It's always hard for us to leave Beaufort, South Carolina. There are discussions about staying for a while and talk of former good times. The folks are friendly and welcoming, and it just feels right. But the waterway called once again and we gave in to the beckoning. The winds were gone and the sun was shining. It wasn't an ideal day for departure, but ideal days are sometimes hard to come by. There was a 30% chance of rain, not too awful, but once again, it was time to point the bow south and begin our winding journey through the dreaded Georgia ICW. I say dreaded, because the Georgia waterway is the least maintained section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and has a terrible reputation for very shallow stretches. Even with the winding channels and occasional shallow areas, it's still a gorgeous section of waterway, and by planning head, transiting anywhere in Georgia is not that difficult. We wrote an extensive post on the Georgia ICW that might be a good read for anyone wondering just how bad it is.
We're not really sure why, but the anchorage off Montgomery, is one of those places that we like. Even on days when it's pouring down rain and the wind is up, we know we have to get the anchor down and set. A national parks boat seemed to be patrolling the area as we arrived- not sure why- and the rains were coming down pretty steadily. Not being up to exploring a new spot, the anchor hit the bottom in about the same place as the last time we were there. It was good to shut down the engine and settle down in the dry cabin for the evening. Eventually the rains quit and the winds dropped off for the night. The evening was uneventful, but the next morning, not so much.
Passing through Hell's Gate is another fun (not) experience. The currents are strong on the rivers on both sides of the short cut and can easily sweep a boat into shallow waters. The strong currents also create many shoal spots. Fortunately, we made the passage at high tide, because we found one spot on the green side that would have only been 3.5 feet at low tide. All of the boats traveling with us made the passage just fine, and we all kept moving south with some of the slower sailboats falling behind. We try not to wake any of the boats we pass so we have a routine that we follow. As we approach a slower boat, we come directly astern and call them on the VHF. About 90% of the time we get a response. We will ask the slower boat to slow down even more and we proceed to pass them close by on one side or another to reduce the effects of whatever wake we are still generating. All of this is communicated over the VHF before we even begin to pass. Most of the time it works as planned. Occasionally we don't get a response and we still proceed as slowly as we can to minimize our wake. Sometimes the other boater will respond that they do not wish to slow down and for us to come on by. We still go past as slowly as we can.
Even with the late start, the anchor was down and set by 3:15 in the afternoon. We debated a few options for anchorages for the night and settled on Duplin Creek. The reason for stopping this soon was to allow us to anchor just north of the Little Mud River so that in the morning we could transit it at high tide. We had run the Little Mud River at low tide on our way north and made it through with no problems. But even with our 4-foot draft, it's close in some sections during low tide, and if there was an astronomical low tide, we could find ourselves aground. On the Duplin River, we were anchored with another trawler similar to Beach House. The currents there are strong and would reverse over the course of the evening. A good set on the anchor and one that will reset in reversing currents is needed. It was once again very windy by the time the anchor was set, but as usual, it dropped off after sunset. The Duplin is a very scenic river with a ferry terminal not too far into the river entrance. Our anchorage was farther upriver near the high power lines.