Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 5-6, 2014 SC to Brunswick, GA

We left our anchorage at 10:00 am.  We were glad to see that it wasn’t foggy.  Dave brought up the anchor and I took the boat out of the anchorage and back into the ICW to follow the channel back out of the harbor.  We decided to start our 3  hour watches at 12:00.  Dave took over at 12:00 and about 12:30 turned south out of the shipping lane.  You have to go off shore aways to avoid a lot of hazards.  We’re usually about 3 miles off shore. 

On my 3:00-6:00 pm watch, I had dolphins swimming with the boat for about 2 hours!  Just when I thought they were gone, they would leap out of the water next to the boat again.    There had to be at least 8 of them.  Another cool experience when you are out on the sea alone.  I ended my watch with a beautiful sunset.  This gives a whole new meaning to “Friday happy hour”. 

Dave’s 6-9:00 pm shift was uneventful.  But when I came up at 9:00 pm, there were 5 boats anchored outside of the Savannah inlet.  Dave said “there are more lights here than in most South Dakota towns.”  You could also see them on the radar.  The AIS makes them show up as arrows.  We can hover our cursor over the boat and bring up information.  It gives you the name of the boat, the country of origin, the destination, whether it’s cargo, cruise ship, private or other, and whether it’s anchored our under engine power.  Very interesting.  There is also an alarm that goes off if one of them is within a certain range of our boat.  We can set that range. 

About 9:30, another boat came out of the Savannah River and was heading straight out across our path.  I watched it for about 15 minutes and it seemed like we would be very close to colliding.  They would have the right away for 3 reasons: 1) he is in a shipping lane and we are crossing it, 2) when 2 boats meet, the boat on the starboard side has the right of way, which was their ship (rule of the water), 3) he was much bigger and wouldn’t have cared if he hit our boat.  So I checked with Dave on whether I should change our course.  He suggested just slowing down until I was sure he would clear our path.  Duh!  That was a simple solution.  So about 9:45, I slowed down until he passed in front of us.  Then about 10:20 pm I resumed our speed.  That kept me awake for the remainder of my 3 hour watch.  And our AIS alarm did go off warning us of the collision after I had figured it out.  But that would be helpful if I had fallen asleep on my watch.
Chart plotter with radar  and AIS overlay.  We are in the center, each ring is 5 km, the arrows are the other ships.  you can see one approaching from behind us on the upper right side of the screen.  the 6 facing north are anchored.  The 7th one at right angles to them is moving out across our path.  The one closest to us is red because the AIS was warning us that they were with in our "comfort zone".
This screen shows the ship crossing our path and in red, since it is in our "comfort zone".  If you look closely, the ships on the top of the screen have 2 markings.  The arrows are the AIS indicators and the purple blobs are the radar indicators.  All I remember about the ship crossing our path was that it was a cargo ship and it's destination was China. 
Uneventful night watches.  By the end of Dave’s watch at 9:00 am, it was foggy again.  We were just turning into the St Simons Sound Inlet shipping lane.  These lanes have red and green buoys leading you into the inlet.  The outermost green buoy starts with the number 1, the red ones are even numbers, and they lead you into the inlet, then can split off into different rivers or channels once you are inside.  So they are kind of like road signs for boats.  Since we were heading into the inlet we had the red on the starboard side - "red right returning".

We entered the channel near #5 green and #6 red.  We had to really slow down because of the fog.  Shortly after we turned into the channel, we heard the Coast Guard make a securite’ announcement on the VHF that they were working on the #10 buoy in the St Simons Sound Inlet and any concerned traffic should contact them.  We were just discussing whether we should call them when we heard them call us by our boat name.  I’m sure they could see us coming by radar.  They just let us know that they had a cutter and were located next to the #10 buoy.  So we had to watch through the fog for them to show up and make sure we cleared them.  We were concerned about moving further into the shipping lane, but they hadn’t hailed any other boats, so I think we were the only crazy ones out there in that fog. 

Once we were inside the inlet, we turned south on the ICW and anchored near Red buoy 24.  We went 144 nautical miles (165.6 miles)  in 27 hours.  By now it was 1:00 and our eyes were strained from staring into the fog.  Besides, Dave ended up putting in 4 more hours after his watch should have ended.  It reminded us of driving though fog or snow.  It also reminded me of cross country skiing in a blizzard with Tami Petersen.  I wish we had radar with us on a couple of those days. 

Dave recently added a built in horn but hadn't wired it yet.  When we are motoring in fog, we are supposed to blast our horn for 5 seconds every 2 minutes.  Our wired horn will do this automatically.  When I could hear the Coast Guard’s horn, I used an air horn for our horn.  But as we were getting close to the mouth of the inlet, it was running out.  So I stopped and saved it to use as a warning if we saw another boat.  Luckily we didn’t meet any other boats before our anchorage.  I guess hooking up the horn just moved up on the list of things to be done. 

We plan to stay in this area for 2-3 days because of some bad weather moving through the area.  We enjoyed listening to the Alabama Crimson Tide college football team beat Missouri State in the SEC-south eastern conference. 

My first sight of the buoy in the fog. just above the sail on our deck

looked like the end of the world past this buoy

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