Sunday, December 15, 2013

Harbor tour

We are anchored in the Ashley River, between the Battery and the Coast Guard station, just off the Charleston peninsula (map).  We're only a couple of miles from where we started yesterday at the Maritime Center, but we put 10nm on the ticker getting here.

We opted to shove off yesterday at slack tide, which was just before 1pm.  We took advantage of the pumpout first, since it will now be a few days before we are again outside the three-mile limit. This meant moving the boat a little bit ahead of slack, and finally departing just a little bit after slack.  That put us in Charleston Harbor just past 1pm.

The weather forecast on the ocean is crummy until Tuesday, and we originally planned to wait it out at the anchorage closest to the inlet, to get an early start then.  At some point, though, we realized that there are no big shoaling hazards on this next leg of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), from here to the North Edisto River, and we decided to make some headway over these three days by taking the ICW to the North Edisto, then continuing down the river past our old friend Bohicket Creek and out to sea.  It's not a ship channel, but well marked and navigable in most conditions.  That will give us a somewhat shorter run of just 48nm to Port Royal Sound on Tuesday.

From here the ICW crosses over to the Stono river by way of Wappoo Creek and a man-made channel called Elliott Cut.  This unnatural connection between two rivers with very different tidal schedules makes for sometimes ripping currents, and we remembered powering through in the northbound direction with well over a knot against us, trying to push us into the banks.  We were glad it was not behind us, a much harder-to-control situation, and vowed never to do the cut with a strong current behind us.

By the time we were out in the harbor yesterday, we had missed the window for Elliott Cut, with the current heading west for the rest of the day.  We could have shoved off from the marina an hour earlier to avoid this, but we were in no hurry to leave the harbor, so did not see the need to push ourselves to negotiate a full knot of current in the marina to do so.  We elected instead to anchor here for the night and make Elliott Cut at slack today, just before 1pm, which will also give us a rising tide for the rest of the day.

With only two nautical miles to cruise and a 1pm start yesterday, we decided to play tourist and take a "harbor cruise" of our own design.  I did my best with the campy narration of the landmarks I recognized or had read about.  We motored up Town Creek past Drum Island, an empty man-made affair consisting of dredge spoils from the harbor.  We then turned south down the Cooper, past the confluence of the Wando, and under the impressive Arthur Ravenel bridge.

Continuing south down the ship channel, past our digs at the Maritime Center, we had Patriot Point and the aircraft carrier Yorktown on our port, and the Carnival Fantasy to starboard at its home port, the Charleston Cruise terminal.  Saturday is turn-around day for the Fantasy, and as we walked back to Vector from the little coffee shop where we had a final breakfast ashore, we passed a half dozen police cruisers positioned around the port to direct the hordes of incoming guests.

We rounded the Battery and continued up the Ashley well past where we are now, all the way to the bascule bridge before turning around and settling here.  We did check out two anchorages further up, including the first "designated" anchorage we've ever encountered.  There are fewer than 100 of these in the country -- areas where anchored pleasure boats shorter than 65' need not show anchor lights or day shapes (as discussed here).

Not surprisingly, the designated anchorage was full of seemingly derelict boats, and as we passed in the gathering storm, one had broken free and dragged anchor until it was dead in the middle of the channel, just a hundred feet or so off the MegaDock at the City Marina.   I could hardly believe my eyes as we motored up the channel, which in this location is a dredged fairway with traffic separation, seeing a sailboat appearing to be anchored in the channel.  I thought it might have been a failed-engine scenario or other distress, but as we passed the boat was clearly unmanned, and Louise speculated it had dragged.

That suspicion was later confirmed by radio traffic with the Coast Guard, as a number of other boaters (to include, I am sure, the skippers of the several multi-million dollar yachts on the MegaDock) grew concerned about what it might hit when it broke free again.

The wayward boat, along with reports we'd read of a foul bottom, dissuaded us from choosing a spot in that anchorage, and so we came back here after our little cruise was done.  En route we got close enough to the drifter to pass name and hailing port to the Coasties, who were asking for that information.

We managed to get the hook set before the brunt of yesterday's storm bore down upon us, but it did get quite wild and wooly here for most of the evening.  At one point I went on deck to check on things and lost my hat over the side in what I would guess to be 40kt winds.  We had 160' of chain out in 22' of water, and our ground tackle held fast even with the wind and 3-knot ebb current.  In hindsight, we should have brought in the "cruise ship lights" before the storm, but they managed to survive without coming off the messenger wire.  We had them on most of the evening, and I am sure the folks in the plantation-style homes across from us wondered what the heck we were.

Today's cruise should take us all the way to the Wadmalaw, and close to the scene of the crime in the great "anchors away" episode.  I'm not sure we will have Internet access in that area, either with my Sprint phone or with our new T-Mobile iPad Mini, so it might be a day or two before I can post again.

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