Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Dismal Swamp to Charleston, SC

We were the first one down the road in the misty morning, heading for the first lock-through at 8:30 AM at the far end of the canal on our way to Elizabeth City.

We went under the double bridge that leads into Elizabeth City and docked at the free dock downtown.  After we did a little organizing on the boat, we hired a cab to take the Skipper to the hospital for a scheduled blood test and the Admiral to the market for a little grocery shopping.  We met back at the boat and used our new cart to drag the laundry a few blocks to the laundromat.  The Admiral went back to the boat while the Skipper stopped briefly at the Rose Buddies' wine party on the dock, a tradition started many years ago by some gentlemen in the town to welcome transient boaters.  It was such a busy day, that I forgot to take pictures!

Our next anchorage was Dowry Creek, just past the marina there.  The next morning was pretty spectacular as mornings often are when you get up early enough to see them.  We were now in a rush to get all the way to Charleston, SC before we left the boat to go to Kissimmee because the entire Intracoastal Waterway was scheduled to be closed on either November 10 or 13 for 10 days for the replacement of the Ben Sawyer Bridge.  We didn't want to be caught on the wrong side of the closure when we came back from Florida because there are not very many nice and/or inexpensive places to stay for that long just north of Charleston and the way around the outside (out in the ocean) was long and totally dependent on good weather.

So we pushed on to Oriental, one of our favorite places and made a reservation for two nights at the Oriental Marina to wait out another wind storm before we crossed the Neuse River again.  Our slip was right across from "The Bean", a great coffee shop with a lot off locals sitting on the porch judging one's docking skills. 

Our timing was perfect because there was a barbecue and apple pie contest the second night we were there for only $10/person.  The proceeds went to charity so we felt we were making a major contribution to humanity by chowing down on pork barbecue, beans, coleslaw, and apple pie -- despite our diets.

The weather was good enough the next day for a long trip down the Waterway past Beaufort (Bow-fort) and Morehead City, through Bogue Sound, past Swansboro and into the middle of the U.S. Marines major training ground.  Mile Hammock is an excellent harbor, but no one is allowed to set foot ashore.  There were a number of boats anchored there and we anchored right next to the old hulk of a landing craft they use for training.

Off again the next morning for our another marathon trip past the Surf City Bridge and the Topsails.  We had intended to stop at Carolina Beach but we made the decision to push on through and head down the aptly named Cape Fear River in less than perfect conditions.  Luckily, the wind abated and the tide turned just as we started down and we had a very pleasant trip to an anchorage called The Pipeline in Southport.

Another extended long trip in the effort to get to Charleston in time to see our daughter and her family off took us through the marvelous old pontoon bridge and the border between North and South Carolina at the Calabash river. 

We went by Barefoot Landing which used to be a free dock near a shopping and entertainment complex in Myrtle Beach but is now an inexpensive facility with a few amenities.  We saw what looks like a real lighthouse outside Coquina Harbor, but there is certainly no navigational purpose for it alongside a man made ditch at the entrance of a man-made harbor.  A mystery to be researched later?

Myrtle Beach is wall-to-wall golf courses.  One has a parking lot on one side of the ICW and the course on the other.  The golfers take an aerial tramway across.

Every other condo complex seems to have a golf course for its front yard.  It seems as if there are more golf holes that there are people to aim little balls at them!

We came down the beautiful Waccamaw River past Osprey Marina where we had stayed a couple of times. There is a little anchorage with some houseboats (some sunk) just before Bucksport, which seems to have come back from the dead -- at least for the moment.

We went just a few more miles down the river and anchored in Bull Creek, just beyond the north end of Prince Creek.

We continued down the Waccamaw River and made a quick stop at Georgetown for fuel and fresh shrimp at the shrimp dock. We went across Winyah Bay which includes the inlet that we would have to take if we had to detour around the ICW closing.  Thank goodness, we were now on a schedule that would get us past the problem in time! 

We bypassed McClellanville, which sounds like an interesting stop and pulled into Awendaw Creek which is actually a very shallow inlet from the ocean. 
One of the boats coming in off the ocean pulled alongside and asked if we would like some blue crabs.  The answer, of course, was an enthusiastic affirmative and he passed a large plastic box across which the Skipper emptied into the largest bucket aboard.  There were so many that they overflowed onto the cockpit and the skipper's bare feet.  A very lively dance ensued followed by the donning of shoes and the capture of many errant and combative crabs.  They were soon subdued and put into the large crab and lobster pot we always carry which resulted in a much quieter -- and tastier -- passle of crabs.  After an exhausting evening picking crabs, the Skipper fell into his bunk for a refreshing sleep and sweet dreams.  The next morning returned the favor with another gorgeous sunrise over the ocean.

On the way to Awendaw, we had gotten a report that the ICW closure was postponed to the end of November!  We were tempted to turn back and take the boat back to leave her at the Osprey Marina at about half the price of the Charleston City Marina where we now had reservations.  But we pressed on since we were now only half a day from Charleston.  As we passed the bridge, it was quite apparent that it wasn't close to be ready for the final installation of a new bridge.

We were given a very nice inside slip at Charleston City Marina where the boat will be for a couple of weeks while we drive a rental car to visit our daughter and her family in Kissimmee, Florida until we put them on a plane for Dallas on the 7th.  We left a jack-o-lantern on the bow to protect Sesame while we are gone.  It has a solar charged light which should turn on every night automatically and scare any miscreants away.


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