Always something interesting
We drove (by car) to DC from Charleston to attend Katie’s wedding
It was fun in DC – nice place for a visit and enjoyed visiting with cousins but….
Back in Charleston. It was time again to head north by boat. So, we left Charleston Harbor Marina for Georgetown, SC. A two day journey. Marine charts for portions of this trip and other parts of the ICW are not accurate, especially depth changes, so we supplement charts with a social media website called Active Captain. AC lets recreational boaters use the web to alert others of conditions they found, like shallow spots, charting errors or waterway hazards. The Coast Guard regularly broadcasts warnings of serious hazards on VHF channel 22A but it’s not their job to warn of undocumented shallow spots.
The need for Active Captain has grown in importance as government funds have decreased. The Intercoastal Coastal Waterway (ICW) is not being maintained to any sort of acceptable standard. For 150 years this passageway has been seen a steady stream of commercial shipping and recreational boating traffic and been maintained pretty well. Not so much anymore. While there is still dredge work ongoing, it is not nearly enough to keep up with the continued silting that naturally occurs. The Army Corp of Engineers is responsible for dredging and maintenance, but funding comes from Federal, State and even City funds. All these sources seem to be growing smaller each year.
Active Captain to the rescue. Sounds simple enough. But not all recreational boaters are articulate or knowledgeable. Comments like: “Came through here with no less than three feet under my boat” or “Boat in front of me got stuck but I didn’t” are useless. Not only don’t we know how deep these boats are but we don’t know what the tide was at that time or the exact position. There is one exception. A dedicated boater with the alias of Bob423, however, is methodical, accurate and timely We count on Bob’s reports as accurate and discount almost all others as unless they reference depth to MLW. (mean low water) and have exact locations. Thank you Bob.
Even armed with Active Captain we hit bottom and embedded in mud on our way to Georgetown. It’s soft mud – so no damage except to ego. The water was about 5’ 6” and we draft 5’ 8”. The tide was rising (planned that way so IF something were to happen we wouldn’t be trapped for long) so we were looking at less than an hour until the tide rose 2 inches. However, A good Samaritan with a 200hp outboard said he could help, I said ok, and he pulled us further into the mud. About two feet more stuck than we were. Just as a note: Judy was right – we should not have accepted the help.
I really hate to call for help, I like feeling I can get out of most troubles myself, but in the next few months the tide was not going to get high enough to float us out of there so we called BoatsUS an organization we subscribe to, that among other things, offers free tow assistance. The towboat was there in about an hour powered by a set of outboards totaling 500hp. Less than an hour after that we were sailing, or rather , motoring, again. That spot on the ICW, where we got stuck, we were told later, catches boats every day, but that’s hardly comforting when there are two more similarly shallow further on our route that day. It was now 1PM. We could hardly wait.
We try to plan and limit our daily travels to mostly rising tides or falling tides greater than mid-tide. From mid-rising to mid falling is about 7-8 hours per day. We were a little early that day but off by less than one hour and it cost us.
Just a few miles from our 1st grounding, we hit ground again. This time Cetacean and her crew were able to power through the mud and silt. The patch was about 100 feet long. Then it happened again another few miles up the ICW and again we were able to power through. But my faith in all reports, either government issued, or social media had ended.
It’s hard to describe the rest of the trip. Mostly 12 feet depth, but, both of us watched the depth gauge like a hawk. We also watched the position of the boat relative to the edges of the waterway, water color, inside vs. outside of a turn and our chart plotter and waited for the next shallow section to jump out and grab us. It’s almost like watching a horror movie. You are sitting in the dark watching the movie holding hands with your sweetie and stuffing popcorn. You damned well know, at any moment, the monster will jump out of the darkness, you just don’t know when. Thankfully there were no more events that day and we anchored in a quiet area for the night.
The route the next day included 20-30 Active Captain reports of grounding in about 10 locations as well as some open by request bridges. We couldn’t leave early enough to match high tide with the really shallow spot later that day. That would have meant leaving at 4AM and it was dark then. So, we split the day into two pieces. Started at 6AM and travel as far as we could. With the tide falling we found an anchorage. While at anchor the tide fell to it’s lowest and rose again to mid-tide – then we raised anchor and continued, finally reaching Georgetown, SC about 4PM.
Georgetown , formerly George Town formerly San Miguel de Guadalupe has history back to 1526 when the Spanish under Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón founded a farming colony there with slaves. Eventually the slaves ran away and joined the indigenous Cofitachequi tribe. The Spanish fled too when disease took it’s toll , and they sailed to South East Asia. Later English colonists up from Charleston founded what is now known as Georgetown.
Georgetown is also where Michelle Obama’s grandfather is from and many of their relatives still live in the area.
We both enjoyed Georgetown and ended up staying two days.
Leaving Georgetown we turn onto the Waccamaw River; A 150 miles long river navigable on the lower 40 miles. Our entire route that day was on the lower Waccamaw. An anchorage had been recommended and that was where we were heading. Leaving Georgetown the Waccamaw is lowlands with grasses growing from the river and off into the distance for 100’s of yards. Then it turns kind of suburban , with large houses and individual docks.
Finally the river becomes forested , without buildings, human caused noises. It is just just forest and the river. Nearing our anchoring spot, we turned onto a tributary of the Waccamaw and follow it for nearly five miles. The water was deep here, nearly 30 feet. We were now in virgin forest on both sides and no noise from civilization. Beautiful green forest on both side, with lots of colorful, song birds and alligators… It turned out to be by far, one of the highlights of the this segment of trip.
We inflated the kayak and explored. No one was in site. Just us, some turtles and of course the alligators.
We have a few more days of travel. A storm front to wait for and if there are no more shallow spots we will arrive in to Beaufort NC soon.