We left Harborwalk Marina shortly before 7am. Our goal was to leave the dock so that we would reach the mouth of Winyah Bay, the body of water that flows from Georgetown to the Atlantic, as close to slack current as possible. We were very cautious about running this inlet after our experience last year when we had a nasty 6- to 8-foot chop on our nose. Things were flying around the cabin for the 15 intense minutes it took us to get out of the inlet and make the starboard turn to the south. We did not want to repeat that. The problem was that slack current at the inlet was 6am. To get there we’d have to leave the dock before 5am since it takes a little over an hour to get from Georgetown all the way down Winyah Bay. It would be dark; sunrise wouldn’t be until 7:30. There was shoaling around the harbor and we really didn’t want to go through the harbor when it was pitch black. So we decided to wait until 7. We would have some daylight and reach the inlet with only about a knot of current with us on the ebb.
It would also allow us to time the current in Charleston a little better. Slack current at the Charleston City Marina was not until 5:30pm. We were going to be on the Megadock, a long face dock that runs along the Ashley River. There can be several knots of current at the dock when it reaches its maximum, and we have found that docking is so much easier if we can dock at slack or close to slack current. If we left Georgetown to get the slack at Winyah Bay we would have hours and hours to kill before we could dock at Charleston. So if we delayed leaving Georgetown a bit, it would help us at the other end in Charleston.
Well, that was the plan. We left without incident. The forecast called for north winds at 5 to 10 kts with 3- to 4-foot seas. We had some fog at around 6am, but this gradually lifted so that we had over a mile of visibility when we left. All was good until we exited the Sampit River, where Georgetown is located, and entered Winyah Bay. Then we got socked in with dense fog. Visibility was less than 1/8 nm. We slowed down, put the fog horn on and proceeded cautiously. The sun would be up soon and it was predicted to be a warm day, so we expected the fog to lift as soon as the temperatures started to rise. We neared the first turn in the Bay and saw considerable improvement in the fog. But it was short lived. As we rounded the turn, we got socked in again. There was a tug and barge ahead of us in the channel and they reported that the fog was lifting in their location. And indeed when we reached them and passed them our visibility was good. We increased speed and from that point on we had improving visibility until we reached the inlet. A sailboat that had made it out about an hour before we reached the inlet reported 10 miles of visibility and 2-foot swells. Music to our ears!
But alas, conditions changed by the time we reached the inlet about an hour and 20 minutes after we left the dock. By that time the current was running about 3kts and the waves from the ocean were coming at us. We started out with about a 2- to 3-foot swell, but as we left the protection of land this quickly turned into about a 3- to 4-foot chop. This was much better than the conditions we had last year, but it was still a bumpy ride until got past the jetties and could make our starboard turn to the south. We were fine, Curiosity was solid, nothing flew around the cabin, but we couldn’t help but wonder how some of the smaller boats with less power would fare in these conditions. We heard later from one of the boats next to us in Georgetown that several boats that left after us turned back. We weren’t sure if that was because of the fog (although that should have been improving steadily) or the conditions at the inlet.
Once we got out past the jetties, however, the seas calmed down. The sun was up and the day was warming up. For most of the cruise to Charleston we had 3 to 7 kts of north wind and 2- to 3-foot swells that gently rocked us. There was no one around. We saw maybe two other boats until we approached the Charleston channel.
Normally we’d run the ocean at about 10kts. But if we did that this time we’d arrive too early to catch the slack current in Charleston, so we slowed down to about 1040 rpm and about 8.5 kts. Usually when we’re in the ocean there’s some bit of “current” against us, either from wind or tides. But on this day, one of the few days when we wanted to go slowly, we had it with us. We were inside the Charleston channel and off Sullivan Island by about 2:30pm. So we slowed down to 6kts and took a tour of Charleston’s harbor. We circumnavigated Drum Island, creeping along at a snail’s pace while we waited for the current to drop below 2 kts.
As we rounded the north side of Drum Island at about 3:45pm, the current started to slow to about a knot. I was willing to continue with our slow tour of the surrounding waters, but Jim was getting impatient. We figured if we proceeded directly to the City Marina we would still have about a knot of current to deal with and maybe (hopefully) less.
As we approached the marina the current was flooding and holding steady around a knot. We were going to be on the inside of the Megadock at the end. We decided that the best approach was to back down the fairway one berth and angle Curiosity onto the dock. This would keep the current on the bow and eliminate the need to turn the boat around and putting the current on our beam, which could get ugly. The strategy worked perfectly. Jim backed us down. The current started to push the bow off the dock as we angled in, but Jim maneuvered Curiosity to hold us steady and before you knew it we were tied up. No drama!
We rinsed Curiosity off, took care of a few other chores and then relaxed a bit before getting ready for dinner. Bob and Ronnie had invited us to join them at The Grocery. We had a fantastic meal. We shared two appetizers: roasted and fried okra and an eggplant, tomato and mozzarella gratin. Both were delicious. For a main course, Jim had duck confit with butternut squash and fall greens, and I had wreckfish in a stew of okra, onions and other stuff I can’t identify, but which was all really good. Doesn’t get much better than that. We had another enjoyable evening with Ronnie and Bob.
On Saturday morning, we did some needed housework aboard the boat and then hiked into downtown Charleston, a little more than a mile away, to do some sightseeing and window shopping and to take in some of the many art galleries.
We were interested in visiting the Audubon Gallery on King Street because Dennis DelMauro, the wood carver who is carving a piece for Curiosity, had a number of pieces in the gallery, including the piece that he was working on in Swansboro when we met him. The finished piece was just beautiful. It has two long-billed curlews perched on a large piece of driftwood. There were many other beautifully carved ducks and other shore birds by other artists. The gallery was well worth the visit.
Our next stop was the Robert Lange Studios, highly recommended by Ronnie and Bob. The gallery has an eclectic mix of artists and sculptors. Some were doing some more traditional, representational works and others had more contemporary takes on representational subjects. In addition, the gallery offers studio space to artists. When we visited, there were at least two artists who had studios in the gallery. The artists were not there, which was too bad because I would have loved to have seen them in the process of painting. But it was fun to see their studio set-ups, palettes and paint choices.
After a last stop at Harris Teeter for some provisions, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the boat. Dinner that night was at Blossom, which is a sister restaurant of Cypress, which we ate at over the summer, and of Magnolias. Blossom is a little less formal that Cypress and has a menu that emphasizes seafood. Nonetheless, on our waiter’s recommendation, we had a house-made andouille sausage with mini pancake and mustard appetizer, which was outstanding. We also split two other dishes: seared sea scallops in a corn chowder with bacon, leeks and potatoes and fried chicken breast with gravy and mashed potatoes. Very southern and very, very good.
We decided that Sunday would be a day of touristy stuff. The weather remained good, so we booked some tickets on one of the harbor tours for Fort Sumter, to which we had never been. The cruise to the Fort took about 30 minutes. We got a brief history of the Fort and its role in the Civil War as we crossed the harbor to the Fort. During 1863, the Union began a prolonged bombardment and siege of the Fort in an effort to retake it from the Confederacy. The bombardment ultimately was unsuccessful, but it managed to destroy several of the fort’s upper levels. The Fort that we see today is quite different, therefore, from the Fort that existed at the beginning of the Civil War. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting tour of a location that was a flashpoint for both sides in the war. The Park Service, which manages the Fort, had a very good presentation of its history after we arrived. We were then free to wander the grounds. Many of the cannons and other guns that were used during the Civil War were on display in the locations they would have occupied during the War. In addition, the four flags that flew over the Fort, the 33-star American Flag, the first flag of the Confederacy, the second flag of the Confederacy, and finally the 35-star American flag, which was installed at the end of the War, were flying over the parade grounds. It was a very interesting 2 hours.
After the tour we returned to the boat to watch some football and do some blog writing. Dinner tonight was at Poogan’s Porch. This restaurant is located in one of the old townhouses in the city. It specializes in low country fare. It, too, was excellent. We split a wedge salad to begin. Jim ordered shrimp and grits. What else? He’s a shrimp lover and can’t get enough of low country shrimp preparations. Fortunately, Poogan’s Porch’s shrimp and grits were excellent. I had a pan-roasted duck breast with arugula and sweet potato gnocchi. The duck was juicy and tender and went beautifully with the gnocchi and greens. Another great meal in Charleston! It is hard to get a bad meal; there are so many great restaurants!
Tonight, it’s finishing up the blog and getting ready for my trip to Palm Beach Gardens tomorrow. I’m going back for the week to check up on the painting and to manage the marble tile installation and the mold remediation. So, I need to pack and get my stuff together. Tomorrow will be a long day of traveling because there are no direct flights from Charleston to West Palm Beach. Go figure. In any event, I’ll get in around 3:30 if my original and connecting flights are on time. We’ll see. Jim will remain on a the boat for a few day before he is off to New York for an LLS board meeting in Greenwich, CT. We’ll both return on the weekend to get ready for the second part of our southbound trek, Charleston to North Palm Beach.