Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cedar Creek to Dewees Creek: 2011

Cedar Ck to Dewees Ck, South Carolina: 10/20-27/2011

10/20/2011 Cedar Ck. To Morehead City Yacht Basin: 16nm

10/21/2011 Morehead City to Mile Hammock's Bay: 37nm

10/22/2011 Mile Hammock's Bay to Wrightsville Beach: 35nm

10/24/2011 Wrightsville Beach to Southport Marina: 23nm

10/25/2011 Southport Marina to Barefoot Landing, SC: 39nm

10/26/2011 Barefoot Landing to Butler Island, Waccamaw River: 38nm

10/27/2011 Butler Island to Dewees / Long Ck: 52nm

Total Miles To Date: 248nm

Things that Go “Bump,” Skinny Water,” and Nature's Beauty....

With the rising sun, the tide began to spill over into the marsh bring life giving water to the shallow ponds of the interior. The sun meant warmth to the caldrons of life within the marsh. The sun's first rays also meant “beauty” as she painted the marsh with her colors of reds, magentas and golds. Fishermen glided thru the marsh in waders in pursuit of “red fish” as their fellow anglers enjoyed their pursuit by boat. A barge came to a complete stop in the ICW and a six pronged buck bounded up the bank and sprang thru the shallows with falls of water streaming off his hoofs. Flocks of white ibis etched against the green of the marsh settled into the dark treed islands. Trees that now sparkled like peaceful Christmas trees with “white ornaments” as the ibis settled in for a roost before returning to forage on the turn of the tide. This is a place of peace. A place for quite reflection. My place – Dewees's Creek.

We are anchored in Long Creek actually, a small tidal creek off Dewees Creek, within 15 miles of downtown Charleston. Yet it feels like a you are in complete isolation from the hustle and bustle of modern life. This is perhaps our favorite anchorage on the whole ICW and Oconee can not pass it by without at least one night here. Our plans are to stay a couple of days before moving on to Tom's Point Creek for a visit with Diane & Matt Zender, the people that sold me Oconee 14 years ago. But I guess I've gotten a little ahead of myself....

Things that go “bump” - 10/20/2011

Let's just say the trip did not have a auspicious beginning. We left Cedar Creek with the intention (and reservation at Caspers) to make Swansboro. The wind was blowing, but it was supposed to back down by late didn't. We stuck our nose out into the turning basin in Morehead City, it was blowing 25 with gusts to 30, and we were taking water over the bow. We gave Morehead City Yacht Basin a call, they had room, and we turned back. Life is good.

I made the turn into our assigned slip with 25 knots of wind behind me, hit reverse to slow the old girl down, and had her on a good line for the slip. But, I forgot one thing... that damn dingy. Mule caught the piling, turned Oconee into the floating dock with a bang, a bump, and a bit of a screech. My pretty top sides now had new “beauty marks.” Luckily Mule came off without a scratch. My ego however, was not so “unscathed.” Well I got my “screw-ups” out of the way early...I hope.

The rest of the trip down the ICW thus far has been pretty much without instance. We spent a couple of days in Wrightsville Beach - collected our Robert's Grocery chicken salad and visited with Jim McNeil and his daughter, Samantha. Then moved on down the Cape Fear to Southport on a glorious day. Then down what we consider the worst part of the waterway (or so we thought) to Barefoot Landing the next day. Lockwoods Folly Inlet and Shallotte Inlet are always shifting and shallow. Not this time we went thru at an hour before low tide and found plenty of water. Just before Barefoot landing is a section of the ICW known as the “rock pile.” It is narrow and cut out of rock. There are some sections where 2 large vessel can not pass. If you are a prudent mariner (and we are), you announce that you are entertaining the “rock pile” on the VHF radio and give other boats a chance to let you know if they have some “concerns” before you are committed. Oconee is always glad to get out of there.

From Myrtle Beach south to the Georgia line, is arguably one of the most beautiful and varied section of the water on the ICW.. and my favorite. The Waccamaw River is old, meandering, deep, tea colored and beautiful in her fall plumage. She is surrounded by cypress swamps, tall aging tupolo poplar, and water plants and wild flowers of all kinds. Navigation is easy and there are plenty of anchorages – all beautiful. It is 30 miles of welcome relief from the stress of the rest of the ICW. The Waccamaw's gift is stress free time, time to enjoy her beauty. We anchored behind Butler Island and were gifted with a fall sunset, set to the harmony of the red glow of a cypress island, the song of the redwing blackbird in the marsh, and rum to close the day.

Skinny Water – The “Low Country”

Out of the Waccamaw you enter Winyah Bay – a wide open body of water that is a commercial route to the open Atlantic. Ten miles down the Bay you take a hard right and enter the “Low Country” of South Carolina. The ICW here is as different as different can be from the Waccamaw. Oconee wound her way across tidal creeks and rivers with salt marsh as far as the eye can see on either side. I've never understood the currents here. We were pushing current all the way to the turn and I just knew we would have it “sucking” us when we left Winyah Bay...NOT. At the junction of every river or inlet I would say to G, “well we will get a little help from the current now.” But we didn't. And G would say, “Well I'll trade deep water for speed any day” (at the moment we were running in 15 feet of water). At McClellanville everything changed. We got speed and no water..and it was not low tide. Oconee ran in 7 to 9 feet with us “lookin' water” for the next 20 miles all the way to Whiteside Creek. The tide had another 1.5 to 2 foot to drop. I don't think Oconee could go thru there at low water.

We can live with the stress and constant fear of running aground because it is so beautiful and full of wildlife in the “Low Country.” There is no telling what you will see around the next bend. We have encountered bobcat, bald eagle, alligator, deer (both in marsh and swimming the ICW), and flocks of an almost infinite variety of water bird. I think my favorites are the little “kingfisher” with their outsized heads jealously guarding their section of the waterway and the “great blue herons” almost motionless in their fishing the reeds that line the banks.

Eight miles out of Charleston Harbor is Dewees Creek and that brings us back to the ending.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS – New photos have been posted after much pain and suffering – my computer programs are giving me fits.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

...of Batteries, Babes, & Passing Shipmates - 10/19/2011

...of Batteries, Babes, & Passing Shipmates - 10/19/2011

10/18/2011 Matthews Point Marina, Clubfoot Creek to Cedar Creek, NC: 9.3nm

Total for Voyage: 9.3nm

The morning broke bright, clear, warm, & (more importantly) with enough water in the creek for Oconee to get out of her slip. The old girl plowed her way to deep water, eased out into the Neuse River, we set the jib to 5 knots of wind, and breathed a sigh of relief – a perfect way to start this year's voyage. As Oconee drifted down river at a reflective 2 knots I join her reflection. My mind drifts back to the not so leisurely events of summer.

First, it was time to clean the winter grunge off Oconee, then design a new battery box and install new batteries, become a Grand Father (Malo Dillard Copelan was born to Noel and Celine in mid June), totally rebuild the steering system (referred to by me as the job from hell), visit shipmates Mac & Shirley McVean in Hollywood, FL (Miss Shirley was fighting cancer with a will beyond what most of us can imagine), install a new GPS and depth sounder, visit my new Grand Son in Iowa and hold him in my arms for the first time and heart forever, again fly to visit Mac & Miss Shirley, continue lavishing lots of effort on Oconee fixin' the things she broke in “spite” for leaving her behind last winter (and it was a significant list), and in my spare time get back together with Gigi and visit with her new grand babies (Triplets no less). Throw in a visit along the way with friend, doctors appointments, and life in general and brother you got a full summer of memories and “a pot stirred fully” with little room for much else.

Then there was Irene. For those of you that have heard all there is to hear about how bad she treated the northern states, Irene was probably the worst Eastern NC has seen and an untold story. There were homes around the Pamlico that were just plain gone, washed away, nothing left. My friend Mike Yount had water in his home and is doing his 3rd rebuild....and he lost his beloved Moonraker – washed off her stands in Capt. Sam's Boat Yard and totaled by the insurance company. The docks at Matthews Point took significant damage for the first time. Thanks to the super human effort of Jet Matthews, the owner, they were back in one piece and ready for boats within 2 weeks. He, his dockmaster Paul, the construction crews, and volunteer efforts from friends did an amazing job. If Irene was a cat. 1 (and most believer she was not) then god help us if a Cat. 3 ever hit us.

In August our Shipmate Shirley Mac Vean gave up her fight for life. She was at peace for the first time in 2 years. Mac, here's to you old friend. No one could have done a braver, more loving job of caring for your lady. You folk that are reading this join Gigi and I in a toast to “Shipmates Past” - we all have them and miss them. Miss Shirley will remain in our heart forever.

It is funny. Up and down the water way the people we meet that are “dirt dwellers” always ask the same questions when they learn we live on a boat and are headed South. High on that list is, “How long does it take you?” My stock answer is, “about 2 months.” However, the real answer is, once the dock lines have been taken in and Oconee is free, we are already “there.”

Fairwind & Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS – Those of you that want a good Miss Shirley story go back and read the blog on “Bitch Wings.” Yep. She was “that” Miss Shirley.

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