We began the next part of our journey northward on April 14 at a respectable 9:50 in the morning. This allowed us to catch the slack tide in Charleston, although for once it probably didn’t matter. We had a boat length in front and behind us at the dock, so we had no worries about trying to squeeze out between boats. But our later departure also allowed us to go inside on the ICW through some perennially terrible shoaling areas on a rising tide.
One of those areas is around the Isle of Palms. We were told that this area had been dredged over the winter, and in fact, when we went through we had plenty of water. But there were several other notorious trouble spots beyond the Isle of Palms and not all of these were dredged. McClellanville is one of those areas. We went slowly and made it through. We learned later in the day from the dockhands at HarborWalk Marina in Georgetown, SC, where we were docking in the evening, that two Sabres had run hard aground in that spot the day before.
As mentioned, our destination on the 14th was Georgetown, and our plan for the rest of the trip was to run inside on the ICW all the way to Norfolk. This also meant that not only would we have to contend with the shoaling just north of Charleston, but myriad shoaling areas through the rest of South Carolina and up to Oriental, NC. South and North Carolina have not maintained the ICW for years and the result has been extensive shoaling. Fortunately, we have the comments of fellow boaters on Active Captain to help us negotiate these trouble spots. Boaters who have gone before us report their experiences and how they navigated through the shoal areas on the Active Captain website. It’s invaluable.
The other piece of information that’s very helpful is the cruising packet that Hank Pomeranz ,at the Southport Marina in Southport, NC, hands out. Every evening during the spring and fall migrations Hank holds a seminar, complete with power point presentation, on the shoaling areas north or south of Southport, depending on the season. A lot of this information is also on Active Captain, but many boaters report to him directly, so he is able to provide information before it appears on Active Captain. He also prints out color aerial photos of the latest Corps of Army Engineer surveys of many of these areas. These photos clearly show the location of the shoal and the deep water. Although Hank had not started his seminar when we arrived in Southport on the 16th, he very kindly dropped by Curiosity with a packet of photos and comments.
Hank’s information proved to be essential when we left Southport on the 17th heading toward Hampstead, NC. Our trip that day took us north on the Cape Fear River, through Snow’s Cut and into Carolina Beach Inlet. There is one spot in the Inlet where severe shoaling has moved from the red side of the channel, through the center to the green side. The area is almost impassable even at high tide, except for shallow draft boats. We made it through, however, because we had a copy of the Corps of Army Engineer survey for this area. That survey showed almost 20 feet of water if we went outside the marked channel and left the green mark to our port. That’s exactly what we did and we got through with plenty of water. But it took some faith in the Corps survey, because going that far outside the channel is usually something we’re trying to avoid!
We encountered many more shoaling areas on our way to Oriental. We got through them all, and were very glad to get to Oriental without any major problems.
I have to say that contending with all these shoals is one of the things we don’t like about traveling the ICW. The rest of our trip, however, has very few shoaling problems. There are other things to contend with, but skinny water, for the most part, is not one of them.
Our departure from Charleston also marked the beginning of cold and incredibly windy weather. It was 57 degrees when we left Charleston at about 10am. Doesn’t sound too bad, but the temp didn’t really go much higher that day. And the wind was blowing, making it feel colder than it was! We clocked 30k winds on the 17th when we were in the Cape Fear River and the temperature was 41 degrees! Those winds diminished as we got out of the river, but it was still blowing between 17 and 25 knots for the rest of that day. On the 15th, it was 48 degrees at 9am with 17 to 25kt winds. On the 16th it was 60 degrees at 10am and made it only to about 65 with 17 to 25kt winds and 40kt gusts. On the 18th it was 40 degrees at 7am, but the winds died down to the 10 to 15kt range.
And then today, we had 5 to 10kt winds and temps up to 85 degrees!! Crazy weather.
On the positive side, we’ve gone through some rural areas, like the Waccamaw River just north of Georgetown, where we saw many ospreys with chicks in the nest. When we were heading to Southport from North Myrtle Beach, we passed many small islands between the ICW and the ocean, and on one there was a pair of goats, male and female! We assume they were wild because there were no goat farms anywhere to be seen. The highlight though was seeing a pair of bald eagles as we were traveling from Charleston to Georgetown, as we were passing Cat Island. We also had some dolphins play in our wake at various points along the way, but none stayed too long or jumped too high.
They clearly didn’t measure up to the dolphins that have followed us in Indian River in Florida. Those dolphins are spectacular.
We are now at Mile Marker 174 on the ICW. We started at MM 1014 at Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach. So we’ve come quite a long way. We have 174 miles to Norfolk, VA and then the trip up the Chesapeake before we arrive in Annapolis. If the weather holds, we expect to be in Annapolis on Monday, the 25th. We’ll see if the weather gods are kind to us.