Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hilton Head

Wednesday August 4 – Saturday August 7 (am)

Wednesday morning off St Catherine's Island we see that it was a good choice to anchor where we were, the other sail boat was right at the entrance to the creek so going past him in the dark would have been too dangerous. Where we were was a great spot no need to travel up river for more protection. Not much to that Island & surrounding area but lots of protection and plenty of deep water, Wi-Fi, & TV what more could a cruiser ask for. By 10 am we are underway to Hilton Head S.C.. Heading east out the channel before turning north where we have just enough wind to carry the main & jib but still need to have the motor running to keep us above 6 knots. By 2:30 we turn west into the Tybee Roads Channel inlet (leads to Savannah River), wind directly behind us so sails are rolled up, hot & still. Travel west for an hour to pass a lot of shoals & some submerged breakwaters before it is safe to veer off north west to the Calibogue Sound which brings us in between Hilton Head Island & Daufuskie Island (Haig Point). Passing by the South Beach & Harbour Town sections of Hilton Head as we make our way to Broad Creek, up the creek a little way and by 4:30 we are anchored right near Palmetto Bay marina. Relax a little then take the dinghy into the marina to get some guide books and information about the Island. A friend had told me that riding bikes to see the island was the way to go, and we love to ride bikes (even with my last experience in Georgia being so bad). All the guide books agree and there are plenty of bike rental places that deliver. Hilton Head they say is bicycle nirvana and we can now certainly understand & agree with that statement. There are some BEAUTIFUL bike trails through out the Island and the sand on the beach is hard & flat so you can easily ride your bikes up and down the beach. Thursday we had the bikes delivered at 10 am and were pedaling away shortly after. Had to make a quick stop at the yacht service center across the way to see about a part, they are able to order it and have it by Friday. They put a lot of thought into planning this Island, each section is like its own little city / neighborhood, with its shopping / restaurant areas and beautiful gated communities. First we head east to the beach, entering near the shopping center at Coligny place, ride down the beach & decide to find some shade so get off in the Sea Pines area. Ride over to South Beach area for lunch, then over to Harbour Town, past some stables and by a forest preserve. All this is just one section of the Island and the bike paths are just unbelievable! I forgot to ask & need to find out but these wonderful paved bike paths were also clear of leaves & pine needles & dirt. So I am not sure if the have a HUGE maintenance staff keeping the bike paths clear or what the deal is but it sure hit us as strange. We get back to the boat by 6 and were too tired to go back out for dinner so we dine on board. Friday we were off on the bikes by 9:30. Went to the same beach entrance but went north along the beach coming out in the Palmetto Dunes area and then over to the Shelter Cove area. Both very nice with great bike paths but the Sea Pines area was nicer. You could spend a lot of time exploring the Island with their bike paths and even though cars have the right of way at intersections the drivers are very courteous and mindful of bikers. We are back to the marina by 3:30 and Steve picks up the part he ordered then back to the boat. We plan to have dinner on board as we get ready to leave in the morning to head up to Charleston thinking it is a days sail. Steve is rechecking and entering the route and we see that it is a 14 hour trip, not a “day” trip. So we make a quick decision to leave that night before dark. The weather is supposed to be the usual 30% chance of rain showers, which it has been for a while. Mostly the showers have been inland or very scattered around the coast, so we think we should be okay. But just as we leave, National Weather Service sounds an alert on the VHF radio, and warns of a line of severe thunderstorms with wind gusts up to 70 mph from Charleston eastward. Charleston is 90 miles away, and the skies are clear around us, and we have a beautiful 20 knot wind that promises a great sail, so we continue on, figuring it will die out by the time we get there. The NWS sounds several more alerts, with the area expanding to the west, and the time increasing. As we reach the Tybee Roads channel at dusk we can see some thunder clouds off shore to the south, but nothing around us yet. We're still not too concerned, and if something did come up suddenly, we'd be better off in the deep water than picking our way through the shoals in the dark, so we press on. As we turn northeast out of the Tybee approach channel towards Charleston, there is a lot of cloud to cloud lightning (helps light up the water) north and south of us and some distant cloud to ground strikes. We can see the ground strikes, and they are spectacular, but we can't hear any thunder, so we know the strike are over 5 miles away. The wind is out of the south southwest at 20-25 kts, but heeding the warning of potential gusts up to 70 kts, we decide to keep the sails furled and motor sail as the storm builds around us. This is uncomfortable since the waves are hitting us broadside, and without the sail to stabilize the boat, we're rolling from side to side quite a bit. After a couple of hours of steady winds, and increasing rolling, we decide to roll out part of the jib to try to stabilize the boat. It works wonderfully, and we enjoy the reduced rolling for all of half an hour before the temperature suddenly drops, the wind shits to the northeast, right on the nose. So we roll up the jib again and resume motoring. About 10:30 the shower starts then between 11 & midnight it rains very heavy, highest wind gust was only 29 K, and the waves are only 3-4 feet even though the wind direction did a 180 it was not long enough to cause the waves to get choppy. Lightning was the main concern, because we can hear a lot of thunder now, and know the strikes are close by. By 2 the storm is over and the sails go out and the engine off and sail the rest of the way to the Charleston Inlet that we reach at 7:30 am. By 8:30 we are passing Sullivan's Island & Fort Sumter a gray gloomy morning, turn west up the Ashley River and by 9:30 we are docked at the Charleston City Marina.

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