Migrating South Fast: South Carolina and Georgia
This is the most woefully behind I have ever gotten on the blog, so I will tell you a few tales, share a bunch of pictures and try to efficiently bring you up to date. I’ll start at the the end of the story, first. Eleanor Q is currently parked in St. Augustine, Florida. That means we have passed through South Carolina and Georgia since last you heard from us! The headlines:
1) We have spent almost all of that time continuing down the Intracoastal Waterway. I refer to this as the “river boat cruise” portion of the trip – that is very much what it feels like. Through those travels, we’ve seen the different personalities of the waterway come out. South Carolina had golf courses and condos as well as some wilderness areas. Georgia became twisty and winding, but had some spectacularly scenic and quiet anchorages . . . it was generally less inhabited. Florida started showing areas with very expensive homes with docks and lots of palm trees. We have enjoyed it all. However, we have about frozen our tooshies off, too! It has definitely been fall cruising.
2) The two most note-worthy stops along the way were Charleston, South Carolina where we spent time with long-time friends of Frank’s who are now wonderful, new friends of mine as well.
3) The second note-worthy stop was Hilton Head, South Carolina over Thanksgiving. There we met up with our friends on Magnolia and spent a wonderful holiday together. We refer to Annette and Anthony as our water family.
So let’s get a little caught up.
We stopped in Georgetown, SC for a few days to escape a cold snap . . . two nights in the low 30s. When it’s that cold, we make a point of being in a marina so we can be plugged in to shore power and run our forced air heat through the night (something that the batteries alone would not be able to do). Although we have spent many chilly nights at anchor – the record low temperature in our bunk in the morning was 51 with the outside temperature of about 45 – getting into the low 30s is totally pushing it. We can stay warm throughout a chilly evening at anchor by cooking and lighting the propane stove in our “saloon” – the nautical term for living room – but we do not sleep with propane running overnight. SO – that brings us back to Georgetown! Many cruisers love it. It is a convenient walk into the downtown area from the harbor and there are shops, restaurants and nice neighborhoods. But it is also rather industrial and I can’t say we found it to be the most warm and fuzzy place we’ve been. Wouldn’t rush back, but glad we saw it once. They suffered a rather devastating fire this summer which took out a block of downtown, but there is still LOTS of thriving downtown area and they are most certainly open for business.
The next day got very cold as predicted, so we went seeking things to do inside. Some of you know, we are not the world’s best “museum people.” We feel like we should be better at it . . . we want to learn more about the places we’re visiting . . . and so, after hearing many nice things about the Rice Museum, we thought we’d give it a try. Yes, that is a museum about rice. Georgetown area was a huge rice supplier in the 1800s. I found the museum moderately interesting, although it felt a little bit like a training session at work that you didn’t really want to be in. I think Frank felt that the visit was an hour of his life that he’ll never get back. But it was warm inside!
We met lots of nice people in the marina and had dinner with one couple that we had met before in Morehead City, so it was a congenial visit. We also picked up some wonderful fresh shrimp and oysters while there. But then it was time to move on.
So here are a couple of noteworthy points from the pictures above:
1) Sunset happens a LOT earlier! Sunrise happens a LOT later! Duh, Mary Marie, you say! Yes, you have all been noticing that in your respective regions. Here’s what it means on the boat . . . a lot less travel hours in the day. Also, the ICW in the southern states can be very, very shallow in some areas, so we have to do far more strategic planning around what time high and low tides are, lined up with the “problem areas” that have shoaled up. There are some sections you just do not want to pass over at low tide. We find we are spending many more hours coordinating our travel plans with all these factors in mind. That has meant many early, early morning departures.
2) That leads to another noteworthy point in the above picture: Because we were leaving at the crack of dawn, Frank had worked very hard to maintain his night vision when we got up. That means using the red overhead lights instead of the white ones (standard in all boats for that very reason) and turning the brightness level down on all the equipment screens. That means that when we get behind the wheel and it’s still pretty dark, our eyes are still adjusted to the dark and we can see better. And then some knucklehead goes and forgets to turn the flash off on the camera and flashes it in your face. (Knucklehead = Ems). Oooops. It was an accident! Thankfully he had a good sense of humor about it – mostly because the sun was coming up fast.
Then we were off to Charleston. Let me clarify – the “other” Charleston. Understand, I grew up in Charleston, WV which will always be Charleston #1 to me. We had friends expecting us! But not so fast! Just as we got into Charleston Harbor (which is quite big), we saw a rubber skiff (boat) approaching. Then I saw the blue light. Yup, it was the Coast Guard pulling us over. It’s like getting pulled over on the road by the police. We were going to be boarded. Here’s what that means: every boater knows that at some point in life, the coast guard will board you. They randomly stop boats and get on to inspect them to make sure they are in compliance with documentation and safety equipment . You show your ID, they take about 30 – 40 minutes walking through the boat with you and asking for all your papers and ID, making sure you have the proper number of life vests, fire extinguishers and various other equipment that are required for you to be legally operating on the water. We happily passed our inspection. While the young man from the Coast Guard was walking around with Frank, the young woman from Department of Natural Resources who came on board stayed up in the cockpit with me while I idled the boat around the harbor during the inspection. She kept saying, “you can continue on towards your destination – our skiff will follow you.” We were very close to our destination, so I didn’t go very far very fast. When the young man completed our inspection and gave us the all clear, they turned around to signal to the skiff to come pick them back up. Hmmmm . . . no skiff! Where did the skiff go?? They radioed their colleague. The engine on the skiff had died!! Awkward. The Coast Guard dude basically said, ‘This is very embarrassing, but our skiff is dead in the water.” We graciously offered to give them a ride back to the motorless skiff, which they sheepishly accepted. We even offered to tow them back in, but they assured us that, HA, they could call the Coast Guard to come get them! They thanked us profusely and said that many people are pretty resentful about being boarded and would have suggested they swim back to the boat! We don’t look at the boardings like that and are very respectful. And so . . . we rescued the Coast Guard that day. That’s our story and we’re sticking with it! I hope somewhere there is a gold star on our file. Priceless.
At last we arrived at the Charleston Harbor Marina for our visit! We settled in on our first night. It so happened that there was a HUGE Barbecue Festival going on within walking distance of the boat, so that’s where we went for dinner. That night was the chicken wing competition. YUM!! Here are some sights from that night.
We then spent several fun days with our friends Tom (aka O.D.) and Linda O’Donnell. Frank and Tom worked together in Atlantic City and have remained friends for years. We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. They even coaxed us off of the boat to stay at their house for a couple of nights – something hard to do! And they also offered that ever precious resource to us that wins a place in our hearts forever: a laundry room and unlimited hot water. They were the perfect tour guides and ambassadors for the city.
After five fun days in Charleston, it was time to move on. We had cleaned the boat, done some boat work, gotten our fickle starter replaced by a great, fair, wonderful mechanic (Luthers Marine Services = AMAZING). We no longer hold our breath when we turn the key on the engine . . . pretty important.
We headed towards our next town, Beaufort, SC (pronounced like you are saying “beautiful”) with a stop along the way at a peaceful anchorage. Beaufort is a pretty cool town. We would definitely put that on the “to do” list again for next year.
Friday morning our two boats headed off to see Georgia next. We enjoyed our trip through South Carolina, but we were all getting in a hurry to get south fast and get warm!
Fast forward: Georgia is beautiful and we don’t mean to short change it, but our goal was to get through it as fast as possible. We kept thinking we would try to go “outside” and do some offshore to get south more quickly, but the weather had other plans. Conditions did not allow that, so we kept on going down the ICW which gets even more shallow and winding in Georgia. We muscled through several long days, most of them pretty cold, and made tracks. There were anchorages along the way . . . all beautiful. The scenery was lovely. The dolphins and pelicans were plentiful. Here are a few pictures:
And so, we temporarily said goodbye to the ICW, waved goodbye to Georgia until next year, and headed out to sea. Destination: FLORIDA!