Feeling Christmasea

channel marker buoy and pelican at dawn on the ICW

Christmas Day Traditions

Even when family is far away, you gotta get up early Christmas morning. This year, our only wish was to catch the outgoing tide for a cruise down the river to the sea. The forecast was for sun, 75 degrees and no wind. Since we haven’t yet replaced the sails we took off when Matthew was on his way up the coast, wind was of no interest to us anyway, we would be a stinkpot for the day.

I called the bridge to make sure they’d open for us on this auspicious holiday. I think I woke the bridge tender, but I wished him Merry Christmas and he seemed relatively happy to have an excuse to get up and fool with the mechanical toys.

Gifts

With power disconnected and everything ready, I was about to haul the dink around to her towing position when Tom said, “do you want to bring your kayak aboard?”

I’d noticed a kayak laying on the dock and wondered who left it there. I’d also seen Tom looking at kayaks lately. We’ve talked for months about getting either kayaks or paddle boards, but with all that input I didn’t put two and two together. My caffeine had not yet kicked in.

Grunting and struggling, I hefted the bright green, 35 lb kayak on deck and Tom strapped it to one of the forward stanchions. Then I jumped to the helm and pulled us off the dock at 7 AM, just as it was light enough to see well. The tide was slack, and there were no boats at the docks around us so the exit was easy and smooth. I was so excited.

This Christmas Cruise was not going to be like our last one. The one that saw us racing south along the New Jersey coast trying to get south before the ice pinned us down in New England. This was just a fun jaunt to make the holiday special and take our clean, freshly painted, and zippy little boat for a relaxing spin. Now, with the addition of the kayak, we could also paddle at sea for the first time.

Payoff for a month of hard work

Sunshine spent November in the boatyard getting sanded, polished, repaired and painted. With her sleek new bottom she went like a bat out of hell on the outgoing tide, nearing 9 knots speed over ground. Her hull speed is 6 knots with no current. But we almost never manage to catch water going a favorable direction. All up and down the coast, we’ve battled three knot currents through narrow cuts and slogged up rivers against the outgoing tide. To plan for and hit the tide right is a wonderful thing. A trip that has previously taken four or five hours swept by in two and a half.

Shorts and flip flops for Christmas

The ocean was smooth, with big wide rollers barely visible until they lifted us high. Now and then a steeper wave sent Sunshine climbing and diving, for a change of pace. There was not wind, only gulls and pelicans and dolphins and warm sun.

The one negative feature was fog. Right around us seemed clear, and we never had less than a mile visibility, but had to keep an eye on all horizons and an ear tuned for motors, just in case a bigger, faster boat came barreling along and didn’t see us in the mist.

At the sea buoy PR we turned east and headed further out, then cut the engine and drifted on the current. Tom deployed the kayak for me and I set off for my first sea kayaking adventure.

Christmas kayak bliss

Once separated from the bigger boat, I could see much better the size of the swells that were lifting Sunshine and tossing her back and forth. After paddling around for half an hour or so, trying to get a picture or video that would do the scene justice I remembered that the last time we came out the Port Royal inlet a giant manta ray jumped out of the water off our port bow. I headed back to give Tom his turn in the kayak.

kayak framed in sailboat stanchions

Hot shirtless kayak guy had been all over my case when I tried to bring the little boat up to the stern of the big one and failed again and again as the current pushed me by too fast. I’d finally come at the swim platform from the other direction and been successful. Now I was gratified to watch him try the stern docking maneuver and be repelled the same way I had been. He pronounced that there was some kind of force pushing the two hulls apart, like magnets with their polarities misaligned. He gave up, came alongside and grabbed the gunwale instead, and that was a serious error. Where previously he’d had the horizon in his sight, now he saw only hull as the two vessels jostled on the waves and just like that, his seasickness switch flipped. He could barely get back aboard, he felt so bad. I fed him candied ginger and he nibbled on whole grain crackers. Dang, I’d forgotten to stock saltines.

The seas were picking up, Tom felt like shit, and the tide was turning. It was time to head back in. He drove, because when you’re seasick that’s the only way to maintain control, and I started making lunch. By the time we’d anchored in Station Creek all motion had ceased and Tom felt much better. Lounging in the cockpit we ate Grilled Caprese, glorified grilled cheese sandwiches made with Italian bread, mozzarella cheese, tomato and fresh basil inspired by Joey Tomatoes. Meanwhile Sunshine parked herself sideways across the creek, as is her habit when wind and current are opposed.

grilled caprese sandwich

After a little Holiday sNog, we raised anchor and headed home. Leaving Station Creek at 3:15 we made it back to Lady’s Island Marina at 5:15. Running with the tide again, but with some wind on the nose we made about 7.7 knots all the way.

We are speed demons.

Happy Holidays!

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