July 14 – Better in Beaufort

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We arrived in Beaufort, SC, on Tuesday for a long-anticipated visit with our friends from M/V Dubhe, who live near here. The trip up from Daufuskie Island was fairly quick. We transited Skull Creek behind Hilton Head Island at dead low tide, but didn’t have any trouble with the depths in the ICW. We even took it easy, not wanting to get to Beaufort too early in the day, and still made good time, arriving just before one o’clock in the afternoon. The current was behind us most of the way. The trip was not totally without incident, however. Earlier that morning, as I was going through our pre-departure checklist, I discovered a high level of water in the bilge. Normally, the first stage bilge pump would remove this water, and since I had just replaced that pump in Brunswick, finding water in the bilge was unexpected — and quite frustrating, to say the least. As soon as we got settled on a mooring ball at the Beaufort Downtown Marina, I was once again head down in the bilge trying to get the pump working. I removed the pump and put it in a bucket of water — it worked. I put it back in the bilge — it didn’t work. I tried the manual override switch. The pump sounded like the motor was running, but it was not pumping water. At least, testing the second level bilge pump was successful, so the boat wouldn’t sink. And the water seemed to be fresh water — not salt water — which meant we have a leaky water hose, rather than a leak in the hull. Finally, I gave up and decided I would tackle it again tomorrow. We packed our bags, loaded up the dinghy and headed for shore where our friend, Perry, was waiting to pick us up and take us to the air conditioned comfort of his and Nancy’s home on Hunting Island.

We learned upon our check-in at the Beaufort Downtown Marina that our visit coincided with the city’s annual Water Festival, which is a very big deal that goes on for ten days. I had originally intended that we would stay three nights, which would have us leaving on Friday morning, but since I might need to order parts for the bilge pump, I wanted to stay longer so that whatever I might have to order could be delivered here. The cost of a week is discounted to about the cost of five nights, so it would be affordable, and would have us leaving next Tuesday morning. That would give me plenty of time to get parts and install and test them. Because of the festival, though, the clerk in the marina was unsure whether we’d be allowed to stay a full week. The festival starts Friday, so our three night stay would not have interfered if the mooring balls were committed to festival goers. Staying through the weekend was a different matter. The dock master would have to answer that question, and he’d already gone home for the evening. No problem, the clerk said, I could hold off completing my registration until the next day after the dock master made the call on our length of stay. So, leaving another issue unresolved, we took our leave.

After relaxing showers on Tuesday evening, and stuffing ourselves with pizza, we slept in a soft bed in an air conditioned house for the first time in what seemed like ages, even though we’ve only been away from Saint Marys for two weeks. The heat has been nearly unbearable, and we are so sapped of energy that we don’t even feel like eating until after the sun goes down at eight-thirty, so it seems like we’ve been at this cruise for a long time already. A really long time.

Wednesday morning, Nancy and Suzy went off to get haircuts and go shopping. Perry had some commitments in town, so he dropped me off at the marina so I could learn how long we could stay, and check on Madge and try to figure out what to do. Well, the dock master wasn’t in when I arrived. He was meeting with the harbor master to discuss the festival, so I left a message with the dock assistant, fired up the dinghy and went out to check on Madge. Lo and behold, the bilge was dry — or at least as dry as it can get. Apparently, the bilge pump is working. Maybe something I did fixed it, but if so, I have no idea what it was. It always worries me when things mysteriously fix themselves, because they seem to unfix themselves again at the worst possible times. I will have to be very mindful of this new bilge pump. Then, I received a call from the dock master telling me it would be no problem for us to stay a week. Since the marina does not take reservations on mooring balls — they are first come, first served — we can stay as long as we want to. I decided to go ahead and pay for the whole week, even though now it seemed that I wouldn’t have to order any new parts. Besides, I figured it would be interesting to stay through the opening weekend of the festival and see what all the commotion was about. After paying, I walked down Bay Street from the marina to the olive oil store to replenish our supplies, then met the girls and we went home to catch up with Perry and have lunch.

We were lucky that the mooring balls do not take reservations; otherwise, they would probably have all been reserved. As I sit here now, the river is filling up for the beginning of festivities tomorrow. The marina is absolutely full. Look up the Beaufort Water Festival online if you want to see all the stuff that will be going on. It promises to be a lively time here.

Wednesday afternoon was occupied with chores around the house. I provided some minor assistance to Perry as he reassembled the large outboard motor on his center console sport fisher. It was very educational, even though the motor was much larger than the small outboard on my dinghy. When that was done, it was time for Happy Hour, and we relaxed and waited for the rack of ribs to come off the grill. We ate too much and drank too much, and fell into bed relatively early.

This morning (Thursday), Nancy fixed a big pancake breakfast and we started cleaning up and packing up to go back aboard Madge. Before leaving, though, we had a light lunch — trying to repent of our overindulgence of the night before. Perry then took us to several shops where I picked up the last of our supplies, and dropped us off at the marina. We will probably meet up again over the weekend at the festival. Back aboard Madge, the bilge pump is still behaving itself, and we stowed our gear and settled in. This afternoon, the wind picked up and the clouds moved in as thunderstorms threatened the area. Turns out we didn’t get any rain, but the wind and clouds helped drop the temperature on the boat, and it’s been fairly pleasant for the past few hours. The sun is out again, now, but hopefully it won’t get too hot before the sun goes down.