122 Daufuskie Island, SC to Washington, DC

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Reluctantly we left Daufuskie Island and made the short hop to Beaufort. The anchor caught immediately and the dinghy took us ashore to enjoy a great day poking around in Beaufort. Early the next morning we moved Odyssey to the dock just as forecasted rain and wind started. We headed to the library. A number of years ago we’d registered to use the library’s computers to access the Internet. Now while it drizzled outside Ruth signed up for Social Security just as I’d done a year earlier.

Cold got to us as we headed north from Beaufort to Charleston on a cloudy day. Our heater added a bit of warmth then we put spring jackets over sweatshirts but soon changed to winter jackets, gloves and hats. Gloves made it a bit of a challenge turning pages as we took turns reading Sea Biscuit to each other while we took turns steering. The book was entertaining and made time pass quickly.

Jerry drove through Charleston covering streets we knew well with many streets we hadn’t visited before. His distinctive narration and fascinating knowledge of historic details brought the picturesque homes and their former owners to life. He’s the owner/operator of one of the tour busses: Charleston’s Finest Historic Tours and the best tour guide we’ve met. We spent the day with him first doing the city and then going out to Magnolia Plantation to enjoy Spring just starting in the beautiful country gardens on the grounds and touring the distinctive plantation house.

A container ship passed close by the breakwater and docked just beyond the marina. From our front row seats in Odyssey’s cockpit we watched the busy harbor traffic and container ship getting set up to unload. Three cranes dropped their huge arms and went to work. Two cranes toward the bow removed containers, the one aft loaded a container every 70 seconds to the hundreds already aboard. Intrigued we walked over to the new Imax and aquarium complex. The second floor walkway provides a view over the fence into the huge container yard. Spread out in front of us was a ballet of specialized container trucks hustling containers to and from the cranes and their 70-second appetite.

Sonya and Toby, old friends once on I Gotta Go joined us as the sun drifted below the horizon. Tugs and ships transiting the harbor faded to gray then became moving points of red, green and white lights as they worked the harbor. The Vista Riverside Cafe provided outstanding dinners as we caught up on events since our last meeting while enjoying the jazz trio playing in the background.

Barefoot Landing reflected how early we were coming north. Usually the dock is filled with boats rafting off two and three boats deep. Now only four boats were scattered along its empty length and two of them were southbound. Sea boots, umbrellas and foul weather jackets kept us almost dry as we hiked out to the main road in a pouring rain the next morning. We were in search of a breakfast, which we found, and a bit of diversion from the cold and wet. In spite of our protection we returned to Odyssey with wet Levis and regretted not wearing our foul weather pants. Instead of poking around the mall in four weather gear, or huddling below listening to the generator running for heat (there’s no electricity on the free dock) we decided to continue north.

Ruth reported the inverter wouldn’t turn on. Without the inverter there’s no 110 volt AC to run the toaster canceling breakfast toast while underway. Ruth took the wheel, and I went to work to sort out what was wrong. A bit of detective work revealed one of our alternators was malfunctioning–putting out too much voltage. Sensing high voltage the inverter stayed off instead of turning on and destroying itself. Our battery banks don’t have the luxury of turning themselves off and the high voltage would quickly destroy them. We stopped to make repairs.

Swan Point Marina provided a courtesy car, and we made the 100 mile round trip to the alternator repair shop twice. The first time we learned the alternator tested out perfectly. The second trip was because a part fell out while I was reinstalling it (long story) and because I’d stripped a thread. Once installed the alternator still put out too much voltage. For tech types: we use the marina’s battery load tester to confirm the batteries were ok leaving some kind of wiring defect causing the high voltage problem. Frustrated about not being able to find the problem, we took advantage of having two engines by disconnecting the malfunctioning alternator circuit and continued north while I sorted what was wrong.

Entering Oriental late in the afternoon a couple walking past the town dock stopped to take our lines. We started talking and learned they got e-mails from Blue Dancer a boat we’d met who was heading home to Oriental. They updated us on Blue Dancer’s progress and continuing tale of one huge problem after another. A second couple stopped to chat. They were boat owners who had a parrot and two dogs aboard. With that unique clue we quickly figured out we’d both been at Mystic Seaport four years earlier. It’s indeed a small world when one lives on the water. Tired we head to the M&M Café for a great dinner.

Weather set our schedule again and we made a long jump to Coinjock getting us across the Albemarle Sound before weather closed in. There we sat for two days waiting for winds of 40 knots on the sounds to diminish.

Allan and MJ joined us in Norfolk for a wonderful reunion. They were heading south to do more research on the book they’ll jointly publish. Allan is doing the text to accompany the pictures MJ is painting. We spent the afternoon catching up and then wandered off looking for dinner. We picked poorly and now share a common experience of having had one of the worst meals either couple has had at a restaurant.

Thick fog hinted at lifting as we picked our way through Norfolk harbor. Harbor visibility varied between a half and quarter mile making it easy to find the next buoy and observe the marine patrol now showing machine guns on their aft deck patrolling mostly empty Navy docks. Once into Chesapeake Bay fog closed in leaving just enough visibility to dodge telltale strings of floats marking fishnets just below the surface. We ran at speed, passing navigation marks unseen visually but visible on radar as we ran our GPS route up to the Potomac River.

The Potomac was above flood stage and the high water had launched all kinds of flotsam from shore. Half submerged logs, branches, driftwood, and other odd objects made steering challenging as we picked our way upstream. A Coast Guard boat patrolling just before Washington called and asked us to identify ourselves, we were then cleared to proceed.

Once secured at Gangplank Marina we set off to walk the Mall and check on spring. A dirty pile of left over snow indicated winter was leaving reluctantly. Trees were still completely bare but twigs were fat with buds about to open. A few spring crocus and daffodils added tiny splashed of color to the cold damp ground. We headed back to Odyssey knowing that this year we’d arrived in Washington a week or two before spring.

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