Heading South At Warp Speed

When we last left off, we were at the docks in Southport, North Carolina.  After leaving the marina, we saw some interesting and unusual sites, transited a whole bunch of Sounds, met old friends, visited our former home and covered a lot of water in a short period of time. We also found several of the waterway's most severe problem areas and transited them at the worst possible time. But I am getting ahead of myself so let me get you caught up to date.





We really hate to be on a schedule like this and have to hurry through areas that beg for the cruiser to linger and enjoy. On Thursday morning, we were off the dock at 7 AM and moving south down the waterway. As we approached the Little River Inlet and the South Carolina border, we were amazed and surprised at the variety of watercraft we encountered. As we rounded a bendk we were greeted by the replicas of the Nina and the Pinta. We were tempted to radio and ask where the third of the trio, the Santa Maria, had sailed to. Shortly behind them was a medium size cruise and casino ship heading out the inlet followed by a very large gambling ship. We wondered what we would find around the next bend. We continued on through Myrtle Beach and into the infamous Rock Pile section of the waterway. This area has a rock ledge just under the surface at high tide that can be devastating if you wander out of the channel.


The rest of the day was very uneventful and we decided that we would make a stop at the Osprey Marina instead of anchoring for the night on the Waccamaw River as we usually do. Every time we transit the Waccamaw we remark how it is one of our absolute favorite waterways and it seems from the water to be untouched for centuries. But we have also heard from many folks about the wonderful marina and friendly folks at Osprey. We have passed it by on many occasions so decided to stop for a visit this time. We were not disappointed and highly recommend this marina to anyone planning a stop along this section of the Waccamaw,


As we entered the very protected marina basin and approached the docks, we noticed that there were several turtles swimming out to meet us. Susan voiced her concern to the dock attendant that was waiting for us, but he said not to worry, they would get out of the way. As we approach the dock and tied up, we saw even more turtles appear around the boat. It seems they were looking for a hand out and apparently they received these quite often. And of course, Susan had to oblige them. Once we settled in, a reconnaissance trip was required. The marina is very nice, with picnic tables, a short order grill for burgers and other yummies, a ship's store, laundry and book exchange. The staff was very helpful and friendly and could not do enough for us. They also gave us a nice welcome package with a block of cheese, a package of cracker, a couple of packages with pecan rolls and honey buns, a key fob with a whistle, a pen, mints and more. It was a very nice surprise and something we had not received in any other marina. And we have stayed in quite a few marinas. This was our second marina in two days - unusual for us.


Once again we were off very early with winds forecast to be out of the south at 10 to 15 knots. This entire trip so far has had winds right out of the direction we were heading and in the moderate range. This does not sound so bad but was a problem as we will discuss a bit further along. Other than one idiot on a very large and expensive "yacht" running at full speed with no regard for anyone else around him, the day was pleasant but still long. We covered 83 miles in 10 hours and finally put our anchor down in Dewees Creek at 4:30 in the afternoon. GPS coordinates are 32 49.734' N and 079 45.793' W.


Dewees Creek is not really a creek and in South Carolina, at high tide, a lot of the real estate disappears. As we entered the "creek" it looked more like a lake, and much of the channels were not visible other than on our chartplotter. All we could see were the tops of some of the sawgrass. We followed what was supposed to be the channel using our plotter, until we found a section of high sawgrass to block some of the chop on the water. It had gotten really breezy in the afternoon. We felt like Beach House was anchored out in the middle of nowhere, I guess, which we were. The anchorage was very open to the wind but we didn't have any chop, so for us, that is acceptable. This was another new anchorage for us and as we got used to it, decided it was very scenic, but probably not a good idea in bad weather. The winds did calm down to nothing overnight and once again, rain and thunderstorms passed us by.

The next morning the anchor was up and we were underway by 6 AM. Our destination for the afternoon was Beaufort, South Carolina and our old homestead at Lady's Island Marina. We had lived there for a year and a half after we purchased Beach House and had stayed there on occasion with Sea Trek. The crossing of Charleston Harbor could not have been better and the Battery is always a sight just after sunrise. Charleston is one of our favorite stops along the waterway, but our schedule meant we would have to pass it by this time. We waved good-bye as we headed into Wapoo Creek and Elliot Cut. The currents here are very strong and you either come through at a crawl or you feel like you are shot out at the other end.


We passed through a couple of the problem areas on the waterway at White's Point and Fenwick Cut. In both cases we found a minimum of 8-foot depths with no problem as long as we payed attention to how the currents affected the boat and were careful not to be pushed out of the channel. The final problem area for this day would be the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff going from the Ashepoo River to the Coosaw. Even though this had been dredged not too long ago, reports were coming in that it was shoaling on the Coosaw end. As we approached the red marker "184" at that end, we found water depths to be just over 6 feet. Not very deep, but enough for us to easily transit and keep Beach House's keel off the bottom. A little farther along the waterway, we would find depths that would not allow us to transit at low tide even with our less than 3-foot draft.

We tied up at Lady's Island Marina at 4:15 PM having covered 81.5 miles for the day. It was a big surprise to many of our old acquaintances to see us and and to everyone's surprise, including ours, we tied up right back in our old slip. It was as if we had never left. It felt good and somehow very comfortable to be back were it all began with us and Beach House. This had been her home under the former owner as well. We planned to take a lay day here and catch up on old friends as well as get a few maintenance jobs done since this was about our halfway point. As is standard operating procedure for us, a marina stop means at the least, washing the boat, doing laundry and making a grocery run. In addition, this time it meant changing the fuel filters and doing an oil change for the injector pump on the Ford Lehman. The injector pump oil change is required ever 50 hours although we don't do it until about 100 hours. A few other chores were done and a visit to one of our old friends resulted in the loan of a car. We did a West Marine run and then had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the Beaufort area, Barbara Jean's. The food here is always very good and there is always plenty of it. We usually take enough home to have leftovers for dinner another evening.

Our time there was way too short, but we had to move on. The next morning we needed to stop for fuel before we ran out, and since Port Royal Landing Marina had the best fuel prices, we stopped there. We always check a couple of sources online for current fuel prices when the time comes to refuel. Prices are currently running well over $4.00 per gallon for diesel, but we paid $3.83 at Port Royal. This did delay our departure, since Port Royal does not open until 8 AM and they mean 8 AM and not 7:55. By 8:30, we were fueled up and on our way. The rest of the day we were forced to steer from the inside steering station since the entire outside of the boat was covered with bighting green flies. They clung to all of the windows plotting ways to get into the interior. Being careful going in and out and making sure all of the screens were in kept them on the outside. A few did bite Susan while she was on deck and they caused big welts that itched like crazy. We watched boaters that had to steer in open cockpits swat the air as if they were possessed. These flies would stay with us for hundreds of miles and keep us inside during the day. By 6:30 PM, we were racing rain into our anchorage in Killkenny Creek, a 74 mile day. Killkenny is another of our familiar anchorages and we travel up into the creek past the marina and the last house on the creek. This gives us good protection from all sides and keeps us well off the ICW. The GPS coordinates are 31 47.537' N and 081 11.947' W.


The next morning, the winds were forecast to be 15 to 20 and, of course, from the direction we were traveling. We debated staying put, but all of the buoy reports were for light winds. This entire section of the waterway consists of crossing several Sounds. The first early on would be St. Catherine Sound. It is wide open and the wind direction against the outgoing tides made for another boisterous ride. Once we made the turn to head up the sound, the waves were breaking over the bow and covering the windshield with salt water. Just past Statute Mile 630 is Sapelo Sound, and it was the same story, deja vu all over again. From there, it was a one-two combination of the Altamaha and Buttermilk sounds. In each case, it was a bumpy and wet ride. This stretch just before Altamaha Sound also took us through the Little Mud River. We arrived in the Little Mud with 2 hours before low tide. We found several spots where the depths would have only been about 3 feet at low tide and would have been impossible for even us to transit. This section should only be done at a minimum of half tide, preferably on a rising tide. Sometimes we had a favorable current making about 10 MPH and other times we have an adverse current and were making 5 MPH. Finally at 4 PM, we arrived at our anchorage for the night. This would be another first for us in a new anchorage, Troup Creek. GPS coordinates are 31 13.245' N and 081 26.496' W. This creek has a narrow entrance, but once inside, the depths are good and we finally anchored in 12 feet at low tide. There is plenty of room to anchor farther up the creek for even better protection. At 59 miles, this was one of our shorter days.


The night was uneventful and we headed out a little later the next morning and immediately transited St. Simons Sound. We then passed through Jekyll Creek. There are also some very shallow spots that would have been 4 to 5 feet at low tide. In some strange twist of fate, we transited this creek at high water. Until now, we had transited every problem area at or near low tide.

We were then out in Jekyll Sound with the wind increasing so of course, this was a very choppy transit with waves over the bow and a slow go. This Sound is one that we need to almost go into the Atlantic before we make the turn and proceed back to the Cumberland River. Once into the Cumberland River, the seas laid down and the ride was smoother. As we neared Kings Bay, we got the favorable current and were making about 11 MPH at our normal cruising RPMs. There is one section called Cumberland Dividing that if you follow the charted magenta line course on your plotter, you will be squarely aground. The channel is well-marked and as long as the channel markers are followed and not the chartplotter, all will be well.


This was a really short day and after 44 miles and 5 1/2 hours we were tied up at Fernandina Harbor Marina. We planned to visit with a friend here and have dinner out. So this brings us up to the present and a total of  over 405 miles in 6 days. I think this is a record for us. But this will only be an overnight stop and tomorrow we move on again. It is really good to finally be in Florida again.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Chuck - where is it you're trying to get to so fast? How about a rendezvous in the Keys??

    ReplyDelete
  2. We are heading for Fort Meyers. If the Okeechobee is closed when we get there we may take you up on that. Chuck

    ReplyDelete

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