In Georgetown - South Carolina
It's been a few days since we posted anything apart from position reports as the trip through North into South Carolina is very much out in the 'sticks' with few places of great interest to report on. However there's always plenty of action on the water, especially as certain sections of that coast around the smaller inlets are beginning to shoal, meaning a greater risk of grounding without warning to the unsuspecting 'snowbirds' heading south. Also we are well and truly back into tides and currents and the locals must derive great fun from seeing out of control sail and powerboats flying off in all directions as they wait for bridges to open.
Our first 'near miss' came at the Camp LeJeune firing range, where a section of the ICW occasionally becomes closed for short periods whilst the military lob live shells across the water trying to hit various items of redundant hardware on the opposite shore, such as old tanks and vehicles no longer required by Uncle Sam. During this procedure a Navy guard boat is anchored either end of the range. They kindly alert transiting boats in the vicinity via VHF of the possibility of getting blown out of the water by stray shells making it necessary to drop anchor for a while near the guard boats. It was here that we came close to sustaining damage of a different kind. A heavy displacement cruising yacht with the close range destructive capability of a pocket battleship we had last seen in Morehead City decided to anchor just up-current of where we had already laid out 20 metres of chain to hold us steady until we were cleared to proceed. They decided that a humble offering of approx 5 metres of chain in the 3 metres of water would do the trick and then preceded to wave a cheery 'hello' to us whilst we frantically waved back to them indicating that they were dragging their anchor and its small amount of chain down onto us! At the last minute they finally got the message and powered up their engine just in time to clear our bows whilst still trying to retrieve their own anchor in the process. A close shave!
The next dramas on the route south occurred at Wrightsville which should really be re-named 'Agroundsville' as, due to shoaling from the inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, one of the members of our southbound convoy duly went hard aground where there should have been plenty of water and had to be towed off by Towboat USA. (The RAC of the ICW). Then at the Wrightsville bridge which opens on the hour another unfortunate cruiser went aground where there should also have been loads of water to float in, due, we learnt later, to a large tug which had previously gone aground at that very spot and, with its large propeller churning up the seabed, had inconveniently rearranged the underwater contour line in that vicinity.
We were going to anchor ourselves that evening at Wrightsville beach just off the ICW which meant a sharp left hand turn after the opening bridge. With 2 knots of current and millions of gallons of water in a hurry to return to the Ocean from whence it came we skidded round the corner towards the anchorage when our shallow water alarm started bleeping like mad. 'Skip' decided this wasn't working out very well and not such a good idea after all so aborted the procedure and tried to turn round into the fast flowing current. Ajaya was doing 2 knots sideways as we desperately tried to round up and head back into the ICW, then another boat came flying round the corner with the current, the crew looking alarmed at a sideways going catamaran close by. We pulled out of the 'skid' before we damaged any local boats parked in the adjacent marina and managed to get back into the ICW, immediately crossing Wrightsville off the future list of idyllic overnight stops. We decided instead to head on to Carolina Beach a few miles further down the ICW.
A mercifully quiet night at Carolina Beach, apart from the sounds of the Atlantic surf pounding onto the beach a few hundred yards away from us, was then followed by a transit through man-made 'Snow's Cut' which leads onto the Cape Fear River. We remembered Snow's Cut from the trip north in June - it was so shallow that a small speedboat drawing just a few inches had actually gone aground in the cut and had come back looking for a 'guide boat' i.e, one that had a proper chart onboard, which happened to be us! It was so shallow at that time that we were dreading the trip back through this narrow stretch of water - but, good news, the cut had since been dredged over the last few months - or was still being dredged, because as we entered (depths now seemed very good) we were hailed by one of the engineers in his boat to say there was a very long length of dredging pipeline in the cut which had broken loose which one boat had already hit on the way through ahead of us. Our trip through the Carolinas was turning out to be like the 12 challenges of Hercules. We decided that we didn't much care for this part of the ICW anymore.
At the mouth of the Cape Fear River lies Southport where we had previously enjoyed the comforts of a marina and a meal at 'Fishy Fishy' a really nice restaurant in the creek, with live music and a local Carolina type atmosphere. This time we anchored a short way up a narrow canal with just a few feet under the keel, opting not to sample the local delights in the chill of autumn. Skip proceeded to strip the outboard engine down for the umpteenth time to try and get it to run properly. (Blocked idle jet in the carburettor). It promptly poured with rain during the procedure and then as the rain stopped squadrons of mosquitoes descended on the boat with freshly sharpened proboscis's driving us inside for the evening. But not before drawing a small quantity of group 'O' from the 'outboard engineer' on Ajaya.
Our next stop was at the entrance to the Little River where we shared a starry evening with one other yacht (and a million more mosquitoes). But at least the outboard seemed to be back on song once more. We were treated to the sight of two large cruise boats entering the inlet from the Atlantic Ocean. Closer inspection with the 'binos' revealed two casino boats loaded with slot machines, which presumably took punters out for the day enabling them to spend a small fortune whilst incaserated on one of these floating prisons.
Onwards past Myrtle Beach and its numerous golf courses. Much of the ICW is bordered by large properties occupying huge plots of land. One house with anornate bedroom balcony had numerous eagles sitting on the balustrade, some airing their wings - not sure who would be the most alarmed if the house owner threw back the curtains in the morning - the eagles or the homeowner!
And so to Georgetown, named after King George and lying at the confluence of the Great Pee Dee River, Wacamaw River, and Sampit River. Georgetown is the second largest seaport in South Carolina, handling over 960,000 tons of materials a year. It's home to one of the largest paper mills in the world, but has a history dating back to the 1500's which makes interesting reading which we won't bore anybody with now - it's all in Wikipedia.
After a Sunday stopover here we will be moving on, possibly to Charleston where we first entered the USA after our voyage through the Caribbean.
Here are some pics from the last few days:-
Where boats outnumber residents by 3 to 1
Tranquil Whittaker Creek where we bought some engine spares Oriental's rural waterfront is beautiful
One road back from the river bank The river with the entrance to Whittaker Creek to the left
Painting of a dragon on a stone nr. the beach - they're big on dragons here ! The beach close by on a beautiful sunny day
It was still flooded from the recent storm This is the waterfront road - still underwater.
Main harbour at Oriental - Phil and the 'new' dinghy in the foreground
Morehead City - at the Sanitary Restaurant for the night excellent Hush Puppies here ....sunsets aren't too bad either
You see some strange sights on the ICW Africa meets the USA! some sad sights as well - an abandoned Mainship trawler
New bridge assembly - the concrete spans are delivered by barge Maybe it will be finished by next year?
Ospreys are gone for the winter - now the really big birdies have arrived ! ..... and they are in numbers, flexing their wings
Just what you don't want landing on top of your mast .......... A Pelican. It had difficulty landing which is not surprising really with a metre wingspan