Successful Voyage: Charleston, S.C. to Washington, D.C.


I started this voyage a year ago.  It was my intent to sail Candide from Fernandina Beach, Florida to Washington, D.C., in August of 2011.  We had a good off-shore passage from Fernandina to Hilton Head, S.C., where we had to pull in for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, the new diesel generator was not charging the batteries.  Secondly, the autopilot stopped working.

We pulled in to Tybee Roads, nearly got squashed by a container ship in the channel, and motored to Hilton Head.  There, I found out that my new generator was incompatible with my old battery charging system.  Fortunately, there was a liveaboard at the marine who worked on these issues for living, and we were able to get it fixed (I had to buy a new inverter / charger).

With the help of my good friend Mike Hill, who happens to live in Hilton Head, Candide and I continued our journey on the ICW to Charleston, S.C…where I stayed at the Charleston Harbor Marina for several months through the winter.

In May of 2012, I was anxious to continue my journey to Washington, D.C., and began posting flyers around Charleston advertising for crew.  I also posted a notice on this website.

It didn’t take long before I had 25 people volunteering to crew.  I chose Ryan Seawell for several reasons:

1.  He’s a college student (statistics and economics major) who was taking the summer off from studies.  This meant that he had a lot of time on his hands and I didn’t have to worry about getting him to Washington by a certain date and time.

2.  He knew nothing about sailing, which is great because I would be able to teach him the way I want things done.  In this respect, he was a clean slate.

3.  He agreed to a mini-voyage where we took Candide from Mt. Pleasant all the way to Charleston (about 3 miles) and anchored for several days.  This allowed us to get to know each other, and also allowed me to test all of the systems on Candide at anchor.  We did this a month before the voyage to D.C., and it worked out really well.

With the boat loaded with provisions, fuel, and water, we were ready to depart Charleston on June 11, 2012.

Day 1: June 11, 2012

12:00.  Left Charleston Harbor Marina.  Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake and underestimated the current and wind before leaving the slip.  As a result, we were blown back towards the dock.  Fortunately, the only damage that was done was to my pride (there were several people seeing us off…and so several friends got to see my less-than-smooth departure).

13:00.  Our first priority was to recommission the autopilot.  The autopilot had stopped working before I arrived in Charleston, and it had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repairs.  It turns out that there was a loose wire and a dead battery.  Once I had the autopilot “brains” reconnected to the system, the unit has to be “commissioned” by programming the computer as the boat moves around in big circles.  The Charleston Harbor is perfect for doing this.  It has plenty of open water.

17:00.  Enjoying the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean with a heading of 50 degrees.  Winds were south at 10 knots.  Beautiful evening; all is well!

Day 2: June 12, 2012

07:00.  Enjoyed first night at sea.  South winds steady at 10-12 knots.  Candide is rolling a bit as winds and waves are following.  Ryan and I are on 6-4-2 hour watches.  This means that when Ryan does six hours on watch, I get two hours off.  Then I have the helm for four hours, and Ryan gets four hours off.  Finally, I have six hours on watch, and Ryan has two hours off.  Then the cycle repeats.  In this manner, it’s possible to get six hours of straight sleep while always assuring that someone is awake at the helm.

18:00.  First squall.  Winds steady at 22 knots, gusts to 29, on a beam reach.  At one point, the GPS showed 8.1 knots.  Kept up the full mainsail, but took in the jib.

22:00.  Winds still steady at 22 knots.  Making great progress at 7 knots.

Day 3: June 13, 2012

01:00.  Because the wind has been out of the south for so long, the waves are building to 6 – 8 feet.  This has been causing us to have an uncomfortable ride, as these winds are directly off our stern.  This makes Candide roll quite a bit, and makes it very difficult to prevent the boom from jibbing.  For this reason, I’ve decided not to risk going around Cape Hatteras.  Instead, we’ll pull in to Beaufort, N.C., and continue our journey on the ICW.

05:00.  Rain, rain, rain!  Buckets and buckets of rain all night long!  In years of making passages, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much rain!  The winds are steady at 12 knots, which is usually ideal for sailing Candide.  The problem is that the wind is from the south and it is blowing the rain directly into the cockpit, which doesn’t provide any protection when the rain comes from this direction.  I put on full foul weather gear, including bibs and jacket, and sat in the cockpit for six hours during my watch.  It was cold, wet, and miserable.  I’m thankful that the autopilot has been functioning perfectly.

06:00.  Passed dozens and dozens of sport-fishing boats heading out of the Beaufort NC inlet.

08:00.  Picked up a mooring ball in Beaufort Sound directly in front of downtown.  I have never used a mooring ball before; it’s as easy as anchoring.  Just grab the floating ball and use a dock line to tie Candide to it.  Went to sleep.

08:30.  Banging on hull, accompanied by screams of “Hey!  Asshole!  You’re on my fucking mooring ball!”, woke me from my sleep.  Apparently, there are no public mooring balls in Beaufort, and I was trespassing.  After apologizing, Ryan and I moved Candide fifty feet away and dropped an anchor.  Went back to sleep.

12:00.  Outboard engine on dinghy would not start, which means that we’d have to row to shore.  Fortunately, I found a mechanic who was willing to meet me at the downtown docks and fix the engine.  As a bonus, he also showed me how to clean the carburetor, which was the source of my problem.

After the outboard was working, we explored the town of Beaufort and had lunch at a local seafood restaurant.

15:00.  We took the dinghy to Town Creek Marina to get a new fuel pickup tube, as the old one had cracked and was sucking up air instead of fuel.  They sold us new tubing and a metal fitting for $4.00!  This might possibly be the cheapest part ever purchased for any boat anywhere on the planet!

18:00.  Met our new neighbors who are anchored nearby aboard Bagdheera.  Ryan and Rebecca have just sailed from the U.S.V.I. after living there for two years.  They were quite impressed that I had a burgee from the St. Croix Marina.

Day 4: June 14, 2012

We took the day off for some much-deserved rest and relaxation.  Ryan #2 and Rebecca invited us to take our dinghies with them to Carrot Island.  We got to see plenty of wild horses running around on the beach, and Ryan #1 got a surfing lesson from Ryan #2.

I made pizza that evening for everybody.  To make the crust, I used the on-board bread machine which has a “dough” setting.  It came out really good, but I think that Ryan #2 and Rebecca were more impressed with desert…ice cream!  Having ice cream on a boat is a real treat!  I love my freezer!

We watched Captain Ron, which is a movie that Ryan #1 hadn’t seen.  I hope that Ryan #2, Rebecca and I didn’t ruin it for him by shouting out the lines.

Day 5: June 15, 2012

09:00.  Left Beaufort, N.C., with Bagdheera as our companions.  Heading north on ICW.

14:30.  Arrived Neuse River.  Winds SE 12-15 knots.

18:00.  Anchored in Broad Creek.  I made a mistake when “backing down” on the anchor.  This is a technique by which the engine is put into reverse at fairly high RPMs so that it “sets” the anchor by pulling it deeper into the mud.  My mistake was to not secure the dinghy.  As the boat was in reverse, the tender (rope) that ties the dinghy to the boat got sucked into the turbulent water and managed to get wrapped around the propeller shaft.  We tried to free it by reversing the thrust, but this only made matters worse.  I asked my trusty crew if he felt like going swimming, but his response was “not particularly.”  So, I donned my swim mask and cut the line free myself.

Day 6: June 16, 2012

09:00.  Left Broad Creek for Belhaven.

13:00.  I am not impressed with Belhaven!  There appears to be only one marina that sold fuel, but its approach looked too difficult to maneuver Candide.  So, we left Belhaven and went southwest to Pongo Creek Marina.  The good news is that they had water at the end of a t-dock.  The bad news is that the fuel dock was too close to shore for Candide to take on diesel.

We desperately needed water because we’d run bone dry.  This should not have happened, as I’d been carefully monitoring our water supply.  As it turned out, a water hose had come loose while the pump was running…so all of our fresh water had emptied into the bilge.  Not a big deal to fix, and this incident caused me to reinforce our policy of keeping the water pump OFF unless we’re actually using the faucet.

The dockmaster at Pogo Creek couldn’t have been more accommodating.  Not only did he let us tie up to the dock to get water and fix the lose hose, but he let us take showers in the bath house.  Real showers, with unlimited amounts of water, are a real treat when one has been on a boat for a week!

By way of gratitude, I gave the dockmaster an old VHF radio that I had on board.  The marina didn’t have one, as theirs was destroyed during a hurricane a couple of years ago.

16:00.  Anchored in Crabtree Bay.  Lonely anchorage; we are the only boat in this heavily wooded area.

Day 7: June 17, 2012

08:30.  Left Crabtree Bay for Elizabeth City.  Not much to see for several hours; just a 20-mile perfectly straight “ditch” called the ICW.

14:30.  Pulled in to Aligator River Marina for fuel.  Took on the following amounts:

Port Tank – 27.5 Gallons

Starboard Tank – 10.0 Gallons

Jerry Can – 5.0 Gallons

Note that the evening before, the generator ran out of diesel.  The gauge showed 42% full, which was expected as the fuel pickup line is set 4″ from the bottom of the tank.  This ensures that the generator will run out of fuel long before the boat’s engine.

16:30.  Anchored SE of Durant Island.

Day 8: June 18, 2012

08:30.  Left Durant Island for Elizabeth City.  Had a great sail across Albemarle Sound.

12:00.  Slowed to 2.5 knots.  Discovered that we were dragging three crab traps and floats.  Cut them free with a knife, and immediately picked up to 5.5 knots under sail.

16:00.  Arrived Elizabeth City, which has free dockage in the center of town.  We were met by a police officer who welcomed us to tie up.  She took our boat’s name and hailing port, and reminded us that we could stay for 72 hours.

Day 9: June 19, 2012

11:00.  Slept in!  We decided to stay in Elizabeth City for the day and check out the town.  We found out that Whole Foods (a grocery store) would send a van to pick us up for free.  We took advantage of this and went grocery shopping.  We explored the town (which truthfully only takes an hour) and took naps in the afternoon.  That evening, there were several dozen people at the park right in front of the boat to watch an old black and white film being projected onto a screen as part of the summer Film Festival.  How cool!

Day 10: June 20, 2012

09:00.  Left Elizabeth City.

10:30.  Entered the Dismal Swamp Canal.  Ryan and I were nearly eaten alive by horseflies!  I realize that it’s called a “swamp” for a reason…but holy crap!  These things were horrible!  My mother had bought an electric fly swatter for me as a gift before I left Florida.  I thought it was a weird gift, but I kept it stored down below.  I’m glad I did!  We killed dozens of horseflies with that thing…we even had a contest to see who could kill the most.  Thanks, Mom!

17:00.  Arrived at lock in Deep Creek.  We missed the last opening, so had no alternative but to tie up at the lock.  Many boaters before us had done the same, and I spent a bit of time reading the walls where they had painted the name of their boat and the date they were there.

18:30.  We were joined by Whim, a 38′ Sabre that rafted next to us.

Day 11: June 21, 2012

08:30. Left Deep Creek and went through another lock.

10:00.  Arrived in the industrial area of Portsmouth.  Not much to report.  Just hours on the water motoring through a huge military / industrial shipping complex.

17:00.  Anchored in Hampton, in front of what appears to be a large university campus.

18:30.  Major storm blew through.  Lots of rain, lightning and 25+ knots of wind.  Anchor held perfectly, though the boat swung completely around a few times.  We stayed dry down below and watched Breaking Bad on DVD.

Day 12: June 22, 2012

09:00.  Left Hampton for Chesapeake Bay.

11:00.  North winds, 10 knots.  Unfortunately, the direction of the wind was not to our favor.  We had some fun and sailed for a few hours, but eventually decided to motor after making very little northerly progress.

Day 13: June 23, 2012

05:00.  Motoring north on Chesapeake Bay.  I discovered that both forward navigation lights are not working, even though I checked them in Charleston.  This is cause for concern as other boats will not be able to see us at night.  Aft light OK.

14:00.  Fixed navigation lights.  Discovered that when I filled the jerry can with diesel and returned the can to its storage place under the vee-berth, I knocked loose the electrical wires that supply the navigation lights.  It was a simple matter to reconnect them.

16:00.  Anchored at Quantico in the Potomac.

Day 14: June 24, 2012

09:00.  Left Quantico for Washington, D.C.

16:30.  Stopped by James Creek Marina for water and fuel.  Took on water, but were told that their diesel pumps are out of service until mid-July.

18:00.  Dropped anchor in front of Gangplank Marina in downtown D.C.  

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  • Willis July 30, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I’m jealous of Mr. Seawell. Not only did he get to go on the voyage… but his name suits the life as well!

  • April 10, 2014 at 12:33 am

    I hardly leave a response, however i did some searching and wound up here
    Successful Voyage: Charleston, S.C. to Washington, D.C. |
    Sleeping With Oars!. And I do have a couple of questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Is it just me or does it look like some of the
    comments look as if they are written by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are posting at other places, I
    would like to keep up with everything new you have to post.
    Would you list of every one of all your social pages like your Facebook
    page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  • Theo leclerc July 26, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    What the heck happened to this guy. He has disappeared.

    • Capt'n Doty January 26, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      I’m still here! Have just been busy with other things. I’ll be doing a major update over the next couple of weeks…

  • Mary Ellen Caplan August 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    In reading a reply to someone’s question, he states that the boat is still in D.C. And he is in the Middle East on business as if Feb. 2914. I hope he gets back to posting soon!

  • Cindy July 13, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Greetings Capt’n Doty! We met during a stormy layover in Dulles two years ago. I lost your card but I remember your website. I’m contemplating adopting the liveaboard life. Are you still in D.C.?

    Also, do you have any book recommendations for folks learning how to sail? Nothing beats learning through doing of course, but a little adjunct reading wouldn’t hurt.

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