Friday, December 16, 2011

Underway Through the Carolinas

Posted: October 31, 5:01 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

PA241645 canal [photo: my fantasies of cruising included days traveling through scenery just like this - near the beginning of the Waccamaw River in South Carolina]

The weatherman served up a series of days so perfect for traveling that we just couldn’t pass them up. And it was clear that it was time to get moving southbound again. While the days were bright and lovely, the nights were taking on a bit of a chill. Six solid travel days, with five nights anchored out, would get us to Charleston, SC.

We got into a routine. Whoever woke up first went out to the main cabin to turn up the heat, then came back to bed for another 15 minutes or so until the chill was off the air. When it had warmed up a bit, we shared a pot of coffee while looking over the nautical charts for the area we planned to travel that day – generally, about 40 or 50 miles, 7 or 8 hours under way. After breakfast we’d raise the anchor. We have an electric windlass to do this, but often the anchor chain will be muddy from lying on the bottom; if that mud isn’t washed off before we bring the chain aboard, the mud will come into the boat, stinking in the anchor locker as it dries, or possibly clogging the bilge pump. One morning, as Dan was raising the anchor and rinsing the mud, he had to stop to free a bunch of baby crabs who were clinging to the chain – the wonders of Nature never cease to delight us!

At sea, when we’re underway, the boat can basically steer itself; we sit in the cockpit and read or talk and just look around every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything’s okay and there are no other boats coming at us. But steering the ICW is more like driving a car, where you need frequent attention to navigation marks, the location of the channel, shoals, and other boats. Granted, we’re only moving at jogging speed (7 mph), so it doesn’t require the kind of uninterrupted attention that driving does, but it still requires attention. The tradeoff is that it’s far more sheltered than being at sea … and unlike being underway at sea, we can anchor each night and get some uninterrupted sleep. And after 7 or 8 hours, dropping anchor in some sheltered spot and relaxing, watching a sunset, having a good dinner, and sleep, all sound good to us. Then, next morning, do it all again.

When we reached Charleston, it was just as though we had come in to port from being at sea for days. Even though we had been inland, we hadn’t been off the boat or in the company of any other humans except via VHF radio for six days. We were a bit stir-crazy, anxious to get out and explore, enjoy some city life. We stepped off the boat onto the dock … and just as though we’d been at sea for days, we wobbled unsteadily like the proverbial “drunken sailor.” It took us until the next morning to get used to standing on surfaces that didn’t rock to the waves, and get our land-legs back.

PA241652 cypress swamp [photo: Something about this cypress swamp tells me we're not in Kansas anymore! ]

PA261697 pelicans [photo: This pebbly shore is obviously attractive real estate to a pelican.]

PA241658 anchorage at sunset [photo: a quiet anchorage at sunset, and like a turtle, we've carried our home here with us to enjoy it from our very own front porch -errr, cockpit.]

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