Our last sail of the season did not end quite the way we had wanted but, once again, we were reminded that we are not in control and mother nature reigns over the seas. Once we made it to St. Mary’s, Ga, we had the option of either continuing the ICW through GA which is beautiful but can be tricky with shoaling and take about 4-5 days before arriving in Beaufort. The other option was to complete an offshore overnight jump from St. Mary’s to Beaufort….this is the option we chose when we were coming down the coast. The weather completely dictated which decision we would make, so when the predicted winds, tides, sea state, and weather lined up perfectly, we felt the decision was rather clear….we would leave St. Mary’s around 2:00 pm with the outgoing tide, travel overnight, and arrive in Beaufort, SC the following morning. We were confident in this decision and raised anchor around 1:30 to head out. As we departed the St. Mary’s Inlet we rode the tides out as predicted and the seas and wind were as predicted…1 ft and 10-15 knots of wind. We passed a couple cargo ships and one of them even diverted their course for us…we were very surprised!
We were are fairly happy sailors and the girls fell asleep to the rocking of the waves. I planned to sleep first and then relieve Bryan around midnight or 1 am. Around 11 the sea state changed and our night of feeling uncomfortable and scared began (at least for me). Since we are very diligent, patient, and cautious picking our weather windows, we have little experience with rough seas, especially at night. The wave direction began to hit us from the stern of the boat causing a 20 degree rocking which was continuous since the interval between waves was around 4 seconds. I honestly do not know how high the waves were, but with a short interval it can make even 3 or 4 foot waves feel rougher. I quickly learned that I had not properly secured our cabin and things began to fall all over the place. The girls were safely tucked in our cabin which provided the most stability. When I went into the cockpit, I could not believe the white caps and height of the waves that were crashing around us and I was scared. The girls began to wake up throughout the night so I stayed below with them and Bryan continued to pull an all night shift. Around 2 am, I heard him yell my name and a wave of terror went through my body….I rushed up top afraid of what I might find. Our dingy had taken on water from a crashing wave and was creating a lot of drag that slowed us down and increased the effect of the oncoming waves on our hull. We weighed our options and determined that we could not do anything while it was dark. The night continued with the same seas and we patiently stayed awake and waited for sunrise. When approaching the Savannah inlet, we were surrounded by cargo ships and thankful for our AIS making it easy to spot them and also making them aware of our presence in the blackness as well.
Finally, the sun came up and we began to approach the Port Royal inlet. I began to survey the mess in the boat. It looked like someone picked us up and shook us around…the floor was covered in stuff. It still took another 2 hours to make our way into the protection of the land and finally the rolling stopped. We arrived at the downtown Beaufort docks around 10 am. This last sail of the season was memorable for sure and very reminiscent of our first sail when leaving Beaufort for Charleston when we were hit with a squall while trying to anchor.
Sailing and cruising this past year has put our family through many challenges, but the experiences and lessons learned far outweigh any of the challenges and uncomfortable moments. It has definitely taught me to stretch out of my comfort zone and the rewards of this “risk” are invaluable. All In is now safely moored in Beaufort and our crew is happy to be taking a break from watching the weather all the time!!