Sailing Adventures Along the US Southeast Coast
A sense of nervous anticipation and excitement coursed through my body, which 8 hours later turned to exhaustion as we pulled up to the security guard station at the entrance to Windmill Harbor Marina. We told the guard we had bought Gerry Solomon’s trimaran and there should be a pass for us. No such luck, but the guard let us pass anyway. I suppose we looked innocent enough with a car crammed full of supplies for our weeklong sailing adventure. We pulled into a parking spot close to the dock entrance, got out the evening’s necessary supplies and walked towards the boat. At just about 3 am, we were more tired than excited and just wanted to hit the sack. Fabio unlocked the glass entry hatch and we stepped down into our new boat. A familiar smell, the smell all boat owners are accustomed to, a humid, kind of stale air blended with the ocean’s aroma and diesel, a somehow comforting scent filling my nostrils. Home. At least for the next week. We changed and crawled into bed, rocked to sleep by the boat’s gentle dance.
We awoke to a rainy, windy Saturday morning. Great, we were just in time for tropical storm Bonnie’s arrival in Hilton Head. The first named storm of the 2016 hurricane season, off to an active start. Well, as long as she didn’t hang around too long, it was ok. We needed to get accustomed to the boat anyway, figure out where things were, how to turn on the engine and bow thruster. You know, the important things, lol. First, coffee. I opened Yelp on the iphone to search for the closest breakfast place and we soon headed out to refuel for the day ahead. Returning to the boat after breakfast, Fabio rummaged through the hatches and cabinets like a kid on Christmas morning, exclaiming, “he left the lifejackets…he left such and such tool”. I can’t believe it! What a great guy! I hadn’t seen Fabio this happy in a long time. His excitement was infectious as we took inventory and found a home for the supplies we brought.
[video width="360" height="640" m4v="http://kristinpotenti.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_6738.m4v"][/video]
[video width="1280" height="720" mp4="http://kristinpotenti.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/introducing_papitune_low_res.mp4"][/video]
Around noon Enrico, the friendly Italian boat caretaker, arrived to say hello and make sure we were getting along ok.
Enrico had maintained the boat for Gerry, keeping everything in pristine condition. On top of being a great guy, Enrico grew up in the same area of Italy as Fabio, working on beautiful wooden yachts and even captained the Gucci yacht for a number of years. The three of us worked to install the two bimini tops so Fabio and I would have a shady refuge from the relentless sun over the next week. We still planned to head out with the boat that afternoon, but Enrico advised us to check the weather again. The last he heard were calls for rain and 35 knot winds. Not something we wanted to be out in, even on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). We walked up to the marina office to find Enrico checking the weather radar with the harbormaster. Both men shook their heads and said I think you’ll be staying here tonight. You should be able to leave in the morning.” Fabio’s face fell with disappointment but accepted that it wasn’t a good idea for us to leave. “Well, we’ll have more time to get accustomed to the boat. It’s not such a bad thing,” he said, trying to be optimistic. Enrico invited us for a home cooked dinner with his wife and daughter that evening which helped to ease the blow, as we knew we would have a good time regardless.
The next morning we awoke to the same rainy, windy conditions.
Checking the weather radio and radar at the marina office, we learned Bonnie was hanging out for another day. Fabio’s optimism was fading and he said, “we should look for a flight and fly home”. I didn’t agree and replied, “let’s wait until tomorrow. If we can’t leave tomorrow then we fly home, ok?” Fabio solemnly agreed and we made a plan for the day. We continued to familiarize ourselves with the boat, picked up a few more supplies and indulged in a happy hour Bloody Mary at the soggy pool bar with a group of 30-something finance brokers on vacation. A few laughs later we briskly walked through the drizzle to the boat hoping the weather would be clear enough for our morning departure.
We still needed to christen the boat and officially name her so Fabio grabbed the Vueve we brought along for the occasion. He walked around to the bow of the boat, peeled the foil of the Vueve back, popped the cork and shook the bottle of champagne spraying the bow of the boat, “I hereby name you Papitune, he shouted laughing at the same time. Fabio poured each of us a glass of bubbly and we toasted to many adventures, good friends, Papitune and of course Papi, our French Bulldog whom the boat is named for.
[video width="960" height="540" mp4="http://kristinpotenti.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Christening-Papitune_low_res.mp4"][/video]
Planning for good weather we had scheduled a 7 am departure with the harbormaster so we climbed onboard, finished our champagne and drifted off to sleep.
We arose to clear skies and calm winds so we prepared the boat and headed towards the marina locks that led to the ICW. The tides around Hilton Head Island are regularly about 8 ft., so a lock system maintains a consistent water level in the marina to keep the boats afloat during low tide. Otherwise they sit in mud. Not a good thing. We pulled into the lock, similar to a bullpen for cattle, and the harbormaster threw each of us a line. I held the line at the bow and the young man advised me to hold on tight, don’t let the boat move back. I agreed, looked over my shoulder and saw the lock doors had closed behind us. Oh, that’s why. He slowly opened the lock doors to the vast marsh ahead of us and water poured into the lock. Five minutes later, the lock doors fully open, Papitune was at the same level as the marsh waters. Fabio pushed the throttle forward, bow thrusting to keep us heading straight through the lock and we coasted out to the marshy waters of the South Carolina ICW. We set the auto pilot and wrapped the lines around the winch to open each ama. With both amas open, like a bird whose clipped wings had finally grown out, spreading them for the first time. Fabio jumped behind the wheel taking control, and we set off on our adventure coasting over the water sparkling under the summer sun.