Monday, April 15, 2013

Goin' ashore

We are at the Harborwalk Marina on the Sampit River in Georgetown, South Carolina.  Other than our brief walk on the beach at Capers Island, which we reached by tender, this is our first time on dry land in nearly a week, since we left Charleston last Monday.  I hope someday to be able to go two full weeks away from shore facilities, as we could with Odyssey, but for now this is about the best we can do with Vector's current systems.

Friday night was much calmer than Thursday and we had a quiet night in Price Creek.  Periodically I would turn on the radar and check our relative position to both the shoreline and Slow Churn, anchored perhaps 650' from us.  We were rock-steady and we opted not to reposition the anchor again before turning in.  We woke Saturday morning to a beautiful day.

At 8am we weighed anchor and motored back out to the ICW.  That gave us a rising tide all the way past Jeremy Creek and McClellanville, where we did, indeed, see some skinny water that would have been problematic without the extra three feet we had with us.  We arrived at the South Santee River just past midday with the tide still rising and plenty of water, and daylight, to find a nice spot.

What constitutes a nice spot, of course, is relative.  What we found there, as we already knew from reviews on ActiveCaptain, was a sea of crab pots.  We looked for a spot downstream of the ICW, but I could not find the magic combination of water depth and swing room  anywhere.  Plenty of spots for a shallower boat, though.  We ended up crossing back over to the upstream side, where I picked out a spot in the middle of three pots, each 100'-150' away.  We put out 100' of chain and called it good; that turned out to be overkill, as I don't think we moved even a chain length the whole time we were there.  The current was surprisingly gentle in the very wide section we chose.

We were the first ones there, but in time Sawdust,  a nice Nordic Tug, anchored a few hundred feet further upstream, and a pair of sailboats set up just the other side of the ICW.  It was a gorgeous spot, but we could not enjoy it from the decks, as the no-see-ums and mosquitoes had formed a strategic alliance, mustering legions to assault any cruisers that had strayed into their territory.  Louise got eaten alive setting the anchor, and I got eaten alive just hoisting the anchoring ball and shutting down the flybridge.

Yesterday morning I volunteered to handle the deck for the anchor ritual, as Louise is apparently much tastier to the bugs, and the bites affect her more.  I think I gave her only three hand signals to move the boat the whole time I was retrieving chain.  We waited for mid tide, as the area around the North Santee was the skinniest we would see.  We then had smooth sailing all the way to Winyah Bay and Georgetown, another short day.

We were tied up before lunch time.  Again I think we were the first cruising boat here, with the other boats on the dock having been here overnight.  That was a good thing, because our call-ahead reservation was far enough down the queue that we were assigned a spot on an inside face dock, between two other boats.  They wanted to put us bow-first, but I could foresee that becoming a problem for leaving today if the other boats coming in after us were not also leaving before us.  With the marina still fairly empty, I chose to spin around and dock with the bow pointing the right way for a controlled departure.

Fortunately, all of that decision-making happened while we were tied up to the pumpout dock, on the outside next to the channel.  That gave me the chance to pace out the distance between the face docks, which the marina hand had estimated at over 100'.  It turned out to be just 68', which once upon a time would have scared me, but I can now easily spin 52' of boat around in 60' or so of space, even without the thruster.  That was one of the many things I practiced repeatedly with Captain Gary, who had a penchant for informing me at the last minute that my bow thruster was no longer working.  That said, it helped a lot that it was nearly slack tide with almost no wind.

The pumpout, of course, was one of the factors driving us to a stop in Georgetown to begin with, as our holding tank capacity (combined with our rather water-intensive commodes) is the single most limiting factor on the amount of time we can stay out.  Unlike the RV universe, pumpouts are an extra charge that is seldom different whether one is staying at the marina or not.  Charleston Harbor was an exception, having included the pumpout in our rent.  So we could just as easily have come in, paid for a pumpout, and then headed back out to a nice anchorage.

For that matter, it's possible to anchor right here, across the channel from the marinas and city docks, and we saw at least three boats do just that after arriving.  However, we wanted the convenience of just walking into town for dinner, groceries, and sightseeing -- one of the key advantages of this particular marina.  On top of that, we needed to put a good soak on the aging battery plant, and I needed to do a full, 100% charge to get the state-of-charge meter to reset, necessary after I disconnected it to fix the incorrect voltage reading.  At least we got a 10% discount on dockage with our MTOA membership.

We walked the 2.5 miles round trip, backpacks on, to the Piggly Wiggly for some fresh provisions, strolled the main drag Front Street, read some of the numerous historical markers, and walked back on the "harbor walk" wharf along the river.  A cute little town, and very different view than what we saw from Odyssey, rolling by on US-17 back in 2006.  We walked over to Limpin' Janes for a nice dinner, one of the small handful of restaurants open on Sunday here.

I had planned to shove off on low slack this morning, which our guide books said would give us a fair tide all the way to Barefoot Landing.  As it happens, though, I checked in yesterday with our good friends Chris and Alyse from Captain Chris Yacht Services, who we knew to be doing a delivery this week up the ICW from Brunswick, GA to Southport, NC.  Regular readers may remember that Chris was one of the training captains we had aboard Vector early on.  It turns out that they anchored south of Charleston last night, and will go screaming past here today -- it's a nine-knot boat and they are doing 100-mile days, something their many years of ICW experience facilitates.

They'd already picked out their stop for tonight, a nice anchorage just seven miles up the ICW from here.  If we don't connect this evening, we'll never catch up to them, and so we changed our plans to make just seven miles today and stake out a spot in the same anchorage, where we will arrive well ahead of them.  That gave us the chance to have a nice relaxing morning here, and even to run the heaters, as the weather turned from warm and pleasant to chilly and rainy overnight.  The downside is that I will have to maneuver out of the tight docks in some current, but most of the other boats have already left, and I expect the one right in front of us will shove off sometime this morning as well.

If the weather wasn't so rotten we'd go back into town and browse the places that were all closed yesterday, but instead it's a great day to just veg out and catch up on email and blogging.  Saturday night we were so far away from the cell towers that we could only get sporadic email and could not even make phone calls (the reason why we were so far down the reservation queue here), and I have every reason to expect we will be similarly off-line tonight.


  1. Bob S. in St. CroixApr 15, 2013, 3:13:00 PM

    Ah, you're accessing internet via cell towers. I couldn't recall reading how you were going online. Do you plan on using satellite internet later?

    1. Thanks for your comment Bob -- good question. So good, in fact, that I really need to do a full post on Internet on the boat. I had hoped to get to that in the last few days, prompted by your question, but I keep getting sidetracked. I will try to tackle this in the next couple of weeks. Suffice it to say that we are using WiFi and cellular -- satellite on a boat is too expensive for most "normal" usage. Stay tuned for the more detailed discussion...

  2. Seems to me Sean I would of haul a dock cart up to the Piggly Wiggly and really load up on provisions and Wine....Oh don't forget the Noseem sprays!!


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