March 5, 2010
The new Ben Sawyer Bridge
Florida at last!!! We crossed the St. Mary’s River and passed into the Sunshine State at noon Thursday.
For a while I had begun to doubt that we would make it. So much has happened – all unexpected. Bill’s brother, Worth, who was hospitalized when we left Kingsport died leaving behind a wife and young son. We rented a car to return to Salisbury for the funeral leaving the boat tied up in the marina at Little River. We spent a week in Salisbury visiting with family including Julia, Ann, their husbands, and our three grandchildren. As always it was a good time. I enjoyed being called Mommy’s Mommy.
When Bill ordered the winch parts, he had them shipped UPS to the marina not realizing that the marina had no sign, no staffed office, and no address on the door. On the appointed morning we took turns sitting in a chair on the marina sidewalk waiting on UPS. Bill flagged down the brown truck as he drove by, showed an ID, and got our parts. Unfortunately, the gearbox did not have the right flange to bolt to our windlass, but after several phone calls, e-mails, and an exchange of photographs on the internet another part was sent. This time we had it sent to Elaine’s house, and when it came it fit.
On our way back to Little River from Salisbury, we learned of the death of Bill’s uncle Frank. He was a retired Major General and, a D-Day Battalion Commander, and the last surviving WWII Regimental Commander. His funeral service will be June 4 in Arlington.
While we were in Little River, JP and Elaine treated us like royalty… we ate like kings at their house, and for a Valentine’s Day treat we went to a very nice restaurant in Myrtle Beach. They took us on hunts for the bits and pieces needed to repair the boat and on trips to restock the food and supplies we had used or forgotten.
It was February 23 when Bill attached the last wire to the windlass, we took a shower, Bill filled the water tanks, and we left Little River. Going south through Myrtle Beach was a boring crawl through a dug canal filled with rock before entering the beautiful Wacamaw River. We anchored north of Georgetown behind Butler Island watching a huge dredge with 300 feet of pipes, tugs, barges, and boats all attached pass quietly by on the other side of the island.
Our next stop was Deweese Island north of Charleston. It was a nice anchorage, and we stayed there all the next day waiting on the wind to die down following a cold front. The Ben Sawyer swing bridge connects Sullivan’s Island to the mainland. It was in poor condition, and for over a week the ICW was closed to boat traffic for replacement while we were in Little River. Rather than a modern high rise bridge, the new bridge is almost exactly like the old even down to using round headed bolts to simulate the old bridge’s rivets. It is almost cartoon-like. Having an exact replica of the old bridge must mean something to somebody. Boats on the ICW still have to wait for the bridge to open and vehicles on the road still have to wait for the bridge to close. Oh well… progress.
In the Charleston Harbor we were shadowed by a Charleston Metropolitan Sheriffs boat. Later in the day in the Wadmalaw River, they finally turned on their blue lights and stopped us. They wanted to board, search, and inspect us. Bill offered the February 3 boarding report from our US Coast Guard boarding in Morehead City. The deputies spent 15 minutes copying the information from the USCG form to their form before letting us go. These guys were very nice and their departing comment was that with so little traffic on the waterway “pickings were slim.” I am still in amazement that we must allow all official people to get on Irish Eyes without any real reason. I won’t argue on the spot, but it does seem a bit unfair. We don’t think we look like outlaws!!
There is a spot in the South Edisto River near Finwick Island that I don’t like, but where we seem to anchor every time we go by. Bill did it again this year. It is just off the waterway - sort of like pulling over on the side of the highway and parking for the night. I don’t like the thought of nighttime boat traffic so nearby, but this year with temperatures in the 30s we were the only fools out on the water.
We stopped at Hilton Head Island and anchored between Seabrook Lodge and the Skull Creek Marina. The full moon was impressive. The radio said the moon was at its closest to the earth which not only made it big, it also made the high tide extra high and the low tide extra low. At high tide most of the marsh grass was underwater making it hard to figure out where the edges of the channel were located. Adding to the confusion there were big mats of reeds lifted out of the marsh and floating around looking just like islands where there were no islands at all. At low tide there was just no water. The next day in Georgia we were worried about low tide at the shallow Hell Gate, so we turned off into the Vernon River to anchor for the night. Bill was steering and confirmed that our boat draws 5 feet. I say the bottom of the river came up and grabbed the boat. It took us a few minutes to get off, but we managed.
The next day we got through Hell Gate at high tide with no problem, but worrying again about shallow water we anchored in the Back River north of the shallow and aptly named Little Mud River to wait ‘till the next day’s high tide. During the night we watched Blazing Saddles on our 12v TV/DVD player while it rained and blew outside as another front came through on its way north to dump snow on New York. Around noon the rain had stopped, and we continued south. We had two short days stopping first in Brunswick anchored behind Lanier Island and again at Jekyll Island waiting for rain, a thunderstorm, and high winds to go away.
We arrived in Florida this year 17 days later than last year and stopped at Kingsley Plantation north of Jacksonville. Tonight we are south of St Augustine in the Matanzas River. It may be Florida, but it is still cold with freeze warnings inland and morning lows in the lower 30s here on the coast.