Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Charleston we met James and Sandra Little from Kingsport on their boat Ragtime.

This alligator cruising down the waterway is wearing some reeds on his nose, probably as a disguise. We were not fooled.

Spring is the nesting season for the ospreys. The nests are huge and sometimes can make it hard to see the markers along the waterway.

This is Bill with his Spanish mackerel. He caught it on that pink and white skirted lure.

Hello all. Bill and I are back at home in Kingsport.

We left Beaufort, SC June 5 headed for Charleston where our Kingsport friends James and Sandra little keep their sailboat. We hoped to meet them the next day and anchor together somewhere close to Charleston. Saturday was very hot; hot enough that the boat traffic was light even though it was the weekend. We left the ICW at the North Edisto River and anchored in Steamboat Creek. No sooner was the anchor down than we were both cooling off in the water.

We talked to the Littles by cell phone, and we both agreed to head for Dewees Creek. We passed through the Wappoo Creek bascule bridge, entered the Ashley River, and found the Littles in their boat, Ragtime. We motor-sailed together across Charleston Harbor. Just after we pasted Fort Sumter, we had a BIG PANIC. Our oil pressure gauge fell to zero… very scary for people whose engine burns large amounts of oil. Our heart rates returned to normal when Bill found that something had hit the engine controls circuit breaker turning all the gauges off. The fix was easy; flip the breaker back on. We left the harbor, motored down the ICW stretch behind Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms, and anchored in Dewees Creek. Bill and I dinghied over to Ragtime for a drink or two and then ferried the Littles back to Irish eyes for dinner. We had fun catching up with the Littles. Monday morning Bill and I raised the anchor and continued north.

The stretch of the ICW between Charleston and Myrtle Beach is full of birds and alligators. I spotted at least 10 alligators. If you know what to look for they are easy to spot. Sometimes the alligators look like a log floating in the water, but if you look at them with binoculars you can see their eyes, and logs don’t have eyes. I didn’t go swimming. We anchored in the North Santee River on Monday night. It was a very pretty spot among the acres and acres of green marsh grass dotted with the occasional darker green tree or bush.

Tuesday we continued motoring north in the ICW passing Georgetown around noon. In the evening we anchored in Cow Pen Creek, a side water of the Waccamaw River. The water was fresh there. Cow Pen Creek had lily pads, flowers, and basking turtles along its edges. It was all much different from the salt water areas where we had been for the last five months. A motor boat came into the creek and anchored nearby. The captain, who only had his cat for crew, rowed over in his dinghy to chat with us. After he left, Bill went for a swim in the warm fresh water. Later when the sun was going down, I noticed a large log in the water which had not been there before. Its eyes appeared, and it swam from one side of the creek to the other crossing right behind the boat where Bill had been swimming. I think that was the biggest of all the gators I saw.

We headed to Little River planning to tie up in the Coquina Yacht Club for two days expecting to visit with my sister Elaine, brother-in-law JP, aunt Mary Ellen, and uncle Ken.

The ICW between the Waccamaw and Little Rivers is in a dug canal; a ditch lined with houses, condos, golf courses, and businesses. Only here and there is a spot of natural green. Just south of Little River is a stretch called the Rock Pile. The waterway was blasted through limestone ledges and there are rocks just below the surface of the dark brown water. The guidebooks are full of warnings, and we have heard tales of boats grounding on the rocks and suffering serious damage. Half way through this section our engine overheated. The alarm was very loud and contributed to our panic. Bill looked at the engine and found the pulley on the engine fresh water pump had cracked in two and the vee belt had fallen off. We quickly unfurled our jib sail so we could continue moving, but most importantly, so we could steer the boat. There was nothing we could do but shut down the engine and call TowBoatUS as we glided along under sail past the North Myrtle Beach Sewer Plant. The towboat arrived in twenty minutes. He tied up along our port side and brought us safely through both the last of the Rock Pile and the Little River Swing Bridge before depositing us gently against the tee dock at the Coquina Yacht Club. He (and a Visa card) changed what promised to be a nerve wracking ordeal into a pleasant (well, almost pleasant) experience. Bill looked at the water pump while I took a shower. He found that the pulley was pretty well shot. The middle of the pressed steel pulley had cracked away transforming the four evenly spaced nice round holes into a silhouette of Mickey Mouse. The pulley was trash. Thankfully, while the local Yanmar Diesel dealer did not have a replacement pulley, he was able to have one shipped to him from a dealer in Chicago (where it was not yet 5 o’clock) by overnight UPS. We left the boat and had a nice dinner that evening with my family.

The parts man called at 9:30am the next morning and said our pulley had been delivered. JP took Bill to get the part, and Bill had it installed shortly after lunchtime. Bill wasn’t sure if the pulley was the only thing wrong with the water pump but, yippee, it was all that was wrong. We had a second delightful dinner with Elaine and JP that night.

Bill and I left Little River early Friday morning. We decided to sail out the Little River Inlet into the Atlantic and come back into the ICW at the Cape Fear River missing the shallow spots in the ICW at Shallotte and Lockwoods Folly. This ocean trip was very tame. Although we were five or six miles offshore, we could see the buildings on Sunset Beach, Holden Beach and Oak Island on the horizon. The wind was light and seas were calm making it a smooth trip. Off Oak Island we caught a 3-1/2 lb, 26” Spanish mackerel which became supper for the next several days. We motored up the Cape Fear River and through Snows Cut to Carolina Beach where we were anchored by supper time. The mackerel went on the grill.

The next day promised to be unpleasant. It was Saturday, the weekend, and we were near Wrightsville Beach, the boat capital of North Carolina. The ICW between Carolina Beach and Atlantic Beach is narrow and in places shallow. For the next two days it would be filled to overflowing with kayaks, motorboats, fishing boats, sailboats, water skiers, innertubers, and swimmers. In spite of my natural reluctance to get up early in the morning or to sail at night, we decided to start early the next day to pass the shallow spot near Carolina Beach Inlet at high tide, continue on to Wrightsville Beach, anchor there until the afternoon, then head out into the Atlantic for an overnight run to Beaufort, NC (bow-fort) expecting to arrive there just after sunrise.

We were up and underway from Carolina Beach before 7am. Although the sun had just come up, it was already hot and lots of folks were on ICW. Both of us were glad we were going out in the Atlantic where it would be cooler and where we would avoid all the ICW traffic. Not wanting to arrive in Beaufort before sunrise, we lazed around at anchor in Wrightsville Beach until 2, then we motored out the Masonboro Inlet, raised our sails, and headed to Beaufort.

When we started off, the wind was light coming from behind us and the sea was dead calm. As the afternoon wore on, the wind increased and the sea rose. At suppertime I looked at the stove swinging back and forth in the galley and got instantly queasy. Bill the captain became Bill the cook. He made fried potato pancakes filled with bacon, onions, and some of the mackerel we had caught off Oak Island. The pancakes were really pretty good. With the sticky rubber placemats on the table the plates, salad bowls, and glasses did not slide around as the boat rolled. But, if I set my fork down on my plate, it would instantly launch itself across the cabin. As the sun was setting a pod of spotted dolphins swam along beside us. They were really showing off, jumping completely out of the water and doing little twists in the air. It was better than SeaWorld. While I was well fed and entertained, I still was not happy. The boat motion was unpleasant, and I could not sleep when I was off watch. As Bill will tell you I am not much of a shift worker. I get kind of cranky at night, and I do not like the boat rolling, so I must admit I was not the best travelling companion that evening.

We made good time, arrived early, and were going through the Beaufort inlet in the twilight an hour before dawn. The wind died, and we took down the sails as we passed through the Morehead City ship turning basin. We motored through the Newport River, Core Creek, Adams Creek and the Neuse River. Northwest Creek Marina was calling us home. Bud Ellis, the dockmaster, helped us tie Irish Eyes in her slip at 1:30pm. The first thing we did was to retrieve the air conditioner from the trunk of my car and hook it up. It was heaven; cool air, a stationary boat, and a nap.

We spent the next two days moving stuff from the car to the boat and from the boat to the car. We tidied up the boat and packed our clothes. Bill had to replace the battery in my car and to talk with two mechanics about rebuilding or replacing the boat’s engine. We got to use real flush toilets, and we took long hot showers with lots of water. We soaked up the air conditioning in the marina and ate ice cream from the marina store.

It was time to go home. The road trip was a little scary at first; cars go faster than sailboats and there are more cars on the road than boats in the water. We made it home without any problems, but there were problems awaiting us there. One of our 30 year old heat pumps would not cool, and while now repaired, we were told that it and its twin need to be replaced. Bill’s car had a dead battery and the back window motor on our old Blazer burned up the first time Bill drove it. Oh well, I guess you have to expect some problems when you’ve been gone over 5 months.

The 2010 trip was wonderful. The scenery was spectacular and the friends we made even better. We don’t know what we will do next year. We will both turn 60…

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