23 || The Gunner's Daughter
Sunday 18th May - Palm Beach to Charlston
For my part, the trip was not the resounding success I was hoping for. I felt agitated from leaving the river. I am not sure I was ready to go. This was another destination we had not experienced due to the lockdown situation and I am not sure we will return. None of these are valid reasons for my less than helpful frame of mind on the whole trip. Iain and I are a team on this voyage but I abandoned all responsibility to him. Which was not fair.
We prepared the boat for our journey, filled with fuel, leaving the river on the tail end of Storm Arthur which was no great threat to us, but was going to aid our speed.
We continued to motor for the rest of the day. We spotted our new friend Carey St Onge on his fabulous yacht Falcon 2000. The eighty foot carbon fibre Maxi, originally designed to train a crew for the 2000 America's Cup. We followed Falcon for a short time and then she was gone. Vanished into hyperdrive.
We continued lolloping along under motor while the thunderstorms were causing the wind to veer, back, drop and increase randomly. I was feeling very agitated, I went for a sleep to try to calm my mood. I did not wish to become over anxious which may bring on my sea sickness. When I woke, I was still a little off kilter. However, my mood lifted when a tiny little bird settled on the boat staying with us until she felt refreshed. It is a wonder to me how something so small can find the strength to battle the elements, flying so far from land especially when there were thunderstorms forming all around us. Twice, the wind was so strong, she was blown off the boat and had to fight with every fibre of her tiny body to get back to safety. As I watched her struggle to return, I felt a slight empathy and connection with her. But was happy when she felt sufficiently refreshed to leave us. We continued under engine but keeping an eye on the menacing clouds.
By 19:00 the weather settled so we hoisted the main and jib. I went to bed enjoying only the sound of the water rushing past the hull. The boat was happy. Towards the end of my off-watch I awoke with a fright. Iain was clambering in the dark on the deck above me putting a reef in the main while the boat was moving extremely fast in 30 knots of wind.
I was angry. In fact, I was in a rage. This is not a pleasant sight. Countless times I have told Iain he cannot leave the cockpit in the dark when I am not there. It frightens me. What if he fell in while I was asleep and I did not wake until my next watch? He never listens. He thinks I am ridiculous not to trust him. I stayed on deck until I had calmed down and I was sure he was not going to leave the cockpit again.
At midnight we changed watches. All was going well. I was happy with the reef. The wind was still strong but steady. We were cutting through the waves towards our destination. All was well.
Tuesday 19th May 11:00am - 248nm completed
During Iain’s watch the wind had dropped and the reef removed. By mid morning Iain was definitely frustrated. We only had 119 nautical miles to reach our destination. At our present speed, it was just too far to reach Charleston in daylight. We would have to slow down considerably to arrive at daybreak the following morning.
Luckily, the wind dropped as predicted. The sea became incredibly flat and we started to motor as slowly as we could. I was still feeling unsettled. To keep us both busy, we commenced housekeeping duties. It was so calm, I ventured below to make lunch. A triumphant first under passage for me!
I turned the washing machine and water maker on and we washed the salt from the topsides and fittings. We listened to some more of my book and I slept again. The day passed. Watches were rotated.
Iain was on watch while I slept. I was nervous going to bed. If the wind increased, would he go on deck again? He did not. I took over my watch at midnight. All was going well. At 01:00, we passed One Huston, a very large containership which I kept an eye on. As my watch progressed the shipping traffic was increasing. We were approaching the entrance to the Ashley River, heading towards Charleston.
At 03:00, I wrote the log, intently watching the monitor as the number of supertankers were increasing, all converging in front of us to enter the harbour. I checked distances and speed to ensure we had safe passage. I felt in total control. However, this was not my finest hour.
I fell asleep. I do not know how it happened. I was concentrating on the monitor. I was trying to do my very best so Iain would be able to sleep until the end of my watch. The next time I was conscience was at 03:23 when Iain tapped me on the shoulder . He was very kind. He asked me if I was feeling well. The monitor was awash with supertankers in all sorts of positions. I scurried away to Sophia’s cabin, without completing my watch or following the correct procedures for conducting a proper watch hand-over. Iain took control.
The VHS was busy with ships contacting each other and us as we entered the narrow channel into Charleston harbour. I think Iain enjoyed the excitement and the challenge.
At about 06:00 Iain woke me to experience the sight of us entering the channel past Fort Sumter where the American Civil War started. The water was full of containerships and fishing boats all seemingly travelling at full speed with purpose and direction while we slowly weaved our way in. After a few attempts we found a good spot to anchor.
There followed some very heavy showers which was perfect timing. The showers cleaned the topsides again and gave us an excuse for breakfast and a power nap. Both the Nap and the rain lasted for several hours.
When we were both refreshed, Iain felt we should discuss my grave misdemeanour. We talked about the incident of my momentary lack of concentration. If this was a Naval frigate, I would be in serious trouble. At very least, I could be dismissed from the service. My defence was:
- There was no proof I had been asleep for one or 23 minutes.
- We had not caused any obstructions.
- Had we put ourselves or any other vessels in danger, someone would have radioed which would cause us both to wake.
As I could see it. No damage had been done. We should draw a line under the incident and move on. Iain felt we should investigate the correct punishment handed out in the Navy to ascertain the seriousness of my offence.
Iain concluded, on this occasion, the punishment as listed in the 1957 act, was not suitable. We could not fly any crew out to replace me. Then he remembered the old Naval punishment dealt out in the 1800’s. Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter. Yes, this was the one! Charleston is full of military history. There are several military stations dotted along the coastline, including the Naval Weapons Unit. We would go ashore in search of an eligible Daughter of any Gunner and hope she had a sister!