Stuart Florida to Charleston South Carolina

It was time to leave Florida and head to South Carolina for a few months.  For the first leg from Stuart, FL  Charleston SC, the crew included myself, Nick Starr and Bob “Fried Chicken” Bishopp.  We decided due to time constraints and wanting to see how the boat would do in the open waters of the Atlantic, to take the  outside route and try to use the gulf stream to our advantage.

Gulf Stream - Can give you up o a 5 knot speed boost
Gulf Stream - Can give you up o a 5 knot speed boost

The weather was supposed to be nice with south winds, which should have led to calm seas.  The forecast was wrong.

We left the dock in  Stuart around 12:30 p.m. for the fuel dock.  By 1:30 we departed the fuel dock in a rush to get out of the St. Lucie river and through “Hell Gate” before low tide which was at 5:15 p.m.  Once again, we bumped the mud at the east end of Hell Gate which was no big deal, but when we got to the jetty at the mouth of the St Lucie inlet, we quickly realized the forecast was wrong.

The waves were huge!  The 10 knot wind from the S-SE had turned into a 20-25 knot wind out of the East and the Surf was piling up at the mouth of the inlet.  They were steep and the period was just a few seconds.  I was on the fly bridge and Bob and Nick were in the pilothouse as we crossed the jetties and into open water.  Nick said they couldn’t see anything in front of the next wave they were so big.

We decided to head ~20 miles offshore and try to pick up some speed from the “stream”  Three hours later, when we got to the gulf stream it just got rougher.  The very confused seas kept the stabilizers hard at work and made it difficult to walk, and impossible to sleep.  Forget about eating.  We were miserable for about 8-10 hours, but then we finally got our sea legs and from about 2:00 a.m. on felt good.   Although the gulf stream gave a nice 2-1/2 knot push, we decided to bring the boat in a little closer in towards shore, just inside the wall of the stream to see if we could find a better ride.

We did two hour shifts with the backup person sleeping on the pilothouse bunk.  When the sun rose around 6:45 the seas were beginning to calm down and temperatures began to rise.  We ended up ahead of schedule and had to slow down to avoid reaching our first stop at dark.  We throttled back to 1100 rpm doing 6 knots and burning about 0.9 GPH.  At this slow speed we could make over 6000 miles before our next fuel stop!

We decided we could start eating again so I boiled some chicken and made a batch of SOS.  It went down well and stayed down even better.

The afternoon was great with temperatures warming to around 70 and a South wind of about 10 knots.  With our Northbound 6 knots we only had 3-4 knots of relative wind.

We decided to test out the emergency drive system.  The generator on the boat has a PTO that can connect to a hydraulic pump.  When the PTO is engaged, the pump puts out 3000 psi.  We also installed a hydraulic motor on the prop shaft, so in case the main engine fails, the hydraulic pump on the generator can connect to the hydraulic motor on the prop shaft to drive the boat forward.

To test, we completed the following steps

  1. warmed up the generator for 5 minutes
  2. turned off all electrics to reduce the load on the generator
  3. turned on Nick’s handheld GPS to measure our speed
  4. shut down the main engine
  5. threw the lever in the engine room to connect the hydraulic drive to the prop shaft.
  6. engaged the PTO (power take off) on the generator to give power to the pump
  7. put the emergency throttle in the pilothouse to the “forward” position
"Get home drive" hydraulic motor and control unit
"Get home drive" hydraulic motor and control unit

We ran a course for five minutes in opposite directions and got about 5 knots average out of the system.  Also tested forward and reverse.  The system works great!

Later in the afternoon, Bob decide to put out a line.  He tried a couple of my expensive rigs that I had made up by an expert fisherman at the Miami Boat Show with no luck.  Then he put on the cheap “deep diver” that Pete had bought at Walmart  and immediately  got a hit from a nice size tuna.  (I had also just turned on the pump-out switch, so it might not have been the lure).

The problem with the fish was, I had no gaff, fillet knife, fillet board, etc, so we had no way to kill or fillet the fish.  I tried a trick I had been taught on my last sailboat delivery. I poked a hole in the cap of a plastic coke bottle, filled it 1/4 full of vodka and squirted the vodka in the gills of the fish.  It kills even large fish in just a few seconds.  I do need to buy some cheap vodka though.  The Grey Goose is an expensive way to kill fish.

That night we had quite a bit of freighter traffic on the radar, especially during Nick’s shift.  We did some fancy maneuvering and threaded the needle going North.   We timed out approach pretty well and hit the sea buoy to the  Inlet around 9:00 a.m. in the morning.  Successfully negotiated the inlet and docked around noon.  After lunch and some rest, we washed off the salt and spent the evening at a local pizza kitchen getting to know the locals.

With Bob and Nick needing to go back to work, we switched crews for the next leg of the trip.

LEG 2

Sarah Miller, Pete Miller and Jim Millers joined me for the final leg to Charleston.

Sarah and I flew into Savanah Wednesday night to provision and prepare the boat.  Pete and Jim arrive the next day about 10:30 a.m.  We still had enough fuel for the next leg so we managed to leave by  noon for the 24 hour outside run up the coast.  We ran out of sight of land about 25-30 miles offshore as we made our way to the entrance to Charleston harbor.

Pete taking us out of the harbor to open water
Pete taking us out of the harbor to open water

We decided to run 2 hour shifts again and I gave Sarah first pick.  She opted for the 2-4 a.m shift.  Having 4 people is nice since you get 6 hours between shifts vs.4 hours with only three people.

The first day was a little rough with direct head seas.  The stabilizers don’t do much good with a head sea, but seem to work best with a quartering sea off the bow or stern.  I cooked the now traditional chicken SOS for dinner as Pete and Jim took the first couple of legs and Sarah rested for her 2:00 a.m. shift

Sarah Relaxing
Sarah Relaxing

The seas calmed a bit that night and we had a pretty smooth run up the coast.  Pete and Jim did the 10 p.m.-12 a.m. and 12:00 a.m-2:00 a.m. shift while Sarah and I slept.  I woke Sarah at about 1:55 and took my place in the pilothouse bunk as a backup crew.

Sarah at 2:00 a.m.
Sarah at 2:00 a.m.

After getting comfortable with tracking radar targets at night, she let me get a good 1-1/2 hour sleep.  My 2:00 a.m to 4:00 a.m. shift was fairly easy with 2-3 foot seas, light South winds and not much traffic.

We were all awake for Sarah’s next shift from 10:0 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. as we came into Charleston Harbor.  This was familiar territory for us as we fish the jetty, the harbor and marsh waters several weeks each summer.

Pete and Jim relaxing as Sarah brings us into the harbor entrance
Pete and Jim relaxing as Sarah brings us into the harbor entrance

Sarah at the helm

Coming into Charleston Harbor
Coming into Charleston Harbor
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Captain and First Mate (Sorry Jim and Pete)

We planned on arriving at 3:00 p.m. for high tide, but after a long night at sea, we decided to go in early hoping that if we did hit bottom, at least it would be on a rising tide.  We had no problems at all.

Sullivan's Island Swing Bridge
Sullivan's Island Swing Bridge

It was a strange feeling coming through those familiar waters in the Ann Louise after all the years in a fishing boat.  I was a little nervous about docking at Toler’s Cove, but they said that they had just been dredged and had 10 feet even at low tide.  Anyway,  we had no trouble coming in (see video below) and it turned out to be a great trip.  We spent the evening with Jeff, Tracey and Bailey Miller at our favorite hangout, Dunleavys Pub on Sullivans Island.  I set a new record for the amount of coasters flipped up in the air and caught at 72 (prior record was 67) showing just how important retirement is to certain skill sets.

The next day we had fish tacos at Poe’s tavern across the road and we were now happy and fulfilled.  Thanks to Sarah, Pete and Jim for a great trip!

Docking at Toler’s Cove Marina – Mt. Pleasant, SC

Make sure you press the “Hi Def” Button on the You Tube Video.

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