Carolina Beach to Myrtle Beach: It's supposed to be 90F today and it's a Saturday which means a lot of recreational traffic on the ICW. We pull our line in off the mooring ball for an easy departure (and yes, I got the whole pennant back in the bowl! 5 extra points from the Captain!) After some advice from the harbor master, we had timed our departure with the falling tide on the Cape Fear, which is the opposite of the tide on Snow Run (there are multiple inlets in this area, so the tide changes every 15 min or so!) Snow Run in a made-man 1.6 mile canal and the current is wicked as we sweep under the bridge, however, the fishermen don't seem to mind! We make the turn onto the wide, busy, Cape Fear River and unfurl the genoa to motor sail for the next hour at 7-8 kts (wind & current helping us). The crazy procession of boats has begun:
We make the turn off to the ICW and pass Southport. Looks like a fun town (but the dock space was expensive)--maybe next time. We sneak through a narrow channel at the Folly while a power boat goes around next to us. Lots of spoils on this stretch (shallow, narrow parts of the channel). Sunday is full of jet ski fishing boats, and it's HOT. We couldn't fit onto the free dock (thank you pontoon boat, for parking SMACK in the middle of a 70 ft face dock) so we continue on to Marina at Grand Dunes. We were expecting a face dock but they have a slip for us (being blocked by the 2 rental pontoon boats "that they will rent to anybody with a credit card." Grrrr.) It turns out there is a wicked current coming off the river that swirls as we enter the slip & it got ugly. I'll skip the details, but no boats were (structurally) damaged, the dock hands were AMAZING. They also confirmed it has been very low water because of lack of rain this year. Captain headed for the nearest bar before I could get the hatches open (which turned out was NOT air conditioned--open air bar. YIKES) We'd been mostly comfortable all day--drinking lots of water (with NUUN electrolyte tablets) and dunking bandanas in the ice cold water in the cooler. However, as soon as we stopped we were HOT. I even wet down Amelia in the sink so she wouldn't overheat (she went straight for our berth and laid down on my side. Yep, she was MAD!) Later, Daddy coaxed her into the cockpit where she laid down on the cool floor and swatted at a few bugs.
STATS: Total time 10:05, total mileage 55.8 nm, avg speed 5.5 kts
Myrtle Beach to Bucksport: We decide to reposition (and try to put a few miles behind us). Despite our best efforts, the current tries to kick us sideways again before we can clear the slip. I guess that's why they have such nice padded piers?! By 8:00 am we were motoring the 15 miles down the ICW to Bucksport Marina (air conditioned Captain's lounge with cable TV because our A/C is still broken). The Captain comments on the nice peaceful morning which lasted until about 10:00 am when the pontoon boats, water skiiers and jet skis begin to reappear!
We pull into Bucksport Marina before lunch. The manager and another deck hand help us tie-up, fuel, walk us forward to pump out and then we motor back over to a slip. For $33/day ($0.75/ft + 6/day for electricity) Cheap! We are at a dock with water, electricity, laundry, bathrooms, a good restaurant and an air-conditioned lounge--which is good because it's supposed to be above 90F today. I'm concerned about the cat and we considered sneaking her up to the lounge but someone else has their dog in there, so we take turns going back to the boat to check on her. We find a nice low spot in the hull for her to sleep, put a fan on her (she doesn't like) and lay a wet microfiber bandana (buff) on her which she tolerates. Then Daddy starts balancing ice cubes on the bandana and she seems to like that.
As we travel, the accents change, the water changes color and the bugs change. All of a sudden, we're in wasp territory but they're slow and you can swat them right out of the air. I even see a bumblebee (I allowed him to go on his way). Our favorite are the HUGE dragonflies. Captain wants to catch a few a put them down below because they eat other pests but they have a short life span.
This is a busy recreational area on a weekend. The marina does a good business selling fuel and the restaurant is a big draw. At least it's more peaceful to watch the melee from the dock instead of out on the water. They are hyped about a big drag boat race coming this weekend and are expecting 4-5000 people! It's difficult to sleep despite the fact our berth is the most comfortable spot with a fan, but it drops to 75F just before sunrise.
STATS: Total time 3:22, total mileage 16.5, avg speed 4.9 kts
STATS: Total time 3:22, total mileage 16.5, avg speed 4.9 kts
Day 2 Bucksport: We stay another day because of the heat, even though it is cooler to be moving on the water and we don't have much of a breeze at the dock. The only other transient leaves early and we have the marina (and lounge) to ourselves. I manage to boil some pasta early in the day and we spend the afternoon in the air-conditioned lounge. A local tells us the island across from the marina is called alligator island and if we shine a spotlight over there at night we can see their eyes and hear their croaks (as we watch kids & fishermen swim off the dock & a power boat with a water skiier in the water). Hmmm. That's why I don't swim in water where I can't see the bottom! We decide to do another short hop tomorrow and for the first time, phone calls to the marinas ahead of us are full, but we secure a spot (at the most expensive, of course). They ask our boat name and my name which is unusual in the marine industry, so I give them extra points for that.
Bucksport to Georgetown: We leave at 8:00 am hoping to have the current in our favor. We enter a wide, 20-30 ft deep, peaceful, beautiful section of the Waccamaw River. We see fish jumping out of the water and several osprey nests (on the marker bouys). We travel for for 1 1/2 hours without seeing another boat (not even a fishing boat). I'm on the first shift, so the Captain takes a book up to the trampoline to read (yep, the retired guy is finally relaxing). These are my favorite parts of the trip. If it wasn't so hot, anchoring out in an offshoot of the river would be a nice way to spend a few days. It's going to be another hot day, but we have a 5 kt breeze (from the boats forward motion), are in the shade of the bimini and have several water bottles in the cooler. Seriously, fishermen family & friends, we saw several 12"+ fish jump out of the water and I heard a slap behind the stern that had to be a monster. We saw very few fishing boats in the desolate stretch of water. Clearly they know we don't have a fishing pole.
You never know what you're going to see on the ICW. We pass a steel schooner anchored outside a marina.
Our arrival at Harborwalk Marina's face dock is almost boring, with the current in our favor and Chris the dockmaster to grab our lines. The marina is hopping and we wave him away as his radio crackles with two more arrivals. $1.75/ft + $5/night for electricity and an air conditioned office where you can see your breath. We're informed by the Weather Channel it's a record high of 100F. Of course it is. Amelia now glares at you if you don't drop an ice cube on her bandana every time you walk by.
Georgetown is a cool little town. It's very historic with a few interesting museums including a rice museum & a free maritime museum. It's popular with cruisers because there is very little between Myrtle Beach to the north and Charleston to the south. The downside is it's too long a walk to the grocery store in this heat, but the first restaurant we stumbled into for lunch was excellent. Wild Fish Grill with shrimp & grits for me and Shrimp & Clam scampi for the Captain (this dish will be his new benchmark--"Not as good as the Scampi").
There are at least 8 transients in this tiny marina, all apparently cutting their days short because of the heat. A few have mechanical issues. I've counted 2 cats (not including Amelia), 2 dogs and a bird (dove?) among the pets. We had seen what appeared to be a white dove sitting on the railing of the trawler in front of us and discussed how odd that was. Next thing we know, the sailboat diagonal to us (who we will later learn also has a cat!) is handing him back to the ketch behind us. She stops to chat and takes him home. Later, we try to coax Amelia into the cockpit because there is a breeze, only to discover the bird has hopped over and is sitting up on our bimini. Cat inside! CAT INSIDE! Then the dog off the boat across from us appears. Amelia is staying inside this evening. It's still hot when we go to bed, but by morning we have a nice breeze and 80F feels very comfortable as we sit in the cockpit drinking coffee.
STATS: Total time 4:57, total mileage 24.8 nm, avg speed 5 kts
Georgetown to McClellansville: By the time we shove off the dock at 7:30 am, at least 3 boats have already left. As we enter the Winyah Bay, we unfurl the genoa to take advantage of the 10 kt wind off our beam while we motor sail the 5 miles to our ICW turn off. There is a wicked cross current here--at least a 15 degree crab correction. We're pointed at one shore and drifting over to the other! (BIG GATOR off the starboard side!)
We turn down the Estherville Minum Creek Canal and the Captain retires to the trampoline for a morning nap. Another normally open swing bridge has replaced the ferry here. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of bridges?!
I learned a few tricks while playing with my Garmin/ActiveCaptain app and in the process missed a shoaling & strong current call out to the Captain. "Be careful back there!" Gator off the starboard side.
As we neared McClellanville, we are close to a shallow ocean inlet. We have numerous dolphin sightings (including 2 groups of 2 in the marina that evening) for a total of 12 in one day!
This town is one of our favorite stops. It's a small marina, off the beaten path, and at low tide there is only 4 ft of water at the dock. Many ICW'ers pass it up, despite there only being 2 marinas between Georgetown and Charleston. We have a beautiful, tree-shaded walk into town for lunch (and air conditioning!) and have a "top three" meal at T.W. Graham's of grilled shrimp, coleslaw, homemade tartar sauce and red rice for me/fried okra for the Captain. (Homemade pimento cheese spread to go. "What's for dinner?" Cheese spread. "That's not dinner." It is when you eat the whole tub!) Honestly, I'd advise other boaters to anchor out and dinghy in to eat here. It was that good.
Overheard in the cockpit: "90F in the shade with a breeze isn't that bad." And if you throw the ball for the lab that lives at the marina, you'll have a friend for life. I didn't know a dog could back up that fast and my first throw landed in a bucket. Couldn't do that again if I tried.
STATS: Total time 4:59, total mileage 24.1, avg speed 4.8 kts