It was time, all the conditions were right. We were set to go offshore from Port Royal Sound just past Beaufort, SC and head to St. Mary’s Inlet on the border of Georgia and Florida. The weather seemed to be fairly calm, winds were forecasted to be coming from the North/Northeast, and we were hopeful to be able to sail. We left Lady’s Island Marina about 10:30 am, making time for the 11:00 Ladies Island Bridge opening. Not sure why the Ladies Island Bridge couldn’t correlate names with Lady’s Island the town…but…whatever. We stopped to top off our diesel tank at the Downtown Marina of Beaufort and were on our way. We did have it all planned out to go offshore, but we also had a backup plan of continuing on the ICW towards Hilton Head. We knew it would take a couple hours from Lady’s Island to get to the point where we’d have to turn to the inlet, or continue following the magenta line. We figured we might be able to see if the inlet was calm looking for us to pass through before we made our final decision for going offshore. We had tried to time the current so we would be going out the inlet at slack, which is the turning point where there isn’t much current in either direction. The NOAA forecast we had reviewed as we were leaving said the seas would be 2-3 ft, and winds from the N/NE 5-10 knots. This pretty well continued through the night, even dissolving further to seas of 2 ft and winds being about 5 knots.
We arrived at the beginning of the inlet at about 2:00pm which was slack, leading into the ebb, which is the current going out. Exiting the inlet took between 2-3 hours getting all the way out to the last sea buoy before turning South. By this point the ebb tide in one direction, and the wind coming from the East, it made the last couple of buoys we passed a bit rougher than we were originally hoping for. Maybe leaving another hour or two prior would have helped, but we were also trying to time our entrance into St. Mary’s to be in daylight the next day. After the first couple of hours as we were exiting, my stomach did not seem to agree with the motion of the ocean. I had taken my seasick pill, but…not early enough. I now know that I need them, and will definitely be planning better in the future. Sadly because of my somewhat hourly rotation of ginger snaps, water, and laying down trying to fight the nausea, Richard had to stand watch more than his fair share of this passage. Thankfully once we turned South, as the evening went on, everything calmed down to almost flat water by the morning sunrise, including my stomach. I did trade places so Richard could try and get some sleep here and there. During one of my watches about 4am, a handful of dolphins were around the stern of the boat, just checking us out. As I sat there checking the autopilot keeping our course, they just kept bobbing up and down and kept up with us for over a mile.
We had checked the weather as previously stated, and hoped we would be sailing, however, once we were out there, the wind ended up coming from the South and was on our nose the whole time. We had planned for it to be helping us, but instead, we were motoring at about 4 knots…the entire time. Luckily they weren’t any stronger than about 5 knots or so, but it didn’t allow us to hoist the sails sadly.
It was pretty cool being out in the ocean, seeing big container ships, which looked huge even from what we guess was still miles away from us. Seeing the coast of Georgia way off in the distance. It was definitely a big realization of being alone. But we did have the radio, and seemingly continuous broadcasts from the Coast Guard of various “Securite, Securite, Securite” announcements. Mostly just saying the city, and what frequency they’re on. Although, coming into St. Mary’s we did overhear an aircraft calling to a boat to change course due to a whale sighting. The coastline has a Right Whale area that I guess is watched over to help protect both the whales and boaters alike. We however, did not have a sighting…which in our book is okay with us.
We made it into the St. Mary’s inlet the following afternoon, and it was nothing but perfect conditions. Calm, quiet, and peaceful, no winds going against tides or anything. We passed down the ICW a few more miles and tied up at the Amelia Island Marina just before the cold front came through that evening. We plugged into the dock, cranked on the heater, and went to bed quite early that night now having our first offshore adventure in the books. We did it. We made it to Florida!
Thanks for reading!