ICW Both Carolinas: Nov 9 2006
We tossed the lines from the Beaufort, NC, docks (10/30) under gorgeous, sunny skies. A nice stop through the ICW at this point (and a bit further than we thought we would make) is Mile Hammock Bay. It is a pristine anchorage carved out of the banks of the ICW...oh yeah, well; the carving was done by the military because it is on the property of the Camp LeJeune Marine Base (no going ashore allowed). And the anchorage was repeatedly buzzed by military helicopters - our theory was that the pilots were practicing take-offs and landings over and over and over. That's okay - it was pretty neat. We had dinner aboard and gazed into the banks for wildlife as the sun went down - very nice. Happy Halloween!! We pulled up anchor early and headed out of the military base with fog rolling across the surface of the water and marshes (does Mother Nature know it is Halloween, too?). We saw quite a bit of nature and human activity today; a raccoon washing a fish at the shore and a traffic jam of ten boats at the Surf City Highway Bridge for the 10:00am opening - quite a full morning! Through the bridge and and back in motion. After anchoring at Dutchman's Creek (again, a rustic wide spot in the road) we all jumped into Trouble and headed for Southport, NC, for dinner. Wonderful margaritas and a fish dinner later (from Fishy Fishy Restaurant - yes, that really was the name of it) we wandered into town to see if there were any trick-or-treaters out and about. No disappointment there - lots of costumed kids having a fun night...especially at the Christmas Shoppe where Santa and Mrs. Claus were sitting on the porch.
Another day filled with nature and beautiful scenery along the ICW; even a bald eagle sighting to add to the list. We made pretty good time but the bridge openings can cause some stops and starts. The Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge can really crimp your schedule because it only opens on the hour. We were full throttle hoping not to have to wait a full hour for the next opening. There was another boat near us and we were both pushing to make the opening; luckily, a boat up front heard our laments and went purposefully slow through the bridge so that we could all make it. Boy was that nice - cocktails at our place once we had all anchored in Calabash Creek, SC! Nice folks and we happily chatted until moving our separate ways for dinner. We continue to head South but the temperatures are staying pretty chilly...upcoming Myrtle Beach is even predicting 32 degrees F - holy cow! We continue to bump our way along the ICW (literally). Shoaling is common and dredging has become less frequent. Common wisdom says that it is because funds previously earmarked for upkeep of the ICW have been diverted to Iraq. Who knows. What we do know is that all of us are pretty tired by the time we make it to a dock or anchorage because there is a lot of depth gauge watching and breathe holding. Conversations with other cruisers generally open with amount of groundings/bumps and move onto the unseasonably cold temperatures...then it is straight to sundowners (if they have not already begun).
We tied up at Barefoot Landing 11/2 (yes, amusing isn't it - Barefeet at Barefoot...). The potential ICW bumps became more dramatic just before Myrtle Beach as we passed through the section of the ICW named "the rock pile." We passed at low tide and the name is dead on - rocks on both sides that would be just barely submerged at any higher tidewaters. Yikes - do not stray from the channel! This is our time to do some serious provisioning (my folks got a rental car for their Atlanta departure) as well as a day trip to Charleston. Work first then a "vacation" day.
West Marine, Home Depot, Costco and Kroger's were our stops today. Our fridge and cupboards are full, water heater leaks (x2) have been dried up (another great job by mechanic Chris) and we are ready for a fun day in Charleston tomorrow. Oh wow - Charleston definitely does not disappoint! We had a light breakfast in order to have a big lunch at Hyman's Seafood Co...and it was delicious! Opened in the 1800s it is a local favorite. We stuck with house specialties; crispy flounder, fish sandwich, calamari wrap and bread pudding - all very good. We wandered this lovely city and of course made a stop at the Mill's House (Winston - it looks as good as ever) and walked along the Battery. The homes are lovely and constructed with a side of practicality - privacy door at the street, faced so that all breezes are caught and fragrant blooms everywhere.
We tossed the lines at Barefoot Landing and my folks headed for Atlanta (11/5). We all had a great visit (and they even say they want to return for another leg - awesome). This is another beautiful stretch of the ICW (and wider). It includes the Waccamah River and was filled with herons and turtles. There might be additional critters but we were down two sets of wildlife spotters and needed to improve our individual skills. Additionally, crab pots have been traded for lily pads - probably won't hurt the props but there is no need to chance it. We anchored in Georgetown, SC, and had a great seaside meal at a spot that felt like you were eating under the docks - fabulous burgers and back to the boat for an early start to Beaufort (bee-u-fort), SC. It was a long run (23 hours total) and good weather window. The only problem was that we had lost our sea legs after being "inside" for so long. Gosh - even grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner were almost too much for us. But in we came to lovely Beaufort, SC, and anchored. We straightened up then crashed.
Beaufort, SC, is a simply lovely town. You may remember it from Forest Gump, The Great Santini or The Big Chill (Hollywood likes it, too). It is the second oldest town in South Carolina (founded early 1700s) and owes much of its current day beauty to the fact that it was the Union headquarters during the Civil War...aka...it was not burned down. We have been scheduling mail drops at the Post Office, getting charts and routes plotted for the Bahamas, getting a big load of laundry done and various other tasks...as well as walking through this beautiful town. The homes are stately and the Spanish moss elegantly drapes over grand oak trees - definitely a wonderful place to rest for a few days.
You just never know what the day will bring (11/10). This morning we rose at sunrise and computered with our free wifi before heading in for a nice breakfast (Chris's favorite meal of the day). We found one (early, too - open at 7:30am) and it was quite sophisticated...linen napkins and everything. We happily read the paper as we ate our eggs. The paper mentioned a parade this morning - who knew?! It is the Veteran's Day Parade and (as we learned) the Marine Corps Birthday! Well, that is serious business here in Beaufort and the streets were closed and bands and floats and military units marched down the street. I must say, I got a bit emotional after seeing West Point and the Naval Academy and the National Military Cemetery in Beaufort during a time of action...and then to have these bright and shiny faces marching in front of us. It gave us pause. However, you could not have a better day for the celebrations - it is sunny and we are supposed to see 80 degrees F...something only a distant memory for us...soon to be rectified.