After a 12 hour day sail in the ocean, Dave and I were elated to get into Charleston Harbor. Our senses became alive with all of the sights, sounds and the distinctive smell of low tide (yum). Alli Oop was dwarfed by massive container ships and barges being pulled by tiny tugs. One hundred foot wooden schooners filled with tourists out for a sunset cruise zig-zagged across our path. We sailed past the beautiful coast line filled with old Southern mansions, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and tall palm trees lining the streets.
The sun was setting as we made our way to a popular anchorage near the James Island expressway bridge. This anchorage was noted to have poor holding depending on the combination of wind and tides, but we were running out of day light and needed a place to stay for the night. When we finally arrived, it was dark and there were many boats already anchored which made it even more difficult to find a spot for Alli Oop. It took a bit of effort, but we set the anchor and settled in the for the evening. After a long day on the water, we were looking forward to a restful night of sleep.
Around 3am I was woken up by a terrible thumping/ scratching sound near my head. The anchor was doing something funny. I woke up Dave and we both went outside to investigate. We were afraid the anchor might be dragging. The tide had changed and the current was pushing our boat in the opposite direction. We realized we were holding, but the boat was just caught in a strange ebb and flow. We went back to sleep, but woke up often to check our holding.
The following morning, we woke up to a beautiful, clear sky. It looked like a great day to make our way into Charleston to do some sight seeing. All plans were put to a halt when Dave met our friendly neighbor Norman and his wife Jan. We ended up spending the afternoon on their boat, Bandersnatch, and were given a tour that included lots of alcohol. Norman, a retired merchant marine, built his boat from scratch and had been making the trip from Glouster, MA to Jacksonville, FL every year for some time. He was an expert in all things boating so we thought we’d pick his brain.
Our alternator had been giving us trouble as it wasn’t charging our batteries. Norman agreed to stop by the boat the following day and help us troubleshoot. After we left Bandersnatch, we only had an hour or two of daylight left, so we made a quick jaunt to shore in the dinghy to check out the local marina, stretch our legs and find a bite to eat.
That evening as we slept, we were awakened again to the same awful sound. The anchor rode was doing the same dance as it had done the previous night. Our anchor was set, but it was another restless night as Dave and I both frequently woke up to check our holding.
No coffee and a regatta
The cabin was cold as we crawled out of the v-berth the next morning to start our day. A cold front had moved in and although we were farther South, it wasn’t as warm as we had hoped. I quickly made my way over to the stove to make some hot coffee and realized there was no propane coming out of the element for me to light. After the restless night we had, we needed coffee. Why was this happening!?
As we wallowed in our disappointment, we opened our companionway hatch and were greeted by numerous sailboats zooming around us. A regatta was in full swing and we had front row seats! It wasn’t caffeine, but the surrounding frenzy quickly made us alert. We watched carefully as the sailboats confidently zipped past us (very closely, I might add)!
Norman stopped over in the middle of the chaos to help us troubleshoot our problem alternator and propane. He quickly solved the propane problem – a solenoid was broken (an on/off switch) and moved onto the alternator. Six hours later after some troubleshooting and mishaps (a cabin full of smoke) they discovered that the regulator was the problem.
Night #3 – The worst of them all
A 2:30am wake up call kept us up the rest of the night. A familiar and unwelcome sound was the culprit, but this time it was more extreme. Our anchor rode was wrapped around our keel and every 10 minutes the boat was being catapulted off the rode and then wrapped back around it. After several attempts, we somehow managed to unwrap it, but we couldn’t imagine going back to sleep. Thank goodness we had our propane back because we both needed coffee to make it through the night until the sun rose.
At that point, we were ready to leave Charleston and move on. We were exhausted and couldn’t imagine staying another night, but we hadn’t even seen the city yet! We couldn’t leave! It would only add to our frustration if we didn’t try to go into town. We needed to explore, eat, drink and be merry!
We decided it would be in our best interest to go to a marina the next day. The idea of going into town while leaving the boat to fare in that horrific anchorage was nauseating. By the time we returned, our boat could be floating out to sea or be washed into the surrounding marshes. The only safe bet was a marina.
Thankfully, the Harborage at Ashley Marina had space for us and we were able to get out of that awful anchorage. The dock hands told us why everyone was having troubles- the super moon. It had brought extremely high tides, up to seven feet. Combined with the currents, it was a nightmare for everyone.
We were finally able to spend some time in Charleston, clean up, reprovision and get a good night sleep. It’s a beautiful city filled with history and charm. We weren’t able to visit any museums or take a walking tour (which I was really excited about) but I’m happy we were able to spend a few hours there.
We wanted to love you, Charleston, we really did, but you just wouldn’t let us.