31 October 2012

Day 110: Church Creek to Sams Point, Coosaw River – 31/10/12

Apart from when we were woken up by the halyard slapping against the mast really hard, we have a peaceful night and I actually sleep late probably because when I wake up my back is completely pain-free.  I have no idea why it very occasionally decides to play ball but I am grateful when it does!

Even with all the blankets and two towels it’s not that warm and I resolve to do something about that tonight with more towels.  It’s all we have to hand and I am nothing if not resourceful.

We set off at about 11.30 and much to my surprise, the anchor and chain come up nice and clean rather than covered with the gloopy mud and creatures I had been expecting given the state of the banks last night.  We have a few hours to get to yet another 65-foot bridge and by then the tide should be low enough for us to get under.

We round a corner and suddenly before us there is a boatyard doing military stuff – navy landing craft – not quite what you expect to see in the middle of a backwater creek!

P1130511 Photo:  Are we back in Norfolk, Virginia?

We motor along at our usual trundling speed when going against the current and about three hours later we arrive at our next nightmare.  Although the tide is lowering, we need about another hour to get to very low tide.  Mike decides to anchor and wait for a while but what looks like a nice spot on the chart is a narrow, shallow (too shallow for us anyway) spot just off the river strewn with fishing pots.  We continue to within half a mile of the bridge, find a likely spot and put the anchor down.  Within ten minutes we are dragging as we discover that the holding is not good.  Up comes the anchor and Mike gets the binoculars out to look at the tide board – it’s no good, we can’t go under as it says 65 feet – just – we daren’t risk it.  We just have to hang around and wait.  I make lunch – BLTs.

After my dinner and while Mike jiggles the boat around in front of the bridge, I take the binoculars and look for myself.  The tide board says 67 feet.  I show Mike.  From where we were when he looked it seemed like the murky water level was at the 65 mark but it was just a dirt mark at that level and the water is actually lower.  Relieved he heads for the bridge.  The water is swirling around it with the tide (not helped by an idiot in a speedboat who went through just before us) and we go under with no problem.

P1130513 Photo:  The chart shows Jeannius apparently refusing to go under the bridge

P1130516 Photo:  Then we jiggle around and go through sideways

P1130514 Photo:  Actually we go forwards

P1130515 Photo:  Another bridge bites the dust

P1130518 Photo:  Then under the overhead power lines

P1130519 Photo:  And on we go

The countryside isn’t very interesting – lots of open marshland and pockets of trees.  Every now and then we come across houses with long, long jetties – they have to walk a couple of hundred yards across the marshes here to get to deep enough water to put their boats down around here. 

P1130521 P1130525 P1130526 P1130530 Photos:  The river scenery

For the first time we are really struggling with the charts, well, correction, I am.  I sit in front of them most of the time at the moment calling out the headings for Mike to take, keeping us in the channel as far as the charts are concerned.  Mike sits outside in the cold (wearing snowboarding trousers, three tops, hat and gloves) steadfastly ignoring my commands as he is following the channel markers which have probably been moved to reflect the dredging efforts and the shoaling.  It is so frustrating but he needs my input just in case the bloody boards aren’t there at all – and sometimes they aren’t!  I have decided that open ocean sailing is much easier!

We had been going to go off the ICW a couple of miles to find a place to anchor for the night but I read Skipper Bob’s anchorage book and discover that the current is quite strong there.  Given that this morning we were going around in circles like water down a plug hole – with little current – Mike decides that’s no good and spots a large motor cruiser anchored for the night in a wide part of the river just a mile or so ahead.  He heads straight for it.  In the shelter of the trees the wind drops and we are able to anchor easily and it digs in straight away.

The boat is cold as the doors have been open all day.  We shut everything up, put the generator on and get some heat going.  I add a further four towels on top of the bed – we may not be able to move but at least we will be warm!

I make a lovely dinner of garlic and chilli scallops served with pasta which goes down a treat and we both take very hot showers – a bonus with all the motoring as the port engine heats the water.  We set the anchor alarm and head off to bed.  Tomorrow we are only heading to Beaufort.  The ICW will take us outside after that and the weather is not quite right for it at the moment.  We will wait it out in another marina – we must be getting soft!


Position:  32 deg 29 min N, 80 deg 35 min W

Distance so far:  3328 miles

30 October 2012

Day 109: Charleston to Church Creek – 30/10/12

It’s bloody cold again when we wake up and I volunteer to make the tea again because my back is bad, I need to move around and I want to hold a cup of something hot in my hands.

There’s time enough for me to do the laundry before we go as we have to wait for the tide to be on the turn in order to make sure we get under the 67-foot bridge just around the corner.  Although we should make it easily, with the additional high tides because of Hurricane Sandy, we can’t be sure of anything.

Two loads of laundry later, lunch made and eaten, water tank full, bird poo hosed and scrubbed off and we are ready to go.  It’s blowing outside and still cold even in the sunshine. 

The strong wind is blowing us onto the dock and there is now another catamaran parked in front of us on the dock so getting off is not as easy as it would have been before they arrived.  Mike takes all the hurricane lines off and rearranges the normal lines so that I can slip them off easily.  However, because of the wind direction he will have to forcefully swing the stern out first with me holding the bow line tight to get us away from the dock backwards.  This will bring the starboard bow very close to the boat in front so just in case we call the owner out so that he can stand guard with a fender, just in case.  As usual, Mike gets it right first time, the fender is not needed and we slip effortlessly away from the dock.  He’s just too good sometimes.  I put all the fenders and lines away desperate to be busy and not think about the bridge.

P1130473 Photo:  Goodbye Charleston

Just 30 minutes later though, we are inching up on it.  The current is against us which is what Mike planned as he wants to go through very slowly but have the engines on hard.  There are no tide boards.  We creep up.  It’s not low tide but we shouldn’t need it.  It looks like we are going to hit but we just slide under, another one that when it comes to it, looks like a 65-footer not a 67-footer.  Still, through is through regardless of how many inches there are to spare.

P1130475 Photo:  It looks so close …

P1130476 Photo:  But we’re under …

P1130477 Photo:  And the James Island Expressway Bridge is behind us!

However, less than a mile down the Wappoo Creek and there’s another bridge, a swing bridge so no problem except that we have to wait for nearly half an hour for it to open.  With a crosswind and nearly two knots of current against us we bobble around a bit and I’m glad I’m not at the helm.  Right on time the bells and alarms sound in front of us and minutes later the bridge starts to open and we pass through.

P1130478 P1130480 Photos:  Easy peasy – the Wappoo Creek Bridge

We trundle along with me thinking that we have now done two of the three bridges to Savannah when I make the mistake of reading the bloody book.  Despite what Mike told me, there are five bridges between us and Savannah; one swing bridge, one 67-foot and three 65-foot.  So, three more chances of heart failure for me then!

Then comes the Elliott Cut.  This presumably man-made channel is very picturesque lined with beautiful houses on both side, but if the tide is against you – oh boy!  And of course, the tide is against us, all five knots of it at this point.  Fighting our way through we are motoring at 7.5 knots and achieving 2.5 over the ground with both engines going at it.  Still, it gives me time to admire the houses and the rather swamp-like trees hanging down to the water.

P1130484 P1130486 P1130489 P1130491 Photos:  Elliott Cut

Actually emerging into the Stono River is so difficult that we almost come to a complete stop, at least that is what it feels like.  We go so slowly that the computer charts and their GPS stuff get it all wrong and we appear to go over land and then go sideways before finally we are out and it sorts itself out again.

P1130492 Photo:  This is what MaxSea THINKS we did

Eight miles later and there’s another bridge, the other 65-footer of the day.  Gritting my teeth, I approach with trepidation.  This one is two feet lower than the first one and that looked bad enough.  You can actually see it from a couple of miles away across the marshes as you zig zag through the channels to get to it so the tension really builds up.  So calm and peaceful this sailing lark!  Not!

Because we catch this one at low tide and the tide boards are present and showing 68 feet Mike approaches this one quite confidently and it poses us no problem.

P1130495  Photo:  Under we go …

P1130499 Photo:  And the John F Limehouse Highway Bridge is behind us

We check Skipper Bob’s anchorage book and find a likely looking place for the night but it’s some miles on and our progress against the currents and the wind is slow.  The wind is still blowing and still cold and although I am inside most of the time because I have to sit by the chart plotter and shout the course out to Mike, I am freezing because the doors have to be open so he can hear me.

We see numerous dolphins swimming lazily by today.  Ahead, behind or alongside, they never seem to do much though.  They probably can’t see where they are going as the water is so brown and muddy.  It’s a good job they have sonar!

P1130501 Photo:  Birds adorn one of the many ICW markers

Eventually just before dark, we pull into Church Creek and put the anchor down.  As I stand with my foot on the windlass button, I eye up the bank by the side of the marshes.  The tide is still low and I can see thick, gloopy mud.  I know that when I pull the anchor up in the morning, this glutinous glug will cling to my anchor chain, no doubt full of scuttlers and other mud dwellers.  I shudder, but tomorrow is another day and maybe Mike will do it!

P1130502 Photo:  Sunset at Church Creek

We put the anchor alarm on.  The tide will turn half way through the night and if the wind stays strong the boat could swing round 180 degrees – there’s a chance the anchor could pull out although with the amount of chain down we don’t even really need the anchor at all.  Still, better to be safe than sorry.

Today we travelled a pathetic 16 miles.  Hopefully tomorrow we will do better.


Position:  32 deg 42 min N, 80 deg 10 min W

Distance so far:  3293 miles

29 October 2012

Day 108: Charleston, SC – 29/10/12

Seeing the beautiful sunshine and bright blue sky, I make the mistake of sticking my nose outside the door – it almost turns blue in the howling, freezing cold wind.

We were going out today for our last day in Charleston but once Mike realises how cold it is he flatly refuses to leave the boat and by early afternoon I can’t stand being cooped up inside anymore waiting for the wind to die down and I decide to get the shuttle bus into town to trundle around by myself.

Away from the marina it is much warmer and I strip off one of my three layers.  I have a great time just strolling through the markets again.  I stop to look time and time again at the sweetgrass baskets but even though I know how much work is involved in making them, I just don’t like them enough to contemplate spending that sort of money.  I do chat to some of the ladies making them though.  Odele is especially nice and lets me take her photo.


P1130428 Photos:  Odele and the sweetgrass baskets

P1130415 Photo:  Charleston is a town full of horse-drawn carriage tours

P1130420 Photo:  The market entrance

Horse-dawn carriage is the way to see Charleston apparently, although I still prefer to walk around by myself.  There is the constant faint aroma of horse shit which I don’t mind at all, especially when there is no chance of stepping in it as all the horses have those little nappy bags hanging under their tails.  Leaving the market, I go back down to the Waterfront Park and find the famous Pineapple Fountain.  A sign in front of it warns that no one should paddle in the fountain if they have skin, ear, eye or respiratory infections, open lesions or wounds, or have diarrheal illness or nausea.  Oh and you shouldn’t spit or blow your nose in it and should have a shower before getting in.  Before getting in?  After that list, I’d want a bloody good scrub and a course of antibiotics after getting out!  I stand a good distance away from all the swirling germs and use the zoom on my camera!

P1130437 Photo:  The Pineapple Fountain

I decide to wander around the French Quarter again as I loved it so much.  In some streets there are still the original cobblestones and although some of the lamps have electric bulbs in them these days, I am really thrilled to see that even more still use gas, the flames flickering away even in the daylight.

P1130434 P1130435 P1130433 P1130441 P1130443 P1130444 P1130445 P1130447 P1130459 P1130452 Photos:  The beautiful French Quarter of Charleston

In East Bay Street is the longest cluster of intact Georgian row houses in the States, the earliest structures dating back to the 1680s.  Once being shops and residences of notable merchants and planters, they fronted the wharfs on the Cooper River but fell into decay after years of neglect and war until the 1920s when some where bought by a woman who wanted to see them preserved and not demolished.  The name ‘Rainbow Row’ was coined in the 1940s after the pastel colours they were painted and they remain today one of the most photographed and painted Charleston scenes.

P1130446 P1130454 P1130456 P1130458 Photos:  Houses on Rainbow Row, East Bay Street

Retracing my steps I wander back down East Bay Street to a wonderful Gothic piece of architecture standing all alone with nothing else remotely gothic around it.  It seems deserted.  I hope not.

P1130463 P1130464 Photos:  I just love Gothic!

P1130432 Photo:  Wet Willie’s – a pub, a party, an institution – apparently

My next stop is Harris Teeter, the supermarket.  I don’t need much, just a bit of fresh, just a 10-minute walk from the other side of the market.  Obediently (probably completely in my little world of Jean) stopped at the traffic lights because they tell me to even though no cars are coming, I am tapped on the shoulder by a young man grinning at me saying ‘I think it’s safe to cross now’.  He chatters to me all the way to the supermarket.  He has a friend, Denise, who now lives in England, he tells me.  I am waiting for him to ask if I know her but thankfully he doesn’t and I am able to swallow the laugh that was threatening to break out.  Sweet lad.

Sitting outside the supermarket waiting for the shuttle bus to pick me up.  I have seen just a little bit of Charleston, probably the nicest and most expensive bit to be sure, but I just love it.  I know there are other nice bits, people keep telling me about them, but if I were to live here it would have to be in that French Quarter, full of gas lights and palm trees.  Love it, love it, love it.

P1130465 Photo:  View from my supermarket bench

When Sean picks me up, I am his only passenger and I get him to take me over towards the aquarium as I want to see the beautiful suspension bridge across the Cooper River.  Such a sweetie, he does.  I decide not to hold him up and run down to the river.  Big mistake.  I can’t remember how long it is since I last ran anywhere but I am definitely not used to it and my heart and lungs told me so in no uncertain terms.  After about a hundred yards I am huffing and puffing – thank God there is no one around to see me.  Noticing that there really is no one around, the deserted aquarium suddenly seems a bit spooky.  I get to the river front, take in the view, take the photos and run back, walking the last bit in order to get my breath back and not show myself up as being such an old git in front of a 20-year old.

P1130468 P1130469 Photos:  The Arthur Ravenel Junior Bridge, the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere

Back at the marina I find Mike doing battle with the birds, fog horn in hand and mouth.  I am not sure who is winning tonight.

The wind is still whipping around and the boat during the evening is bloody cold.  We go to bed early, togged up under our three blankets.  I rarely wear anything in bed and here I am in t-shirt, trousers and socks, snuggling up to Mike who is in the same attire.  I cannot believe that just a few days ago I was throwing the blankets off.  Apparently this cold snap is set to stay for a few days yet.



Position:  32 deg 46 min N, 79 deg 57 min W

Distance so far:  3276 miles