Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Southport to Town Creek, SC

23.6 nm
Wind: NW 25-30 knots, gusting to 40
Maximum speed: 5.5 knots
Average speed: 3.1 knots
Latitude: 33°04.71’N
Longitude: 079°27.13’W

So we’ve run hard aground. You’d think we’d be used to it by now, but it’s been a while since we ran hard aground and were unable to get off, without the tide coming right back up. We motored all day down the ICW, as usual, the wind picking up in the afternoon, but in our faces the whole day.

It was supposed to blow thirty knots, so I wasn’t concerned about the wind, but Karl, who was actually outside, felt like it was really blowing hard. The ICW in this section of South Carolina runs through low-lying swampland that’s barely inland from the ocean. The wind sweeps across the swamp grass and there’s little protection.

The charted depth for the channel Skipper Bob recommended for anchoring was only two feet (another recommendation for powerboats, not sailboats), so we found an alternate creek with a six-foot controlling depth and headed towards that. We were motoring hard against the wind in our faces and when we turned we were still motoring hard. Generally, when we’re concerned about shoaling, Karl will put the diesel in neutral and we’ll just drift gently aground, which makes it very easy to come free. Today, we were going at least five knots, straight onto the shoal.

It’s a horrible feeling, hearing that “chunk” noise when the keel hits dirt, and the whole boat shudders back as if surprised. Karl revved the engine in reverse, gunning it until I could smell oil burning, but there was nothing we could do to get off.

It wasn’t until then that I checked the weather and discovered that the brisk breeze we had felt was actually gusting to gale force, above 45 knots, and was now blowing us hard right into the mud bank. It’s a bad feeling to be stuck in the mud and feel your boat heeling over into a sandbank, blown by gale-force winds.

Karl’s convinced we’ll float free, but I keep imagining the mud my boot was stuck in on my birthday, that horrible sucking sound when Karl wedged an oar under it. If our keel gets stuck in that, will even six feet of tide be able to float us up?

To make matters worse, I decided to make a nice stir-fry for dinner, only discovering at that point that all of our brown rice is infested with weevils. We spent hundreds of dollars before we left stocking the boat with cans and dry goods—we have at least twenty pounds of brown rice—and now it might all be a loss. We have to go through all our food lockers, bleach them, throw out anything that’s infected, and find some kind of weevil-proof storage system for the stuff that’s salvageable. I definitely don’t have enough energy to do that while we’re lying over on our side. I keep watching the angle of the water in my water bottle, convinced it’s steepening, but praying it’s flattening out.

I don’t even have enough enthusiasm to cook, especially not in a galley covered with weevil carcasses, weevil eggs, and rice granules, so Karl’s attempting to make the stir-fry instead, with noodles instead of rice. I hope the noodles won’t be too weevilly. We’re going to have to go on an anti-Atkins binge in order to eat all our pasta before the weevils do.

I’m huddling in the corner, as I usually do while things go awry, watching my water bottle, Karl’s cooking his fake Lo Mein, and we’re listening to music at full blast to keep from hearing the creaks in the mast step as the boat lies over more. I definitely feel like Nero, fiddling while Rome burnt.

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