Sailing towards Belhaven, NC

OK people – it is hot. Baking bare feet on deck, hot. We sailed in 38C (100F) heat. At times, not a breath of air even when sailing at 7.5 mph. The AGLCA burgee hung limply from its flagstaff. For days I have been wearing a wet scarf to cool myself, but today I resorted to the wet T-shirt, as well. Unbelievably hot!

During the cooler part of the morning we traversed Adams Creek Canal, a man-made canal which joins Adams and Core Creeks. We met a large potash barge along the way, heading for Beaufort.

We then entered the Neuse River and motored in a zigzag direction across the river and what seemed like heading out to the outer banks, 35 miles away. We saw the waterspout of what we think was a whale. We noticed the plume of water quite a few times. Either it was a whale or the heat got to both of us!

Thankfully the seas were calm, but it is a large stretch of water I am glad is behind us. It has at a reputation for being some of the meanest water on the ICW. Now we are bobbing in Gale Creek, immersed in air conditioning, not wanting to poke our heads outside. It is 8.30pm and the temperature has dropped to 32C (90F) but I won’t even start on the humidity level! Tomorrow is forecast to be the same as today.

Such is Life!

Beaufort, NC

Yesterday we left our anchorage in the early morning light, sailing for miles alongside the Marine Camp Lejeune. Notices were posted every 100 yards warning boaters not to go ashore as unexplored ammunition lay on the ground. On the seaward side, we sailed past staged tanks and armored vehicles and hideouts, glad there were no military operations taking place. If operations were taking place, the Marines close the ICW until the exercise is over.

Today was a day of unhurried domesticity. Up early to complete the laundry, followed by defrosting the fridge and washing the floor. We also started varnishing. I believe this will be a never ending process, now that we have started!

We found time to visit the historic town of Beaufort, taking a walk along the waterfront.

And To finish off a rewarding day, we fine-dined at the marina’s restaurant. An most enjoyable ending to the day.

Such is Life!

We finally did it!

At last – we are swinging on the hook in a well-protected and charming anchorage. The tide is only 2 to 3 feet and the tidal stream is gentle in this part of North Carolina. We are enjoying a peaceful and well-earned rest after battling the hordes on the ICW for nine hours straight.

I thought South Carolinians were crazy on the water. They are nothing compared to North Carolinians. Bushranger was constantly ‘waked’ by watercraft. We were even waked by jet skis and pontoon boats!

The ICW was truly like a major road today. We sailed through the holiday area of South Carolina, and everyone is on holiday. Boat traffic everywhere. Overcrowded boats zoomed within feet of us. Jet skis zig zagged across our bow. Monster motor yachts sped by us. And then there were the boats heading towards us! All were rushing to meet up with others for beach parties, dock parties and bay swim parties. And, even though it was tremendously frenetic, everyone was in great humour, just like yesterday, although some were decidedly lobster colored. There was great atmosphere.

Oh, and we sailed through a man-made canal named “Snow’s Cut”. I had to photograph that!

Now we are recuperating on the outskirts of the Marine Camp Lejeune military base, hoping there will not be any night time training missions in amphibious vehicles.

Such is Life!

Memorial Day Weekend

We spent the day on the water sailing from Myrtle Beach, SC, to Southport, NC. As did everyone else! Glorious day for a sail: warm sunshine and cooling breezes. We felt like royalty, waving to everyone – constantly turning to left and right. I know how the Queen feels now. It takes a little effort to keep one’s arm up with smile firmly planted. (No wonder I have wrinkles or should I say smile lines?)

The ICW is certainly a playground as well as a boating highway. We were constantly waked, but we couldn’t take offense – everyone was jovial on the water and we were the slowest watercraft by far.

At North Myrtle Beach we passed two casino ships that I imagine would be the equivalent of the old gambling paddle boats which plied the rivers.

On Thursday, the scenery changed after leaving Georgetown. Trees, trees and more trees. We have finally left the marshlands and swamps behind us.

We spent Friday alongside in Myrtle Beach with maintenance and laundry needing attention. I am amazed at what we did get done as the temperature soared to 40C (104F) at 5.00pm. And I felt every degree and every ounce of humidity. Our boat’s air conditioning could not keep pace. I could not keep pace. We met our lovely boat neighbours, Chuck and Terri, who kindly took us to the local grocery store for needed supplies and then took us out for dinner afterwards. Their southern hospitality was very much appreciated.

Sailing in winter is looking good!

Such is Life!

A tale of two crab pots- or – Two tales of one crab pot

Readers of this blog and those who have navigated the water of America’s Great Loop will know that crab pots are the bane of our life. They are laid indiscriminately in main channels, at rounding marks, in long lines in bays and invariably there is always one laid in the middle of a skinny channel giving you two choices – hit it or go shallow.

So we hate them! But….. When crab is on the menu at many of the lovely restaurants along the way, guess what we eat? CRAB! Thus, we encourage those we hate.

But this is the tale of one encounter with a crab pot. The first tale is Mark’s version and from this point on the historically correct version. The second is Heather’s tale. Read it and then forget it.

Mark’s tale:

After the long layover at Savannah the underwater sensor for the speed log that tells us boat speed through the water was gummed up. Mark removed the through hull fitting and cleaned off the crud. However, it still didn’t work and Mark concluded that the crud extended to surround the sensor and inhibit water flow. Solutions could be a diver – expensive – or a 5 ft broom on a 3 foot extension pushed out from the edge of the dinghy under the boat to reach the through hull fitting and scrub the hole and surrounds clean. Needless to say, Mark spent a few days thinking about this.

Then came the crab pot. Spotting a crab pot only 10 feet ahead of the bow Mark had a moment of brilliance. He could hit this pot slightly offset to starboard, let it rub along the hull to clean off the crud, put the engine in neutral and allow the crab pot to emerge from the stern. Job done.

The manoeuvre was completed exactly as planned. Bushranger rode over the crab pot and resumed her journey with the water speed indicator working perfectly.

Heather’s tale:

After a brief rain squall, Mark was busy mopping up a few leaks at the upper helm. His vigilance for crab pots had waned. He glanced up. “Oh (expletive deleted) CRAB POT”. Right in front of us, too late to avoid, was the offending crustacean captor. Mark immediately cut the engine and went to neutral as we watched anxiously astern to see if it would emerge. It did! It showed no sign of wanting to remain in company and Bushranger resumed her passage.

Some minutes later he made a surprised comment. “Hey look! The water speed indicator is working again.”

Such is Life!

Georgetown, SC

We set sail from the sleepy hamlet in ideal conditions. The weather was a little cooler with a slight breeze.

The further north we sailed we entered rain squalls and gusting winds. In Winyah Bay we rocked with the white caps. But these too, passed.

And speaking of passing, we passed not one, but two alligators swimming in the ICW. No jumping in and cooling off for me!

We arrived at Georgetown at 12.30pm with the clock tower bell chiming. Our marina is perfectly placed for the historic downtown. Our first excursion was to the Rice Museum. Who knew the great plantations of Georgetown, Charleston and Savannah had rice, not cotton, as the money-making crop? We had an entertaining guide who brought the 1700-1900 eras alive. So much depended on the slaves who were brought across from West Africa. These slaves had skills in rice crop cultivation, in building dykes and flood barriers, and worked in unbearable conditions. 90% of the populations of Georgetown, Charleston and Savannah were slaves. They enabled their masters to become very rich. Four out of every five of the richest men in America were from the Carolinas in the early 19th Century.

And before the development of the rice crops, before the Revolution, the harvesting of indigo made a few white men incredibly rich, incredibly quickly. The Winyah Indigo Society had so much money, they developed a charter for philanthropy to give back to the community. It is still in existence today.

Our second excursion for the day was a trolley ride about the town. We have decided having seen so many picture-perfect, film-ready streets and houses, we are suitably informed about southern housing architecture.

Enough sightseeing for one day! We enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the harbourside boardwalk to our floating home (checking for beady little eyes along the way).

Such is Life!

McClellanville, SC

Where? This is a little backwater, halfway between Charleston and Georgetown. Due to tides and shoaling along the Intracoastal Waterway, we decided to stop here overnight. Glad we did!

We made an early departure from Charleston to time our safe passage over two problem areas with extreme shoaling. It was surreal eating breakfast whilst sailing across Charleston Harbour with the charming city of Charleston on one side and Fort Sumter on the other.

We have been in what is known as the ‘low country’ since first entering Georgia and now South Carolina. The marshes and vistas are flat. You can see for miles – marshes and more marshes. Boats and houses appear like ghosts gliding across a carpet of green. The houses are built for storm surges, being 2-3 stories high. Their jetties extend for long distances over the marshes to reach the water. Little channels and streams don’t appear until you are abeam.

Thankfully, the bugs have abated. But the heat is never ending. It is relentless and energy sapping. Even motoring at 7 knots does not create a breeze. The air is heavy.

So, back to McClellanville. We are docked at a tiny marina, which has the friendliest young lady dock master of the trip. We are within walking distance of the fishing fleet and fresh seafood. On a recommendation, we strolled (in the heat) a few blocks to a fish restaurant. We were not disappointed. Not only was the fish delicious, but we passed by the 1,000 year old oak – famous in these parts. On the route we strolled under oak tree tunnels laden with Spanish moss and passed glorious churches and southern antebellum architecture.

What a little gem of a place!

Now, we are about to tuck into our fresh crab dip and huge shrimp (prawns) for dinner… and wait for the heat to die down. Thank goodness for air-conditioning!

Such is Life!

Charleston – Day 2

Today was a full and rewarding day.

We started with an early morning ride to Magnolia Plantation – the oldest plantation and a centerpiece of Charleston history. It has been in the same Drayton family for 13 generations.

In a snapshot, the Draytons came over from the West Indies in the 1700s, bringing with them slaves who had a wealth of knowledge growing sugarcane and cotton. They experimented with a few crops and decided on rice. Rice was the basis of the wealth in Charleston up until the late 19th Century. Draytons were one of the wealthiest families and leaders of society. They owned 48 slaves who lived in a total of seven cabins.

Then came the war. They backed the wrong side. General Sherman burnt the plantation and house to the ground. The house that now stands was built after 1865 and extensions have been added. The Drayton family still own it and all its belongings, but no longer live there.

With the financial and economic effects of the Civil War, the Draytons were land rich but cash poor. They sold off a large portion of their plantation.

The rice paddies were turned into swamps, beautiful gardens were replanted and enhanced with grottos, mazes and sculptures. It was then open to a public willing to see how southern genteel people lived.

Now stately Magnolia Plantation is a magnificent working plantation which supports animal welfare, conservation, education and historic preservation groups. Oh and it also has lots of wildlife, notably alligators, who think they own the place!

We toured the gardens and grounds on foot and also by road train with a very informative guide.

After a short film, we were also shown the home. What a way to live! The house hosted many famous people: the Gershwins, Orson Wells, Roosevelts… And now the Rutherfords!

Next, we sailed to Fort Sumter, right to the place where the Civil War began. A-mazing!

The park ranger eloquently painted the history from the making of the man-made island (slave labour); to the building of the fort (slave-made bricks, some with their fingerprints embedded – and some slaves from Magnolia Plantation were used); to the British being repelled by it in the wake of the Revolutionary War of 1812.

The shots fired in 1861 signaled the start of the American Civil War. It was last used in the Second World War.

Now it is a memorial. Well worth the visit.

And to top the day off, I was able to do all the laundry. Happy heart.

Such is Life!


We made it!

And now reside under the Charleston moon.

This is one charming, elegant and gracious city: brick-paved roads, picturesque harbourside walk, quaint cobblestone alleyways, antebellum mansions, streets lined with colonial dwellings, historic buildings at every turn, monuments, abundant churches and graveyards dating back to the 17th Century. Charleston has it all.

We explored the historic area on foot… and in the blistering South Carolina heat. We walked until we were foot-weary and thirsty.

We toured the Aiken-Rhett House, a preserved antebellum mansion with intact slave quarters.

We saw Charleston’s unique architecture of single houses built one room wide which are entered through a door onto a piazza (verandah) giving the occupants privacy and situated to catch the cooling winds.

We stumbled across the Confederate States of America submarine “Hunley” outside the Charleston Museum. The first of its kind.

We reached Battery Point on the tip of peninsula, and viewed Fort Sumter from afar. It is located in the harbour and looks quite similar to Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour.

A thoroughly splendid day of exploration. More to come tomorrow.

Such is Life!

A challenging day…

Before I get to the challenging part, I will start this report with the tail end of our stay in the lovely town of Beaufort.

The wind blew up. Bushranger rocked and rolled most of the night, slapping against the dock. It was good to know we were safe and secure. The evening was punctuated by military jets buzzing overhead. Beaufort is the nearest town to the Marine Corp training base, a large Army hospital and an Airforce training base. Trifecta! This morning a huge transport carrier flew low, with everyone in the street stopping to stare. Mark and I watched it from the swing seat, located in the waterfront park.

We borrowed the courtesy car and visited the National Cemetery. Beautiful manicured lawns dotted with giant oaks gently billowing with Spanish moss, provides a peaceful final home for these brave men and women. This cemetery is home to both Confederate and Union soldiers, as well as military personnel who served and were wounded in later wars. There were quite a few “Unnamed Soldiers”. It was incredibly moving when a lone bugler played The Last Post. I watched the USA flag being folded with precision. I can honestly say I shed a few tears. A very moving experience.

On to the challenging part. Our sail plan for the day saw us sail from Beaufort to Mosquito River, about 4 hours. Tonight, we are tied up to a dock belonging to a seafood wholesaler. And yes, we have purchased suitable fresh supplies for tonight. The challenging part was the very shallow channels we sailed through. We saw depths of only 5 feet. And when we draw 4 feet… What made it nerve-racking was the charts did not align. Mark went with the Army Corp of Engineers, but even they were not up to date. Spring tides are 9-10 feet and tidal stream runs at 1.5 knots, so I am very happy to be safely tied up.

Still we made it through without touching bottom… but tense, it was!

We live to sail another day!

Such is Life!