It was around midnight when the winds died down a bit and we decided to turn on our motor for some motor sailing. It wasn’t until this time that
Fishing boats in Fernandina Beach, now that's alot of shrimp!
we realize that something is wrong with our alternator and that our batteries aren’t charging. We were monitoring our batteries and were planning on turning on the engine to charge them back up at some point in the night, but we thought we still had plenty of charge for the trip. So Jay tried to fix the alternator for a couple of hours, but to no avail. And that is when we realize that our batteries are draining quicker than we thought. All of the navigation aids, like gps, autopilot, radar, and running lights use a lot of energy. So we have to start shutting things off in order to conserve energy. We can’t come into an inlet without the navigation equipment working, which means that we would have to sail thru the night without using up our batteries. That is when we slowly start turning things off. We shut off our navigation lights (which is a bit scary because this means that other boats can’t see us) and autopilot (so we have to hand steer- which is harder than you would think). Then we realize that we have to turn off our gps. So we set our course, make
The train station in downtown Fernandina Beach.
a note of our coordinates, and mark our speed. Then it is time to turn off the gps, which is like sailing blind. Luckily we do have a handheld gps which we can use with our charts so that we have some clue as to where we are, but it doesn’t have all the sea chart information loaded on it. It just gives us our coordinates, but that is very valuable information when you are out at sea. And there we are, using headlamps and our compass to sail thru the rest of the night. It was very challenging and exhausting, and we were very thankful to get into a marina at Fernandina Beach in the morning.
So we get into Fernandina marina and try to figure out what is wrong with our alternator. We had to take it out, rent a car, and drop it off at an alternator shop for a couple days. Unfortunately they can’t find anything wrong with it, so we are back to square one. Our batteries still won’t charge when we run the engine and we aren’t leaving Fernandina until the problem is fixed. Jay is on the phone with the service department
Green Turtle Bar
The local bar in Fernandina Beach- very fun!
in Charleston who helps us troubleshoot the problem, which ended up being a loose connection. Why we didn’t check that first still boggles our mind. But the good news is that it is fixed and we can now make our way down to Ft. Pierce, our last stop in Florida before we jump out to the Bahamas.
So the adventure continues. But the good news about having problems in Fernandina Beach is that it gave us some time to explore this cute town. It is a quaint beach community with a big fishing industry. We spent many hours walking the streets, looking at architecture and shopping in little boutiques. There is an historic train station there as well as Ft. Clinch State Park, which we had fun exploring. It is actually rated as one of Florida’s best state parks- it had beautiful beaches, wonderful hiking trails thru marshlands, and one of the few union forts in Florida which has been rebuilt. We also took Kona to the beach one afternoon (Kona loves the beach!) where we went on a long walk, had a picnic, and played ball. It was a great little stop and we enjoyed our time there.
Beautiful Florida beach.
Unfortunately we never made it over to Cumberland Island, so we will have to go explore that area the next time we travel up the coast.
There are more photos below