81 Beaufort, SC to Hampton, VA


Ladies Island Bridge at Beaufort, SC passed overhead. At 30′ it’s no longer a factor as we travel the ICW. This morning it helped us get a head start on the northbound sailboats gathering for its hourly morning opening. Hours later the Limehouse Bridge just below Charleston announced the bridge was inoperative waiting for repairs. With a 12′ clearance we would have to wait. The bridge had been closed for hours. Ahead at anchor were sailboats, motor yachts and the four sport fish yachts that had passed us an hour earlier. I checked tide tables and confirmed with the bridge tender. With the tide out, bridge clearance was 14′. We threaded our way through the anchored fleet and headed toward the bridge. Standing on the raised portion of the bow, I confirmed clearance by lining up the bridge bottom and the top of our antennas. Giving Ruth a ‘thumbs up’ as she slowly brought us up to the bridge I ducked as we passed under. Just the tip of our VHF antenna touched the bridge.

Rick and Joan joined us at Charleston and became our first guests to stay aboard for a few days. We poked around Charleston exploring the historic district. Weddings seemed almost as numerous as the profusion of springtime flowers. Church bell caroling, radiant brides and proud dads riding by in horse drawn carriages, and weddings in the park, seemed to be the common thing to see and hear on a beautiful spring Saturday.

Enjoying breakfast overlooking the water we noticed the expanse of tidal flat below rapidly changing as we watched. It was easy to see the flat expanding and changing character on the outgoing tide. It provided an interesting morning diversion-we’re easy to entertain. Later we took Odyssey out and explored Charleston Harbor giving Rick and Joan a feel for a trawlercat underway and a look at Charleston, Fort Sumpter and the aircraft carrier Yorktown from the water.

On the move again, we took extra time to enjoy the charming Waccamaw River. We’d both made notes in our personal diaries about spending more time in the area. We poked up Thoroughfare Creek, like the wilderness feeling and decided to stay. Concerned about bottom snags, I rigged a trip line to the anchor and we settled in for a pleasant night at anchor.

Early the next morning things didn’t seem quite right. During the night we’d swung around on the out-going tide, but that didn’t account for the now visible ICW marker at the creek entrance. Then we noticed the trip line float was half submerged. I’d rigged too short a trip line. On the rising tide in the night the float tripped the anchor. We’d dragged about 200 yards directly down the middle of the creek on the out-going tide. We anchored again, this time without a trip line on the anchor and all was well.

By our Midwestern standards Thoroughfare Creek is more like a river. Over 20′ deep in places, and 100 yards or more wide in many places, it winds back through a cypress tree-lined marshy shore. We explored by dinghy enjoying the wilderness.

We’ve moved up in the relative speed rankings on the ICW. On Tranquility we rode in the middle of the sailboat speed distribution. At 36′ we were faster than shorter boats and slower than longer ones. Next up in speed ranking are trawlers. They usually make 8-10 knots. Motor yachts are next traveling at 15-20 knots. Finally at the top of the speed ranking are sport fish yachts at 20-30 knots. We are finding we fit into a new niche. We’re faster than trawlers and just a little slower than motor yachts. However, speed comes at a price. Now we burn diesel at five gph (gallons per hour) where before we burned 0.8 gph.

Broken boats random luck and a great sea story all came together in Beaufort, NC. As we came up on the town dock by dinghy three 70′ ocean racers were tied off. Their sleek appearance looked even sleeker without their masts towering overhead. All three had been demasted. Broken lifelines and gear still cluttered decks as we passed by. Our random encounters kicked in when we spotted Claire Sailing as we started walking out the dock. Our paths cross about once a year without preplanning. Warm welcomes from Dene and Anita were followed by, “Have you seen the boats? We’ve got one of their stories.” They had received a copy of the e-mail the bowman on Zephyrus IV (the ocean racer at the dock with the most damage) had sent to some friends a day earlier. A vivid description of their wild ride in the Key West to Baltimore race added dimension to the wreckage just across the dock. Two carbon fiber spinnaker poles broke in 50-knot winds. The boat was going over 20 knots when the mast snapped off at the deck jumped forward still vertical and then crashed through the deck taking out the head, but not piercing the hull. Luckily no one was hurt. We walked the dock together taking a closer look at what a storm can do to boats built too close to design limits.

A second unplanned reunion occurred in Oriental. We had just anchored when Caribbean Soul motored around the point. We had planned to spend the winter with them exploring Florida’s West Coast. Because of boat-switching, we’d missed them. Our unique appearance gave us away, and they raised us on the VHF. Ashore we enjoyed a warm reunion with Richard and Jory and brought them out to tour Odyssey. We’re looking forward to spending more time with them in Annapolis.

It was early when we broke up our raft with Blitzen on the Alligator River and headed for the Alligator River Bridge and Albermarle Sound. We were both eager to get across before forecasted high winds hit. A temperature and culture shock greeted us as we reached the canal on the other side of the Sound. As we came off the open water the temperature climbed from the comfortable 70’s to the hot 90’s. Then being a hot Sunday, everyone who owned a small boat was out on the water. Since all there is along the stretch from Coinjock to Great Bridge is fairly narrow canal, small boats pulled water skiers and tubers up and down the canal. We continually slowed so as not to run down boats retrieving people from the middle of the channel. We made a note not to run this passage on warm weekend days.

A goal was in site. We could push on to Hampton. There we’ll let forecasted 30-knot winds pass while we enjoy port for a few days. A cell phone call to the marina brought potential disappointment. A boat show was in progress and the dock master could not be sure there would be an open slip. We decided to risk it knowing we could anchor out if nothing was available. Late Sunday evening after 116 miles of congested traveling we reached Hampton. Slips had opened up and we could dock.

We hadn’t backed into a slip since St Petersburg. With no one to catch a line we had to be close for me to make the jump down to the low dock. Both of us were tired and it was hot. However we both recognized it was a good opportunity to learn a little more about handling Odyssey and improve our teamwork. The first two tries we aborted early; a slight current was carrying us away from the finger pier. Regrouping, it took three more tries before we got the alignment right and Ruth backed us gently along-side the dock making the jump easy for me. Lines secured, power connected and AC running to cool Odyssey’s interior, we headed up to see if the dock master was still around and look for ice cream.


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