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Archive for the ‘South Carolina’ Category

In 2011, our first year cruising, we got what we thought at the time was a late start moving south; we left North Carolina in early November and putzed our way south, making it just south of Charleston SC by the beginning of December.  The following year we were delayed leaving the Chesapeake Bay when my father passed away rather unexpectedly, but still managed to make north Florida by December 1st, as we did for the three years that followed.  This year would be a different story.

Friday, December 2nd — We were still on the hard, but the Red Queen and Cheshire were finally reunited.  The reinstall went smoothly, or so we thought at the time.

Saturday, December 3-4th — Cheshire hung in the slings of the travel lift for the weekend while we touched up the bottom paint on the spots where she’d been blocked.

Monday, December 5th — After a bit more than 6 weeks, Cheshire was back in the water.  While we were in the well with a cherry picker accessible, Cheshire also got a couple of new spreader boots, had her screecher halyard re-rigged and her wind instrument tightened up.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were spent getting things put back together, the dinghy back on the davits, the sails back up, essentially undoing all of the hurricane prep we’d done pre-Matthew.  In anticipation of some cold days on the water, we also put our eisenglass cockpit enclosure up, which we almost never use but are thankful to have when when it gets cold.  After topping off water tanks and some final provisioning, we bid farewell to our friends in Oriental and were ready to go.

Wednesday, December 7th we finally got off the dock.  The 16 days/15 nights that followed would prove to be some of the coldest we’ve experienced since moving aboard 5 1/2 years ago.

Our first few days out were cold, but uneventful.  We were up before first light most mornings, and underway before sunrise.  With the engine running, we’d have engine-driven heat, and with the sun shining, our full cockpit enclosure behaved a bit like a sun room.  Don’t get me wrong… we were still wearing layers, wool socks, hats and gloves, even inside, but it was manageable.  We’d stay on the water as long as we dared and still manage to have the anchor down before dark.  The latter was easier than we thought, as we didn’t have much competition for anchorages this late in the migration season.  Our evening routine was to cook a hot meal, then huddle under fleece blankets reading until bedtime.  The following morning, we’d get up and do it again.

Instead of hoping offshore, we opted to stay inside (in the ICW) at least to start with, partly due to the cold, but mostly because we wanted to give the engine a good solid test.  It ran well, the weather was cooperative, we had anchorages to ourselves and the bridge tenders were most pleasant (translate: it’s their slow season).  We opted to pause in Holden Beach at their new “courtesy dock” which, contrary to the info we had, was not free.  It did have power however, and after three days on the boat, provided a nice chance to walk a bit.  And of course, the Captain found chicken wings.  And we had heat overnight.

The couple of days that followed took us into South Carolina, along the beautiful-even-in-December Waccamaw River.  We made a stop at Osprey Marina, a favorite of ours, where we scored another jar of their yummy hot pepper jelly and again warded off some freezing overnight temps.

 

Then things got interesting.  As we started to close in on the end of day 5, we were deep in the marshes of coastal South Carolina, surrounded by lands designated as national wildlife refuge  and national forest lands, translate: beautiful and the middle of nowhere.  Looking ahead, the following day would put us in the Charleston area, and we talked of maybe taking a lay day.  It was just after 4pm, daylight was fading quickly, and we were headed for a familiar-to-us anchorage, having calculated we’d just make it before dark.  Mike was at the helm when he noticed that the engine temperature gauge was not right… like reading that the engine was not hot, which is better than too hot, but still…  I took the helm while he popped open the engine compartment in the back of the cockpit, only to find engine coolant spewing.  Not good.  After a few minutes, he figured out that the bracket that holds the coolant hose onto the engine block was missing a bolt, and in its loosened state, had been too close to the alternator belt which had chafed a hole in the hose.  In the middle of nowhere…  With dark fast approaching…

While I stayed on the helm, “steering” our Cheshire without power in a wicked tail current down a creek lined with marsh grass, punctuated with the occasional wooden dock, Mike managed to jury-rig a fix, first with so-called Rescue tape (which didn’t work on a messy hose), then with heavy-duty duct tape (my Dad would be pleased).  He then sat on the cockpit floor for the next 35 minutes, which seemed more like 35 hours, with a fiberglass pole jammed into the engine compartment to hold the hose off the alternator belt, while we fired the engine, held our breathes and motored into the nearest anchorage.  We were anchor down right at dark and on the phone with TowBoat US before the night was out.

For those who are not familiar, TowBoat US is like AAA, except for boats.  There are a couple of companies that provide the service, but in 5+ years, we’ve never had to use it.  Until now. It saved our butts, and is worth every penny.  I don’t even want to think about what the tow would have cost without it.

We made arrangements for them to collect us from the anchorage the next morning.  Jason, our towboat operator couldn’t have been nicer.  He showed up even earlier than expected and towed Cheshire and her crew without incident to Tolers Cove Marina, another familiar-to-us spot near Mt Pleasant SC.   Tolers Cove is mostly a sportfish marina with not a lot of room for transients beyond a day or two, but they were kind enough to let us hang out on the backside of their fuel dock for a few days.  Three hours under tow, including some skinny water and a restricted bridge, and we were safely tied to a dock mail ordering parts.  At least it was a Monday.

Mike found a replacement bolt at a local hardware store, but the funky shaped hose had to be mail-ordered.  We opted for expedited shipping, but weather in Michigan and a “mechanical problem” with a cargo plane delayed things a bit.  Our parts finally arrived mid-morning Thursday.  The hose replacement actually went fairly smoothly.  Then we decided to go ahead and do that earlier-than-usual oil change our mechanic in Oriental had recommended.

Mike started the engine up to let it warm up… except the engine didn’t warm up.  Apparently the low temp reading on the gauge wasn’t entirely about the coolant hose leak, rather a weird coincidence of timing.  Mike decided to pull the thermostat and take a look. (See photo below which in my humble opinion doesn’t resemble any thermostat I’ve ever seen).  Apparently it’s a pretty simple open or closed devise that got stuck in the open position by a tiny piece of debris. At least we were fortunate that it didn’t get stuck closed, which could have resulted in the engine overheating!  In any event,  Mike was able to dislodge the rock, reinstall the thermostat and all was well.  Given the late hour, we opted to skip our planned grocery run and instead walked down to Sullivans Island for a splurge meal at the Obstinate Daughter where the martinis were most delicious.

Another 2 1/2 days on the water brought us to the Savannah area where we’d arranged to meet up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul who were road-tripping up to New England for the holidays.  They gets bonus points for flexibility, messaging back and forth regarding timing, location options, etc.  We were tied up at the dock at Bahia Bleu Marina before noon, allowing for some much needed laundry.  Mother Nature even sent us a freaky warm day so I was able to wash our few, much worn cold weather clothes.  We had a great albeit short visit, including a much needed/much appreciated grocery run.

Our final push, 3 1/2 days, brought the cold weather back, along with some damp rain and occasional fog.  The Captain resorted to taking a pair of scissors to a perfectly good pair of gloves, cutting out the thumb and index finger of the right glove, enabling him to use the iPad we keep at the helm for additional navigation assistance.  We wound our way through the marshes and across the sounds of coastal Georgia, and were disappointed that the sun remained hidden even as we crossed into the Sunshine State.  A bit south of Jacksonville it finally cleared, and our last morning at anchor for this stretch was lovely.

The numbers:

This run from Oriental NC to St Augustine FL was approximately 600 statute miles or about 522 nautical miles, and took us 16 days.

Of those 16 days, we were underway for 12, plus 1 under tow.  We had only 3 lay days where we stayed put, but for repairs, none for weather, the latter of which is remarkable given the season.

Of our 15 nights out, we spent 8 of them at anchor, and 7 at a dock… which is more dock time than our usual, but we splurged a couple of times for dock power on the particularly cold nights (dock power = heat overnight), spent 4 nights on the dock for the engine repair (which included a couple of cold nights as well), and another to hook up with friends for an afternoon/evening.

In a nutshell:

It wasn’t our most pleasant cruise; the engine issue was particularly challenging, but not as bad as it might have been.  I was reminded once again how much I appreciate that Mike is scary smart and able to fix so many things.  We managed to survive the cold, but were reminded that we really are fair weather cruisers. We so missed our usual slower, more relaxed, stop and explore along the way pace.

In the end, we made it to north Florida/St Augustine in time to grab a rental car and spend Christmas with my Mom in the Florida panhandle.  Now we’ll hang here for a few weeks, appreciate the relative warmth and sunshine, catch up with some friends,  and regroup/plan for what comes next… which hopefully isn’t another boat project.

As always, stay tuned.

 

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Leaving Cumberland Island, we didn’t get as early a start as we had hoped.  At my insistence, we took some time to dig out and prep our light wind screecher (sail).  When time allows and we’ve anticipated the need, I much prefer to do such things in the safety of an anchorage rather than underway.  I feel the same way about transferring diesel fuel from jerry cans to the main tanks.  It’s just simpler and safer when you’re not rocking and rolling.

Usually getting the screecher together isn’t a big deal.  On this occasion though, it was a bit more complicated, as somehow the screecher halyard had gotten majorly twisted near the top of the mast.  Mike spent quite a bit of time sorting it out, swearing intermittently.  It was really a one person task, so I excused myself to do some final food prep for our offshore run.

Even so, we still were underway before 0930.  We were out of St Mary’s inlet and had sails up by 1130, and had a nice run despite light and variable winds.  Somewhere around midnight the wind died and we motor-sailed for a stretch, eventually taking the main sail down all together when the wind got really flakey from the stern. Another new-to-us inlet except for passing through on the ICW, we arrived at Charleston Harbor in the late afternoon.  Unfortunately our timing was not as good as it might have been.  Shortly after rejoining the ICW east/northbound, one comes upon the Ben Sawyer Bridge.  It’s a busy little swing bridge that is closed altogether for rush hour from 4-6pm each weekday afternoon.  Even if we were to wait around, there are no decent anchorages for a couple of hours beyond the bridge, which means we’d be pushing dark before getting the anchor down.  And we were tired.

Plan B: I consulted Active Captain (think Trip Advisor or Yelp for boats) and found an anchorage near the mouth of Shem Creek in the northeast corner of Charleston Harbor.  It had few reviews, so little information, mostly because it’s a skinny water (translate:shallow) anchorage, but our Cheshire likes those.  We decided to check it out.  It turned out to be a mixed experience.

From our anchorage, we could see a couple of lighthouses, the Arthur Ravenel Bridge connecting Charleston with Mount Pleasant (pretty at night), Fort Moultrie, and across the harbor, numerous cruise ships and container ships coming and going from the busy docks.   The most interesting though was the nearby Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary.  We were anchored (legally) far enough away that even with binoculars it was hard to see much detail, but we certainly had the sound effects.  Check out the link above for the rest of the story and some photos;  you’ll just have to trust me on the soundtrack.  Funny that we’ve been through Charleston Harbor several times and never knew this was here.

LS_20160512_105708 Pelican art

Pelican art, fashioned from beach clean-up debris, Shem Creek Park

The downside was that with southwest winds, although perfectly pleasant at low tide when the bank, sandbar really, offered some protection from fetch across the harbor, at high tide, not so much.  Nevertheless, we stayed put for a couple of nights, taking advantage of our proximity to Shem Creek/access to Mount Pleasant to do some re-provisioning.  We found a lovely park, recently reclaimed from private land to public park, complete with a dinghy dock.  Just as exciting were the shopping opportunities.  Those who know me know that I’m not much of a shopper, but our cruising friends will appreciate our delight at finding that we were a little over a mile walk from not one, but three awesome grocery options… Harris-Teeter, Whole Foods and Trader Joes.  That just doesn’t happen in my cruising world.

From Charleston, we opted to stay inside/on the ICW for a stretch, this being one of our favorite stretches of the ditch.  We’ve been wanting to check out the small village of McClellanville, SC for a while, and this would be our chance.  We dropped the hook up a creek amidst the marsh grasses of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, about a 1 mile dinghy ride to the village.  We were dry all day, but not minutes after we set the anchor, the heavens opened up and down came the rain.  Our rain catchment system continues to work beautifully… we collected about 11 gallons in a short period of time.

The currents and tides are wicked fast, so we timed our trip ashore carefully given our go-slow dinghy outboard.  The public boat ramp has dock space and might be a weekday option for dinghy parking, but it was pretty busy today.  A bit further up Jeremy Creek was Leland Oil Marina… not much of a marina, but they let us tie up between a couple of fishing boats for a fee ($10).  We enjoyed a leisurely walk about town beneath the live oaks dripping with spanish moss, and following yesterday afternoon’s rains, alive with resurrection ferns.  Lunch at T.W. Graham’s was most delicious.  We wrapped up our afternoon with a visit to the Village Museum which we had all to ourselves, complete with personal tour guide/museum director Bud Hill.

It’s been a relaxing stay in the marshes of the wildlife refuge.  We’ve gotten a few small chores done.  We’ve watched the big shrimp boats and smaller skiffs come and go. Low tide is for watching the local wildlife… the American Oystercatcher that dines off our stern being a personal favorite.

And of course, there are the sunsets…

LS_20160513_192027 sunset, Five Fathom Creek, Cape Romain NWR

sunset, Five Fathom Creek, Cape Romain NWR, SC

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On September 11, later than we’d planned, but way ahead of our departure date of previous years, we once again cast off the dock lines in Oriental, NC and started yet another trek south. It’s hard to believe that this is the start of our 4th season cruising. Who knows what this season will bring, but so far it’s all been interesting and great fun.  In any event, we’re very much looking forward to a stretch without major boat projects.

a familiar landmark on the NC stretch of the ICW

a familiar landmark on the NC stretch of the ICW

For starters, we’re taking a few weeks to make our way to south Georgia where we’ll pause for a bit for some family time and to wait out the end of hurricane season before continuing south. With winds forecasted to be from the south for a few days, we opted to stay “inside” on the ICW vs motoring down the coast on the outside.  No worries, as we have ample time if the weather cooperates and we enjoy the ICW. We opted for some longer days initially and crossed into South Carolina on day 4. At this point, making good time, and having entered one of our favorite stretches of the ICW, we slowed our pace a bit.

The stretch of the ICW through South Carolina is varied.  The Little River area at the NC/SC state line is lovely, but soon gives way to the development of Myrtle Beach.  Through the Grand Strand area by water one sees mostly condos, large homes, golf courses and even an outlet mall.  Not kidding, an outlet mall with water access.   A bit later though the Myrtle Beach area fades and gives way to long stretches that are (yet) undeveloped, particularly along the Waccamaw River that cuts through the 27,000- acre Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. This, hands down, is one of our favorite stretches of the Ditch.  Lined with cypress trees that color the water so that it looks like root beer , this stretch is magical, like no other.  We did some exploring, and dropped the hook in a couple of new-to-us anchorages along the Waccamaw, including on the south end of Sandy Island, a spot I’ve learned has an interesting history.

Sandy Island is said to be the largest as yet undeveloped freshwater island on the east coast.  It’s has a small but active Gullah community, and partly because it’s accessible only by boat, it has remained free of the influences of development that have impacted these communities and the Gullah culture up and down the SC coast.  The mid-90’s however brought a scare.  In 1996, a couple of SC businessmen who were majority owners started making moves about wanting a permit for a bridge… a $2 million dollar bridge for the purpose of moving timber, about $1.5 million worth, from the island to the mainland.  Bad math, right?  A group of preservationists apparently thought so to, came up for air, did a bit more digging and discovered plans for a high-end residential/golf community development.  Turns out the island also had/has some interest for environmentalists as home to several endangered species.  Long story short, through some cooperative efforts on the part of many, the island is now under management of the Nature Conservancy and there is no bridge.  The nearby anchorage is a lovely one with nary a golf course or condo in sight.  Next pass through we’ll take the dinghy ashore and check out the 2-mile hiking trail and go searching for the endangered red- cockaded woodpecker rumored to make its home here.  Find a bit more  history and a short video here, and another piece here.  Not woodpeckers, but we’ve seen plenty of other birds this trip, including a bald eagle, and then there was this little bitty frog who hung out with us in the cockpit one rainy afternoon at anchor.

Eventually the Waccamaw River meets the Great Pee Dee River just above Georgetown, SC.  After six nights of what Mike refers to as “boat camping”, we opted to spend an afternoon and night on the dock at Georgetown Landing Marina. GL was another new-to-us spot, as the marinas closer to the downtown historic district were booked. No worries, rather a good excuse to get our bikes out and stretch our legs a bit. After a few mid-day chores… dumping trash, giving Cheshire’s bow a fresh water rinse, topping off water tanks and running a load of laundry, we pedaled off to visit some of our favorite spots and check out the waterfront, this being our first time back since the tragic fire of about a year ago that destroyed a good portion of the historic waterfront.  (NYT story on the fire is here.)

Georgetown SC waterfront, 1 yr post fire

Georgetown SC waterfront, 1 yr post fire

Tupacz Liquors, Kudzu Bakery, and Independent Seafood were all right where we left them. It was a bit sad to see the waterfront area though. It’s been almost exactly a year since the fire and the rubble has been cleared away, but that’s about it.  Several of the businesses have opened alternate locations, but some haven’t.  Mostly there is a big gaping hole right smack in the middle of the historic waterfront.  The worse thing is that building codes being a bit different than when these ancient structures were originally built, the thinking is that it would be way expensive to rebuild according to code.  Options are apparently being pondered.

We did however have a lovely evening catching up with friends we met during our visit last year, Pete and Sandy who have a home and keep a boat in Georgetown. The Humble Crumb, featuring good Italian food including some very tasty pizzas, is a great option, albeit a bit far-flung from the waterfront.  Nice to have friends with a car.

Last night we spent one more night “boat camping” amidst the marsh grasses.  Next up… a few days in the Mt Pleasant/Charleston area celebrating Mike’s birthday…. which some may remember is also National Talk Like A Pirate Day.  How perfect is that?!

our "back porch" view, Dewees Creek

our “back porch” view, Dewees Creek

Dewees Creek sunset

Dewees Creek sunset

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Those who know us well know that in this cruising life, we often have a loose plan, but mostly make it up as we go along. That’s part of the beauty of having a flexible schedule.  It’s also the reason it often takes us a while to actually get anywhere.  So, after an off shore run and a quiet night on the Edisto River, we were motoring across Charleston Harbor talking of how long it had been since we visited this fine city.  The Captain proposed a stop.  A phone call later we were booked at Toler’s Cove Marina on the Mt Pleasant side of the Harbor.  We’d stopped here once before for fuel so it was on our radar.  It’s one of the less expensive marinas in the Charleston area, and has few amenities, but a fabulous view of the SC marshes that I love, a short bike ride to a grocery and West Marine, and is just across the Ben Sawyer Bridge from Sullivan’s Island.  Our plan: to spend the afternoon exploring Sullivan’s Island by bike, have a nice dinner ashore, and head on up the ICW the following morning.

We got Cheshire tucked in, including a much needed fresh water rinse after our offshore run, pulled out our fold-up Strida bikes and headed out.  Not five minutes later we were at the bridge that crosses the ICW over to Sullivan’s Island, only to find the bridge stuck, having recently opened for a boat to pass through, but not quite closed back up for vehicular traffic.  Stranded folks were having their picnics, intended for the beach, on the sidewalk overlooking the water.  One guy was practicing his golf swing.  Traffic was backed up for miles.  Fortunately there weren’t also boats circling, waiting.  Without another bike-appropriate route, we turned around and headed back to the marina… which is actually inside a small gated community which has a very nice pool, which is technically not an amenity for the marina guests here, but no one seemed to mind our taking a quick dip and hanging out for a bit.  We could see the bridge from both the pool and the dock, and continued to monitor its status.  By early evening, it was operational again, and we decided to bike over albeit later than planned.

We still had some time and daylight, so opted to do a bit of exploring before dinner.  We found an old cemetery with some fairly old headstones.  Fort Moultrie was our next stop.  Although given the late hour, the Visitors’ Center was closed, the grounds were open and we had a nice wander about.  Stategically positioned overlooking the entrance to Charleston Harbor, the current structure is the last of a few on this site.     It’s currently managed by the National Park Service as part of the Fort Sumpter National Monument complex; check out the NPS website for some further history and photos.

Sullivan’s Island is also home to the Charleston Light.  Although its concrete/steel/aluminum construction makes it not one of the more picturesque lighthouses we’ve seen, it does have some interesting features.  First lit in 1962, its said to be one of the last lighthouses built.   An odd triangular shape, with one point facing the ocean,  is supposed to help it withstand strong winds.  It’s also equipped with an elevator and air-conditioning.  Apparently the tower’s neighbors have mostly not been impressed.  Originally it was painted white and reddish-orange;  after much objection, it was later repainted white and black.  When first activated, it was one of the brightest lights in the western hemisphere, so powerful that keepers had to wear asbestos welding suits to get near it, and I imagine the neighbors didn’t get to do much star-gazing; accommodations were made  and the candlepower eventually significantly diminished.  The light shares a bit of NPS property with a couple of more historic structures dating from the late 1800’s that made up a US Lifesaving Station (precursor to the US Coast Guard), collectively a US Coast Guard Historic District.  None of the structures are open to the public except for an occasional special event, but interesting nonetheless.

Finally, hunger kicked in, and we pedaled back into the bit of the island where the restaurants/shops etc are concentrated and decided to check out The Obstinate Daughter.  Wow, just wow.  And if you don’t believe me, check out a more descriptive review from a local Charleston publication.  We had a fabulous meal, and because we were seated at one of a couple of “community tables”, we became acquainted with another couple, Elizabeth and Paulo, who we hit it off with so well that they invited us to dinner at their home the following evening.

We’d only intended to stay in the area for one night, but their generous invitation seemed a good reason to stick around a bit longer.  It also gave us a chance to make a grocery run and to avoid a bit of the holiday week-end craziness on the water.  Paulo is Italian, and it turns out makes a pretty phenomenal risotto.  As he’s also the owner of Paulo’s Gelato (0f both Charleston and Atlanta), they took us by the shop in downtown Charleston for dessert on our way home.  His limoncello gelato was every bit as good as some I’d had in Italy on our bicycle tour a few years ago.  Such generous and delightful people, we’re so glad to have a flexible schedule and hope to visit Elizabeth and Paulo again on another trip through the Charleston area.

 

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Having spent a month exploring the Georgia coast on our way north last spring, our intention was to buzz through more quickly on our southbound trip, bound for the warmer climes of Florida. Alas, this is what happens when we plan.

As you know from the Captain’s last post, following our most recent offshore adventure, we came back inside (to the ICW) around Hilton Head. After arriving safely at Skull’s Creek Marina, we decided to pay dockage for the night and be done with it. That gave yours truly a chance to do some “nest clean-up”, including giving Cheshire a fresh water rinse and getting a bit of laundry done, and of course, Hollywood showers. Beat as we were, the Captain decided he wanted a meal off the boat. Such it was that we dug out the bikes and set off in the near dark on the bike paths of Hilton Head Island to find Ruby Lee’s Sports, Blues, and Soul Food. Took a bit of finding, but it was well worth the search. A little food, a few beers, a bit of Motown (Motown Mondays) and we were back on the bikes, retracing our steps and getting acquainted with the security guard at Hilton Head Plantation who was kind enough to let us back in despite the fact that the dock master at Skull Creek had failed to give us the all important pass that would apparently allow us to wander freely and legally about the Plantation.

The following day, mostly recovered, we opted to motor a short distance to an anchorage off Jekyll Island on Broad Creek which we chose specifically for access to shore, including a “full service” marina and a grocery store within walking distance. That afternoon, Cheshire got a little TLC, including what we refer to as a “full service” oil change, which includes a number of extra checks and filter changes, etc. It’s quite a production actually, but we’re getting pretty good at it. The good news/bad news is that we discovered that our rebuilt-2-years-ago raw water pump is leaking again… time for a replacement. Good that we caught it, bad that it won’t be an inexpensive fix. The following day we dinghyed in to Palmetto Bay Marina who kindly allowed us to tie up the dink while we had breakfast (Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe) and walked to the grocery. Unfortunately, neither the marina nor the adjacent yard sold marine supplies (replacement oil, filters, etc.), nor had hazardous waste disposal. Should have called ahead.

Thursday morning, with our Cheshire freshly lubed, nearly full of fuel (+ 2 jerry cans), the crew well rested and the fridge re-stocked, we were off. Alas, about 11 miles later, the Captain took a peek in the engine compartment to check on our recently troublesome fuel separator, which was OK, but found the bilge full of diesel fuel… very much not OK. We dropped the hook in the nearest anchorage (Wright River), and quickly determined that we’d not gotten the on-engine fuel filter (the one you have to stand on your head and use a hand-held mirror to replace) seated correctly. We remedied that, and spent the next hour or so mopping about a gallon or so of diesel out of the bilge, Mike in the back section (long arms required) and yours truly in the cockpit access (small hands). Messy to say the least. We ended up spending an extra day here to avoid some rain/weather that never came.

Finally, we made it across the Savannah River, officially in Georgia, only one more state to go to make Florida. We found a lovely new-to-us anchorage on Lincoln Creek off the Kilkenny River, and the following day decided to take a bit of a detour up the South Altamaha River to find an anchorage near yet another fish camp/restaurant we’d read about. It was a bit of a detour, but again, worth the wander. Our new electric outboard is not a powerful thing, but held its own against the wicked Georgia currents to get us to/from MudCat Charley’s.  Can you say Jalapeño Hushpuppies?  Yum!

By now, we’re done fooling around and are headed south… beating feet… ’cause it’s getting cold. That is until NOAA / National Weather Service issued a “gale force winds” warning, which for those who don’t know, is even worse than the more common “small craft advisory” that usually gives us pause. So we and about a half-dozen of our closest friends opt not to cross St Simons Sound in that mess and tuck into an anchorage on the north side of Lanier Island, dig the hook in and wait it out for a couple of days. This is why we carry plenty of paperbacks with us.

In any event, by the time that mess passed through, it was apparent we would not be in St Augustine 2 days hence to meet a couple of our land-based friends who had planned to visit us on their way back north. Phone call to them to propose a new rendezvous point, then took a spot amidst the mega-yachts on the face dock at Morningstar/Golden Isles Marina near St Simons Island. We had a productive afternoon of “marina chores” including defrosting the fridge, another freshwater rinse for Cheshire, more laundry, a run to the grocery, hardware store and liquor store for provisions, a propane refill, and more rum. Sharryn and Graham (who get points for flexibility) arrived the following afternoon. We had a lovely visit, including a wander about the village of St Simons Island and dinner at Coastal Kitchen and Raw Bar (at the marina).

Now we’re off again… off the dock at first light this morning to beat some more windy/small craft advisory weather that threatens to keep us in Georgia for the rest of the season… OK, perhaps I exaggerate a bit. We opted for an alternate route to the ICW’s magenta line (per one of our cruising resources, recommended only for boat with a 5′ or less draft and only on a mid-and-rising tide”, translate: skinny water), which let us bypass St Andrews Sound. This afternoon we’re tucked into one of our favorite anchorages, Plum Orchard, just off Cumberland Island. I saw a couple of horses, and a couple different wading birds (squirrels!) from the bow even before we dropped anchor. It’s a pretty afternoon. There is of course still a small craft advisory in effect through tomorrow morning, which might make for a less-than-pleasant run through Cumberland Sound, but we’ll see what the morning brings. With any luck, we might make Florida tomorrow. Here’s hoping.

Interesting math.  From Little River to Jekyll Island, we did 160.1 nautical miles in 32 hours.  Since then we’ve come 151.67 more miles, except that it’s taken 11 days.  This, my friends, is why many folks opt to go “outside”/offshore instead of down “the ditch”/ ICW.  Either way, it’s all fun.

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We left Oriental last week to head south and, like most times when we start traveling, we talked of doing some offshore legs to speed things up and maybe even use the sails for a change. We don’t usually, but we talk. However, it had gotten cold in North Carolina so stepping up the pace sounded like a fine idea.

Got to Beaufort inlet in a day and it was cold and would be colder offshore so we kept chugging down the Intracoastal for another day. Ditto as we passed Southport / Cape Fear inlet. Besides, the admiral wanted seafood in Calabash, so we anchored near there the next day, dinghied in and pigged out at the Calabash Seafood Hut.

Checked the NOAA forecast that evening and the next few days should be warmer with light winds mostly from the northwest, which we probably couldn’t sail with but at least wouldn’t pound us to death – Cheshire doesn’t tolerate any sort of seas forward of the beam without jarring your eyeteeth loose. So why not head out in the morning?

We had fueled in Southport so had mostly full tanks but without a real plan to go outside I hadn’t filled the two 5 gallon spare jugs. We had plenty of fuel to get to at least Charleston.

The information in Active Captain on Little River inlet (which is the NC / SC border, by the way) talked of very shallow water in the channel a few buoys before reaching the inlet and a bar across it; “boaters should exercise extreme caution”. But last summer we’d anchored just inside the inlet and had no problems getting that far, and had watched these huge casino boats come and go from Little River (the town) to offshore where one can legally be fleeced of his earnings. Cheshire has to draw much less than them, right?

Anyway, we’re up anchor at first light and before coffee on Sunday morning, heading out on an outgoing almost low tide, knuckles white on the wheel waiting to encounter these shoals-of-doom at any minute and never see less than twelve feet of water all the way out. Maybe someone dredged and didn’t mention it.

We set a course (with the new auto-helm which is working better than the old one but still needs some tweaking) for the mouth of Winyah Bay (so we can duck into Georgetown SC if we need to bail) and motored until late afternoon. All is going well so we head towards Charleston. Lori is on the helm and I’m sleeping when we get to the Charleston entrance buoy about 02:00 We don’t want to go in and try to anchor in the middle of the night, so I do some quick fuel calculations and figure we can make Port Royal inlet / Hilton Head by about 11:00 with almost five hours of fuel left in the tanks, and go back to sleep.

Lori wakes me at 04:00 for my turn at the wheel. I’ve cruised along for a couple of hours, only about half awake and with another hour and a half until sunrise, when I realize that we still have longer to go to Port Royal than I had calculated the whole leg from Charleston would take. In nautical terminology this is known as a fuck-up. I’m still not sure exactly what I did but the situation now was that we would be cutting the fuel really really close just to get to the entrance buoy, there wasn’t enough wind to sail, there isn’t another safe inlet (for those without local knowledge) before Port Royal, and it is three hours from the entrance buoy to the nearest marina on Hilton Head Island.

I wake the Admiral at sunrise and apprise her of the situation so we can stress together, and we spend the next few hours hoping the wind comes up. No luck there but at least we have a decent current carrying us towards the inlet from a few miles out.

About noon the engine starts crapping out from the goop in the bottom of the nearly-empty tanks getting stirred up by the one to two foot seas. Draining the Racor fuel / water separator helps but we only have one, so we have to shut down the engine to drain it. Not a big deal in open water and fairly calm seas; quite likely a big deal as we approach land.

About 13:30 we reach the entrance buoy and start in the channel. The very long, miles and miles of channel with shoals to the left of us, shoals to the right (stuck in the middle with you ;-), a strong following current but very calm water, and really just fumes in the tanks. More white knuckle time. About halfway to safety a passing boat wakes us and the engine stalls and won’t restart. We switch to the other tank. We had switched from it when a little offshore chop had stalled the engine earlier; it is essentially empty but now that it is calmer in the inlet we can use the last clean inch of fuel.

It would be a better story if we’d run out of fuel and drifted aground, or at least had to call TowBoatUS to bring us some, but we throttled back and inched our way to Skull Creek Marina where we put 31 gallons of diesel into our two 16 gallon tanks (and filled the jugs this time), took a slip for the night, and biked to dinner at a really cool place called Ruby Lee’s (another post.

Oh, yeah, mandatory photo. As we were nearing Port Royal, six or eight miles out to sea, we had a hitchhiker. A Yellow-Rumped “Myrtle” Warbler flew in from who knows where, perched on and circled Cheshire for half an hour, and flew off. Photo by Lori, identification by Bob and Donna.

Yellow-rumped "Myrtle" Warbler

Yellow-rumped “Myrtle” Warbler

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… which actually has nothing to do with the cold, but it sounded like an appropriate title for a post about living aboard in cold weather.

Although we’re a couple weeks ahead of when we usually start south, we do indeed seem to be in a bit of a cold snap at the moment.  We’re “boat-camping” (Mike’s term) for a bit, which means we’re anchoring (translate: no heat when we’re not motoring).  Daytime highs in the 60’s, which is chillier than you’d think on the water, and overnight lows in the low 40’s, even the high 30’s.  Thankfully recent days have been sunny and clear, and with our plastic/isenglass cockpit enclosure up, we have a bit of a sunroom effect by mid morning.  Nice.

Our morning routine:  Wake up with the early light.  Look at the clock/thermometer and see a mid-to-upper 40’s inside temp.  Will ourselves to crawl out from under both of the fleece blankets we have onboard, quickly dress, which includes long pants and socks the last few days.  Even before coffee, we switch off the anchor light, switch on the instruments including the VHF radio, start the engine, lower the drive leg, switch on the inverter (which runs the fridge and charges AC electronics while we’re motoring anyway, and switch on the the saltwater washdown pump at the anchor locker.  The salon table gets converted to a navigation station as the charts and log book come out.  Both of us go topside to haul in and secure the anchor bridle, and begin hauling the anchor chain.  The washdown pump system thankfully keeps most of the mud and mess off the boat.  Eventually one goes back to the cockpit/helm to motor the anchor free (usually me)  while the other finishes securing the anchor.  Washdown pump off.  We’ve got it down, feet-on-floor to boat in motion in 15-20 minutes.  Did I mention the “before coffee” part?

By now the engine-driven heater is cranking up, which helps take the chill off.  Finally it’s time for coffee.  Busy hands during all of the above, so no photos.  Breakfast, wildlife watching depending on location, small chores easily done underway follow.  So our days begin when we’re on the move and moving quickly.  Other days, other times, with warmer temps, we’re sometimes more leisurely.

Busy mornings, but it beats mornings in my previous life… up with an alarm, stumble to the coffee pot, shower, breakfast to go and a rush hour commute nearly halfway around the outerbelt.

We celebrated making the South Carolina border today by taking our new dinghy/Pudgy into Calabash for a late seafood extravaganza lunch at the Calabash Seafood Hut;  no frills, yummy seafood.   The Captain also added another pirate t-shirt to his small but growing collection.  The next few days are forecast to be warmer and look favorable for an offshore stint.   We’ll see what the morning brings.  The adventure continues.

Calabash Pirate

Calabash Pirate

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