To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Week 11: Charleston to St. Mary's

This week we're finally through with hanging around in Charleston, South Carolina.

We'd like sail outside to St. Mary's, Georgia. Or maybe even further (St. Augustine, perhaps.) We'd really like to sail there, instead of motor, so we'd like wait for better weather.

Except. It's cold here at night. So we're going to leave sooner rather than wait for perfect weather. Merely good weather will do.

We know a few things about St. Mary's.

  1. It's off the beaten path of the ICW by a few miles.

  2. It's so close to Fernandina Beach that some folks ask "Why bother stopping in St. Mary's?"

  3. It was recommended by the crew of Oceanaire, Marty and Hernan, who ask "Why not stop in St. Mary's?"

Not much to go on is it?

This was another week in which we were blessed and amazed by the kindness of total strangers.

26th. Monday.

Docked at 32°49.93′N 079°56.03′W

A few more small chores.

We were told by more experienced cruisers that the secret to success in cruising involves two simple rules.

  1. Get one chore done before lunch.

  2. A shower counts as a chore.

CA went for a run, took a shower, did laundry, make scones, and peeled some more finish off the toe rail.


I installed an LED fixture in the V-berth to replace an incandescent light fixture.

Dinner was tofu and veggie stir-fry over white rice.


Check the weather for tomorrow and Wednesday for our overnight to St. Mary's.

Tue: W winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 1 foot. Showers likely in the afternoon.

Tue Night: NW winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming N 10 to 15 kt with gusts to 20 kt after midnight. Seas 1 foot. A chance of drizzle. Showers likely in the evening...then a slight chance of showers after midnight.

Wed: N winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts to 20 kt. Seas 1 foot...then 2 ft in the afternoon.

Doesn't sound great: a potential for motoring Tuesday morning and rain in the afternoon and evening. Plus it will be cold. But a west wind that clocks a bit to NW would be ideal for us.

But Wednesday, we should have some wind. That will be nice.

If we're feeling good about our progress—and aren't too exhausted by the cold and rain—we may push on to St. Augustine and make a second night of it.


Attribute Value
Arrive Docked at 32°49.93′N 079°56.03′W

27th. Tuesday

Left the dock about 07:15. Picked up 39.2 gallons diesel.

Motored down the Cooper River, down the Ashley River, and out into the North Atlantic Ocean.

That Smell

Once under way, we noticed a terrible smell in the aft cabin. Truly awful.

We had just pumped out the holding tank. Was that it? Did the tank crack or leak?

No. Lift the floor under the galley and the smell is not present down there.

It's not related to the Nature's Head, either. Indeed, not connected with anything that usually smells. It was a completely novel (and awful) smell.

But we were heading off shore. We'd deal with it when we got the anchor down in St. Mary's.

That Calm

We had very light air. How light?


Very light. You could see the reflections of clouds in the surface of the sea.

Really? How light?


Very light. CA baked cookies.

Interestingly the stove wouldn't work. We found that our small (8#) propane cylinder seemed empty. Switching to the 20# cylinder we noticed that the hose would spray propane except in one position.

That matched the smell in the aft cabin.


Explosive propane.

A little Res-Cue Tape sort of did the trick. But not really. It still squirted propane if the hose was wiggled aggressively.

It appears we need a new propane tank hose. And 8 pounds of propane for the small tank.

So, we have our work cut out for us when we get to St. Mary's. Find a propane dealer. Get the tank and the hose to the dealer and get it all back to the boat.

What about the explosive propane? We need to be sure that there's no open flame that could possibly ignite the boat. Right?

Right. That's why we have a diesel engine. There's no sparks. No open flame.

And running the diesel sucks huge amounts of air (and propane) out of the boat to fire the diesel engine. Plus, we have an engine room vent blower.

Sailing Weather

The propane problem is now understood. The solution is clear.

The no-wind problem lasted until about 18:00 when we started to get usable amounts of wind from the W.

We reduced the engine RPM's as the wind built and eventually cut Mr. Lehman out entirely.

For about 2 hours and 45 minutes we had some great beam-reach sailing. Engine off. Real sailing.

Dinner was macaroni and cheese. A morning dose of Bonine™ made it possible to work in the galley under sail to make something a little more complex than sandwiches.

Before too long, we had to restart the engine because the wind had fallen back to about nothing. We motor-sailed through the night on reefed main and stays'l.

Ship Traffic

Ship traffic at night is a bit intimidating. However, we got past the Savannah shipping lanes without too much difficulty.

Having a chart plotter integrated with the AIS receiver in the radio is a wonderful thing (thank you Standard Horizon). The chart plotter computes Point of Closest Approach. When it's less than some small number (we use 0.5nm) an alarm sounds. While motor-sailing, we can cut the motor to let the big ship go past. Pleasant. Simple.

The clouds broke open for a short while showing us a nearly full moon, stars and a quiet sea. Spectacular.

For late-night, we had a pot of hot Rice-a-Roni to help sustain a body through the chilly night watches.

Started 32°49.93′N 079°56.03′W

Motor Sailed to 31°40.289′N 080°55.995′W

Time: 17 hours. Distance: 86 nm rhumb.


Attribute Value
Depart Started 32°49.93′N 079°56.03′W
Waypoint Motor Sailed to 31°40.289′N 080°55.995′W
Time 17 hours.
Distance 86 nm
Waypoint Motor Sailed from 31°40.289′N 080°55.995′W
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

28th. Wednesday

Motor Sailed from 31°40.289′N 080°55.995′W

Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

Wind backed around to NW as we motor-sailed SW. The wind was light, but it helped push us along. The coast turned us almost S and the wind eventually backed to almost N. That was dicey sailing, but we had a preventer on the main so we didn't suffer from a damaging accidental gybe.

By dawn, we could alter course to make it a proper broad reach in 10-15 knot winds. At 10:00 we could drop the engine out of gear for another hour or so of proper sailing until the Cumberland Sound inlet.


Conditions in the inlet were "sporty". The was blowing in and the tide was ebbing out. Big, big lumpy waves.

Other boats made spectacular plunges from wave crest into trough.

Once inside the Cumberland Sound, we motored up the St. Mary's river to St. Mary's, Georgia and dropped the anchor.

No sooner is the hook set and lunch being fixed than...

The water pump is running. And running. And running.

The usual culprit is an empty tank: the pickup is just sucking air.

Last week, the starboard tank emptied; we switched to the port tank. Then CA cleaned and refilled the starboard tank.

CA cleaned all the tanks last year. But they still have plenty of Aluminum Chloride grit, so she pumped out the last 10 or 15 gallons that are below the pickup tube and then sponged up the grit at the bottom of the tank leaving it much cleaner than before.

Dinner was another variation on macaroni and cheese; this time we added some tuna. It was a large portion because the overnight sailing is rather tiring.

Time: 11 hours. Distance: 65 nm rhumb, 244 miles ICW. Total of 151 nm offshore from Charleston.


Attribute Value
Depart Motor Sailed from 31°40.289′N 080°55.995′W
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W
Time 11 h
Distance 65 nm

29th. Thursday

Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

Today's job is to explore St. Mary's. We need to replace the leaking propane hose and refill the propane tank.

The town—thoughtfully—has a large floating dock that's part of the park. Similar to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. At the floating dock we met another boater who gave us some sage advice on tying up to prevent the rubber dinghy from chafing on the oysters that grow on the pilings.

Other Boater: "Welcome to St. Mary's. New here?"

Us: "Yep. Never been here before."

Other Boater points out the important parts of the town to us. "Need to know anything else?"

Us: "Yes, actually. We need to find a propane dealer. Our tank is empty and our hose leaks."

Other Boater thinks a moment. "Get your tank. My truck's floating around over there."

Us: "What? Wait. You don't have to—"

Other Boater: "It's six miles to the nearest propane place. Too far to walk. Get your tank and hose, we'll see what we can do."

This angelic Other Boater is John F. from the S/V Steel Away. He drove us to two Ace Hardware stores, Lowe's, the Cumberland fireplace store, and a welding supply store, all in search of a proper hose that had ¼" MIF (Male Inverted Flare) on one end and a "standard" propane tank fitting on the other end. (In our case, an old-style POL fitting that really should be replaced with a new QCC/Acme fitting.)

After three hours, we had filled the little tank, but came up empty on the hose.

For three hours, he cheerfully drove us to every relevant hardware store in the greater St. Mary's area.

The fall-back plan was to find parts and rework our hose. That way we could at least have hot meals until we could order a properly made-up new hose.


John once ran a welding business. He built the Steel Away. Himself. It was not his first steel boat, either.

In his truck, he had a box of fittings used to make welding hose. He told us that welding hose would wear out and start to leak, or get burned, or dragged through hot or sharp metal. Rebuilding welding hose was part of being a welder. He found a crimp fitting that was the right diameter for our leaky hose.

Since we couldn't find any hose of the right diameter, we cut the leaky end off our propane hose. John carefully ground off the old crimp fitting so that we could extract the original ¼" IMF connector. Then he crimped that old connector on with a new sleeve. We bought him lunch.

We installed the new hose, washed it with dish soap to be sure there were no bubbles. We now have a repaired propane hose with no discernible leak. After watching him work, I'd guess that it would be good for a decade or more.

We're still going to order a replacement "Changeover Regulator Pigtail" from a national distributor of propane hoses. Mr. Heater, for example, made the original hose; it looks like their F271158-18 is a replacement. This is the chance to upgrade to an Acme nut. Maybe a Camco 59073 would be the right part.

We are again blessed by the kindness of strangers.

Dinner was a can of Trader Joe's spiced soybeans plus some kale over rice.

Tomorrow, we'll do some more exploring of St. Mary's.

I have to plan the rest of our Florida trip(s).

When we order the new propane hose, where should we have it delivered? Fernandina Beach? St. Augustine? And, of course, when should we order it? When will we be someplace to receive it? We hate to order something like this and have it shipped twice: once to our Green Cove Springs mail forwarding and then to our current location.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

30th. Friday

Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

Met the crew of Fearless, another ketch. Josh introduced himself and immediately offered us a ride if we needed it. Seriously. Just like yesterday with a different Other Boater.

We met his wife, Debbie, and chatted about ketches and sailing and St. Mary's. They suggested we look for each other later for drinks here in town.


We took a long walk around town. We stopped at Latte Da's to use the Wi-Fi and drink some cappuccino.

Tomorrow is the farmer's market. After that, we may move to an anchorage behind Cumberland Island, to be a little closer to the ocean for our trip to St. Augustine. We'll probably make a day sail to to the St. John's river (near Jacksonville). Then another day sail to St. Augustine.

On the other hand, this is a really nice place. We've met nice people from Fearless and Anthyllide. Maybe we'll stay for a while.

The weather, so far, is exciting. Exciting because of its simplicity. We've crossed the line into a different kind of weather: this:

Sunday Through Tuesday: East winds 10 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Inland waters a light chop. Isolated showers.

Sunday through Tuesday? Same weather every day? Easy beam reach down the coast?

For a hint as to why, take a look at Chesnau Marine Forecasts 500 mb prediction or the OPC 500 mb prediction. These are upper atmosphere measurements. (Average pressure at ground is 1013 mb; 500 mb is about halfway up through the atmosphere, at an altitude of about 5640 meters.) The simplified historical summary of weather is that the low-pressure cells generally follow the 564 decameter line; heavy weather will reliably stay north of the 570 decameter line. What matters is where that line wiggles and kinks to reflect rolling waves of pressure in the upper atmosphere and how this creates surface weather.

We're now below the 582 decameter line; our weather is mostly going to be slower-moving highs and lows disconnected from the train of more serious weather to the north.

[All those icons which are vaguely letter F-like are wind barbs. The body shows the direction; the number of feathers shows the wind speed. Five long barbs is 50 knot winds. Aloft. At the surface you can expect about ½ the upper atmosphere speed.]

Once we get to St. Augustine, we can order the propane hose, confident that we can pick it up from the post office or a marina. Plus, we think that Joie de Vivre will be there.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

1st. Saturday

Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W


Christmas in the Park in St. Mary's Georgia. Everyone was there. A whole-town celebration. Little kids from the dance school dressed as every kind of sugar plum. Santa. Music. Crafts. Toy donations.

Shopped at the local produce market. Ran into crews of Fearless and Anthyllide.

Lunch (and leftovers for dinner) from Shark Bite. Mac & Cheese loaded with just about everything in the kitchen. Wow.

Ran the engine for an hour to recharge the batteries.

We went back and forth on the "When do we leave?" question. The weather here is nice. The town is nice. We're hoping that Anne Teak catches up with us. We know that we'll eventually need to move south as it steadily grows chillier.

In the late afternoon, Chardonnay pulled in to the town dock. It was a double-headsail ketch, just like Red Ranger. A few feet longer, with a taller rig, but a closely related sailboat.

Also met some Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) folks, specifically, they crews of Iwanda. There's a big gam in Melbourne, FL, next week. If we wanted to be there, we'd need to pick on the pace on our southward migration.

While standing around with the other rubber-neckers, Skipper Scott called down to us that we could help lower the mast on Chardonnay tomorrow at 0800. Lower the mast on a boat without using a crane?!? How can you say no to helping with that?

Well, that answers our "stay or go?" question. We'll stay for another couple of days.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

2nd. Sunday

Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

Today was an amazing day of playing boat. We lowered the mast on Chardonnay. It doesn't go all the way down onto the deck; but it does lay back to reach the mizzen mast, making the rig 64' tall, just under the fixed bridge height on the ICW.

See the Chardonnay's Mast post for details.


For our assistance, we got paid a breakfast frittata (and fruit and excellent coffee) and got to spend the morning with Skipper Scott, Crew Scott, Fredi and Cari on Chardonnay.

I've learned a new technique called a "sheet vang" (different from a boom vang) and I'll be looking critically at Red Ranger's rig. Specifically, when I replace the mainsheet blocks, I'll be using a snap-shackles so that I can create a sheet vang to the toe rail.

Dinner the Riverside Cafe.

Our newest plan is this.

  1. Move to Cumberland Island tomorrow. This involves topping off the water, also.

  2. Explore the Cumberland Island National Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  3. Late on Wednesday (or even Thursday) afternoon, pop out into the ocean and sail (or motor-sail) overnight to St. Augustine. It's only about 10 hours, so we have to leave late in order to arrive after dawn.

The weather looks benign enough: little 10 knot wind barbs off the Florida coast. Rumor has it the sea state is rough because of the low pressure system that almost turned into a tropical storm.


We're interested in the forecast for AMZ452:

Thursday: Northeast winds 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.

Thursday Night And Friday: Northeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Inland waters a light chop. Isolated showers.

This seems to be the prevailing weather: winds from the north.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 30°43.03′N 081°33.15′W

This Week

Engine Hours: 29. Diesel Gallons: 39.2. ICW Miles: 244.

Books: finished Circle of Bones; started The Night Manager.

Read Aloud: A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire (still; it will be a while).


Attribute Value
Engine 29. h
Fuel 39.2. g
Distance 244. mi