Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pluff Mud and South Carolina. Mile Marker 521

In the past two weeks we have made short work of North Carolina. There have been a few cold mornings and some wind as little cold fronts have moved through one after another. We love the Waccamaw River and it was the first taste of fall we have seen. We stopped in Georgetown but had to stay at the Georgetown Landing Marina, a bit out of town. It was the weekend of the Wooden Boat Festival so when in Rome . . .

We have a love-hate relationship with South Carolina. Her vistas are beautiful, the food is fabulous in every town, even more than fabulous in Charleston, and the weather is why we head south in the winter. But traveling her waterways can be tricky so the glow wears off the Palmettos as we move down the ICW. It is always more challenging in the fall as the days are so much shorter. One can travel twice as far in a day in the spring. This trip we have learned a few tricks from other cruises to help us feel more favorable about the South Carolina portion of the ICW.

In recent weeks we have taken two day breaks in the likes of Georgetown and Dataw Island, not to mention Charleston. Driving those reservations were the timing of tides and the fact we could not get into our favorite marinas. A new experience for us was to stop in McClellenville, a side creek off the ICW, home to many shrimp boats and little else but the Leland Oil Company, which is where we tied up for the night. It was a Sunday so the only restaurant/fish market was closed. They have three available spots on the fuel dock, if you can get in the creek for skinny water. We made it but did not run the air at night as we felt low tide at midnight would plug up our systems. One other boat left with us at dawn, the third boat left later and was stuck at the mouth of the creek. Our goal was to get through the Breeches Inlet (said to be as low as three feet at low tide) at high tide so we took a slip at Isle of Palms for the night, departing with the right tide at dawn again. What we learned from this trip was to pay the dock fee but only stay the four hours needed to make high tide, getting us to Charleston earlier and avoiding this overnight stop.

It was only eleven miles into Charleston, but we didn't get right in. First of all, we had to stay at the Charleston Maritime Center on the Cooper River with its reputation for a much more rolly ride than if we were on the Ashley River. Then our slip was not empty, like "your room's not ready, sir," so we sailed around for two hours. All's well that ends well, we had three lovely days and nights in Charleston. I can't say the rock and roll was much worse than anywhere else; it was water taxi and tour boat wakes that got us, not the cruise ships or river traffic. The location is very walkable to everything we like in town, including groceries, and we met new sailors and docked next to someone from our home port!

One of our new connections was an experienced cruiser and editor of Cruiser's Net, Larry Dorminy. He suggested that instead of sweating the Asapoo-Coosaw Cutoff which is notorious for shoaling, we turn left/south on the Ashapoo River. Seas were calm, sun was bright and we arrived at Fenwick [Cut] about 2:30 or a couple of hours before low. We motored out and down the Ashepoo in calm seaway, went below the Combahee Bank and across St Helena Sound all the way to green 11 below Pelican Bank and found 25-30 ft of water to turn up Morgan Creek to Dataw Marina. That saved us from having to motor up the ICW and then crossing at Parrot Creek.

There is no wind today but the skies are gorgeous. We have just used the day for chores and to see the golf community here on Dataw by golf cart. Tomorrow we venture to Port Royal Landing south of Beaufort, SC, to stage ourselves for mid-tide on the next bridge. Then its into Hilton Head for two days, and then Georgia.

Before we started cruising we followed the blogs of others who made the trip before us. It has been very helpful. We hope that passing on our experiences is helpful to others as well.

Our traveling companions, a trio of
dolphins in our wake on Morgan Creek.

Our traveling companions on the Ashapoo River;
Note the birds on his rig.

The Spirit of South Carolina
docked at the end of our pier.

The fleet in McClellenville, SC.

Sunset over the fleet