18 Beaufort, NC to Beaufort, SC

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We explored the contrasts in Beaufort. We spent the afternoon with Tom and Marilyn in the Royal James Café/Billiards. A townie bar if there ever was one. An afternoon of drinks and burgers set us back $20 and we had a great time. Friday was a rainy day, Tom and Marilyn got the courtesy car and we did a shopping run to Morehead City and then had dinner aboard Samum. The next day we tried out the Beaufort Grocery Restaurant for lunch. Excellent sandwiches in a unique atmosphere.

Enjoyed checking out the houses in Beaufort. The predominant style is two stories with porches across the front of both stories. Most of the houses are white with black shutters. Many were built in the early 1800’s. Even explored the old burying ground. One man was buried standing up saluting. A young girl who died at sea was brought back in a cask of rum for burial. Made for an interesting walk.

Beaufort is a jumping off point for people going offshore to the Caribbean. We’ve seen a unique mix of offshore boats, heard a few stories about offshore passages and heard some interesting radio transmissions from people leaving or attempting to leave.

NOAA put gale warnings up on Friday for Beaufort. We decided to stay at the dock rather than anchor out. Radio traffic indicated everyone was hunkering down for the storm. We went to bed expecting 35-40 knot winds at night. About 2 AM we got heavy rain, but the winds stayed moderate. The next morning our rain gage indicated 1.6 inches had fallen. Weather has stayed marginal, we’re enjoying ourselves, so we’ll stay through Monday.

It was calm as we headed out and sorted out the buoys south of Beaufort. The buoys had been moved because the former channel had filled in. The chart and buoys no longer agreed. It took a few minutes, and one false try and then we were through and moving normally. The wind came back up and we motored along with 25-30 knot winds on the nose again.

The character of the land changed again. Live oaks and pines lined the shore. The canal edge is now lined with houses. Only the west side has houses, the east side is still wilderness barrier islands then a tidal pond and finally the true coast line two or three miles further to the east. The coast is also lined with rows of houses hugging the ocean shore.

The Surf City Swing Bridge opens only on the hour and we arrived 15 minutes early. A loud clunking noise greeted us as Ruth put the engine in reverse to slow our forward progress. She immediately shifted to forward and the sound stopped. Trying reverse again, the sound returned. We feared transmission problems and that we had lost reverse. Once the bridge opened, we headed on toward our planned destination a marina.

Just as we began the turn for the slip, the engine went clunk and stalled out. Helping hands assisted in getting us in without incident. We called a mechanic and he suggested we check for a fouled propeller. It was now dark, so we went to bed sure that we had a blown transmission.

The morning was clear, crisp and bright. The air temperature was 45 and the water 62. I waited until about 7:30 to get better light and then put on my swim trunks and snorkel gear. The cold took my breath away, and once I caught it, I dove on the propeller. The prop was hard to see because it was tightly wrapped in rope with a crab trap float attached. I was delighted. No transmission problems, but now the problem was clearing the prop.

There was no way to unwind the rope, it was too tightly wound. I tried my normal rigging knife and after two cycles of holding my breath until I could stand it no longer, got one wrap cut, but could not unwind the rope. Switched to a serrated edge kitchen knife. That did the trick. I could easily cut the rope and peel back one wrap on one breath. 20 minutes later I had the prop clear and we have a crab trap float souvenir. I headed for the shower to get the salt off and to get warm since hypothermia was setting in.

We pushed on south to Carolina Beach and anchored out. Initially we felt like we were in a fishbowl since the channel was quite narrow and both sides were lined with beach houses and condos. Later as the sun set we realized that 90 percent of the homes were empty summer places.

About 1 A.M. it went from dead calm to 15 knot winds. I got up and checked to make sure we were ok and that other boats in the area were not dragging down on us. We weren’t ok, we were dragging and getting very close to a boat behind us. Ruth got the engine going and I started on the anchor.

Getting the anchor out was not an easy task. With the wind blowing the anchor line was bowstring tight and almost impossible to pull in. Ruth helped by using the engine to run up on the anchor. As we got near the end, we had trouble breaking it free even though we were dragging. I rerigged the anchor line back on to one of the genoa winches and started cranking. By that time, we’d dragged further and were almost on top another boat. 20 feet off their bow, I got the anchor free and Ruth got us out of there.

We motored over to a new position and dropped the anchor again. This time I made sure there was plenty of rode out so we got a good set. Then I spent a half-hour sitting and watching to make sure the anchor was indeed set. At 2:30 we were snuggled back into the bunk trying to get back to sleep after a strenuous work out. Sleep didn’t come easily, too much adrenaline in the blood stream.

Morning found us ok, but our companion boat, Samum aground. They had dragged, and hadn’t realized it until they were aground. It was a rising 4.5-foot tide and they waited until they finally floated off.

After all our excitement, we found Southport and Calabash to be nice quiet but very different towns. Southport was a combination fishing village, marina area and old homes. Calabash was a town spread along the main highway with all kinds of restaurants and shops to keep the tourist fed and occupied. As we explored Calabash, it was evident that we were into golfing territory.

Barefoot Landing is listed as South Carolina’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s a shopping center, but it has a huge dock that boats can tie up to for free. By my count more than 20 boats were tied off to the floating dock. We did. It was interesting in that our radio community all landed at the same place and we got to put faces with names that we had only heard on the radio. What was even more unique was that most of the boating community had dinner out at the same place, the Wild Boar. Dinner was excellent, I had some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. Ruth had jambalaya that was outstanding. Made for a fun afternoon, evening and morning the next day as everyone stood on the dock and swapped notes.
We met one of the legends of the ICW. MV Bear was tied up at the dock. They had been up and down the ICW 5 times and because of the uniqueness of their boat, many people knew them. They had 12,000 hours on their engine, 2 cats, one 16 and the other 22 years old and a unique tug boat style. They lived aboard full time. All of that in 20-feet. They stood out as one of the smaller cruising boats. Fun people, but a little different than most of the other people doing this kind of life style.

We pushed off and found the character of the ICW changed again. As we started there were houses and condos on both sides, then they gave way to Cyprus trees and wilderness. Fall colors snuck back in and we enjoyed a muted set of colors. We made an easy day of it and pulled off the ICW into Prince creek. Both sides were lined with trees, there was no wind and the setting was beautiful. The next morning had glass smooth water reflecting the fall colors. It was the best anchorage we’d been in since Lake Superior.

We were going to go into a marina at Georgetown, SC but changed our minds at the last minute and anchored out. Georgetown is after boater business. They have a very nice dinghy dock, and in the evening someone came around and passed out literature about the town to each boat at anchor. The local Piggly Wiggly even provided rides to and from the grocery store. That turned out to be a blast. 5 of us ended up finishing shopping at the same time. The ride back was in the back of a pick up truck. Everyone had purchased major supplies, so we stacked 30 bags groceries around and on the people in the back.

We anchored in what Ruth called a wheat field, actually sea grass that defines the edge of Dewees Creek. We’re in the South Carolina low country and the creeks cut through a huge tidal marsh. Looking out over the sea grass we can see the mast of another sailboat that pulled into a creek 4 miles earlier. Looks like the nearest trees are 7-8 miles away. The creek is narrow and deep averaging 30 or more feet deep. We looked for some time to find a 10 foot spot (at low tide) to drop the anchor.

The tides have become very significant and the currents even more so. We carefully check tide tables and depths since we are now working with 7-foot tides and currents that run up to 2-knots. Still haven’t gotten used to having the boat ride at anchor and not be weather cocked to the wind. We end up with the anchor line going off in all kinds of directions. At anchor the knotmeter will register up to 2 knots.

When were traveling the tidal current becomes very significant. When it’s against us speed over the ground is killed, When it’s behind us we fly getting up to 8-9 knots over the ground.

After 5 nights at anchor we’ll break down and go into a slip at Beaufort, SC. We’re tempted to anchor out there, but we need to fill the water tank, do laundry, send e-mail and other chores so it’s easier to work from a dock.

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