Back in the ICW in Low Country

We said goodbye to Georgetown in the early morning fog, which we expected to lift soon.

There was an eerie feeling to the morning as we passed the fishing boats.

There was an eerie feeling to the morning as we passed the fishing boats.

But the fog did not lift quickly so we moved very carefully and very slowly back out into the ICW.

The sun tried to break through but just couldn't do it.

The sun tried to break through but just couldn’t do it.

Fog with a little sun in the ICW

Fog with a little sun in the ICW

We used the chart plotter, the radar, the ICW markers and our eyes and ears as we continued along.

We used the chart plotter, the radar, the ICW markers and our eyes and ears as we continued along.

The morning continued to have that eerie Halloweenie feeling.

The morning continued to have that eerie Halloweenie feeling.

Hurrah! The sun finally won and brightened our day and our spirits. What a relief! We traveled along, sometimes with the current  and sometimes against it. It all depended upon whether there was an inlet opening near the ICW. It was very hard to predict just what it would be, quite unlike our New England waters. We did pretty well and had a nice assist from the current for most of the day.

A beautiful day in the ICW in the Low Country

A beautiful day in the ICW in the Low Country

A beautiful white bird stands out against the marsh grasses

A white bird stands out against the marsh grasses

There had been warnings about unusually severe shoaling in certain sections of the ICW so we kept a watchful eye on the depth at all times. There are major tides here in South Carolina. Most of the homes along this stretch had their own docks, but they sat in mud at low tide.

Can you see how the dock sits in the mud at low tide?

Can you see how this dock is sitting in the mud at low tide?

This is an ICW marker that

This is an ICW marker that supposedly marks the edge of the safe depths. Don’t think so! It is sitting in mud – don’t go near there.

How I wished I had my camera! The iPhone just can’t do this justice. We passed several structures that could only be the remains of the gates built to regulate the water in the rice fields, letting in water when needed and keeping it out when necessary. Supposedly a slave chid would sit atop the gate and wash his/her hands in the water on the non-field side. As long as the soap lathered, all was well. As soon as the soap no longer lathered, it was a sign that the water was sea water and salty. Any sea water let into the fields would ruin the soil for many years.

The structure that you can barely see is the remnants of a rice field gate.

The structure that you can barely see is the remnants of a rice field gate.

It still amazes us how often we dolphins in the ICW, sometimes far from the ocean, or so it seems to us.

There was a dolphin greeting party as we entered Long Creek to stop for the night. us as we

There was a dolphin greeting party as we entered Long Creek to stop for the night.

Long Creek was a lovely place to settle for the evening. A perfect example of the many winding, squiggly-wiggly creeks throughout South Carolina’s lowcountry.

Evening in the salt marsh

Evening in the salt marshes of Long Creek

Still catching fish as the day comes to an end.

Still catching fish as the day comes to an end.

Off to Charleston tomorrow!

October 31st – Adventure statistics so far
Days since we left home – 50 days
Days traveling – 31 days
Miles traveled – 1,046 nautical miles
Average distance traveled per day – 34 miles
ICW miles covered – 469 statute miles
Distance outside ICW since Mile 0 – 102 offshore nautical miles
Nights at dock – 10 (2 were free docks)
Nights on mooring – 2 (free)
Nights at anchor – 27 (also free!)
Longest passage – 13 hours, 84 miles Sandy Hook, NJ to Atlantic City, NJ

Ice cream parlors – 8 (that’s really not many)
Museums – 7 ( a mix of history, science and art)

  • C&D Canal Museum, Chesapeake City
  • American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
  • Town of Oxford Museum – Oxford, MD
  • Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum – St Michaels, MD
  • Virginia Air and Space Museum – Hampton, VA
  • North Caroline Maritime Museum – Beaufort, NC
  • Rice Museum – Georgetown, SC

 

 

Low Country – Georgetown, SC

We are now in “Low Country”, northern Lowcountry to be specific. South Carolina is considered deep South and is very different from North Carolina.

Floating water hyacinths

Floating water hyacinths – do they like the fresh water here, just a little away from the salty ICW?

During our approach to Georgetown on the Winyah River and then the Sampit River, there were floating clusters of this plant. We hadn’t seen that before and were quite curious about what it was, especially after hearing about the duckweed problem in Dismal Swamp. We knew it couldn’t be duckweed, but pondered whether it was kudzu or not. Google to the rescue once again. I think it is  a water hyacinth plant.

We anchored in Georgetown’s tiny waterway. It is very narrow because there are derelict boats abandoned between the docks on one side and the island on the other.  But we found some space and let the Rocna anchor do its thing.   There was enough time to dinghy to shore and walk around Georgetown – scout it out. It was a very quiet Monday, and most things were closed already (It was 5:30 -6:00).

View of Georgetown from our anchor

View of Georgetown from our anchor

Our view of the shrimp boats

Our view of the shrimp boats

Georgetown is South Carolina’s third oldest city (1729) and became a hub for transferring market goods/produce from plantations and supplies back to the plantations, mostly by the waterways of the rivers that meet there – Waccamaw, Black, and Pee Dee Rivers. By the 1840s this area produced half of the rice consumed in the United States. Here’s another film tidbit – The Patriot (with Mel Gibson) was filmed in Georgetown. His character, Benjamin Martin, was a mash- up of several Revolutionary War figures, Francis Marion (“Swamp Fox”), Daniel Morgan, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens; and of course, the film embellished and exaggerated the Swamp Fox legend.

Georgetown has a small town feeling to it, with tree-lined streets. It was obvious that Georgetown welcomes transient boaters through its services, tours, and information. The most obvious welcome was the nice big sign for their dinghy dock. Some ports try to challenge you to find their dinghy dock if they even have one! The people were so friendly that we spent time just chatting with them at each place we stopped whether it was a bookstore, museum, gallery, bakery  or just a street corner. I really like that South Carolina accent.

Although it says "no overnight docking", the docks clearly for dinghies with lots of space.

Although it says “no overnight docking”, these docks were for dinghies and had plenty of space.

Back on September 25th we had heard through the cruisers’ net that there was a fire on Georgetown docks.  It had destroyed 7 buildings dating back to the mid-1800’s in the shopping and dining district, including a restaurant, bookstore, and florist among others.

Georgetown waterfront fire scene, two months later

Georgetown waterfront fire scene, two months later

Georgetown fire scene

Georgetown fire scene

The town is already planning to rebuild and restore the historic buildings. The old bricks with all of their charm are being stacked on pallets to be reused.

Georgetown is a great little city for walking around.

Georgetown is a great little city for walking around.

The county and city landmark is the Clock Tower (1842), visible from anywhere in the city. There is a clock face on all four sides.

Georgetown Clock Tower

Georgetown Clock Tower

A view from below

A view from below

We took a guided tour of the Rice Museum (in the same building as the Clock Tower), and learned quite a bit about the rice plantations-  very labor intensive, but evidently quite profitable in their time, hence the name “Carolina gold.”

The Rice Museum door. At one time this building also served as a jail.

The Rice Museum door. At one time this building also served as a jail.

Herb garden along the side of the Rice Museum. I bought parsley plants in the Museum's gift shop.

Herb garden along the side of the Rice Museum. I bought parsley plants in the Museum’s gift shop.

The shelves of old plantation and market ledgers

The shelves of old plantation and market ledgers

I was quite surprised that they allowed us to handle the old ledgers from the plantations and market.  It’s actually a thrill to be able to touch something old and not view it behind glass.

A ledger from 1896

A ledger from 1896

The third floor of the museum houses the skeleton of America’s oldest known vessel, the Brown’s ferry vessel, a 50-foot, 18th century all-purpose freighter. It was a sailing vessel but could also be rowed or pushed when necessary. They removed the roof of the museum to get the skeleton inside. that’s commitment.

"Skeleton" of the Browns Ferry Vessel

“Skeleton” of the Browns Ferry Vessel

Reconstructed model of the vessel

Reconstructed model of the vessel

The Rice Museum’s gift shop was more like a gallery with locally made crafts and art, as well as rice and preserves. I carefully considered what might be a memento of this region and chose a small sweetgrass basket and a clothes pin “Gullah angel” doll representing hope. She comes with a poem about the four sisters (Joy, Love, Peace, Hope) in English and in Gullah. I think she will make a lovely tree ornament.

Low Country treasures - Small sweetgrass basket and a Gullah angel doll

Low Country treasures – Small sweetgrass basket and a Gullah angel doll

Georgetown has many restaurants. Unfortunately, the one we really wanted to try was closed when we got there, 🙁 so we tried the River House instead.  Our goal was to have some local foods – my first shrimp and grits! Tasty, but pretty heavy in the tummy.

The River Room along the waterfront boardwalk

The River Room along the waterfront boardwalk

Shrimp and grits in the front and Barbecue in the back

Shrimp and grits in the front and Barbecue in the back

Keeping with food thread here, we were told to try the Kudzu Bakery’s rum cake by our friends, Tom and Joyce (in Oriental). The emphasis is definitely on the rum!

~Kudzu Bakery front door ~ Kudzu Bakery outdoor terrace ~ and the rum cake!

~Kudzu Bakery front door
~ Kudzu Bakery outdoor terrace
~ and the rum cake!

Georgetown is worth a visit. We never even had time to take any of the tours which also sounded interesting. Downside of the day – I dropped my camera. Just a little drop, but evidently enough to kill it without even a blemish on the outside. So now we face the cruiser’s dilemma again – no car to go shopping, no electronic stores in the harbors or anchorages, and no way I can be without a camera, amateur though I am. Don’t expect much of a blog for the next few days—the iPhone camera just isn’t as good as my little Canon was.

Offshore Days off South Carolina

We just covered 102 miles in two days by going offshore.

We left Southport, North Carolina and decided to make our first offshore run since entering the ICW back in Virginia. We ventured back out to the Cape Fear River and through the Cape Fear inlet, heading for Little River Inlet. This would be a short offshore run and easily doable in one day, bringing us across the border into South Carolina!

The sun was rising as we left Southport and headed out the Cape Fear Inlet

The sun was rising as we left Southport and headed out the Cape Fear Inlet

Oak Island Light

Oak Island Light – took three tries to catch it with the light flashing.

Cool morning but nice and sunny

Cool morning but nice and sunny

Once out past the inlet, the waves were rolling, resulting in water over the bow, something we had not seen since Long island Sound on September 12th.  We were really hoping for a sail, but that only lasted for 2 hours. Back to the engine. Ugh.

Some sailing time

Some sailing time

Little River Inlet

Little River Inlet

We anchored in Calabash Creek, off of Little River, by mid-afternoon, giving us some time to relax before dinner.

Michele trying yoga on the front deck. Forgive the form! It isn't easy in that space!

Michele trying yoga on the front deck. Forgive the form! It isn’t easy in that space!

Several boats filed in after us to anchor here for the night. Once again (I think the 4th time) we found ourselves near Simple Life with Joe and Michele, who anchored just ahead of us. It was a quiet evening in the creek.

Four other boats joined us here in Calabash Creek for the night

Six other boats joined us here in Calabash Creek for the night

Little River Casino Boat - a 5-hour tour out to the ocean with "Las Vegas style gambling". It passed right by our little anchorage

Little River Casino Boat – a 5-hour tour out to the ocean with “Las Vegas style gambling”. It passed right by our little anchorage

We reviewed our charts and routes for the next day as well as another careful look at the weather. Both the Captain and the Admiral agreed that tomorrow would be another offshore day to Winyah Inlet, leading ultimately to Georgetown. The ICW has been a fascinating experience, but we enjoyed being “outside” in the ocean. It must be our New England blood – it felt more like home. It also made for a more relaxing trip (if the wind and weather cooperate) because autopilot took over and we did not need to constantly maneuver among the markers, boats, bridges, and shallows of the ICW.

The route from Little River to Winyah Inlet, and ultimately Georgetown, was 67 miles long which would be just about the maximum safely possible during daylight at 6 knots/hour.  We left as early as possible, 7:02 am, and it was just lightening a tiny bit.

Just barely enough light to see as we left Calabash Creek

Just barely enough light to see as we left Calabash Creek

Early dawn is one of the most beautiful times of the day

Early dawn is one of the most beautiful times of the day

Because it was still a bit dark, we carefully followed our breadcrumbs from yesterday’s trip back out of the inlet. As you can see on the chartplotter photo below, this was another case of don’t use only the electronics or charts. They can be outdated and markers are moved for new shallows.

It's a wierd feeling when the chartplotter looks like this but you know you aren't going over land!

It’s a wierd feeling when the chartplotter looks like this but you know you aren’t going over land! Trust the actual markers and your eyes!! You just keep repeating that to ourself as you carefully move along.

If you get tired of looking at photos of the dawn, fast forward through here. It was so beautiful I could not stop taking pictures.

Dawn at Little River Inlet

Dawn at Little River Inlet

Offshore dawn

Dawn

Dawn brightens in the sky over the ocean

Dawn brightens in the sky over the ocean

An offshore sunrise begins

An offshore sunrise begins

Sun rising

Sun rising

What deep colors!

What deep colors!

We were surprised by how utterly flat the seas were. What we call a  “power boater’s dream day.” The water was so flat that the ocean blended with the sky. The day became cloudy; the kind of cloudy that is subdued, but not depressing.

VERY calm and flat seas

VERY calm and flat seas

Where is the horizon?

Where is the horizon?

It was so calm I was able to make us a nice, big, hot breakfast in the galley while underway!

French toast layered with banana and apples, and bacon, of course.

French toast layered with banana and apples, and bacon, of course.

We really do try to sail whenever possible. Really!

We really do try to sail whenever possible. Really!

We spent the entire day alone, ten miles offshore, and never saw another boat until we reached the entrance to Winyah Inlet.

Finally, we have company, in the distance. A shrimper.

Finally, we have company, in the distance. A shrimper.

Entering Winyah Inlet

Entering Winyah Inlet

~A pelican convention on the rocks of the submerged breakwater. ~ Pelican on the move! ~Pelican splashdown!! (That was not easy to photograph)

~A pelican convention on the rocks of the submerged breakwater.
~ Pelican on the move!
~Pelican splashdown!! (That was not easy to photograph)

Winyah Light  It took another 2 hours to wind our way from Winyah Inlet, cross the ICW, and then reach Georgetown. We are looking forward to exploring Georgetown for a day.

Winyah Light

It took another 2 hours to wind our way from Winyah Inlet, cross the ICW, and then reach Georgetown. We are looking forward to exploring Georgetown for a day.

It’s a Small World in Southport, NC

We ventured out of Wrightsville Beach and back into the ICW towards Cape Fear River. Yes, Cape FEAR, the treacherous sounding body of water that does not have an inviting name. The shallows of Frying Pan Shoals extend 30 miles outside of the entrance to Cape Fear River and are known to be dangerous, or at the very least, to be avoided.  And, remember the movie, Cape Fear, starring Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, and Jessica Lange (1991)?  To avoid the fearfulness of Cape Fear, you just plan accordingly. We checked the currents and planned our trip down that part of the river to miss the fiercest current. It worked – we had a very peaceful run and arrived in Southport, North Carolina in mid-afternoon.

View along the ICW in southern North Carolina

View along the ICW in southern North Carolina

Sandy edges along the barrier islands

Sandy edges along the barrier islands

A view of the ocean through the Carolina Beach Inlet

A view of the ocean through the Carolina Beach Inlet

Saw a lot of pelicans today, flying diving and just perching

Saw a lot of pelicans today, flying diving and just perching

One lonely little  bird in the grasses

One lonely little bird in the grasses

Southport has been the location for a number of movies, most recently  Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven (he lives in New Bern, NC.) Other movies filmed here are Domestic Disturbance, Crimes of the Heart, Spies, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Summer Catch. I think we will have to rent some of these when we return home. The town is very walkable and very charming. We liked it a lot.

Southport docks

Southport docks

We entered the very tiny harbor of Southport, passing the docks and restaurants

We entered the very tiny harbor of Southport, passing the docks and restaurants

Kindred Spirit at anchor

Kindred Spirit at anchor

Southport homes

Southport homes

Fun signs in Southport

Fun signs in Southport

The world is truly small! We had barely set foot on the street just behind a little restaurant, Fishy Fishy, right on the dock, when a man came right up to us to tell us he was from Middlefield CT and saw our hailing port of Durham, CT!! Middlefield and Durham are neighboring towns and share the same school system. Both towns are quite small so it is out of the ordinary to run into someone so far away. He was so excited at the coincidence. Frankly, so were we! His wife and their friends, visiting from Middlefield, joined him and we had a nice little visit right there on the docks.

After our walking tour, with a little shopping thrown in (we needed more cold weather clothes so we bought sweatshirts,) we decide to have dinner at Fishy Fishy. Its reputation is well-deserved. We had a great dinner and were able to watch Kindred Spirit at anchor through the entire meal.

Keeping a watchful eye on our Kindred Spirit during dinner

Keeping a watchful eye on our Kindred Spirit during dinner

 

 

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

We continued our travels down the ICW in North Carolina to our next port – Wrightsville Beach. My only knowledge about the town is from Nicholas Sparks’ book, Message in a Bottle, and the movie made about it. Ahhh, reality vs novels and movies. No resemblance. 🙂
This leg of our ICW trip required timing because of the three bridges we would encounter – two swing bridges and one bascule. The distances between each and their opening schedules (either on the hour and the half hour, or just the hour) meant that we had to carefully monitor our speed and progress. Lots of mental math for rates and times, and conversions between statute miles and nautical miles, but no algebra really required. 🙂 We passed through the Surf City Bridge, The Figure Eight Bridge and then the Wrightsville  Beach Bridge. Most of the 15 boats anchored with us back at Mile Hammock Bay were also traveling today, so we hung out waiting for openings and then passed through like a line of school children on their way to lunch. It’s actually fun to call the bridgetender to request the opening and to thank them after you are clear. The “request” is mostly to inform them; evidently they record the names and time of the boats who pass through.

Opening bridges and the line of boats behind us

Opening bridges and the line of boats behind us

This part of the ICW is very different from the past week. No swamp and swamp marshes , and more homes. Sometimes we could catch a glimpse of the barrier islands and even the ocean through an inlet. There were a few nerve wracking shoaled areas during which we held our breath as we carefully moved over them.

The sandbars just past the marker.

The sandbars just past the marker.

More homes along the westerns shore - from simple trailers to very grand places.

More homes along the westerns shore – from simple trailers to very grand places.

A glimpse of the ocean through an inlet

A glimpse of the ocean through an inlet

A charming old oyster boat jugging away going north

A charming old oyster boat jugging away going north

And then there some more curious sights. Please keep  in mind that when you travel at 6 knots of speed, you have plenty of time to look around you!!

~A giraffe statue as a "for sale" sign ~ A fake palm tree marking a shallow area ~ Who knows what this statue is!! An ICW mythical goddess?

~A giraffe statue as a “for sale” sign
~ A fake palm tree marking a shallow area
~ Who knows what this statue is!! An ICW mythical goddess?

We also  had our share of nature sightings. The dolphins really do run along side of the boats in the ICW. There are no  good pictures because I got too excited to hold the camera steady and focus and watch the dolphins. I chose to do the watching without the camera most of the time. But here is one photo — If you look closely you can see the dolphin just alongside of our bow, keeping up with us.

Can you see the dolphin?? This is just so cool!!!

Can you see the dolphin?? This is just so cool!!!

We think this is an eagle. Maybe a bald eagle?

An eagle inspecting the ICW travelers

An eagle inspecting the ICW travelers

Our view of Wrightsville as we entered the channel was mostly very large waterfront homes and docks.

More homes along the westerns shore - from simple trailers to very grand places.

More homes along the westerns shore – from simple trailers to very grand places.

Wrightsville Beach waterfront homes

Wrightsville Beach waterfront homes

Those of us who anchored in the little harbor also had waterfront property.

Southbound sailboats in the Wrightsville anchorage. Can you find us?

Southbound sailboats in the Wrightsville anchorage. Can you find us?

We spent an extra day here rather than move again. Sometimes you need to take a break from daily travel.

Beach time!! Yes, it was cold but we sat on the beach anyway.

Beach time!! Yes, it was cold but we sat on the beach anyway. The sea gulls kept us company.

In our walk to town we found a lovely little park – one of the nicest we have ever seen.

~Welcome arch ~Al relaxes in a butterfly chair ~ table and benches ~ A fountain designed for cooling off - for children in hot weather ~ a little playhouse

~Welcome arch
~Al relaxes in a butterfly chair
~ table and benches
~ A fountain designed for cooling off – for children in hot weather
~ a little playhouse

Are you ever to old to play? We tried the see saw. Silly, isn't it?

Are you ever to old to play? We tried the see saw. Silly, isn’t it?

prep

The PPD Beach to Battleship Triathlon is Saturday. Lots of preparations going on!

Which explains why we saw so many people swimming in the channel and bay near us. Brrrrrrrrr!

Which explains why we saw so many people swimming in the channel and bay near us. Brrrrrrrrr!

Another glowing sunset. If you look very closely, you might see Venus.

Another glowing sunset. If you look very closely, you might see Venus – tiny pinpoint of light in the upper left.

We may be in the south, but we are cold!! It has been in the high 40’s at night. Our cabin registered 56 degrees this morning – that’s 2 degrees colder than we keep our house at night in the winter. But the sun is shiny brightly during the day.

Just a quick update to last night’s blog post. We awoke today to a very chilly morning  – 38 degrees outside and only 52 degrees inside the cabin. Brrrrrr. And I thought we had headed south!
It’s a good thing we studied the currents and planned our route today around them, resulting in a late morning departure. Why? No boats would be leaving this anchorage this morning until after the swimming part of the PPD Beach to Battleship Triathlon. Remember yesterday’s photo about the preparations for this triathalon? At that time we had no idea just how big this event is.

PPD

You can see the bicycles in the back.

Bags for clothing change after the swim are placed here.

Bags for clothing change after the swim are placed here.

This triathlon is Internationally recognized iron distance and half distance. The title sponsor, PPD, supports the event to educate the public on the vital role of clinical research and trials for new medicines. The distances are:
Swim – from Wrightsville Beach, 2.4 miles
Bike – 112 miles from Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington
Run – 26.2 miles around Wilmington, ending at the USS North Carolina battleship

While we ate our breakfast, we had a front row seat to watch the swimming – the swimming was right past this anchorage.

Volunteers on paddleboards and kayaks are spread out along the swimming course

Volunteers on paddleboards and kayaks are spread out along the swimming course

One mass of swimmers coming up the channel

One mass of swimmers coming up the channel

US Coast Guard boat waits at the back to prevent boats from entering the channel there.

US Coast Guard boat waits at the back to prevent boats from entering the channel there.

A mass of swimmers passing the buoy that marks the turn point

A mass of swimmers passing the buoy that marks the turn point

The lead swimmer passing by

The lead swimmer passing by

It must be so cold in that water today

It must be so cold in that water today

This was for all those athletic friends and family members of ours who have run, biked, and swam competitively-  Meghan, Maureen, Adam, Colleen, Alicia.