Monday, October 27, 2014

Sailing, Tides and Currents

 We were heading to the  beach one last time for the year.  Looking at the forecast,  with the warm temps, we decided to take the boat and hope for some wind.  I grew up in the Caribbean, sailing the trade winds, and feel that I'm a pretty skilled sailor.  What I am not familiar with is tides and river currents.   I did as much research as I could and decided that Remleys Point would be a good place to launch.  This public boat launch is at the mouth of the Cooper River and empties into the Charleston Harbor. 

When we arrived at the launch Saturday morning,  we got some advice from an 18ish yr old kid,  telling us the current would not be a problem.  The kid was in a fancy looking bass boat. 

The wind was blowing about 8 mph which would keep us moving, so we rigged up and headed out.  We sailed up current for half an hour,  just to get the feel of the water, and then I relaxed.   It seemed this was going to work out well. 

We pointed the bow of our little 12 foot Odea Widgeon down into the harbor.  Sailing under the Cooper River Bridge, then towards the Charleston side.  Our main goal was to see dolphins and we were not disappointed.   We tacked back and forth a couple of times watching the dolphins gently break the surface of the water, before heading over to take a look at the mega sized aircraft carrier on Patriot's Point.

I took note of the time and decided that we had enough time to head back across the harbor for one last look at the dolphins , like sirens luring us to our fate, before the wind was forecast to ease.  

Halfway across the bay, we realized that we were not making much headway.  The wind was steady and the same, but for some reason, we were basically sitting in the same place.  Then we started to lose ground.  I figured out quickly that the current had picked up, but could not figure out why.  Rhonda took over the tiller and I scampered up to the bow storage to retrieve the old wood paddle that had come with the boat.  I started paddling and we inched our way closer to a marina on the other side.  The current was definitely picking up speed and the guy at the marina said he could see the intensity  mixed with panic on my face. 

We crossed the eddy line,  got yelled at by some fishermen for crossing their lines and paddled into the safety of the marina. 

After some quick discussion, we found out that it was low tide and the water levels would be dropping 6-8 feet over the next 3.5 ish hours, and that there was no hope of getting anywhere without a motor of some sort.   So,  we headed into town, found the East Bay Deli. I had some cash with me, but needed to save some of it, in case we needed to pay someone for a tow, back to Remley's Point.  So,  we ordered a turkey sandwich, split it in 3 pieces and were thankful that we had food. (we had trailmix type snacks in the boat, but need something more solid).   We walked back the the Charleston Maritime Center, where we had found shelter and apologized to the fishermen for running over their lines on the way in.  Talked with the employees and gathered info about what to expect as far as the tide reversing etc. 

Around 3:30pm roughly 3.5 hrs after arriving, we could visibly see the current slowing.  Following the advice of the employees who worked at the marina, we decided to give it a go and head back across the harbor.  The Charleston Water Taxi gave me a short tow to the lower dock in the marina so that I could pick the wife and kid up, then we headed out. 

At this point, according to forecast, the wind also decided to calm to abour 2/3 mph.  We were barely moving so I pulled out the paddle and attempted to gain some ground.   I'm not sure how long it took,  with the wife and kid swapping tiller time as I pulled against the current, but we finally made it across to the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.  There were several motor boats of different sizes zipping around and in the distance, I saw the yellow and black Sea Tow rescue boat.  I was determined to attempt to make it back on my own though. 

We made it to the dock,  I got out and pull the boat up stream,  got back in,  paddled up some more to another dock,  and .started pulling the boat upstream again.   A friendly looking pair of couples in a really nice fishing boat outfitted with a Garmin satellite system on top cruised by and waved.  We waved back.  On their way back out of the marina,  I gave in and asked if they would mind towing us back up to the boat launch at Remley's Point.  They quickly agreed,  threw us a line, I tied off and 30 minutes later we were back on dry land de-rigging the boat.  I offered them the cash that I had left but they declined.  Without their kindness, I'm not sure how the day would have played out. 
 We were all happy and relieved to be back.  I was relieved to hear that the wife and kid enjoyed the adventure, and even though there were some dicey moments,  they are still interested in pursuing sailing.  We will be adding some sort of small trolling motor to the boat to avoid similar mishaps in the future!  Sitting down to some Mexican food later we discussed the highs and lows from the day.  I realized that this was the first adventure with potential disaster that our family had gone through.  I'm proud of us for pushing through and doing what needed to be done to get back safely.  And I told them as much! 
The next day, we rented bikes.....


Anonymous said...

ON ON! Skipper!

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