The Duchess Speaks About Stormy Days

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Monday, April 24, 2017
Georgetown, South Carolina

What a day this was. We woke up to dark clouds hovering over Charleston, which we had left behind at noon yesterday.

“Let’s turn on the weather channel” was Elmar’s suggestion.

They reported thunderstorms all day with heavy rain and flooding. Charleston had a special flood warning, because it had a higher than normal tide on top of the expected 4-6 inches of heavy rainfall during the thunderstorms. They had also mentioned a couple more areas. Of course, we did not know whether they were north or south of our location.

There had been a Canadian boat at this anchoring spot when we arrived the previous evening, Volup-te, 23D, but they had left at 0800, one hour before we did. At first, I thought we might stay, because the weather report said the thundershowers would be over by 1100. But Elmar’s suggestion made sense:

“Right now we have high tide, so we better take advantage of it.”

He was right, as always, because after a few hours we motored across an area with no water under the keel, even now, shortly after high tide.  If we had waited, even a bit longer, we would never have made it through there. The tides here are more than five feet.  There were several spots like that throughout the day. Yes, Pastor Roy was right, South Carolina was our problem, as well as Georgia.

The sky ahead looked much brighter than the dark sky behind us, at first. Then it seemed to close in all around us until it started to rain and it was dark gray everywhere.

I went below to dig out our rain gear. The light wind jacket would no longer do. Elmar would need his heavy duty, Eddie Bauer turquoise heavy weather gear to stay dry. Same with me. We donned our Tilley hats, secured them on our head and were ready for the elements.

And down it came. At first, a little drizzle, hardly noticeable.  Then the dark clouds overtook us. We no longer were heading into the bright areas of the sky. There weren’t any anymore. All at once, the heavens opened, and huge raindrops were bouncing off the water surface.  The wind increased dramatically, I saw the gusts rushing across the water surface and hit us.  Even without any sails up the boat heeled.

We were not in any danger, because we were in these very narrow channels that had been cut through the marshes to eliminate the countless curves in the rivers that were used for the ICW, but it could still push us into the very shallow edges of these areas.

At one point, visibility was almost zero. The new electronic gadgets nowadays sure make it a lot easier to navigate than 18 years ago. The chart is on the screen right in front of you. It shows every buoy, deep and shallow water and gives you a course line to follow. Elmar and I found it a tremendous help. But it doesn’t know everything.

At this point in the story I was interrupted and can’t remember what I was getting to. But it doesn’t matter.

We decided to anchor in Georgetown, SC, same as 18 years ago. Well, it looked different with marinas and condos and commercial fishing docks. Elmar remembered the ugly, old factories across from the harbour, I didn’t. It stank; these factories still did not filter out the stuff they send up their smoke stacks. We wiggled our way in through the depth and finally anchored.

We were too close to other boats: Elmar decided to re-anchor. We reversed a little. He threw the anchor in again. He came back to the cockpit:

“The anchor chain is jammed.”

He started down the four stairs into the boat to get to the inside of the anchor locker at the bow to untangle the chain.

I was watching him from behind the wheel. He stepped, backwards, onto the first of the stairs going down. The next instant I saw him flying backwards, down into the boat. The stairs are steep. The galley counter is on the left, the navigation table on the right, the dining table, opened up, straight ahead, with a three-foot distance between every piece. He is 6 feet tall.

I screamed and ran to the stairs.

I saw him, motionless, lying in that small space, not moving, not reacting to my scream – nothing. It was the most terrifying sight of my life!

What to do? I wanted to go down there and help him. I didn’t know if the anchor was secure enough in the mud. Was there a current here? We fought a 3 knot current all the way here! There was hardly any room between the other boats. I didn’t want our boat to bump into other boats. I didn’t care about any of that. Elmar looked unconscious! I couldn’t move or lift him; I didn’t know how badly he was hurt; he didn’t move, so I yelled: “Help”.  H E L P, HE FELL DOWN THE LADDER!!!

One boater close by just happened to be working on his dinghy. He rowed over, and tried to climb over our swim ladder, which was still up. He was not too nimble and got his foot caught in between the swim ladder and the stanchion, while his other foot was sliding off our wet boat cushion. He was too stiff to be able to lift his foot just one more inch over the ladder. I started to see two patients on my hands. I was beside myself.

Elmar came to, figured out how to extricate himself out of that 3 square feet of space and was not too pleased that I asked for help and what is that fellow doing here anyway?

“I am fine, there is nothing wrong with me.”

“Did you hurt yourself? Did you hit your head?”

“No, I didn’t hit my head, my neck just hurts.”

“Of course you hit your head; I see a bloody spot the size of a nickel right there!”

“No, I think my neck got twisted when I hit something with my head.”

Ronny, the other guy, went back to his boat and Elmar insisted he was alright. I sure hope so!

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