Sunday, May 23, 2021

Charleston fly-by

We are under way in the Atlantic Ocean, headed for the Cape Fear River from Charleston, South Carolina. I was not expecting to be out in the ocean tonight, but a very short window popped up, and we seized it. It's late in my 20:00-03:00 watch as I begin typing.

We had a very quiet night in the Beaufort River Thursday, and got an early start Friday to have a favorable tide through some of the shallower sections. Notwithstanding having the current against us for much of the way, and slowing down considerably even when the current was in our favor, we still arrived at the worst section, the entrance to the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, at a tide too low for safe passage.

Making matters worse, no fewer than six other boats, all of whom draw less than Vector, and several of whom had actually passed us earlier in the day at a high rate of speed, were all hovering around the entrance waiting. We might have had just enough water to make it with careful piloting, but we did  not want to do it in a cluster of other boats. We dropped the hook in the Coosaw and waited for the traffic jam to clear.

Waiting an extra 20 minutes meant we saw nothing less than 8' at a tide of +2.5', but the depths were lower than survey, even more so than on our last pass through. Shortly after that trouble stretch, we transited a section of the Dawho River where we, once again, diverted out of the buoys and across what appears as dry land on the chart. Since our last transit, which I described here complete with a chart graphic, the Corps of Engineers has run their survey boat over this stretch, inspiring confidence, even though the Coast Guard has not yet moved the buoys.

Sunset from our peaceful anchorage on the Wadmalaw River.

That put us into the North Edisto and thence the Wadmalaw with the current behind us, and we continued upriver to an unmarked anchorage outside the buoy line that looked like it would have enough protection for us (map). It turned out to be perfect -- very calm other than a handful of boat wakes, and very quiet. We had a nice sunset, dinner on board, and a restful night.

That left us with a short four-hour trip to Charleston Harbor yesterday. Once again the current was against us most of the way, this time on account of timing our arrival at Elliot's Cut for an outgoing tide close to slack. Last time we had to anchor outside the cut to wait for a tide change. On a pleasant weekend day, the waterways were very busy, and the narrow cut is challenging with so much traffic.

While I was driving all morning, Louise was texting back and forth with our friend Steph aboard Blossom. They'd been at the dock in Charleston for a few days, and we were looking forward to possibly seeing them. We were surprised to learn they were planning to leave the harbor in the evening for the outside run to Cape Fear. Louise has been watching the weather closely and, until yesterday morning, had seen no window for an outside run.

There was, indeed, a window, which actually improved throughout the day. But it was tight, slamming shut this afternoon with no other opportunities on the horizon for at least a week. We spent some time discussing whether we, too, wanted to grab this window. The alternatives would be an extended stay in Charleston, or a very tedious slog up the inside through some of the shallowest parts of the ICW.

Part of the new WestEdge complex. Some Saturday goings-on.

Neither one of us really relishes an overnight passage. It's harder on Louise than on me, but there is no question it takes a toll on both of us. One-night passages, counter-intuitively, are the worst; on multi-night passages you adjust a little to the change in rhythm, and you make a lot of miles -- more bang for the buck. So we thought long and hard about getting in a quick visit with our friends before they left on passage and then just remaining in Charleston ourselves.

In the end, we decided to grab the window, even though I had been up early and driving all morning. In part that's because it would be very difficult for us to get anywhere in Charleston unless we wanted to spring for a dock at $150+ per night to put the scooters on the ground, and most of the places we really enjoy lack outside dining. We've spent months in Charleston, so it's not like we are missing anything.

That said, we needed provisions, and had been planning on a grocery run in town. That was still necessary, and I was girding myself to run the e-bike ashore in the tender and ride all the way across town to the Harris-Teeter that is so very familiar to us. But Steph let us know that a brand new Publix had just opened north of the city marina, in walking distance. That sealed the deal, and we dropped a lunch hook in the Ashley River, not far from the marina (map).

Rather than spring for dinghy dockage at the city marina and have a very long walk, I opted to tender up through the bridges to the free dock at Brittlebank Park, which was less than a half mile from the store. It's in a new mixed-use development called WestEdge, which also sports a couple of eateries (with room for more) as well as the new home of the Harbour Club, which moved from its historic building across town. We no longer have access to this club, but we have fond memories, and I found the move interesting. I also learned that the City Marina now has an Amazon Locker, which would make getting deliveries here a slam-dunk, had we been inclined to stay.

On my way back from groceries I passed this party pedal-boat. The guests are pedaling their hearts out, but the skipper has not lowered the pedal-powered paddlewheel into the water.

Louise reported the day-boat wakes were miserable aboard Vector while I was ashore, and so as soon as I returned with a backpack full of provisions, we weighed anchor and motored the three miles down to our familiar digs just outside Commercial Anchorage B (map), where Blossom and our other friends Bob and Dori aboard Liberdade had anchored after leaving the City Marina to stage for their passage. We towed the dinghy the short distance, and as soon as the hook was set we tendered over to Blossom for a quick visit before we had to make preparations for our passage.

We weighed anchor right at the start of the ebb, for a good ride out the inlet. We did have to divert briefly to pass the enormous container ship Hyundai Hope, inbound in the entrance channel; nearly a half mile later, her wake turbulence rolled us pretty hard, and Louise's computer was a fatal casualty.  Liberdade and Blossom, both faster boats, left a full hour behind us. They both overtook me at the Cape Romain Shoal Buoy, where we all turned toward the Winyah Bay sea buoy. They were a few miles ahead when they passed that buoy, where our paths diverged We were about six miles astern arriving at the Cape Fear entrance.

We actually slowed down at the 0300 watch change, to try to avoid arriving on an ebb tide. Our two friends pushed against the ebb because they wanted to arrive at their marina at slack tide at the docks, an hour later. We got the timing mostly right, with the ebb against us only a short time at sea before the flood picked us up and swept us into the river.

We often stop at the first available anchorage after an overnight passage. But with a good push up a wide, deep, easy-to-navigate river, we opted to come all the way upriver to the turnoff for the tricky Snows Cut. We're now anchored off-channel between a pair of range lights on the Cape Fear (map), which will position us well to make Snows Cut with plenty of tidal help in the morning. Tomorrow we will be in Wrightsville Beach, a familiar stop and a comfortable place to wait for good outside conditions to make Beaufort.

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