We left Charleston with a forecast of North to North East winds, 10 to 15 knots, Friday through Sunday.
The sail started out great. It was sunny and warm. We had all the sails up and we were making great time. At sunset we were listed by a large pod of dolphins.
Then a few hours after dark the weather changed dramatically. The wind and the wave started picking up, and they didn’t stop. The weather buoys off Charleston and Savannah were reporting winds of 55 mph and waves as high as 17 feet. The updated forecast had the wind staying strong for days, so we ran for shore, 8 hours away.
We pounded into the waves all night. Wave after wave swept over the boat. Multiple times the rail of the boat submerged so far that the blower vent for the engine would be underwater. For that reason I was regularly checking the bilge to make sure the pumps were keeping up.
Every so often we would slam into a wall of water that would cause the whole boat to shudder and come to a complete stop.
It was starry out, and the moon was bright. Not a cloud in the sky, but the spray from the waves made it seem like it was raining. We were being blasted by thick drops, blown by the 40 mph winds. It was hard to see where we were going. Every time we looked ahead our eyes were strung by the spray. The windchill dropped into the 30's, and hypothermia became a concern.
The experience was like riding a bull sideways with a blindfold on while being sprayed by a hose and shot at by paintball guns. Despite all the discomfort, we both began to dose off. We hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before due to storms. Every few minutes the jolt from a large wave would wake us up.
Then things got worse.
The waves knocked out our navigation lights. The navigation lights are designed to let other boats know where we are, and which way we are headed. We were left with only our masthead light as we came into the busy commercial port of Savannah.
We were surrounded by huge container ships. The closer we got to the Savannah channel, the closer these boats got to us, until we were within a few hundred feet of these giant boats. For the most part we were able to steer clear, though there was one time we came very near to being run down by a pilot boat. We had a powerful spot light we would flash at the boats to make them aware of our position. Our calls to the large ships on VHF channels 9 and 16 were not answered. In hindsight, I should have called the coastguard to make them aware of our situation.
We finally made it into Savannah and dropped the anchor at the first available spot. We passed out in our bed that was soaked with salt water. We hadn't slept in nearly 36 hours.