Sunday, April 7, 2013

Anchor's aweigh

We are at the Charleston Harbor Marina, across the Cooper River from Charleston proper.  We are on the face dock on the very edge of the marina, and we have a magnificent view of the Charleston skyline all the way to the Battery, Shute's Folly, and even Fort Sumpter in the distance.  It's a great spot, if a bit rolly whenever a giant container ship passes in the channel, so far perhaps three a day.

We would not be here, of course, if we did not have our anchor back aboard.  It took a day longer than hoped, but we did manage to find it and retrieve it, which is a story unto itself.  As I wrote in my last post, we headed back to the scene of the crime on Friday, accompanied by a towboat to help us with the retrieval.  After we arrived on station in the Wadmalaw, just outside the creek entrance, Louise took the conn while I deployed the dinghy and headed up the creek to meet the towboat, who had already discovered that the float we had attached to the chain was gone.  We spent two hours dragging the bottom with the limited tools we had -- a small Fortress anchor that he brought, and a long boat pole that I brought.  We were in the right place, but the chain was too deep in the mud for either method to find it.

After conceding defeat we agreed that each of us would work on finding a 5-point grappling hook, the right tool for the job, and we would reconvene Saturday at the noon low tide, for a better chance at it.  The bright spot of the trip was that he found our fender/float somewhere upstream and was able to get it back to us.  Louise had spent the whole two hours doing donuts out in the river with Vector, and I relieved her as soon as the dinghy was back aboard.  One result of this whole fiasco is we've learned that I can fully deploy and retrieve the tender by myself, even with the boat under way.  I only had to call for Louise to put it in neutral briefly each time to swing the tender's stern around and alongside to hook up the davit.

We returned on the now-familiar route to Bohicket Marina, a 90-minute trip.  There was an empty T-head one dock closer to the marina office and restaurant complex than our last digs, and we decided to move up to that dock to have a somewhat shorter walk.  We arrived a bit earlier in the evening this time, but still after closing.  A few other boaters were on the dock, and several came out to take our lines.  Of course, I had to make a second pass in the heavy current this time -- with no audience the previous time I nailed it on the first try.

Among the folks that came to help was Mike, whose beautiful Tiara sport fisher was just across the finger pier from us.  After sharing our saga, Mike allowed that he had a 5-point grapple.  It was not really a salvage hook, but more of a reef anchor; nevertheless, it was just what we needed.  After a few more minutes of discussion, he told us he had a diver coming first thing in the morning to clean his hull at slack tide, around 6:15, and suggested we might hire the diver to help with the process.  Most importantly, he offered to run me and the diver out to Toms Point Creek in his fast center-console, just a few docks over.  The trip that took us an hour and a half each time in Vector took just fifteen minutes in this very fast boat.

And so it was that Mike, I, and Kurt-the-diver found the anchor chain, right where I expected it, on the second pass with the grapple before 8am yesterday.  Kurt jumped in and followed the chain to the bitter end, where he secured our float.  He also tried to raise the anchor itself with a lift bag, but it was too far into the mud.  Somewhere in the middle of all this, he came back up with our snubber and chain hook, which we had to jettison into the creek during the ungrounding process.

We were back at the marina a little past 9am.  Mike and a buddy-boat departed a bit after 10 for a jaunt to Charleston, but they are at a different marina on the other side of the city.  He would not accept anything for his troubles but allowed me to pay for the gas we used on our high-speed jaunt.  (As a side note, he surprised us by showing up on the dock this morning, having ridden his bicycle all the way across town and over the Ravenel Bridge from their marina on the other river.)  We got underway ourselves  a short while later, to arrive back at Toms Point at 12:15, where we again met up with the tow boat.

It took him a good while to get the end of the chain up onto his boat.  We had hoped he could tow it out to mostly deep water, but that was not in the cards.  When he was finally ready, I brought Vector back up the creek, this time at low but rising tide, and maneuvered carefully around to bring our bow right over his boat and the chain end.  To do this we had to get perilously close to the very shoal upon which we had grounded, most of which was now high and dry, with a small, Vector-shaped notch in one end from where our bow was wedged.  Louise took the helm while I hauled the chain back onto the deck and into the gypsy.  I had to abandon my goal of getting the bitter end tied back to the cut line in favor of just getting enough chain into the locker to swap places with Louise.

Once we had chain coming back aboard, the towboat maneuvered away and then came to tie to our stern, to try to keep us off the shoal while we brought 400' of heavy chain aboard.  We did bump the shoal broadside a couple of times, but never got stuck; still, it was impossible to do the sort of maneuvering normally used to retrieve the anchor, which involves following the chain with the boat.  After fighting with it the "normal" way for a few minutes, I had the towboat swing our stern around so we were basically over the chain but in deeper water, where I could use our own engine astern to essentially double the chain back over itself, and then retrieve it in deep water.  That worked and we had the anchor out of the water in just a few minutes.

Along with the anchor came bushels of black, Low Country mud and Kurt's lift bag, which he apparently forgot down there.  I sent that back to Bohicket with the towboat. The anchor was also facing the wrong way to bring it all the way into the roller, so I elected to just leave it hanging while we hightailed it out of the creek to the safety of the river.  Once there we were able to square everything away, and settle up with the tow operator.  We were back under way before 2pm, with plenty of daylight and just enough time to make Charleston at slack tide.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, although we faced some fierce current in Elliot Cut, which had me run the engine up to 1800 rpm, the most turns we've made in normal running.  Even then our speed over ground was barely four knots.  At least the current was against us, which, while bad for fuel economy, is much easier to control.  We rounded the Battery around 5:30 and landed here right at slack, which made for very easy docking in this fairly crowded marina.  We've since learned that this weekend is the busiest of the year in Charleston.

We had a great visit with our friends, who left this afternoon, after taking us on a short provisioning run to a nearby grocery.  While today was our originally scheduled departure, we opted to take a second night to make things a bit easier on ourselves.  We spent the afternoon catching up on tasks around the boat that had languished during the anchor adventure, and then walked around the Patriot Point area, admiring the aircraft carrier, destroyer, and submarine on display here (we did not go aboard).  We've been to downtown Charleston more than once, so we passed on taking either the free hotel shuttle or the more convenient water taxi in to the city, but those are nice options for anyone staying here.

At  the moment, our plan is to depart tomorrow on low slack, around noon.  However, we are leaving the option open to spend another night.  Once we are under way we will resume our journey north along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.


  1. I guess they say "all's well that ends well". Nice that you got your anchor and chain back and made some new friends in the process. That's what it's all about. What is your draft anyway? We were pretty shallow on that 82' Summerset houseboat. Just a little over 3' if I remember right, although we didn't have too much mud to contend with on the Mississippi in the spring, mostly floating stumps, cows and outbuildings. Ha Ha Always awaiting your posts. Steve

  2. Active Captain's review of the Tom Point Creek anchorage clearly states that "Once in the creek favor the port side to the first bend. Continue to favor port side on way in until at least 1/2 mile in. Large 'hump' on stbd side sits about 1' under water at high tide." Am I missing something or, heaven forbid, did you not understand what the review was saying? Are you going to have to get the boat hauled to repaint the bow/keel where you rubbed off the paint when you you had to the last time you grounded? This adventure is getting a little expensive, isn't it...too bad there aren't any Elks Clubs or Walmarts along the waterway.

    1. There are two anchorages shown on Active Captain, and only the one further up the creek lists the "hump." We were using the NutiCharts app on the cell phone and didn't load the reviews on the second anchorage, as it was much further than we wanted to go up a narrow creek. (NutiCharts uses ActiveCaptain's data.)

      I have marked the shoal in its actual position as a hazard on ActiveCaptain, which will hopefully help another boat that isn't looking that far up the creek to anchor.

  3. Way-to-go in retrieving that anchor & chain! Made for an exciting read..LOL

    How are you feeling at the helm (I believe that's how you would say it???) as you travel? Are you as nervous as a new RV'er or are you comfortable sitting back in your captains chair with a cup of coffee? I think I would be scared S&%Tless!

    I look forward to each of your blogs and the adventures they provide!

    God Speed and Keep it off the shoals!

    Paul Weaver

  4. We think we saw you today. Were you going under the Sullivan Island Bridge around 5:00pm? We have followed your blog for about 2 years now. We are in the Charleston area and we just happened to cross that bridge around that time and as we looked northward, we think we recognized your craft. We are new full-time RVer's and learning all we can. We wish you safe travels.


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