By Susan Landry
Our cruising posts in the past have always included our favorite anchoring spots. As the snowbirds head south this fall, some for a repeat performance, some for the first time, they’ll be looking for secure anchorages for the night in the ICW. We try to average about 50 miles per day and what follows are our suggestions without marina stops.
|Buck Island/North River|
The next day south takes you across the unpredictable Albemarle Sound. We recommend doing this in settled weather as this shallow body of water can work up a nasty chop. You can pull off to the side of the channel in the lower portion of the Big Alligator River or enter the Little Alligator River north of the swing bridge near the Sound. We have pulled off near marker G “31” in the middle of nowhere just north of SM 100. We got far enough out of the channel that the wakes were not noticeable. This was in the area showing 10-foot depths on the chart about halfway to shore. We thought it was a strange anchorage, but we were joined by three other boats later in the evening. We have also continued on around the corner into the more sheltered section of the Lower Alligator River to Tuckahoe Point (SM 104). Following the deeper water on your chartplotter will bring you to a secure and sheltered anchorage for the night. We have also seen a number of boats in areas of deeper water around Bear and Deep Points.
You have a couple of choices the next day, the first of which is to go a mere 20 to 30 miles to the beautiful anchorage due north of G “23,” just as you exit the 26-mile long Alligator-Pungo Canal. To anchor, head back into the small cove noted on the chart and drop your hook in 9 feet of water. This wild, unspoiled area presented us with an unrivaled sunrise. It has also been used by numerous boats to hole up and wait for tropical storms to pass over, as it has plenty of swinging room.
If you are in the mood for a town instead of the marsh, continue on to Belhaven (Pantego Creek) at SM 135. You will enter from the channel, through the breakwater, then continue on to the area just left of the channel near G “9.” This anchorage is somewhat exposed to the southeast, but is a nice stop nonetheless. Be alert for a dolphin feeding frenzy at sunrise. It is possible to tie your dinghy to the ramp near the hospital or enter the little channel and dinghy back to the town basin to tie to the breakwall. If you need provisions, a grocery store is 1 to 2 miles west of the downtown area. Downtown you will find numerous restaurants, a great hardware store, the post office and a library. An alternate anchorage with better southerly protection is next door in Pungo Creek. This crew has sat out raging winds here and the anchor never budged.
The next day will take you to Oriental or Cedar Creek between SM 181 and 187. There are places to stop in between if you don’t feel like running the full 50 miles. Consider side creeks off Goose Creek as alternatives (Eastham or Campbell) or rivers and creeks off the Bay River (Bear, Long and Broad Creeks) just south of there if the Neuse River is acting up. If you make it to Oriental, you’ll have the choice to anchor in the harbor, to anchor beyond the bridges if you have a shoal-draft boat with under 45 feet of air-draft or to tie to the town dock. Not feeling like a being around a crowd? Continue on to Cedar Creek at SM 187.5. Draft permitting (5 feet or less), tuck up into Jonaquin Creek for excellent protection all around.
Many folks stop each year at Beaufort, NC to anchor in either Town or Taylor Creek, but Mile Hammock Bay is a little over 50 miles from the Cedar Creek area at SM 245 and that is why we generally press on to this location. It is a very popular stop along the way and depending upon the time of year you are traveling, you may be sharing this anchorage with many other boaters. Don’t be surprised to see gunboats and helicopters maneuvering around providing many photo ops. Should you be unable to get to Mile Hammock due to activity at the firing range, there is a decent anchorage just south of the fixed bridge in Swansboro across from the town docks. The current is swift so check your anchor set carefully. If you can make it to Mile Hammock, you will be rewarded with a great anchorage with protection from all directions.
Our next stop at the 50 mile mark is Carolina Beach at SM 295. Again, we have those fall-back positions just in case. Those are Topsail Beach at Mile 263 and Wrightsville Beach at SM 283. Topsail is much easier to enter and deeper than charted. It is a pleasant alternative, especially if you make good time and want to keep going past Mile Hammock. Wrightsville is another spot where everyone stops, however Motts Channel is perpetually shoaling and we have a dislike of running aground. In Carolina Beach, you will find it deep in the areas adjacent to the three small islands. Our favorite spot is in the area just north the first island. The charted 33-foot spot does not exist, at least we haven't found it. Depths are more like 9-10 feet and drop to 6-7 as you approach the eastern side. Carolina Beach is the best spot to wait for favorable tides in the Cape Fear River. Running with wind and tide opposed there is just not fun.
The Waccamaw is definitely one of our favorite cruising grounds and places to anchor. This is truly a beautiful place and one could get lost in the numerous creeks and adjoining rivers. The first spot to anchor is across from G “27” in Enterprise Creek at about SM 375. Our personal favorite is down less than a mile or so across from G “29” in the oxbow. We generally anchor on the southern side in toward the island to find a spot shallow enough in which to anchor so we don’t have to pay out too much rode. South of here and on to Georgetown are so many places to anchor, it’s hard to name them all: Price, Bull, Cow House, Thoroughfare and Jericho Creeks are the main ones. And don’t forget the lee of Butler Island.
South Carolina contains three of our favorite stops and Georgetown is one of them. Just north of SM 405, after you leave the Waccamaw River, Georgetown is a quaint place with friendly people and beautiful, historic homes. The anchorage, 7 to 8 feet in mud, is located all along the boardwalk lined waterfront, if you can find a spot among the numerous permanently moored local boats. The ride to the dinghy dock is so short that you won’t need your outboard; just row. Numerous restaurants and shops line the waterfront and there is also a convenient ATM directly across the street. You can’t miss the wonderful murals painted on the sides of buildings, depicting the old sailing days. We generally plan at least two days here.(Note that a devastating fire just occurred here on 9/25/13 destroying many waterfront businesses, but the town is still open for business and is a great place to stop.)
Getting to Charleston in one day from Georgetown may be a challenge for underpowered vessels. The good news is there are options. You can make it a short day from Georgetown and stop at Minim Creek (SM 415) or the South Santee River (SM 420), both of which we have used and give our stamp of approval. Here, you begin to enter the low-lying marsh and leave the forest surrounding the Waccamaw behind. Or, continue on farther south to near McClellanville and try Five Fathom, Awendaw or Graham creeks between SM 430 and 440. The choices don’t end there. Continuing on, you have Whiteside, Dewees, Seven Reaches and Inlet creeks between SM 451 and 461. Beyond that, you are committed to crossing Charleston Harbor. Check your chart for depths and protection as many of the above anchorages are sheltered only by marsh grasses and no trees, and some may not have the depths required for your draft.
|New Teakettle Creek|
As you head south through St. Simons Sound in the morning, be aware of the many shrimp boats who will share the water with you. They sometimes follow an erratic course. Although Georgia does not encompass a long stretch of the AICW, it has many pleasant anchorages. You can easily make Florida in one day from St. Simons, but you may want to slow down and enjoy some of the most pleasant anchorages you will find just about anywhere, because once you reach Florida, they are not nearly as plentiful.
|St. Mary's River|
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