Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year

We are under way in St. Catherines Sound, bound for sea and thence to St. Simons Sound near Brunswick, Georgia. It has been an enjoyable trip down the ICW, much less stressful than our first couple of times owing to better tools and skills. That said, it's still a lot more work to get this big boat through the low country than to run offshore, and since we have the weather for it today, we're making our break. We have a temporary moratorium on overnight trips while I continue to recover from heart surgery.

We have not been ashore since departing Charleston, notwithstanding my prognostication that we might be in Hilton Head for New Years. In actual fact, we made much better time than I had allowed for, pushing all the way through the really shallow stuff around the Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff at the end-of-day high tide and dropping the hook in the Combahee River inlet, right off the Coosaw (map), just after sunset.

That had us whizzing past Hilton Head in Calibogue Sound mid-day on Thursday. We had been lukewarm on stopping there anyway, with Omicron keeping us out of anything too crowded, and so we had been hoping for, but not counting on, a festive atmosphere we could enjoy from a distance, with perhaps some more holiday lights, maybe some music or even fireworks.

Sunset at anchor on the Combahee.

With none of that guaranteed, and a slip at the marina running $195 a night (regular rate -- I never even got as far as asking about the holiday), adding an extra day to the mix was the final straw, and we opted to just keep going. The tide let us get as far as an anchorage on the New River next to Turtle Island (map), near Daufuskie Island, just before Fields Cut, another notorious shallow section. I would have loved to run the cut at the end of the day at nearly high but still rising tide, but the cut empties into the Savannah River where there is no place to anchor. Despite a reversing current of two knots, it was one of the calmest anchorages we've seen.

Once we knew we would pass up Hilton Head, I looked into spending New Years Eve in Savannah. The city had festivities planned for the riverfront, culminating in fireworks, and we knew from experience that we'd be able to distance there, or even just take it all in from our own deck. Unfortunately, the city docks, where we have stayed in the past, have been closed due to damage since October. Repairs are not yet complete, and the city dockmaster informed me that she was allowing 3-hour tie ups at the dock for the holiday, but only until 5pm.

There's really no good place to anchor on the river, and even if there was, the city dock is the only place to land a tender. The two private marinas nearby seldom have space on weekends, and again it would be $200 with no guarantee we could safely do anything at all. Thus, as much as we would have enjoyed it, we again decided to simply press on ahead. We weighed anchor early yesterday on a falling tide, in order to still have a few feet of help getting through Fields Cut. That put us in the Savannah River just as a large ship was passing the cut upriver, and I had to make a hard right and run outside the channel buoys until he passed.

Dolphins seldom play in our bow wave for long -- we're too slow -- but it's always fun to see.

The early start had us passing through Thunderbolt well before lunch, and we set our sights on a familiar anchorage in Kilkenny Creek, the last decent stop before St. Catherines Sound. With the Marker 107 restaurant further up the creek closed for the holiday, this time we only poked into the creek far enough to be out of the wakes of ICW traffic and dropped the hook (map) around 4:15.

We had a very quiet New Years Eve at home, and it was so unseasonably warm that we even had our first cocktail out on the aft deck. Dinner out there was out of the question, as the bugs quickly drove us back indoors just as we finished cocktails. We had a nice dinner inside, and I can get away with saying we went to the saloon for New Years with only other boaters the wiser.

One of the characteristics of the marshy "low country" is that you can see for miles in any direction, and we were treated to small private displays of fireworks all evening from the surrounding developments, most at least two miles away. The city display downtown was not high enough to see over the trees. At midnight I sounded the ship's whistle, as I do every year, and that was the totality of the difference from pretty much any other night at anchor. Once the fireworks died down it was a very quiet and peaceful night on the hook.

Dolphins play off our bow in the Coosaw river.

One reason we pressed on to the Kilkenny anchorage, pushing against the tide from the "top of the hill" anchorage that we generally prefer, was to allow for the possibility of going offshore today. It's a long day, up to nine hours under way, but much easier than the two day slog down the ICW. The forecast was on the cusp of comfortable, giving us pause. This morning's weather check revealed it to be acceptable, and we weighed anchor with the turn of the tide and raced out of the sound with nearly two knots behind us.

We're now offshore, about three miles from the coast, and it is indeed acceptable, if not truly comfortable. We're making decent time, with the plotter projecting a 4-something arrival at St. Simons, better than my planned arrival a bit after 5. This will be the first time in two years that we will pass through St. Simons Sound without the hulking wreck of the Golden Ray as a major feature of the landscape. While the ship and massive removal crane are gone, the environmental barrier is still in place as crews continue to clean debris off the bottom, and we will still have to skirt around the security zone.

We are hoping to connect with some boating friends here, so we may linger for a day or so depending on their schedule, and then we will continue south. I expect that, when next you hear from me, we will be in Florida.

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