We're closing in on time to start migrating north for the summer. We have to be north of Cumberland Island, GA, in about six weeks. The Commodore has said that we'll be leaving Miami in about three weeks. We're looking at several big challenges on this voyage.
The leg to Cumberland Island, in principle, is 3 days. We're going from 25°43′N to 31°N. As the crow flies, this is just 317 nm. (1° of latitude is 60nm.) We've done two days at sea. Adding a third day should not be too bad.
We make 5-6 kt: that makes it 52 to 64 hours: 2 to 3 days. It's slightly safer to leave early in the morning, hold the speed down, push the time back to 72 hours, and arrive early in the morning on the third day. This approximately the limit of our range with 75 gallons of fuel.
However. A nicer stopping place is Charleston, at 32°49′N. This is 512 nm: 85 to 102 hours: 4 days at sea if everything goes well. But it requires that we maximize sailing during the daylight hours and limit our motoring. That creates two challenges for us. The first challenge is four days at sea. Four days in which things can go wrong.
We have a number of "duck in" locations along the way in case things to go wrong.
24 hours away is 84 to 144 nm. Beteween 27°42′N and 28°06′N — from the Sebastian Inlet to Port Canveral. We've been to a few of these places, we're pretty sure we know what we're doing.
48 hours away is 240 to 277 nm. Between 29°42′N and 30°30′N — St. Augustine to the St. John's River near Jacksonville. We've found a really great spot on the St. John's River, so we're happy with this.
72 hours away is 360 to 432 nm. Between 31°42′N and 32°55′N — St. Catherine's Sound to Charleston. We've been into the Georgia and S. Carolina coast, before to bail out.
We've always had bailout plans. We were not really confident that a bailout could really be a sensible course of action. Everyone tells you to have a bailout. And we had them. But… Is this really going to work?
Last year, we did two bailouts: the first was a run to Manatee Pocket to fix the engine, another was to hide out in St. Simon's, Georgia when the off-shore weather turned nasty. This year, the first day out of Charleston was too sporty for us so we bailed out. See "Bail Out — Plan B — Abort Abort".
Having done three bailouts so far, we're much happier with the idea of sneaking into some unknown river with our tails between our legs. Our crusing guides are quite clear on the navigable inlets.
The Motor Sailing Challenge
Another challenging part of this trip is limiting our motoring. Almost all of our previous long off-shore legs have involved extensive motoring. Sometimes we've motor-sailed, but we've done a lot of motoring without the benefit of the sails at all. We conservatively state our motoring range as 375 nm.
We can probably motor-sail at least 450 nm. At low idle, Mr. Lehman doesn't use much fuel.
"But what about purely, simply sailing?" we ask ourselves. Frequently.
It boils down to a safety consideration. The more we're at sea, the more we're exposed to the risks of something going wrong. The safest passage has the shortest duration.
If we were crossing an ocean, of course we have to sail. There are no choices. (The Whitby design called for something like 250 gallons of fuel; a motoring range of 1500 nm. That's a complete oil change with each fill-up. The designed motor-sailing range is on the order of 3000 nm! Red Ranger doesn't hold that much fuel.)
Near shore, we have a choice: we can reduce the duration of the passage with judicious use of diesel fuel. The trick is to conserve as much as we can consistent with a short, safe passage.
Charleston and North
Once we get to Charleston, we plan to sleep for a few days. Then we can top off fuel and water, and get fresh fruits and veggies. And wait for the weather for one more 24-hour run to Beaufort, NC.
Or a three-day slog up the ICW to Beaufort, NC.
Venerable Great Aunt Diane may want to join us for this leg. While it's easy for her to get to Charleston, getting back to her car from Beaufort would be a bit of a logistical challenge.
The idea of crew for a 24-hour offshore is very appealing. Very appealing. With staggered 4-on/4-off watches, we can have two people on duty. We can have a 6-hour cycle of CA & VGA for 2 hrs, then VGA and SFL for 2, then SFL & CA for 2.
If we stretch this out a bit, we might do a 9-hour cycle that amounts to 6-on/6-off. With the crew changes, 6 hours on isn't so bad, since it's 3 with one person followed by three with someone new.
After Beaufort, we'll take the ICW from Beaufort to Norfolk. This should be less than a week. Last year, we did it between April 27th ("Week 32: Northbound Through North Carolina") and May 1st ("Week 33: Closing the Loop in Norfolk").
Once in Norfolk, we can breathe a sigh of relief. Red Ranger's summertime cruise in the Chesapeake is all simple day-sailing to well-known anchorages.
Instead of summering in the Chesapeake, we're looking at Maine. Yet another challenge.