I packed up the rental with tools, food and other provisions I would need for the trip down the East Coast. After the long drive I took a couple days on the boat to get everything ready to leave, buy a few last minute items from the grocery store and rest up.
We had taken Starjewel South on the ICW several times to Cape Lookout so the first leg wasn’t too stressful. Although it was ridiculously hot. The end of June is no joke in the Carolinas. My original plan was to anchor at Cape Lookout before taking the Atlantic South. But, I decided that an air conditioned night in a marina was calling my name. I was sweating just sitting in the cockpit going down the ICW. No wind, blue skies, and a blazing sun had me wanting to sleep in the air conditioning. Perhaps I was still a bit too tired from the drive North from Florida.
The next morning I was up early and leaving the comfortable and cool slip for the Atlantic. The autopilot had other plans. Shortly after leaving the channel into Beaufort the autopilot went out on me. That’s right, day 2 of a 7 day trip and I have no autopilot. Boat life is awesome. No sense in turning around though. Plus, I had to get back to Florida for the Captain’s course so I didn’t have many options other than to keep going. Since I was relegated to hand steering around 500 miles I decided to try make as much distance as I could on the Atlantic where I could go all day and all night. I don’t like to travel at night on the ICW. The route turns; there is more traffic, debris floating and shallow spots you sometimes don’t see without the sun until you’re aground. On the open ocean there are fewer obstacles so once the boat is set you can relax a little. However, without the autopilot or wind vane and a lack of wind to sail South I could only manage 24-36 hours at a time before I became completely exhausted and would check into a marina. On the days when the wind was just not cooperating I would motor down the ICW for the day and with the waters calmer I could do an easy 5 knots. Unfortunately since it’s the ICW I wasn’t always going in the right direction. Since the ICW follows rivers for parts of it I was actually traveling North so I could eventually go South. I wasn’t making good time at all.
The days and nights wore on. Sometimes I would motor down the ICW until sunset and anchor in any little cove I could find. I didn’t want to get a marina every night since they are pricey. I did have one interesting stop. I pulled into a marina for fuel and a nights rest in the air conditioning. I had no idea how great a decision it would be. The marina was also an RV park and they had a band playing that night. The band was actually pretty good and it was a great Southern party atmosphere. People were in their RVs, at the bar, on the dance floor, and in anchored boats outside the marina listening to the music and having a good time. That’s why you travel. For those great experiences.
Eventually I did make it back down to Nettles Island Marina again. I pulled into the marina early in the morning before sunrise. Since it was the last day I pushed down a short section of the ICW to make it home and finally be finished with the trip. Lisa came out to catch my lines, help clean up the boat and I slept in the air-conditioned bed of Unwritten Timeline. It was a great trip…once it was over. If the autopilot would have lasted the entire trip I think it would have been really enjoyable the whole way. Either way, it was a good learning experience and confidence builder and I’m glad I did it.