Monthly Archives: January 2017

Sept 3 – “Her Mean-ness”

Madge, with all the cockpit canvas removed, and double lines from every cleat on the boat to cleats on the dock. Every dock line on the boat was used.

The calm before the storm on Thursday evening.

To get from our spot in the river to the marina on Factory Creek, we had to go through the Lady Island Bridge again. The earliest practical bridge opening was nine o’clock, and high tide was just before ten o’clock, so it made sense to go through at the nine-thirty bridge opening. Not only did I want to have most of the day to prepare the boat, but I also wanted high tide for getting into Factory Creek. There’s a shoal at the entrance to the creek, and the channel is not well marked. In any event, we didn’t have any trouble getting to the marina and getting into our slip. The marina was a beehive of activity. If the people weren’t tying up their own boat, they were checking out other boats and helping tie them up. We met plenty of cruisers and live-aboards. The couple on the boat directly across the dock from us, Lisa and Trip, turned out to be good friends with our new friends from S/V All In, whom we got to know in Oriental. We traded news and stories and had a great time. When we weren’t tying up boats, we were checking the weather reports, trying to figure out what TS Hermine was going to do. The wind forecast increased to 55 mph sustained, with gusts to 65 mph. Suzy and I were very glad that we had found this marina, and that it had room for us. By the end of the day, we were quite hungry. Lisa told us about Mamma Lou’s Gullah Cafe, which was a short walk from the marina. It was real home cooking. Suzy got meatloaf. I got fried chicken. It had been a long time since we’d had good old Southern soul food. We enjoyed every bite.

For cruisers, any occasion is an excuse for a party.

By Friday morning, Hermine had been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, and was predicted to make landfall just south of Tallahassee. We sent our best wishes to my brother and his wife, who live in Tallahassee, for good luck in riding out the storm. Perry and Nancy came by in the morning to make sure we had been able to move the boat and get her all tied up. They couldn’t stay long, because they had to get back home (out on St. Helena Island) to make sure they were prepared for the storm to hit. In the marina, there was a party atmosphere. All the preparations had been completed. The only thing left to do was wait. Well, no sense just sitting around. We’d have a Hurricane Party! Cruisers are masters at potluck gatherings. By the time the rain started around eleven o’clock, the lounge at the marina was starting to fill up with food. Suzy and I contributed several bottles of wine and some chips. By noon, the lounge was crowded with folks as the wind picked up outside and the rain began to fall harder. The storm was not quite as bad as we had feared — at least not in our protected location. We clocked the wind at about 40 mph maximum sustained strength, with gusts into the high 50s near 60 mph. Occasionally, one or two of us would slip out to check on the boats, but everything was fine. Around four o’clock, the rain slacked off. There was still wind, but it appeared that the bulk of the storm had passed through. Amazingly, there was absolutely no damage to the marina or any of the boats. We were in a perfect spot for riding out this particular storm. There was one injury during the storm, though — me. We left the party around six o’clock, which was right around low tide. The ramp from the fixed dock to the floating docks was very steep. I was wearing shorts and flip-flops, and had both hands full with stuff we were taking back to the boat from the party. I was being careful to make sure I had good footing on the ramp, but couldn’t hold onto the rail because my hands were full. Then, as I took my next step, my right foot slid forward and I went down hard, with my left leg bent at the knee under me. The abrasive non-skid surface of the ramp scoured off several square inches of skin just below my left knee and from the top of my left foot. The scrapes went deep into the paper-white connective tissue under my dark-tanned skin. There was very little blood, but the pain was intense — once I got over the shock. Suzy helped me back to the boat and we cleaned the wound. I had to use tweezers and scissors to remove the leg hair from around the wound. Even so, we had a hard time getting the bandage to stick to my skin. We ended up wrapping the gauze pads and tape with ACE bandages to keep them in place. Because we were still stuffed with food from the party, there was no need for us to make dinner — and I wasn’t particularly hungry, anyway. The boat was dry. The rain had pretty much stopped, but we had to keep the boat closed up anyway. The wind howled until well after midnight.

We had arranged to have breakfast Saturday morning with Perry and Nancy at the Beaufort Bread Company, just across the street from the marina. The Bread Company was packed, so we went to Breakstone’s Cafe downtown instead. We had a great breakfast, and got a report from Perry on how the town had survived the storm. We were particularly concerned about Dubhe, which was tied up at the Port Royal Marina on the Beaufort River. While Dubhe was undamaged, there was some dock damage at Port Royal, and two boats had sunk in their slips. In addition, there were at least three boats, either from the city marina or the mooring field, that had been pushed up into the marsh, near where Madge had originally been anchored. Had we not moved Madge, she might have been up in the marsh, too. Having been dropped off at the marina after breakfast, we said farewell to Nancy and Perry (again!), this time for good. We spent the rest of the day putting Madge back together. Tomorrow will be a traveling day. Time to make the last run home to Saint Marys. I was encumbered by the bandages on my left knee and foot, but we managed to get everything back where it needed to be. Later in the day, we walked back over the the Beaufort Bread Company and got one of their last baguettes to have for Happy Hour. While rearranging the crap piled in the aft cabin, we discovered some wetness under the starboard berth cushion. The water had probably been blown in around or between the main hatch boards during the storm. We got everything dried out, but took the opportunity to relocate some stuff to other parts of the boat, making the cabin much less of a mess. At Happy Hour, the baguette, with some olive oil, dipping spices and some sharp cheese, ended up being plenty for us, so we didn’t need any more dinner. Instead, we walked around the marina one last time, socializing with the other boaters one last time.

 

Aug 31 – Storm Prep

All items lashed down or removed, except the dodger, which will be last.

We awoke to a cool, cloudy day on Tuesday. There was a good chance of rain during the day. I checked on Tropical Depression #9 (still not a named storm, yet), and found that the models were unchanged — showing the storm’s path crossing Florida and exiting into the Atlantic over Jacksonville overnight on Thursday. The rain moved in, trapping us on the boat. I updated my journal. Later, during a break in the rain, we jumped in the dinghy and went ashore to the Olive Oil Store. Suzy and I are fond of high-quality olive oil, and were surprised that there’s a store in Beaufort. We replenished our dwindling supply. On our way back to the dinghy dock, we stopped by the marina store and found ginger beer. We had enjoyed the Moscow Mules we drank in Charleston, and figured we’d try to make some of our own some time. Once back on the boat, I checked the weather pages again. the updated spaghetti models now showed TD #9 crossing into the Atlantic over Savannah instead of Jacksonville. That would put the storm uncomfortably close to Beaufort, but we would still be on the weaker west side of the storm. The storm had also slowed a bit, passing near Beaufort on Friday instead of overnight on Thursday. I wasn’t too worried about the wind. I figured Madge could easily ride it out. Based on our location relative to the storm’s track, we would have a north wind, and it was still not even tropical storm strength (less than 40 mph wind). We were in a bend of the Beaufort River with the town just north of us, so the land protected us from a north wind. My biggest concern was the length of anchor rode we had out. Looking ahead to Friday, high tide is at 1100. There is a new moon. The tide will be eight feet above Mean Low Water. The depth where Madge is anchored is 14.7 feet at MLW. That means at high tide on Friday, the water depth will be 22.7 feet. Madge’s bow is five feet above the water line, so the total depth from bow to the bottom of the river is 25.7 feet. If TD#9 became a Category 1 hurricane, you’d expect a 4-5 foot storm surge. That would put the depth at about 30 feet. Our anchor rode is all chain, so we don’t need a high length-to-depth ratio. I’m sure Madge could handle a 40-mph wind with a five-to-one anchor ratio, but even that requires 150 feet of chain. I could go to six-to-one, but that’s as much as I could put out because I only have 180 feet of chain. For the time being, I’ll figure the maximum rode at 150 feet. It’s highly unlikely that the storm would hit right at high tide. Also, since the storm would be moving from the land to the water, it’s not likely to produce a lot of storm surge. Being protected from the north wind, and with an all-chain rode, we only had to make sure everything on deck was lashed down, and that we removed or tied down our canvas.

With the plan for the storm worked out, I cleaned out the bilge and replaced the absorbent pads under the engine. For Happy Hour, using the ginger beer I bought at the marina, I made Moscow Mules. We didn’t have copper cups, so we put our Tervis cups in the freezer for a while. The end result was pretty good. After a light dinner, I wrote a draft of Mom’s obituary and sent it to my brothers.

It was raining when we got up on Wednesday morning — not too bad, but the water was choppy. I checked in on TD#9. It is still churning out in the Gulf, and has slowed. Now it looks like it will pass over Savannah, then hug the coast for a bit, exiting over the Atlantic on Friday afternoon. Current models still show Beaufort to be on the weak side of the storm, but if the storm slips any farther north, we could be in trouble. Suzy and I spent the morning executing our storm plan. We lengthened the anchor rode. Anything on deck that we didn’t remove, we lashed down. We left the dinghy and the dodger to the last minute. The dodger helped keep rain from coming in around the main companionway hatch boards, and the dinghy was our connection to land. Perry called to say he would be downtown after noon, and offered to take us to the store for some last minute items. We took him up on his offer, dodging raindrops as we made our way to shore and back to the boat later. We got bad news after returning to the boat. The afternoon weather update now had TD#9 renamed as Tropical Storm Hermine. The new storm track had her passing to the WEST of Beaufort on Friday, with sustained winds around 45 mph and gusts up to 60 mph. What’s worse, these winds would now be hitting us from the south instead of the north. Even worse, the storm’s arrival could coincide with high tide. In our current location, to the south of us was 12 miles of open water along the Beaufort River, and then the open Atlantic Ocean. Madge was now in a direct line to all the waves that would be whipped up by the wind, added to an incoming tide. We were in the worst possible place to be. Suzy and I agonized for a couple of hours considering our options. We called and talked to Perry for additional advice. He offered that we could stay at their house, but that meant leaving Madge unattended in the river. Finally, around eight o’clock, I took a chance and called the Lady Island Marina on Factory Creek. This late in the evening, I didn’t expect anyone to answer, but figured I could leave a message. Miraculously, the marina manager answered the phone. He had one slip left, so I took it. The marina is on a creek that runs on the north side of Lady Island, meaning it’s protected from a south wind. It’s on a narrow creek, limiting fetch. Plus, we could put out multiple lines to cleats on the dock, stay with the boat during the storm, but have access to land if we needed shelter. Feeling much better now about our circumstances, we had a late dinner and went to bed.

Aug 29 – BO-furt to BYOO-furt (Finale)

We enjoyed Charleston, but since I didn’t like any of the anchorages near the city — and it’s expensive to stay in marinas — we pulled out Sunday morning and continued our journey south to Beaufort, SC. There was a very strong cross current running through the marina as we were trying to leave, and it took the help of two strong dock hands (and two attempts) to get out of our slip and into the free waters of the Stono River. The current was against us at first, but after about an hour of travel we started to pick up speed. Our destination was about 45 miles away, but there was a shallow section at the south end of the Dawho River that I wanted to transit with a rising tide, so I backed off the throttle a bit to avoid getting there at dead low tide. Even so, I doubled back for about a mile in the North Edisto River in order to kill a half-hour. Getting through the worrisome Dawho River inlet at White Point just after low tide was tricky, but with my new Navionics Sonorcharts, I at least had some idea where the deepest water was. Still, it was a white-knuckle transit and we scraped through some really shallow water. We made it through another shallow section at Watts Cut with no trouble, and turned downstream in the South Edisto River. About this time we noticed a line of thunderstorms building behind us. Radar showed them moving our way, several miles away but moving faster than we were. It was fairly certain that they would overtake us before we could get to our intended anchorage. I had picked the site in the Ashepoo River on the west side of Fenwick Island because it was near enough to the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cut-off that I could time a passage the next day during high tide. We had anchored in the South Edisto River on our northbound trip, and there were several alternate sites where we could anchor quickly if the storms caught us, but I really wanted to get to the Ashepoo anchorage. I thought for sure the storm would catch us before we made it through Fenwick Cut between the South Edisto and the Ashepoo, but the rain seemed to split and passed us on either side. We got a little extra wind, but nothing bad. We could see the squall line coming toward us as we finally got to the the spot I’d picked out to anchor, but there were crab pots there (gah!). We quickly made a few circles between pots, measuring the gaps with our chartplotter, making sure we had swing room based on the depth of the water and the length of anchor chain we had to put out. We dropped the hook in 13 ft of water (at high tide), and fortunately it bit hard into the bottom on our first pull. I got the snubber on the anchor chain at about the same time that the closest house on Fenwick Island — some 500 yards away — disappeared behind the white wall of the squall line. After all the trouble and worry it had caused me, the rain only lasted for about 30 minutes. We felt like the day had been a victory. We rewarded ourselves with an easy dinner of Charleston leftovers, then called our kids to check in.

We wanted to leave at first light on Monday morning to make the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cut-off just after high tide, but awoke to fog. By 0730, I decided we had enough visibility to get underway. I didn’t want to wait too long, because the water level in the Cut-off would be falling, and I didn’t want Madge to get stuck there. I checked the bilge before leaving, and found it was black with oil. The oil level in the engine was normal, so I just threw another absorbent pad into the sump and figured I’d work on it once we got to Beaufort. We had no trouble in the Cut-off until we reached the south end where it empties into the Coosaw River, but managed to keep water under the keel. The current was against us in the Coosaw, so it was slow going. As we slogged up river, I realized that in our haste to depart this morning, I hadn’t checked our fuel level, and that the last time we’d gotten fuel had been in Southport. We’d been traveling for five days on this tank, so I freaked out a bit. Suzy took the wheel while I stuck the tank. We had eight gallons — enough to get us to the fuel dock at Beaufort Downtown Marina, but not enough for me to feel comfortable. I emptied one of our five-gallon jerry cans into the tank, which made me feel better, and resolved that henceforth I would take care not to skip any steps on our morning checklist in order to save time. We had plenty of depth at Brickyard Point as we passed from the Coosaw River into the Beaufort River. The current shifted, and we got to the Lady Island Bridge early — so we had to wait about twenty minutes for the next opening at noon. We topped off the diesel tank and refilled the jerry cans at the Beaufort marina, then anchored in the river just outside the west end of the mooring field. Since we planned to stay in Beaufort a couple of days, I decided that I would tackle the bilge tomorrow, after the engine had cooled.

We called our friends, Nancy and Perry of M/V Dubhe, who lived in town, and arranged to meet them for Happy Hour and dinner that evening. Perry reminded me to keep an eye on Tropical Depression #9, which was spinning in the Gulf of Mexico. It had been there for a couple of days, and since it wasn’t a tropical storm yet, and couldn’t seem to figure out which way to go, I hadn’t given it a lot of attention. Perry told me that the latest predictions were that it would take an eastward turn, strengthen and head in our direction. Great. I started checking my usual weather websites. TD #9 is predicted to make landfall early on Thursday, possibly as a tropical storm, in the Big Bend area of Florida, quickly cross Florida in a NE direction, then exit Thursday overnight or Friday morning into the Atlantic over Jacksonville. Beaufort is on the northern edge of the directional cone, but we would be moving right into the storm’s path if we headed south on our current schedule. We intended to leave Beaufort on Wednesday, but that would put us south of Savannah on Friday. We decided to stay a few extra days in Beaufort until after the storm passed. We were on the hook (free), and had friends in town. There were worse places to get stuck. I notified my brothers that our return home would be delayed by the weather. Seems this won’t be a problem, since it looks like my mom’s funeral was probably going to be scheduled for either September 15 or September 22. We had plenty of time. My oldest brother will handle the burial arrangements. My other brother will take care of the mortuary details. It was left to me to write the obituary.

 

Aug 27 – On to Charleston

We had a 50-mile trip ahead of us on Wednesday morning, but the part that concerned me the most was that this segment passed through McClellanville, which is notorious for having shallow water. High tide in McClellanville that day was around noon, and we planned to take full advantage of it. Capricho intended to leave about the same time we did, so we let them push off first since they were the faster boat. I didn’t want them passing us in a narrow channel later on. The two lobster boats and the trawler wanted to take on fuel before leaving, so they’d be about a half hour behind us. I was hoping that they’d pass us in Winyah Bay, where we could get more separation as they passed us. The wakes from these boats can cause problems when overtaking a sailboat at close range. As we turned south in Winyah Bay, we saw Capricho about a half-mile ahead, and they slowly began pulling away. By the time they reached the narrow channel of the ICW at the south end of the bay, we were about two miles behind them. Just as Capricho made the turn and went out of sight, the rest of the squadron caught up with us. The three power boats gave us about 50 yards of separation, but they were throwing big wakes, even though they had slowed a bit. We were able to turn Madge’s bow into the wake of the first boat, but the line of boats was too close, and the two following boats were so close behind the first that the wakes were multiplied. It was a rough couple of minutes. I believe every motor vessel captain should be required to travel at least 1,000 miles along the ICW in a sailboat before they can operate their boat. Maybe then they would have some understanding of the traditional protocol for boats overtaking or passing one another. It would make traveling on the ICW much more comfortable.

The peaceful marshes at Whiteside Creek

The peaceful marshes at Whiteside Creek

We passed through McClellanville right at high tide, and even got a push from the current, having no problem with the depth of the water. We dropped the hook in Whiteside Creek in the middle of the afternoon. We were only 23 miles from our next destination, but needed to time our travel the next day to coincide with the tides. Our ultimate destination for this segment was St. Johns Yacht Harbor on the Stono River, just southwest of Charleston. To get there, we’d have to go through Elliott’s Cut, between Wappoo Creek and the Stono River. Except at slack tide, the current roars through Elliott’s Cut. The cut is about 2,000 feet long and only about 200 feet wide. Traveling with the current, you fly through the cut, but steering is tricky because the pressure on the rudder is from behind you — so you have to power through, going even faster. If you travel against the current, you might not make any progress at all. Slack tide at Elliott’s Cut tomorrow would be around 1500 hr. That was our target time. So we stopped early at Whiteside Creek and enjoyed an easy afternoon. And we wouldn’t have to get up early tomorrow morning, either.

I called my brother for a report on Mom. He had found a spot in a hospice facility and moved her there yesterday. She seemed to be resting comfortably, but was inactive. According to the staff, her breathing pattern was indicative of an end-of-life condition. Chances are, we are looking at a demise in a number of days, rather than weeks. We called our daughters to fill them in on the latest news. The girls had adopted Mom as their grandmother when Suzy and I got married, so the conversation was quite somber. Needless to say, the end of the day was a bit of a downer.

We were in no rush on Thursday morning, so we had a big breakfast. I did some online research on walking tours in Charleston. We had not gone into Charleston on our way north, so we did not want to miss it this time through. We called our friends from M/V Dubhe, who live in Beaufort, SC, to ask about things to do in Charleston, since they had grown up near there. They decided to drive up on Friday and show us around so we could spend one day seeing things around Charleston, and then we could spend Saturday taking our walking tour in Charleston on our own. By the time we got underway, we had a fully developed plan for a weekend in Charleston. I tried to time our departure so that we’d make the one o’clock opening of the Ben Sawyer bridge at Sullivans Island, but we made better time than anticipated and we got there at noon. I tried to slow Madge down, but the current stayed with us and we remained about an hour ahead of schedule. Fortunately, the current was behind us at Elliott’s Cut, and we flew through it at over nine knots. The current in the Stono River was also strong, and the slip we were assigned at St. Johns Yacht Harbor was deep inside the marina. We had some tense moments entering the fairway to our slip, and it was tight making the final turn to tie up, but we had help from the marina staff and all ended well. No crashes. No damage. After securing the boat, we headed for the marina lounge to find some cool air. A little later, we learned that the courtesy car was available, so we grabbed it and headed for the grocery store. After putting the groceries away, we talked to both the girls again, filling them in on the latest news about Mom. There was no improvement, nor did we expect any. The only question remaining was how long she would hold out. The marina had a nice saltwater pool, so we went there to cool off. We were the only ones there. We stayed as the sun went down, then went back to the boat for a nice dinner and a calm evening. We went to bed fairly early.

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With our friends at Charles Towne Landing, in front of a replica coastal freighter from the late 17th Century.

Our friends from Dubhe picked us up Friday morning and took us on a driving tour of greater Charleston. We had a quirky lunch at a converted gas station called Fuel. We drove around the old Charleston Navy Yard. We went through the cemetery where the crews from the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley were buried. There were three separate 8-man crews that died during the testing and operation of the sub — the last being the one that successfully torpedoed a Union ship in Charleston harbor. Unfortunately for them, the explosion that sank the Union ship also sank the Hunley. The sub with its last crew was not discovered until 1995, and it was raised in 2000. We tried to go see it at the Navy Yard, but the exhibit is not open on Fridays. Bummer. We finally made our way to Charles Towne Landing State Park, which is the site of the first permanent settlement of Charleston. The settlement was founded in 1670, but ten years later the town moved to its current location. The old settlement eventually became a plantation, but the owners preserved the area around the old town, and it is being excavated. There is an extensive museum at the park with exhibits showing the history of Charleston, with artifacts and tools from the time of the founding of the settlement. The first European settlers came from England via Barbados. They intended to grow sugar cane and copied the brutal slave system of the Barbados plantations; however, growing sugar cane was not successful in South Carolina, so they switched to rice, which by the way had been grown for thousands of years in the West African regions from which the slaves were taken. I speculate that the rice cultivation, which made the plantation owners filthy rich, was only successful because the slaves already knew how to grow it. Sadly, the Africans’ success in growing rice only perpetuated the tragic slave system under which they were bound. We moved out of the museum building and walked through the park. At the edge of the marsh, where the creek empties into the Ashley River, was a replica of a 17th Century coastal freighter. These shallow draft boats could navigate the rivers and creeks of coastal Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina where larger ships could not, and were instrumental in movement of goods throughout the southern colonies. The replica was a faithful reproduction of the original type of boat, so of course I spent a great deal of time tracing every line of its rigging. We barely managed to get out of the park before closing time. We followed this up with Happy Hour and hors d’oeuvres at a place called Triangle, and then had dinner at a Mexican restaurant near the marina. The Dubhes dropped us off at the marina at the end of a long but good day, and headed back to Beaufort around eight o’clock. I had spilled some salsa on my shirt at the restaurant, so we did a load of laundry at the marina. When we returned from the laundry, there was a waiting text from my brother. My mom had passed away around nine o’clock that evening. She was just seven weeks shy of reaching her 95th birthday. I called my brother, but there wasn’t much that I could do yet. Unable to sleep, I poured myself a glass of wine and sat up in the cockpit until the wee hours of the morning.

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Suspended whale skeleton at The Charleston Museum.

Saturday morning we called Uber and caught a ride into the Charleston Visitors Center at the corner of Meeting Street and Ann Street. After picking up some maps to supplement what I had on my iPad, we started walking south toward the water. Our first stop was The Charleston Museum. The major exhibit in the museum was of the Low Country history. We saw a lot of the same information we had seen yesterday at Charles Towne Landing, but in much more detail, especially relating to the Golden Age of Rice. This was in the early 19th Century, when the plantations around Charleston and Georgetown produced 90 percent of America’s rice. Of course, this rice production depended entirely upon slave labor, so after the Civil War, the rice plantations couldn’t survive, because they couldn’t afford the labor required if they actually had to pay wages for it. Leaving the museum, we continued down Meeting Street to Marion Square, where we crossed over to King Street in search of lunch. I wanted Low Country cooking, but we found everything but that. We settled for barbecue at Jim ‘N Nick’s. Our self-guided walking tour started at the corner of Meeting Street and Market Street, right next to the Confederate Museum. This is one museum I had no interest in. Having been born and raised in the South, I didn’t need to spend time rehashing the details of The South’s Second-Biggest Dumb Idea (the Biggest Dumb Idea being the building of a culture based on slave labor).

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St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

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Dock Street Theatre

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St. Michael’s Church

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Church Street

We continued south on Meeting Street, switching over to Church Street every block or two. We saw the old Powder Magazine; St. Philip’s Episcopal Church; the French Huguenot Church; the Dock Street Theatre (where my niece worked during the Spoleto Festival); Washington Square; and St. Michael’s Church. We strolled cool tree-lined streets and saw dozens of the typical Charleston-style homes. We got a personal tour of the 1772 Heyward-Washington House, being the only two people in the 3:30 tour group.

 

IMG_0992This entire area of Charleston south of Broad Street is filled with beautiful homes, stacked side-by-side in their typical configuration. We saw many examples of the “earthquake bolts” that were installed to stabilize buildings after the Quake of 1886. We continued south to White Point Garden and Oyster Point, the southernmost tip of the old city. From there, we turned north up East Battery Street, following the bank of the Cooper River, past some of the most beautiful old homes in the city. Most of these homes are probably from the Victorian era, since those antebellum homes in this part of the city that survived the Fire of 1861, would likely have been damaged by the Union bombardments of 1863-1864, which leveled much of the city. We stopped in at the Southend Brewery for a cold one, and to escape the heat. We then completed our walking tour at the Waterfront Park, before calling Uber to take us back to the marina. Tomorrow we would begin our two-day trip to Beaufort, SC.

Aug 23 – Happy Anniversary

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Sign at one of the entrances to the boardwalk that covers the riverfront in Georgetown.

Georgetown is a pleasant little place that we got to know several years ago. We were moving Madge from North Carolina to Georgia and ran out of time for our trip. I was still working then, and only had a week to make the move. This was in October. We got as far as Georgetown. So, we left Madge at a local marina, drove home, and then came back in the spring to take her the rest of the way to Saint Marys. Over the winter, we drove up several times to check on the boat, and got to know the town. Georgetown sits at the north end of Winyah Bay, at the mouth of the Sampit River. Winyah Bay is formed by the confluence of the Great Pee Dee River and the Waccamaw River, and opens into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Romain. It is one of those places that once had a thriving maritime industry, back when ships were made of wood and ran on canvas. It still has a paper mill, a chemical plant, and a steel fabrication factory. But the best thing about Georgetown is that it has managed to keep its downtown waterfront vibrant. The part of Front Street that runs parallel to the river may only be five blocks long, but it is jammed with shops, galleries and museums. Bars and restaurants line the waterfront between Front Street and the boardwalk. It is a great place to spend a little free time.

We had planned our day as we strolled along Front Street last night. There were several shops Suzy wanted to visit. She wanted something new to wear for our anniversary dinner later in the evening. You don’t carry a lot of fancy clothes when cruising, and while I could always put on a pair of khakis and a nice polo shirt (of which I had a couple), Suzy’s options were limited — so a new dress was in order. Then, there were a couple of museums we wanted to visit. Plus, at some point during the day, I needed to meet the diver that would be scraping Madge’s bottom. We had a leisurely breakfast and waited for the stores to open, then headed down Front Street. Suzy found a dress she liked in the first store we visited, which was a relief to me.

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Prop from Norwegian freighter Leif Eriksson, shipwrecked off Cape Romain after it was rammed by an oil tanker during a storm in 1905. The wreck was not positively identified until 2007. SC Maritime Museum                                  

We then headed across the street and down the block to the SC Maritime Museum. The museum had some great scale models of sailing and steam ships that had at one time called Georgetown home. The sailing ships were even realistically rigged. I spent quite a bit of time tracing the halyards and sheets for each of the sails. Our visit to the museum was interrupted by a call from the diver. We were fortunate to get him on short notice, so we had to take him whenever he could fit us into his schedule, which turned out to be just after noon. So, we took a pass from the museum — promising to return later in the day — and headed back toward the marina.

IMG_6147We decided to have an early lunch, and then I would go back to be boat to meet the diver while Suzy set up our dinner reservations and visited other shops and galleries. We stopped in this little “meat-and-three” and had a fantastic lunch. By the time we finished eating, the place was crammed with people. It was easy to under stand why. The food was good, plentiful and inexpensive. If you’re ever in Georgetown at lunch time, be sure to check out “Thomas Cafe.”

The diver showed up right when he promised. An hour later, Madge had a clean prop and smooth bottom. I met up with Suzy back at The Harbor Shop, where she bought her dress. They also did on-site embroidering there, and I wanted a hat with “SV Imajine” on it. While they went to work on the hat, Suzy and I went back to the Maritime Museum where I resumed my exhaustive study of rigging for old tall-masted ships. By the time I’d obsessively traced every piece of thread on each model, my hat was ready. We went back to the boat to relax before getting ready for dinner. While we sat in the cockpit, an 81-ft motor yacht named “Capricho” pulled in and tied up right in front of us. Also during the day, two lobster boats about 40 feet long each, and a 36-ft motor trawler had come in. The arrival of Capricho pulled the crews out of the other boats, and we all had a bit of a chat on the dock. I learned that we would all be leaving tomorrow morning, all heading south.

Our dinner that evening was at the River Room. We’d eaten there several times while Madge wintered in Georgetown, and always had a great dinner. This night was no exception. We had a cozy table in a quiet corner of the restaurant, and took our time. The evening had cooled down nicely, so we took a slow stroll down the boardwalk on the way back to our marina.

Aug 21 – Bad News

We got up early on Sunday so we would be ready to go between ferries. While going through our usual pre-sail check list, I got a text from my brother. I called him to see what was up, and he told me that Mom was declining. He’d spent most of the past 36 hours at the hospital, and things did not look good. Mom seemed to have recovered from her surgery on Tuesday, but since then she never really seemed to come back to full consciousness. My brother feared she would not last the day. I asked if we needed to head home immediately, but he told us to hold off until he knew more about the situation. I told him we were heading for Myrtle Beach, and we’d discuss our options after we got there.

It was very calm in the basin as we pulled Madge out of her slip, turning the corner into the channel about halfway between expected ferry times. No sooner did we enter the channel than a ferry boat came around the corner at the other end and headed for us. We learned later that the ferry authority had added extra boats to the fleet due to the upcoming Labor Day weekend. They were running boats on the half-hour on Sunday, instead of the usual hourly schedule. Very much surprised, I gripped the wheel tightly and inched Madge as close to the seawall as I could to make room for the ferry. The ferry captain had apparently been through this scenario before. He hugged the opposite wall and cut his throttle way back as soon as he got out of the river’s current. At least his wake wouldn’t push us into the seawall. It was a close pass. As soon as we cleared, I increased speed for better steerage when we came out of the channel and into the river. The current pushed us hard to port, but we managed to avoid the pilings and made it safely into deep water. We stopped at a marina a few miles down the ICW to have our holding tank pumped out.

Traffic on the water was fairly light through the morning. Suzy and I talked about what we might do concerning the situation with Mom. We were heading for a marina at Myrtle Beach. We could leave Madge there for a while, rent a car and drive home if we had to. It would be expensive and inconvenient, but that wasn’t our major concern. We were 500 miles away by straight line, with our only mode of transportation moving at 6 miles per hour by water. At best, it would take us two days to get to Mom.

We got some good news around noon. My brother notified us that Mom had unexpectedly rallied. She woke up; had a little coffee and a bit of breakfast; talked to my brother and a nurse; and even spent a little time with the physical therapist, sitting up and moving her legs. We were greatly relieved by the news. We changed our plans to make for Beaufort, SC, and leave Madge on a mooring ball at the city marina while we headed home. We have friends in Beaufort that could keep an eye on the boat during our absence. They could also help us with the landside travel arrangements.

With the lightening of our mood, our fortunes on the water declined. The current finally turned against us and we slowed to less than 5 knots. With the help of new hydrographic charts from the Wilmington Corps of Engineers, we made it through the two dangerous shoaling hazards in North Carolina (Lockwoods Folly Inlet and Shallotte Inlet), but the Little River Inlet in South Carolina didn’t have such good charts, and we ran aground. We weren’t stuck for more than a couple of minutes, but it seemed like forever. Finally, though, our old Perkins engine shoved us through the mud and we found deep water. We pulled into Coquina Yacht Club Marina late in the afternoon and tied up on the same dock where we’d stayed on our northbound trip. Suzy ran to the grocery store with the dockmaster, Sandra, while I cleaned the oil out of the bilge. The extra stress we’d put on the engine while working our way off the bottom when we ran aground had pushed oil out through our leaky gaskets. It had been less than three months since I’d dropped a bundle of cash having the gaskets checked, and had several of them replaced — but apparently not all the ones that needed replacing. Now I was back to my old routine of having to clean the bilge weekly to prevent polluting the waterways. When Suzy returned, we went out for ice cream, and had dinner ashore.

Our trip to Georgetown, SC, on Monday would cover 60 miles. It would be a long day. We pulled out of Coquina as soon as the tide came up enough to let us out of the shallow inlet, and turned south along the ICW. We made good time and hardly saw a soul along that stretch of waterway that gave us so much trouble on our northbound trip (on a Saturday). The anchorage in Georgetown had been crowded the last time we’d been there, so we arranged another night in a marina — actually, two nights, since we had plans for Tuesday. Suzy and I would be celebrating our nineteenth anniversary, and we wanted to relax. I called ahead to our marina and asked for references for a diver. I wanted to have Madge’s bottom scraped. A few phone calls later, and I’d arranged a diver for Tuesday morning. After ten hours on the water, we finally pulled in to Harborwalk Marina in Georgetown just before the dockmaster went home for the evening. Suzy made some popcorn and we sat in the marina laundry and had a beer for happy hour. It was the only air conditioned space we had access to. Afterward, it was still too hot to sit out on the boat, so we strolled around town. After a light dinner on the boat, we settled in, thinking it had been a pretty good day, all things considered.

But the day wasn’t over. We got a late phone call from my brother. Mom was no longer responsive. After her rally on Sunday, she went to sleep, but didn’t come out of it. She hadn’t really eaten anything since before she fell a week ago. She was still full of drugs from before, during and after her surgery. The doctors described her condition as “post operative delirium.” We thought she might need a feeding tube to stabilize her condition and give her a chance to clear out all the drugs, but a feeding tube would’ve required a port, which would’ve required another surgery. At almost 95 years old, the first surgery had just about killed her. A second surely would. There was nothing else we could do, but move her into hospice the next day.

Aug 20 – BO-furt to BYOO-furt (Part 2)

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From Swansboro, our next major destination was Southport, NC, which was about 80 miles away. Because we were in a stretch of days where we’d be traveling mostly against tidal currents, that meant we wouldn’t be able to make more than about 30-35 miles per day, unless I wanted to spend 8-10 hours each day standing behind the wheel. We were in no rush, so we broke the trip into three travel days. If we made a short 4-hr hop on the first day to Mile Hammock Bay (about 16 miles south of Swansboro), we’d be able to hit two anchorages we’d used on our trip north, and which we knew to be accessible and safe.

img_2162As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mile Hammock Bay is on the edge of the Camp Lejune Marine Corps Base. When we stopped here on the way north, I watched midnight touch-and-goes of the Marines’ VT-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing aircraft. This time, as we pulled in just after noon, we saw helicopters performing the same maneuvers. Having worked at airports and military bases for a large part of my professional career, I’m fascinated by these seemingly routine activities. They went on for about another hour after we arrived, utilizing the small airfield behind the trees on the eastern edge of the bay.

img_0968Later that afternoon, as we were preparing for happy hour, the Ospreys moved in. I had glimpsed them before at night, but now in the daytime I got a great view of the aircraft and how they operate. I remember how dangerous these aircraft were when they were being tested before being put into active service. There were several spectular crashes, and some speculation about whether they’d ever be able to be used for troop transport. Obviously, those early problems have been overcome, because these aircraft moved with precision and no hesitation. That’s probably because they practice so much, as we’ve witnessed on our visits to Mile Hammock Bay.

It was a lovely day and we had a nice breeze. As we swung on the anchor into the wind, our Breeze Booster over the v-berth hatch created a wind tunnel inside the boat. Though temperatures were in the low 90s, we didn’t have any trouble keeping cool, even without running our fans. We had a lazy afternoon and a relaxed dinner. The Marines only buzzed us with helicopters a couple of times in the evening, and for the most part let us have a good night’s sleep.

No word about Mom, which I took as a good sign.

One of the reasons for the short trip to Mile Hammock Bay was because it was right next to the New River Inlet, which is notorious for having shifting shoals. There was an early morning high tide on the next day, so we could leave Mile Hammock at a resonable time and cross the inlet with extra depth of water. The Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington, NC,  provides detailed maps of the major inlets in NC, but even with those, we saw some shallow water as we crossed the inlet. I was very glad that we had the extra depth. Of course, the early morning high tide meant that as we traveled away from the inlet, we were going contrary to the flow of the tidal current. Still, we were able to make the 35-mile trip to our next anchorage in Middle Sound, just south of the Figure Eight Island Bridge, in a little over six hours. We had been watching the sky during our trip, hoping we could get to the anchorage before the predicted thunderstorms caught us. Since we had been to the anchorage before, and marked the spot on our chartplotter, we didn’t have to waste any time checking our swing room and depths. We went straight to our waypoint and dropped the hook, getting it set just before the storms hit. We got some heavy rain and some very close strikes of lightning, but it passed quickly and we were fine. We heard later that some places not far from us were not so fortunate. The storm caused a drop in the temperature, which was good, because after it passed there was not a breath of wind to help cool the boat.

The following morning (Friday) we left Middle Sound around 0800 and headed for Deep Point Marina in Southport, NC. It promised to be a busy day. We would be traveling through some very crowded stretches of the ICW. Not only that, but the current was against us most of the way from Figure Eight Island through Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and the Cape Fear River near Wilmington. The transit from Carolina Beach to the Cape Fear River goes through Snow’s Cut, which is a narrow, twisted, swirling mass of water. Fortunately, we were traveling against the current through Snow’s Cut. It was agonizingly slow going, and I had to hand steer the whole way, but at least we weren’t having to “shoot the rapids” like we would’ve had to do had the current been behind us. When we finally came out into the Cape Fear River, we had a little bit of current behind us, and our speed improved. By the time we got to the entry of the small keyhole basin that Deep Point Marina sits in, the current was moving fairly strongly down river. Of course, the entrance to the basin was perpendicular to the river, so we had to crab our way into the channel. It was a little tricky, but Madge handled well and we shot into the calm basin with no mishaps. We tied up snug at Deep Point for two nights. We would’ve stayed for three nights, since we learned long ago that we don’t want to travel on weekends — too many crazy people on the water. But there was a good tide window on Sunday for the next leg of our trip, so we decided to risk it.

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Madge is dwarfed by the neighboring yachts at Deep Point Marina.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Deep Point Marina is also the mainland terminal for the Bald Head Island Ferry, and this ferry runs every 30 minutes from about 7 am until around midnight. The terminal building is nice and (fairly) new, with a large waiting room and a good cafe. We learned quickly that the most comfortable place for us to be was in the ferry terminal. We ate there a couple of times, and spent a lot of time using the wifi in the waiting room — all the while enjoying the air conditioning. We spent Saturday doing boat chores. Suzy did a couple loads of laundry. I refueled the boat and made some minor adjustments on the engine. We had to get ready for an early departure on Sunday morning. Even so, we’d have to time our departure around the ferry schedule so we wouldn’t get caught in the narrow channel at the same time that a ferry was coming in. Spent an extended Happy Hour around the marina pool chatting with a group of our boat neighbors. The evening had cooled off a bit, and we had a pleasant evening.