OK, it’s not really the age of sail except for a few of us die-hards. But for years now, for us, vacation travel has meant sailing someplace different. Some years, that has meant Newfoundland, or Bermuda, or even Iberia or West Africa. This year, since I had summer and fall teaching assignment, we had less time, so we sailed the boat south to Charleston, SC.
We are comfortable sailing offshore now, just the two of us. The great thing about traveling by sailboat is the vacation release starts as soon as you cast off your lines and separate from land, even if the first four hours are spent tacking down the Hudson in the dark. Sure beats the traffic jam out to the Cape, or the (gasp) insidious horrors of (high carbon) air travel. And once you sail out into the ocean, you are in a world apart, with whales, dolphins, flying fish, soaring seabirds, green flashes at sunset, and the last place unreachable by high speed internet.
The sail down south was all upwind, but we had no major storms or gales. The first three days were a little tedious with strong, contrary winds and pounding seas and spray. Then we reached Cape Hatteras, the wind went calm, and we had to motor to get around the cape against the Gulf Stream. The next four days were pleasant sailing against light winds. Each day we celebrated our noon becalming with a swim. On the last night at sea we hove to for a severe thunderstorm, but it passed with only thirty knot winds.
Charleston was lovely, and exotic for us northerners. Colorful colonial buildings remind us of some Caribbean destinations, the food was great (local shrimp and grits in season) , the locals friendly. We rode our bikes to tour downtown, and we also rode across the Ravenel bridge to go to the ocean beach on Sullivan’s Isle, returning via the Fort Sumter ferries.
We took our boat up the Wando River to have it hauled until next March, when we plan to return for more sailing adventures. We then treated ourselves to one night of air conditioned luxury at the Inn at Middleton Place, adjacent to the restored formal gardens at Middleton Place, and horseback riding on the grounds. Did I mention the ibis and the alligators?
Getting back to New York without blowing what’s left of my carbon budget was a challenge. We considered renting a car one way, but settled on Amtrak coach seats for a 13-hour overnight run to Newark (the day train was cancelled for track work). We considered getting a sleeper room, but once you do that, our share of the train’s carbon footprint goes way up, and you might as well fly. We had no trouble sleeping once the two-year old across the aisle stopped screaming. Amtrak coach seats are nothing like airplane coach seats — there is ample legroom and the actually recline a long way.
Total carbon impacts for the trip was about 480 pounds of CO2 per person – about a quarter of a ton. This includes about 8 gallons of diesel we burned to get away from the dock in Nyack, around Cape Hatteras against the Gulf Stream, and into Charleston Harbor. It also includes the train trip back north, and the Uber rides to get to Middleton, and to get home. And yes, four people in a car could have made the same trip with about the same per person carbon footprint, even without the offshore sailboat.