Captain Chris Yacht Services, our long-time friend and now our training captain. Along with the glass of wine went the official "naming ceremony" for the boat.
In order to properly name a boat which previously had a different name, there is also an official "de-naming" ceremony, to ensure that Neptune is appeased. That must be carried out after all vestiges of the former name have been removed from the vessel, but before the new name has been affixed. And so it was that we held the ceremony while Wes-the-sign-guy was in between removal of the old name and application of the new one. As it happens, Matt from Deltaville Boatyard, whom we had met at Trawler Fest, was also aboard for an inspection on his way home to Deltaville, Virginia, and he snapped some photos of the ceremony, which he was kind enough to share with us. Yes, that is a bottle of decent champagne, and, no, we did not get to drink any. Neptune gets all of it. On a humorous note, when I popped the cork it sailed two docks over and landed on another boat in the marina.
Getting all four of us aboard for that first night was something of an achievement, but we still had a mountain of work ahead of us to get ready for this cruise. I needed to get enough tools onto the boat to handle any problems that might arise, and we had to have the galley fully equipped and provisioned to provide three squares a day for the three of us. I had to find and organize our charts, study the route and anchorages, and figure out how to work the chartplotters.
Chris arrived just after lunch Friday, while we were still getting it all squared away. Earlier in the day I had raced over to River Supply, next door to Thunderbolt Marine, to get three current combination flares (the extensive flare kit, including Very pistol, we found aboard was fully expired) and a 1/2" chain hook to fashion an anchor snubber, but they did not have this latter item. So after a tour of the boat and inspection of all the systems and safety equipment, we decided to try Home Depot after going out for a final restaurant meal ashore at Tubby's, also in Thunderbolt, in Chris' rental car.
The largest chain hook we could find at Home Depot was 3/8", so we settled for a conventional hook that we though night work. It did slip off the anchor chain once, as the tide went slack, but we reattached it with a zip-tie to keep it from slipping, and the bridle has held nicely all afternoon.
This morning we were up early to take advantage of the spring tide, which was +8' or so at high tide. We left on the ebb, though, as we spent nearly an hour on the dock learning how to hand-line the boat out of a tight situation. We had a favorable wind, though, and left our very dicey slip with no trouble at all. Once out of the marina we proceeded to Thunderbolt, where we bought the boat and where we had just been the previous evening for dinner. It's a much longer trip by boat, but we needed the stop because we had to avail ourselves of the waste pump-out. The pump-out and fuel dock was not at all busy, especially for a pleasant Saturday, and after pumping out we asked the dockmaster if we could do some touch-and-gos at the dock. So Louise and I each got to do three landings and take-offs from the dock, with the other handling the lines. It felt great to successfully dock the boat, but I know we once again had very favorable winds, and we have many more challenging dockings ahead of us.
After an hour or so at the Thunderbolt docks, we proceeded north up the Intracoastal Waterway. We cleared the bascule bridge north of US-80 without needed an opening, although we did lower the HF antennas and held our breath. We managed to cross the Savannah River in very light traffic, leaving Georgia behind. By the time we crossed the river the tide was just a couple of hours from low, and the low today was -0.8'. Yes, that's below Mean Low Water. Unfortunately, the next stretch is a narrow cut between two rivers, and there is a bar at each end. And I don't mean the kind that serves margaritas. With the constraint of our 6' draft, we made a sécurité call on the radio before entering the cut, so any southbound barge traffic preparing to enter the cut at the other end would know we were in there.
We crossed the south bar without incident, even though we briefly saw 5'6" flash on the depth sounder. I have to say it was a tense moment and Captain Chris was the only one of the three of us who looked calm. Once in the cut the water deepened to well over the 12' nominal navigation channel. Now, when I called Chris to ask for his help and tell him the insurance company would not let us drive the boat until he "signed us off," he said "sure, just so long as signing you off does not mean I am saying you won't run the boat aground in Georgia -- because you will."
I'm sure he was right, but, in fact, we were not in Georgia but rather already in South Carolina when we did run aground, on the north bar of the cut, where it meets the Wright River. Fortunately the depth sounder did its job and we were at dead slow when it happened, but nerve-wracking nonetheless. Once again, Chris was the calm instructor, and we backed off the bar with little drama. It turned out the navigable water was right against the east shore, and we made it across on our second attempt. Chris assures us that this is normal for the area, and he called it "feeling your way through." He's done this stretch of water perhaps a hundred times, but the channels are constantly moving. He was also very reassuring about the robustness of our thick-keeled steel boat.
Between the hand-lining, the pumpout, the docking practice, and the grounding, we were nearly at dead low tide when we arrived here at the anchorage, and we decided to make it a short day, stopping before 2pm. That gave us the afternoon to drop the tender in the water for the very first time, and get it running. Once we had the dinghy launched we used it to go re-secure the make-shift anchor snubber and then run about and take pictures of Vector at anchor.
After dinner we spent an hour or so trying to coax the chartplotters into giving us the displays we want under way, and now we are bushed. Louise, who has some of the photos, is already in bed, and so the post will linger until the morning when she can add a couple to it before publishing. I'll be turning in myself in a few minutes, after one last check of the anchor swing on the plotter log.