Sunset Goes South: Part Three

Sunset patiently waited in New Bern, NC while I took a break for Thanksgiving. I arrived back in New Bern late on 11/27, caught an Uber to the marina, and crashed in the aft bunk right away. The next day would be a busy one as two brand spankin' new sails were waiting to be installed. Hanking on new sails is an exciting day for a sailor and his boat, so it was an early morning, up with the sun, a morning cup of joe, and then I bounded up to the marina office to collect the sails which had shipped to the marina directly from the manufacturer.

The mainsail would be easier to hank on so I decided to get that out of the way. Old sail off, new sail hanked on. A beautiful fit! In reality this took a good two hours to get everything just right, so after finishing I decided to take a break for lunch before installing the Genoa jib. The old jib on Sunset was a 100% jib, designed for heavier wind sailing but not great in light to medium wind. The new Genoa is a 150% which adds about 50% to the surface area, provides more options and performance in different wind conditions, and looks sexy as heck. 

 Sunset with her new mainsail installed.

Sunset with her new mainsail installed.

Installing the new Genoa would be a bit of a challenge to do solo. The roller furler system has its own built in halyard and requires careful planning and steps to be taken in the correct order to avoid someone needing to go up the mast to fix a mistake. This is challenging with two people, let alone one. Well a sailor knows how to overcome a situation like this, so through the use of some extra line and elbow grease, I was able to drop the old jib (the easy part) and raise the new Genoa (the hard part). After raising the new Genoa, I discovered that I would need to have a pennant made. A pennant is basically an extension of the halyard and needs to be strong enough to handle the tensions of a fully-loaded 150% Genoa. After a couple phone calls I located a boat yard that could do the job, but it would have to wait until the next day. 

The next morning I commandeered a car from the marina and drove to a boat yard called Sail Craft in Oriental, NC. Upon arrival I was greeted by the cheery owner, Alan. Alan spent a good 30 minutes with me and took great care to make the part exactly to my specifications while offering a trove of his experience and rigging expertise. In fact, the part that I left with was far superior than the one I had originally envisioned. Back to the boat, pennant installed, new Genoa hauled, and voila! Both sails fit beautifully and I was itching to get out and test out Sunset's new set of wings. That would have to wait until the next day as my brother Aden would be arriving just in time for our 250 nautical mile long run from New Bern, NC to Charleston, SC.

 Sunset's new wings!

Sunset's new wings!

Little Bro arrived the next morning at 9:00am and we were underway by 10:00am, bound for Morehead City where we would spend the night at anchor to stage for the long ocean stretch to Charleston, SC. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day but without any wind. No wind meant no proper shakedown of the new sails, but at one point we were able to deploy the jib to test her out. All looked good for the sail to Charleston! We made our way through Adam's Creek heading South for Morehead City. Narrow canals, dolphin, and untouched marshland surrounded us. After passing through Morehead City, we found a quiet anchorage next to Sugarloaf Island close to the inlet but calm and secluded. We dropped anchor at 5:15pm, drank a sunset cocktail, cooked dinner at anchor, and went to bed early in anticipation of the early wake up call and departure for Charleston the next morning.

 Sunset at anchor in Morehead City.

Sunset at anchor in Morehead City.

The next morning we were up before sunrise. With the challenges of cooking a gourmet meal out at sea, we knew our next hearty meal wouldn't be until we arrived in Charleston so I whipped up a sailor's breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage, oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas, and coffee. With our bellies full, we raised anchor and motored out the inlet and into the ocean. Dolphin surrounded the boat and within 30 minutes a Right Whale breached several times within a few hundred yards from us! We weren't 100% convinced that it was a whale at first, but it breached again within a minute of the first spotting and raised its giant tail in the air. That was proof enough that we had a whale swimming close by. As we followed the channel out to deeper water, we watched as the whale surfaced several more times. What a way to start the ocean voyage to Charleston.

There wasn't much wind to speak of that morning, but around noon the wind started to come up out of the Northeast as expected. With a WSW heading, the NE wind was directly behind us meaning it would be a run with the wind towards Charleston. Now it was time to deploy the sails and see if Sunset's new wings could make her fly. The downwind run allowed us to sail "wing and wing" with one sail on the port side and the other to starboard. All that sail area and a steady 10 knot wind made Sunset fly! We cut the engine with full sail deployed and held that course for 28 hours with slight adjustments and without firing up the engine once. At 9pm we began our three-hour shift schedule, one guy at the helm for three hours and the other trying to sleep as best one can while rocking in the ocean swells. It was a clear starry night with a bright moon for most of the night making it easy to steer by starlight and maneuver through the swells. 

Early in the morning around sunrise, Aden was on his shift when clouds and some rain moved in. Swells heightened and winds picked up a few knots. Sleeping soundly and dreaming of white sandy beaches, I had no idea that he was tackling some of the most difficult sailing of his sailing career. I came out of the aft cabin, threw on some rain proof layers, and took over the helm. Adrenaline-pumped Aden looked at me and said "Man, that was some of the most intense sailing I've done!" A wise captain once told me that a sailor is measured by his benchmarks, and in this case Aden set a new benchmark for himself.

 Aden at the helm sailing "wing and wing" to Charleston.

Aden at the helm sailing "wing and wing" to Charleston.

 Sunset at sea enroute to Charleston.

Sunset at sea enroute to Charleston.

We arrived at the Charleston Inlet at 9:15pm on December 2nd after a 36 hour journey South through the ocean. The current was ebbing fast out of the inlet and we were hit on the nose with 3 knots of current, making the home stretch through the inlet, up the Ashley River, and to the marina a long one. We motored for over an hour through the inlet and river before we arrived at the marina at 10:30pm. The Charleston City Marina is massive! There are world class yachts lining the marina and dwarfing Sunset. While it was fun to gawk at the boats, it would have been nice if the marina office had simply told us that our slip was on the river side of the "mega dock" and not the inside of the dock. We motored what felt like a half mile up a narrow lane between yachts only to find out that we had to back our way down the lane and around to the outside of the "mega dock." Either way, we made it, tied up, and had a shot of rum! That marked the finest ocean sailing of the trip, and a long one at that.

James Brooks