Thursday, February 18, 2016

Myrtle Beach to Georgetown and Beyond

The weather for leaving Myrtle Beach appeared to be improving, so we continued on.  We departed the marina (which was mostly a long face dock that backed up to an outdoor mall) and started making our way south in the ditch once again.

Who parks gondola cars over the middle of the ICW?
Have they not heard of sailboat masts?

This stretch of the ICW has been a bit tricky this year.  Not sure if it is record rainfall or what other factors, but flooding has been a concern.  Normally flooding is not really much of an issue for a boat, but this seems to be the exception.  The flooding has caused high river levels and, as a result, high ICW water levels.  The bridges that allow cars to pass across the ditch either have to open up for boats with big sticks in the air or are built high enough that we can safely pass under them.

The water might be just a bit high.

Most fixed bridges along the ICW are built with a clearance of 65 feet at average high water levels. Many boats, particularly those that are likely to be used in the ICW, are configured to pass under these bridges...but not necessarily by a lot. If you add a few feet of flood water to the normal high water levels, it can lead to trouble. Now, on many bridges there is a gauge that tells you the current bridge clearance when you read the number at the water line, but for some reason many of these bridges don't seem to have it.  The only guidance we had was based on comments and notes people left regarding these bridges on Active Captain. Even though our height is just under 60 feet, we passed very slowly under most of these bridges.  Fortunately, we didn't have any issues.

Our oldest dog, Madison, enjoying the trip.

Unlike our last leg, the tides were not to our advantage much of the trip. We were making 5 knots or less most of the time. Actually, I'm not sure if it was tidal or more flood water related...since it seemed to last most of the trip.  When we turned down the Wacamaw river, everything changed.  Without changing our throttle settings, we went from 5 knots to as much as 9.5 knots.  This is the biggest change I've seen and about as fast as I've ever had this boat go when motoring down the ditch.

I usually don't see these speeds on the ICW.

The speed boost at the end of the trip actually made for an early arrival into Georgetown,SC. We spent the night at Georgetown Landing Marina. After checking with multiple weather sources, it appeared we had a good window to make a run straight to St. Augustine, Florida. We departed the next morning for a trip on the outside.

The trip was a bit choppy, Nothing bad but the seas were just a bit confused due to the shifting winds. The main swell was from the southeast and the winds were from the west. Things were going along OK until we checked the latest weather on the NWS broadcasts. A small craft advisory had been issued, and forecasts were for higher waves on shorter periods with stronger winds.  We knew a weak cold front was moving through, but I guess the NWS decided it was going to have a higher impact than originally anticipated.  We decided to change our plans and headed into Charleston, SC for the evening.

I looked at the anchoring options around Charleston.  I wanted something at least a little protected from weather and easy to enter at night.  Needless to say, there weren't many options that fit both criteria. There was one anchorage just off a shipping channel that might work in a pinch, but that was it.  My wife tried calling a couple of marinas to see if anyone was around after hours.  We did find one, Toler's Cove that is just off the ICW near the Charleston inlet. It sounded easy enough to get to so we decided we would head there.

It was after 8PM when we entered the channel into Charleston. I know that Charleston can be a busy commercial port, and nighttime seems to be the time the big ships all like to come out to play. Fortunately for us, it seemed to be a slow night for shipping.  There were two ships leaving the channel as we approached, but the only traffic we saw while in the channel was a boat carrying a Charleston Pilot out to a big ship waiting offshore and returning to port.

Coming into an unfamiliar port at night is not something I wanted to do, but it was the lesser of evils compared to getting beat up offshore. The wide shipping channel was easy, with well lit markers all where the chartplotter said they would be. Turning up the ICW, there were both lit and unlit makers for the channel, and we slowly made our way through the unfamiliar territory.  Everything went fine until we got to the marina.

I don't know if it was some misinformation or just a poor cell phone signal, but the instructions didn't quite match what we found when we arrived. It took 3 tries to figure out the actual entrance into the marina, but we finally made it to the slip around midnight.  We quickly tied up, connected the internet to let family know the change in plans, and then called it a night.

This morning after we woke up, we checked the weather.  It seemed that the actual weather wasn't as bad as predicted until you get a bit further offshore. Unfortunately, the predictions are now further south, around Georgia and northern Florida.  We decided to spend an extra day in Charleston to let the weather keep moving south and will likely continue our journey tomorrow.  It seems to be a very nice day here, so I think we will go out and enjoy the warmth and sun.

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