Monday, November 30, 2020

Brisk Weather

Log 22194

Beaufort, SC

I was awakened at about 5 this morning by the boat rocking and rolling in the wind at anchor. The anchor did indeed hold through it all. It was raining and a couple of severe storms were headed my way. As luck would have it the cold front was fast-moving and took the severe storms off the coast while they were still south of me. As a result of the weather, my plans to get away at 7 am were dashed, so I had a leisurely morning before hoisting the anchor at around 8:30.

The delay left me pushing hard to get through the shallow areas while the tide was high enough to avoid dragging my bottom. I finally got through the last tough spot at 12:30, just in the nick of time. I saw a couple of areas with depths of under eight feet. My draft is six feet so I had little room to spare. 

One of the results of this race to avoid low tide this morning was my arrival in Beaufort at precisely dead low tide this afternoon around 3 pm. I had planned on spending the night at Lady's Island Marina but the charted 9-foot channel to its dock proved to be only about five feet deep today. This was likely caused by both the low tide and the very strong winds driving water out of the area. I made three probing passes at the entrance but ran into mud each time. So I am instead at the Beaufort Town Docks, right downtown.

The ride was comfortable on my 50-ton ship, but there were winds gusting to 35 knots all day. In the open areas of the large rivers the chop kicked up a lot of spray. I ran the windshield wipers nearly all day, and the boat will need a bath as soon as weather permits. The low tonight in Beaufort is expected to be 36°. Right now the wind is at about 15 knots, so the wind chill is, well, chilling.

Having dined last night on sardines and crackers at anchor in the rain, I was looking forward to the onsite restaurant at Lady's Island Marina. Unfortunately everything I would like in Beaufort proper is closed on Monday night. I do have the makings of a cheese omelet on board, which will have to do tonight.

I will shove off early tomorrow and expect to be in Thunderbolt by tomorrow afternoon. There are a few loose ends that my electronics guy, Mike King of Coastal Marine Electronics, needs to deal with before I bring the boat back home to Ford probably next weekend.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Far from the Shallow

 Log 22151

Church Creek Anchorage, Wadmalaw Island, SC

I started today moving the boat back home from Tolers Cove Marina near Charleston. The planning for this trip was complicated by low tides near mid-day and the need to pass through some notoriously shallow spots on the Intracoastal Waterway. I can usually make it from Charleston to Beaufort in a day and from there to Thunderbolt in Savannah on the second day. This time, I decided to travel a few hours today in fairly deep water so I can get through the shallows tomorrow when tides are high in the morning. 

I travelled today from Tolers Cove at statute mile marker 462 for 26 statute miles in 2 1/2 hours to Church Creek Anchorage. Where I'm anchored right now, high tide tomorrow morning will be at 9:19 and the next low tide will be at 3:01 tomorrow afternoon. I am anchored near statute mile 488 of the ICW and Beaufort is at mile 536. It should take me around six hours to Beaufort and, with a start around sunrise, I should easily get through the shallows before noon.

I am helped enormously these days by a man named Robert Sherer. He goes by the name "Bob423" and has written a book, updated annually, which is currently named the "2020 ICW Cruising Guide". I keep a copy handy on Kindle. Bob also hosts a private Facebook Group with more than 9,000 members, It is a gathering place for the many boaters moving up and down the ICW to share information, ask questions, and be made aware of various bits of information such as bridge heights, lock closings, etc.

But by far the most helpful thing Bob does is share the tracks he saves on his annual trip from Virginia to Key West in the fall and back again in the spring. These tracks are amazing and can easily be downloaded and displayed on chart plotter apps such as Aqua Map and Navionics. Once I discovered these tracks, I wouldn't travel the ICW without them. Here's the track I will be using in the first shallow area tomorrow, shown with colored survey data from the Corps of Engineers. You can see that the blue dotted line of Bob's track is nowhere near the red and green ICW markers. I've learned to have faith.

The weather was rainy today, off and on, but I managed to dodge the biggest storm that passed nearby offshore. There is more to come and a Gale Warning is in effect for offshore waters nearby tonight and tomorrow. It says: 

GALE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 7 PM EST MONDAY...Southwest winds 20 to 30 kt with gusts up to 40 kt and seas 6 to 9 ft expected. 

So I'm glad to not be at sea tonight and buttoned down in my anchorage. Here's hoping the anchor holds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Day Five

 Log 22118

Mount Pleasant, SC

We had an uneventful day Monday and arrived in Mount Pleasant (Charleston) at 3:20 in the afternoon. We cooked a last meal on board Monday night and spent this morning packing up and preparing to leave. We rented a car around noon and I am safely back at home.

A special thanks to my friend Paul Hamilton for helping me out. He is great company and extremely helpful with anything that needs to be done. Driving the boat in the Intracoastal Waterway can be wearing, but having someone who will alternate two-hour shifts breaks up the day nicely. This is the "Bosun's" third trip on this boat and he is welcome back any time. Thanks Paul.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Day Four


Waccamaw River
Log 22049

Waccamaw River, SC

We are cruising in the Intracoastal Waterway between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. We should get to Georgetown this afternoon and to Charleston tomorrow. The trip has been pleasant and uneventful, except for being radio witnesses to a tragedy. 

One man was killed yesterday when a boat overturned in breaking waves in Carolina Beach Inlet. We listened to a blow-by-blow report mostly from a cool and capable boater who notified the Coast Guard, got EMT's called to the closest marina, and helped get the occupants to the marina. Another boater had braved his way into the breakers, nearly capsizing himself, and recovered the four occupants, one of whom was unconscious. CPR was administered and EMT's were waiting at the marina, but we learned last night from the news that the unconscious victim couldn't be revived. We passed the marina just after the occupants of the boat were brought there. See "Garner man drowns at Carolina Beach inlet after boat capsizes".

Carolina Beach is an unmarked inlet reported in guidebooks as a small boat inlet to be used only with local knowledge. When strong tides run into opposing wind these inlets can build up dangerous breaking waves. Apparently this group tried to turn around in the inlet, which got them broadside to the waves and flipped over their boat. It was reported that no one on the boat was wearing a life jacket. 

Since leaving River Dunes we have spent nights at Swansboro, NC, Wrightsville Beach, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. We are now entering one of the most beautiful areas of the ICW where we will pass through the 29,000-acre Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Once we enter it, we will see mostly nothing but wilderness and wildlife, and a few other boats. I wrote about this area near Georgetown on our last pass through here in "My Ancestral Home"

The Wildlife Refuge has an ultimate "Acquisition Boundary" of some 55,000 acres, and there is an ongoing land purchase program within the boundary for interested sellers. Some of the current area is owned while other parts are managed as a part of conservation easements and long-term leases. The history of the area is fascinating and can be read about on the Refuge website.

We are having a great trip and continue to enjoy spectacular weather, even though it was not cooperative when we had opportunities to go to sea. We plan to get the boat to the Charleston area by tomorrow night where we will leave it and drive back home to Richmond Hill.


We arrived in Georgetown at 2:45 this afternoon. The fuel price here seemed quite reasonable at $1.75 per gallon. I have seen lower prices in a few places but also I have seen prices of $3.35 a gallon, nearly double the price here. I still had about 500 gallons onboard after last fueling in January, and could have waited until the new year to refuel, just because I could. Nevertheless, I decided to take advantage of our early arrival and fill the tanks. We took on 1,240 gallons. Having run for 251 hours and 1,565 miles since our last fueling, this meant we had averaged burning 4.9 gallons per hour at an average speed of 6.23 knots. We are getting 1.26 nautical miles per gallon to move around our three-bedroom second home, including some heavy fuel use for the generator in hot weather. We'll see what fuel prices look like in about another year.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

South Again

We are in Swansboro, NC, a lovely small town with historic homes and (we hope) a good restaurant. I am accompanied by my friend Paul Hamilton, the "Bosun", who is on his third trip on Division Belle. I am glad to have the help and enjoying his good company.

The Bosun
We left home Tuesday morning on election day and made the seven-hour drive up to River Dunes near Oriental, NC. Wednesday was taken up with returning the rental car to New Bern about an hour away, getting our sewage tank pumped out and our water tanks filled, buying a few forgotten groceries, and various other tasks. We departed River Dunes this morning at 9 and arrived here at 4:30 this afternoon. It was an incredibly beautiful day and an uneventful trip.

We had an alternate plan to stop early today in Beaufort, NC and go to sea tomorrow for around a ten-hour trip to Wrightsville Beach. It probably would have worked, but we should be in Wrightsville Beach anyway tomorrow night with the path we chose.

We elected to travel in the waterway further today and continue inside tomorrow because of the weather. Don't get me wrong. The weather is beautiful. However, the forecasts for being at sea tomorrow were right at the margins of what I consider comfortable. I like seas of up to three feet but I get nervous when the forecast is four to five feet and the "period", or time between waves, gets shorter than a comfortable swell. It will probably be beautiful tomorrow at sea, but when you commit to a ten-hour day at sea with nowhere to stop short, it can turn into "a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day". And who wants that? Life is short.

So we traded a really short day today and a ten-hour day at sea tomorrow for two seven or eight-hour days in the waterway, ending at the same place tomorrow night.

We are at Casper's Marina in Swansboro and I asked both the dockhand and the owner where to have dinner with outdoor service. We got the same answer from both of them (a good sign) so we plan to walk a few blocks to "The Boro", which seems to be the favorite.

Tomorrow we will head further south on the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville Beach. We will keep you posted on our progress.