Friday, October 29, 2010

Southport to Beaufort, SC - 10/29/2010

Southport, NC to Beaufort, SC: October 17 – 27, 2010

  • 10/19/2010 Southport, NC to Calabash, SC - 28 NM

  • 10/20/2010 Calabash Creek to Myrtle Beach, SC – 10 NM

  • 10/21/2010 Myrtle Beach, SC to Butler's Island, Waccamaw River, SC – 38 NM

  • 10/22/2010 Butler's Island, SC to South Santee River, SC – 32 NM

  • 10/23/2010 South Santee River, SC to Dewees Creek, SC – 31 NM

  • 10/24/2010 Dewees Creek, SC to Charleston, SC – 13 NM

  • 10/26/2010 Charleston, SC to Tom's Point Creek, SC – 37 NM

  • 10/27/2010 Tom's Point Creek to Beaufort, SC – 37 NM

          • Total Miles: 330

Smugglers...We! Southport Revisited:

I need to backup...and this story takes a bit of twist and turn and needs a little explanation so bare with me. On the way down the Cape Fear River to Southport a crown came off one of my teeth so a trip to the dentist was mandatory. With the help of the dockmaster at Southport Marina and a couple of phone calls I was set up for a late visit on Monday to put the crown back where it belonged.

While waiting (there is always a wait) for the dentist I got to talking to Karen, the medical assistant manning the desk. She asked what I “did?” Being gainfully unemployed and fully “retarded” and sensing an opportunity for a story I told her, “I was a smuggler.” She gave me a confused look and took the bait.

Seven Seas Cruising Club for years has worked a deal with school book manufactures to collect their school book over runs and last years leftovers and distribute them to cruisers headed for the Bahamas. Us cruisers quietly “sneak” them past Bahamian Customs in guise of “ships stores.” Then ferry the contraband ashore in our dinghies into the open arms of the schoolmarms in the Exumas, Raggeds, or other “Out Islands.” Bahamian Customs charges a 40% import fee for goods, schoolbooks included, so we Cruiser not only save them the cost of the books but the import fee. This year Gigi's Island will have 8 boxes of books aboard bound for Black Point Settlement in the Exumas. So I guess that technically makes Gigi and I “Smugglers.” Karen laughed and about that time the dentist was ready for Old Vic.

After the crown was put in it's proper place and I was paying the bill Karen reached behind the desk and handed me a big bag of toothbrushes with a large toothbrush that is used to teach kids how to “brush” included all tied up with a bow – must have been a couple of 100 in the bag. She smiled and said, “Now I'm a “Smuggler” too. There are a lot of good people in this world.

October 19 – 27, 2010:

Not all that wander are lost” JRR Tolkien

We eased our way down the last North Carolina steaches of the ICW. Through Lockwood's Folly. Through Shallotte Inlet and, for the last time, through the pontoon bridge that connects Sunset Beach to the mainland. Sunset Beach bridge will be a highrise in the spring. For those of you that want to see up close and personal what some of the stimulus money is doing you need only look to the ICW. During the Bush administration the ICW and it's infrastructure had been almost totally neglected.

Lock Folly and Shallotte Inlet were dreaded by all cruisers and almost impassable. To the point that the Corp of Engineers were thinking of giving up on Shallotte and pulling the marks. Today both inlets have been dredged and you almost never pass a bridge anywhere on the whole length of the ICW from Norfolk to Miami that is not undergoing some from of maintenance.

We spent the night anchored in Calabash Creek, SC, with one state behind us... but just barely. South Carolina is my favorite area of the Waterway (once past Myrtle Beach), but Myrtle Beach was special this year. We made a short run from Calabash to Barefoot Landing Marina in North Myrtle where Buddy Bulow, friend of mine from my previous life with NC DAQ, picked us up and took us to CAPCA (Carolina's Air Pollution Control Association's semi-annual meeting). I've always wanted to stop on my way down the Waterway and “smooze” with my old work life friends and today was the day. It was even better than I had hoped. A work life may have an end point but friends are forever... Forever.

Just South of Myrtle Beach is the Waccamaw River. The Waccamaw is an old, meandering, cypress, lined river. It is a beautiful river to run at this time of year. “Gigi's Island” feels like “African Queen” as she snakes her way through the cypress and lilly pad lined water. Life here has her own rhythm - it is old, it is slow, it is comfortable. Here even the “Island” feels the difference. She eases into a rhythmic Chug-a-lug-a-lug-a, Chug-a-lug-a-lug-a – a steady, strong, and confident feel. Like the River herself.

We anchor behind Butler Island with the island on one side and old abandon rice plantations on the other. Then settle in for a spectacular sunset and moonrise. The cypress that line the island's shore light up like torches of red and brilliant orange...and then the full moon rises with the sun's Autumn colors still splashing the trees.

The Waccamaw empties into Winyah Bay, a big open bay that leads to the ICW and the start of the “low country” of South Carolina – marsh as far as the eye can see with a spider web of life giving creeks and rivers that connect it to the Atlantic. We wind our way thru creeks and man made cuts over the next 2 days and anchor in Dewees Creek just north of Charleston, SC.

Dewees Creek is my favorite anchorage on the ICW. You are surrounded by a sea of grass deep in a salt marsh. Twice daily you rise and fall with the heartbeat of the tides. Dolphin fish the shoreline for their supper. Shore birds of all species wade the shallows in their constant search for food. Fishermen pass a leisurely day taking an occasional red drum or trout. There was even a professional photographer that shows up with a ladder to photograph the marsh as it catches fire at the dieing sun as it paints the saw grass with reds, oranges, and golds. I'm reminded of a quote from “Education of Little Tree.” Little Tree's Granddad would take him up on the ridge to watch the morning break clear on their mountain. He would always quietly, reverently, and in hushed tones say to Little Tree when the sun broke the ridge “She's coming alive.” The marsh does too afire with the splendor of the Fall.

Charleston is well...Charleston. We spend a couple of days at Charleston Maritime Center in the company of fellow cruisers including the “Liberty Clipper” out of Boston whose crew were having more fun than the law should allow.

Then we headed South again. Through Wappoo Creek and Elliott's Cut. Down the Stono River. Winding our way though a series of cuts, rivers and creeks with names like Toogoodoo, Steamboat, Dawho, Ashepoo, and Coosaw. This like most of lower South Carolina is an area of the low country that is remote and beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful places, we are currently at anchor in Beaufort, SC, waiting weather for our jump off shore to Fernandina Beach, FL.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic Copelan

PS – As most of you know Gigi's daughter-in-law, Kristen, is not so patiently waiting the birth of triplets – two boys and a girl. She has been in and out of the hospital for the last few days but is currently home..waiting. Due date? Any minute.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Away At Last - Oct. 18, 2010

Away: October 14 - 18, 2010

10/14/2010 Matthews Point to Cedar Ck, NC – 9.3 nm

10/15/2010 Cedar Ck to Mile Hammock's Bay, NC – 51 nm

10/16/2010 Mile Hammock's Bay to Wrightsville Beach, NC – 34 nm

10/17/2010 Wrightsville Beach to Southport, NC – 24 nm

Total Miles to Date: 118 nm

10/14/2010: Away

Between thunderstorms, we took in the dock lines on Gigi's Island at 10:57 and were officially last. After months of preparation, and months of stowing stuff in nooks and crannies, and months of moving stuff off Oconee ,and re-stowing it on the Island the boat was full to the bursting point and we were beyond ready.

I like to make the first day a short one and Cedar Creek is only 9 miles away and just the ticket. And today, it was not only the “ticket” it was a must. Just after we anchored a 30 knot squall hit dumping buckets of rain and enough wind to set our big Rocna anchor deep and secure. That anchor has never failed me and I sleep well at night because of it. After the storm the Island and her crew settled in, read, listened to a little music, and enjoyed our first “sumdowners” of the voyage.

Short days are a real treat...

10/15 – 16/2010: Cedar Ck./Mile Hammock's Bay/Wrightsville Beach:

Folk have asked me what it is like to travel down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)? Perhaps it is easer to tell you what it is not like. It is not like driving a car.

First, you are operating in three dimensions not two – depth is a key ingredient here. The ICW is well marked but not well maintained. Depths on the ICW are supposed to be maintained to a minimum depth of 12 feet. In this economy that almost never happens. Both Oconee and Gigi's Island draw 5.5 feet of water so the “prudent skipper” is always looking for water deep enough to float his boat and there are no clues except the depth sounder because the water is a murky brown/green. No we have not run aground yet but we have seen 6 inches under the keel. However, the trip ain't over and our time will come – some places on the ICW there is nothing for it but to wait for high tide.

Speaking of ICW marks... The aids to navigation can throw you a curve. ICW marks are unique. They are always red marks on the right hand side going South with green on the left. Normal rule for navigational marks is “Red on right coming in from sea.” For example: coming in an inlet or going up a river or creek the channel buoys are red on right and green left. So... you are calmly headed down the ICW and you come to a river or inlet. Guess what? The colors can switch and red is now on the left. Sort of like driving down the road and the rules change. Now you are supposed to drive on the left not the right side with the added benefit of being solidly aground in a NY minute. How does one tell the difference between ICW and regular marks one might ask? Little yellow squares and triangles painted on the marks...and careful attention to your charts.

All this to say it “ain't like driving a car” and you never ever can just “drive.” Attention is require 100% of the time. Thus...short days and sundowners are good. Especially the sundowners!

Houses: Mile Hammocks Bay to Carolina Beach

I've ran this section of water on the ICW from Mile Hammocks Bay to Carolina Beach many times now and am always struck by the diversity of homes on this stretch of water. If you like houses this is your section. There are stately houses with lawns and columns to match, tall houses, squat houses, thin houses, pourched houses, ones with widow's walks, old houses, new houses, ostentatious houses, gaudy houses, beachy houses, clapboarded houses, and shabby houses, green ones, brown ones, pink ones (Gigi likes pink ones), every color of the rainbow ones and yes, just plain butt ugly ones. There are even some ordinary ones but not “ordinary” (read cheap) enough for me to own.

The thing about the ICW is it is almost never a bore if you open your eyes and heart and enjoy the ride. Around every bend in the channel is something new to enjoy and see. Every year it is just a little different and a lot of fun.

We are currently in Southport, NC and will be headed out of here tomorrow morning for Calabash Ck, NC, and then on to Mrytle Beach, SC. I used to belong to CAPCA (Carolina's Air Pollution Control Association) back another life. Every year they meet once in Asheville and once in Myrtle Beach. I've always wanted to stop by on my way South and “smooze” with my old friends. This year is the year.

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic Copelan

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