Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Week 30: Apr. 24-30, 2013 (Day 204- 210)

Week 30:  

Wed. Apr. 24, 2013—Day 204:
Destination:  Church Creek (Mile 488.2) to Charleston Maritime Center (Mile 464.1)
Departure:  0705 hrs.                             Arrival:  1115 hrs.                                   Distance:  42.1 SM
Winds:  calm, NE shifting to S to SSW by evening & calm at night
Weather:  low lying fog over the water & marsh grasses, clear & sunny, thick fog then clear & sunny once again

Sunrise in Church Creek
Mist over the water 
Mist hung over the water & saltwater marsh grasses at sunrise; most picturesque!  The water surface was calm last night & a mirror this morning.  Moisture+++ clung to the windows; at departure time we had to roll the side & front windows up in order to see.  Also a very picturesque view until 1-2 mi. from Church Creek; the fog became more intense, thick+++ for a few miles.   Graeme had to maneuver the boat via the chartplotter alone under reduced speed.  It then quickly thinned & the brilliant sunshine & cloudless sky was upon us.  We left on a rising tide, against current & at R20 the tide reversed & now we were with the current.  Our timing was good as maximum tide at Stono River & Elliott Cut was at 0810 hrs. & we entered the cut at 0941 hrs. on a falling tide, which runs to Charleston Harbor, therefore we ran the cut with the current at a speed of 8.8K & through at 0944 hrs. (3 minutes!).  The Wappoo Creek Bridge (bascule) opening was at 1000 hrs.  Against current we ran the Ashley River, turning behind a large freighter up the Cooper River in the shipping lane.  At the appropriate time & after passing the entrance a short distance, Graeme turned into the Charleston Maritime Center Marina, having to be very careful to avoid clipping the bowsprit of a Swedish tallship, hanging ½ way into the entrance channel.  Graeme maneuvered well into the slip & 2 dock hands were available to catch our midship & bow lines.  Lunch, registered at the marina office & paid for 2 nights & I washed my hair.  We now had ½ a day to tour, then a full day tomorrow.  Although the S to SSW breeze increased, the sun shone & it was warm enough to walk around downtown in shorts.  We started at the Aquarium & Fort Sumter Museum for their hours of operation (a national park, so Graeme can use his lifetime pass to tour for free, except for the ferry ride to Fort Sumter), down Calhoun to King St., to the City Market & an early supper (1730 hrs.--yuks!) Noisy Oyster on E. Bay St. before walking back to the marina & boat.  Clouds started to roll in,  but some orangey sky after sunset.  Non official full moon visible, few stars but difficult to see with all the city lights.
Ravenal Bridge

Thurs. Apr. 25, 2013—Day 205:

Destination:  Charleston (Mile 464.1)

Winds:  very light westerlies till 1615 hrs., then NNW with thunderstorm 15K X45 min. then calm by further shifting to NE

Weather:  pleasant sunny day till 1500 hrs., then black skies from the west with rain then lightning & thunder & heavy rains about 1615 hrs., then clouds & on & off rain

One of my many photos of wrought iron gates
Splendid Gardens & Huge Balconies

Graeme & I toured most of the day separately; it was good to have the chance to have our own space.  My decision was to tour by bike or walk; I certainly needed the  exercise to start shedding some added weight.  I sure put in many miles over a total of 4-1/2 walking hours, in & out of main streets, side streets & lanes in the following areas of historic Charleston: Ansonborough (Laurens & Anson St.), Downtown (Cumberland, State, Church, Meeting, Queen St.), South of Broad (East Bay, Church, Meeting, Longitude Lane, Water, Atlantic, South Battery St.)  & Harleston Village (Queen, Broad, Colonial Lake, Moultrie Park, Barre, Beaufain, Market St.).  I saw many designs of infamous Charleston wrought iron doors, gates & fences & patterns adorned to walls.  Typical Charleston homes were of the colonial & Victorian style with street doors, tall 2 storey narrow homes with long balconies, some on 1 level & others on 2 levels facing south or west to catch the prevailing winds on hot summer days, some single homes but many attached to one another yet separate buildings & different in design & architecture.  Some homes had large yards & gardens, but many had small manicured, sculpted yards & all with very rich, new & alive green colours.  Colourful flower boxes adorned homes & even lanes.  Colourful flowers were seen in yards & plantars, as well as flowering trees & shrubs; magnolias were in bud, but I did saw one full blossom.  Charleston is a place one must visit to take in & appreciate all the sights.  Everyone falls in love with Charleston; I have BIG time.   At noon I attended the St. Philip’s Church Tea Room Luncheon (Apr. 22-26, 2013 at 1130-1400 hrs.)—superb as always.  Graeme & I met at the south end of City Market & walked the market from west to east when we saw black rain clouds approaching.  A drink at Molly Darcy on East Bay St. & the 1st rain hit.  We donned our raincoats when the rain subsided & walked to Harris Teeter (ground beef, butter & 2 apples).  Back at the marina we confirmed tomorrow morning’s tides & our departure time.  The 2nd wave of black clouds & very heavy rains with lightning & thunder arrived with about 15K NNW winds X 45 min., then calm.  On & off rainy periods followed.  A cloudy evening & partially cloudy night; few stars seen but not the official full moon.

Outside Seating at St. Philip's Tea Luncheon

Seagrass Basket

 There are so many more photos I have & would like to add to my blog, but there so little space to do so! 

Fri. Apr. 26, 2013—Day 206:

Destination:  Charleston (Mile 464.1) to Minim Creek (Mile 415.4)

Departure:  0810 hrs.                             Arrival:  1720 hrs.                                      Distance:  48.7 SM

Winds:  NE 8K, quickly increased to 15-20K with 25K gusts, consistent 20-25K & E+/-15K at evening
Weather:  cloudy & semi cool start, then quickly wall to wall sun & very blue sky

Low Tide Nearing McCellanville
It was stand in line for a shower this morning even at 0700 hrs.  Jeff assisted us off the dock with ease at fairly slack high tide (high tide= 0853 hrs.).  Less than one hour to high tide we pushed against tide the 1.9 mi. to Ben Sawyer (bascule) Bridge; once vehicular traffic was cleared we made a requested opening & passed through at 0918 hrs.  Oh, did I mention that the wind was on our nose?  All day!!!  And to boot the winds increased significantly + against a falling tide, at full moon time, which means higher highs & more importantly lower lows.   No problems were encountered with the depths through Isle of Palm & Awendaw Creek area, BUT approaching McCellanville at 1400 hrs. (6 hrs. post Charleston), 1-1/2 hrs. before max. low tide, we experienced very, very low water of 5’5” to 6 ft. at G39 & G37 to G35A & 4’8” to 5 ft. at G35A to G35; we didn’t touch but how can that be when we draw 4’11” empty!  I drove a lot today, but glad that Graeme did that stretch as I would have freaked.  The seesaw effect with our speed was apparent today depending on the direction of the water flow from it’s source on a falling tide; very infrequently we were on the “saw” side & did not have any push + a more or less 20K wind also against us & some whitecapped chop.  The wind & current were so strong that many of the fish traps had a hard time to stay above water.  We saw dolphins early in the morning in Charleston & maybe one alligator swimming in the water of the Cape Romain Wildlife National Reserve, some birds diving for fish but that was all.  So all in all it was a nerve racking & frustrating day.  We anchored on a rising low tide in the east Minim Creek in 8 ft. water with 80 ft. of chain with still a brilliant sun shining & blue sky & a cool +/-15K east wind, which continued to lie down at sunset.  Four boats here tonight.  A cloud suddenly appeared & across the setting sun.  A pitch dark night, stars & a later rising fullish moon.  

Sat. Apr. 27, 2013—Day 207:
Destination:  Minim Creek (Mile 415.4) to Osprey Marina, Myrtle Beach (Mile 373.5)
Departure:  0705 hrs.                                  Arrival:  1305 hrs.                                 Distance:  41.9 SM
Winds:  mostly ENE to E 8-15K
Weather:  light cloud cover at the start, soon sun & cloud mix, then full sun & blue skies early afternoon before a line of clouds rolled in from the west

Barge & Tug in the Waccamaw River
Turtles in Osprey Marina & throughtout the Waccamaw 

Three of the four boats left one after the other on this calm morning.  We were pushed with the tidal current.  A barge & tug passed the entrance of the creek just in front of all of us, taking up a majority of the width of the Esterville Minim Creek Canal.  We passed Georgetown at 0840 hrs., still with the current.   In fact, the further north we travelled today, the later high tide was; this meant we were with the current all day & were able to maintain a boat speed of 6.2-6.7K with low engine RPM’s, & thus made good travelling time.  We followed the barge & tug into the Waccamaw River (Mile 403).  This river is deeply wooded to it’s banks & especially alive with new growth & vibrant greens in the Spring, one of the most scenic part of all of the ICW with moss-draped cypress trees, wildflowers & greenery growing in cypress stumps, brown coffee coloured water & numerous great anchorages filled with birds & fish.  Several boats made a fuel stop at Osprey Marina, our destination for the night, so we had to slow up with our arrival time & even tied up at the transient dock till the fuel dock was clear & our turn in line.  Once our diesel tank was topped with a whopping 9-1/2 gals. compared to 300 gals. for other boats we moved & tied in our assigned slip (C10).  It was early to stop for the day, but this was one of Graeme’s favourite places; it boasts superb hospitality, great facilities, very friendly & helpful, the best welcome package of all marinas & inexpensive.  So often going south you hit certain anchorages & marinas & different favourites coming north.  If I wasn’t so anxious to get home we would stay in a few anchorages off this wonderful river.  Big mileage & some caution shallow areas tomorrow + rain in the forecast, but we are hoping to reunite with Lynn & Larry.  Clouds at sunset as well as during the night.

Sun. Apr. 28, 2013—Day 208:
Destination:  Osprey Marina, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Mile 373.5) to St. James Marina, Southport, N.C. (Mile 315)
Departure:  700 hrs.                                       Arrival:  1600 hrs.                                Distance: 58.5 SM
Winds:  NE to E 8K steadily increasing to 10-15K to 18-22K
Weather:  light cloud with few sunny breaks, cool breeze

Cable Car over ICW at Myrtle Beach Golf Course
Little River Swing Bridge
Only in the South!
A great shower with a powerful shower head last night & again this early am.  It was calm as usual in this protected marina, so we were off the dock easily by ourselves before the marina opened at 0800 hrs.  A few boats were already in the ICW when we departed.  We carried the current in our favour at about 6.5K until Grand Dunes where the current reversed.  We caught the Socastee Swing Bridge (Mile 370.9) opening at 0730 hrs. & the Barefoot Landing Swing Bridge (Mile 354.3) opening at 1000 hrs. Through the Rockpile  (Mile 353 to 349) at 1015 hrs. we saw depths of 13-15 ft.  And finally, we passed the Little River Swing Bridge at 1109 hrs.  We left South Caroline shortly after Calabash River & Little River Inlet at 1155 hrs. & entered North Carolina against current.  Passing through Shallotte Inlet at 1340 hrs. was no problem with depths, but our speed dropped from 7.7K to 3.6K.  Yes, of course the wind was on our nose & a hindrance when it reached strengths of 18-22K & one travels in an easterly direction from northern South Carolina coastline into North Carolina as well.  There was a lot of Sunday recreational waterway traffic ie powerboats+++ & seadoos, almost as bad as Florida on a weekend, just as disrespectful of other boats by not announcing themselves when passing & especially disrespectful of the environment with their wake; the only difference was the boats were just not as big as in Florida.  I tried to read sitting on the combing & lying on the deck but it was just too damn cold.  And finally the last challenge of the day was through Lockwoods Folly at 1510 hrs. 1-1/2 hrs. before low tide; lots of chatter on the VHF with reports coming as boats passed.  I stayed to the green side of midline, on the magenta line of the chartplotter & saw 7.4 to 8.8 ft.  As like the other inlets, there was turbulence you needed to steer with.  I seemed to be driving through all the caution areas today.  Mike & Larry assisted to tying us up at dockside (D10), but Graeme did another good boat maneuvering.  Then hellos, a drink, snacks & enjoyable conversation on ‘Twomorrows’.  Last minute decision was to throw in a load of laundry on while we had dinner at the restaurant; 1 washer & 1 dryer $1.00 each.   A clouded evening with rain threatening & a clouded night sky.

Mon. Apr. 29, 2013-- Day 209:
Destination:  St. James Marina (Mile 315) to Banks Channel, Wrightsville (Mile 283.2)
Departure:  0920 hrs.                                 Arrival:  1400 hrs.                                    Distance:  31.8 SM
Winds:  NE <10K, S <10K only in evening
Weather:  heavy cloud then rain+++ till noon, few sunny periods mid afternoon & back to rain

When we could see this Fishing Boat & free food for Pelicans
Carolina Beach
Due to heavy rains this am the decision was whether to part or not & also in keeping with the most favourable passage method of the Cape Fear River; Skipper Bog suggests leaving Southport 1 hr. before high tide is most advantageous & we were 1 hr. from Southport.  We listened to NOAA, conferred with Lynn & her weather sources & let one wave of heavy rain pass before making our final decision.  There was nothing to do here, nothing close by, Lynn & Larry were going with friends from Wilmington for the day & the rain had let up; we were going.  We were assisted off the dock by marina staff & eased out of the slip.  Soon afterwards in the ICW black clouds to the NW were very evident, heavy rains commenced again & much to our dismay there was lightning & thunder; do we continue or turn back???  We set up a fan to circulate air on the front dodger window to keep it somewhat clear.  At 1030 hrs. we arrived at Southport & entered the Cape Fear River.  It was raining so heavily at this point we could only see approximately ¼ mile ahead; it was just like thick fog.  Suddenly we saw stationary tugs with boom-like apparatus attached on starboard then on port, but at first glance were they on the move or not?  We picked up the shipping channel, announced our presence to concerned traffic & picked our way from one channel marker to the other with heavy assistance from the chartplotter.  Our boat speed was 8K with the flood tide & fortunately the sea state was calm.  Just after a picking up the sighting of a long dock to port (? ferry dock) we saw a moving vessel coming towards us & thought it was a tug; we hailed the “tug” & the ferry boat announced her presence; we apologized for our error.  Shortly afterwards the rain eased & stopped & the visibility improved & we continued picking our way maintaining good speed.  Phew!  No ships or freight traffic were encountered, which was most unusual for this large commercial channel; we only saw a small fishing boat with a large trailing & following of pelicans for free food.  We left the shipping channel at G33 & re-established ourselves on the ICW to Snows Cut near noontime; we were just off high tide, so had good depths (16 ft.) through this section.  The bridge was under repairs but a non-issue for our 54 ft. mast.  We turned to port in the ICW that runs parallel to the Carolina Beach Inlet & a notorious shoaling spot, but not a problem just 1 hr. off high tide.  Here the current changed & our speed dropped until we were nearing & feeling the positive sucking effects of Masonboro Inlet.  Some very dark, very ugly clouds to the east out to sea, some clearing & blue sky to the NE as well as south.  The light NE winds today were on our nose; no south winds as predicted until evening time.  We left the ICW at G129 & took the deeper Shinn Creek passage to the Banks Channel anchorage (10 ft. water & 90 ft. chain).  Even though it was stressful traversing Cape Fear River with restricted visibility, our timing was exact from marina against current on a rising tide, through Southport & up the Cape Fear River with the current still on a rising tide & through Snows Cut with the current 1 hr. after high tide, thus on a high falling tide.  An early arrival time, but time to rest the frazzled nerves. Only 7 boats tonight at this usually popular anchorage.  A few sunny periods mid afternoon before more clouds & fine rain settled in over the late afternoon, evening & night.

Tues. Apr. 30, 2013—Day 210:
Destination:  Wrightsville Beach (Mile 283.2) to Mile Hammock (Mile 244.5)
Departure:  0715 hrs.                                Arrival:  1450 hrs.                                Distance:  38.7 SM
Winds:  NNE to NE 8K, increased to 10-15K, then E to N & calm at sunset
Weather:  clouds with few bright periods & times when the sun broke through the clouds

Clams or Oysters?

Mile Hammock
The last day of another month (#7).  Weather-wise, a 2nd disappointingly cool month with mostly northerly winds, although most days were sunny ones; yesterday especially & today were the two most cloudiest days so far on the whole trip.  We calculated yesterday that it would be best to catch the 0800 hrs. opening of Wrightsville Beach Bridge (bascule) & then hourly openings on the other 2 following bridges so as to play the tides most effectively; that would gives us an hour into a rising tide when we upanchored & 1-2 hrs. after high tide when we would be transiting the New River, a shallow problem area.  But we did temporarily went aground ever so gently on Motts Channel at G25; there must be a hump extending from the docks, so one must absolutely go directly on a line at G25 marker.  After the Wrightsville Beach Bridge at 0800 hrs. we took the hour to do the 5 mile distance to Figure Eight Swing Bridge & thought 2 to 2-1/2 hrs. to Surf City Swing Bridge like when we were southbound in the Fall, but we were too late for the 1100 hrs. opening & passed through at 1200 hrs., which would make us into the 2 hrs. post high tide time frame for New River.  The winds were directly on our nose, not too much boat traffic & the same Mile action with boat speed with the many small & larger inlets from the ocean.  There were fewer & fewer palm trees the last few days coming north, but an increasing number of new osprey nests on the channel markers than further south.  As I’ve been doing the majority of the driving the last few days, I’ve been able to see the lay of the land & put visual pictures to places I’ve read in the various cruising guidebooks.  We arrived at the New River Inlet at 1420 hrs. & saw depths of 13-15 ft. except 1 spot at 72A (10 ft.).  We were the 3rd boat in & anchored in 12 ft. water with 80 ft. of chain, but by sunset there were a total of 13 boats.  When upanchoring this am, I noticed the bowroller was not as it should be (spindle had come unscrewed); Graeme did some repair while underway & completed the job after anchoring.  About 1715 hrs. a military dinghy came over to a few of us boats & asked with we would reanchor slightly more eastward as they were conducting diving maneuvers this evening.  Also we were warned by a boat that we travelled through all the bridges today that the Onslow Bridge was closed down for a couple of hours for repairs.  This is the bridge we will need to open within 3.4 mi. tomorrow morning.  Graeme hailed them on the VHF & the bridge was now operational.  We had quite a display of military maneuvers after sunset, between divers in the water & repeated twin blade & regular helicopter landings & take-offs; very noisy way after dark till 2200 hrs..  Clouds were heavy at sunset but somehow the sun seemed to have found a small break in the cloud & a brilliant red shone just over the land & through the trees.  A 30 sec. rain shower & a dark night.

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