Monday, July 28, 2014

A Bird's Nest On The Ground

Morning at Bull Creek
"Finding a bird's nest on the ground" is a saying used by Texans, and maybe folks from other Southern states, that means something that is rewarding and easily done.  It is a fitting description for our current situation as we have truly and serendipitously landed ourselves in a little bird's nest on the ground here in Beaufort, SC.

Our day began much like many others.  Today we would be traveling in the ICW to Beaufort.  There wasn't much in our way other than one fixed bridge and an unrestricted swing bridge later on.

We rolled out the jib as we turned into Calibogue Sound.  It was plenty wide enough for sailing and deep, but unfortunately the wind was light and from an unfavorable direction... so after a bit, we gave up and rolled it back in.

Bruce worked on some maintenance projects while I guided us along the ICW, enjoying the morning sights and sounds.

As we approached that fixed bridge I mentioned, I asked Bruce to read the meter boards to make sure that we had enough clearance to pass.  It was near high tide, you can't be too careful...

There were no meter boards to read!!!  Ok, no need to panic.  I slowed the boat a bit but the tide kept urging us onward.  At some point very quickly, a little voice in my head said "just do it", so I increased throttle and... what else?  I got out the camera.  If there's going to be carnage, I'm getting it on digital!

We closed the gap between us and the bridge as I cringed in anticipation of that sound... you know... bump bump bump indicating that your wind instrument is playing the bridge substructure like a banjo...

Whew!  Made it!  With no contact...

Entering Port Royal Sound
The tide reversed and began to give us a boost as we approached Port Royal Sound .  It was very tame today as we looked towards the Atlantic for signs of danger.  There were none.  All was calm on this huge body of water and we reached our mark on the other side without incident. I can imagine this being a very formidable stretch in rough weather...

Oh, and that little boost we got from the reversing tide... that was now against us.  We went from speeds in excess of 7 knots down to barely managing to hit four as we entered the Beaufort River.

We weren't complaining though, we've enjoyed good fortune in the weather and tide department for some time...  and we didn't have far to go today so it wasn't important to make good time.

But where exactly ARE we going?  Our original plan was to take a mooring ball at the municipal marina for a week.  We would check out the town and have another mini-vaca.  A couple of days ago, one of my WWS friends asked us if we wanted a free slip for a few days...  Free is good!  But we have a difficult time imposing on people and so were hesitant.  "What's the deal" I asked her.  No deal.  Just a couple of CLODS (Cruisers Who Live On Dirt) who have a slip behind their home and they like to let Cruisers stay there.  I guess they get to meet a lot of nice Cruising people that way.  She said their place is a short distance beyond Beaufort's Old Historical District, but the people let you use their car!

So, we contacted Rick and he invited us over.  He gave us directions to getting to the slip and even would even meet us at the dock to help us get situated.  Our decision was made!

We proceeded past the Beaufort Historical District.  There were boats with brightly colored flags parading around in the river.  We learned that there had been some sort of celebration earlier in the day.  Missed it!

There was an anchorage FULL to the brim with boats of all sorts.  What a fun place to hang out!  Maybe we've been too hasty in our decision...

But noooo.... They're just weekend revelers.  They'll all be gone back to work tomorrow.  Besides, we aren't really all that big on crowds...

We hailed the Ladies Island Swing bridge to arrange for an opening.  She was very nice and got it opened right up for us.  It is awe inspiring to watch these huge things just quietly pivot on one central point  They are an engineering marvel...

In no time, we had reached the turn off and made contact via VHF with Rick.  As promised, he was waiting on the dock and talked us in through this narrow old section of the ICW.  It is no longer in use as a new, more straight channel has been dug out, diverting traffic via a more direct route.  Rick assured us that there was plenty of depth...

We tossed the dock lines to a gentleman with a big smile and got things tied off securely.  I stepped off of the boat with my hand held out for a handshake, which Rick rejected in lieu of a hug!  And so... we were "home"

Rick gave us the run-down on the place.  They would take our trash, we could plug into electricity and there was all the fresh county water we could use right here on the dock.  We have full use of this neat little boathouse with table and chairs for sundowners...

There is a swim ladder at the end and a freshwater shower to rinse off when you get sweaty or after a swim.  The current can really rip through here, so only swim at or near slack tide... there's an indicator on the side of the dock.  Oh, and there's a truck we can use to run errands, do laundry and provision.  Everything a Cruiser could want is right here.

Our host disappeared down the long dock and left us to get settled.

WOW!  We felt so lucky to be here.  What amazing people the Butlers are to open their home to random people.

So now what?  Do we stay a couple of days and move on?  Or should we stay here and get some things done on the boat that we've been putting off for so long?  It was such an unexpected development in our lives that we were having a hard time wrapping our brains around it.  Maybe we're just tired and we can think more clearly in the morning...

So, we enjoyed our sundowner and relaxed in the glorious damp free interior of our air conditioned home, tied up securely to the dock... and we slept on it.

With the morning came clarity.  We would ask the Butlers if we could stay for a month.  Our vague plans had always included stopping for a month or two in a marina when it got hot, so that we could do some sewing and other boat projects that take a little time.  This seems like the perfect place!

Bruce and Rick came to an agreement and voila!  We're home for a while.  It's a strange feeling... switching from travel mode to home mode.  My mind was spinning as all of the possible projects began to pop up.  I had to make a list... and the list keeps growing.  Suddenly a month doesn't seem long enough!

Note:  The Butlers are an SSCA Cruiser's Station.  If you aren't a member of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, you can still stay here, because that's how SSCA is.  We've been members for several years and the Cruising Stations are just one of many benefits we enjoy through our membership.  Please consider joining.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Enter South Carolina

Five more minutes...
Get UP!

It's morning!

Ok, OK!  I'm UP!
Time to get back on the road...

I need my beauty sleep people!
Time and tides wait for no cat...

We wake up.
We have coffee.
We contemplate the rising sun.
We check the tide chart...

We pull the anchor and and motor towards the channel markers and the Sound.  It still amazes me that it's so easy to get underway.

Bruce works on tidying things up as I take us back out through the mouth of Walburg Creek and follow the navigational aids out of St. Catherine's Sound.  The waves are up from yesterday's high winds causing a rolly ride for us today.

Poor Jezabelle tried to stay on deck for as long as she could.  She crawled from her position on the aft deck into the cockpit, tossed her cookies and settled on the settee next to me for a while.

When we got to the end of the channel and made our turn to the North, we started to raise sails and that's when she gave up and went below.

Raising the sails usually settles things out a bit on confused seas, and today was no different.  Bruce spent most of this short Coastal hop tweaking and changing things out in an attempt to gain speed and keep us comfortable.

The winds were not much over 10 knots but were dead behind us, which is our worst point of sail...  Even though light, the seas remained rolly all the way to the Tybee Roads Inlet

We settled in and relaxed for a few hours of critter watch, but saw nothing today.  We have lots of time for reflection on these easy offshore days.  There are plenty of things I could be doing... blogging, journaling, reading my Kindle, but for some reason, I don't.  We either chat about some mundane thing, or just sit and stare out to the horizon in companionable silence as the minutes and hours tick away.  Sail adjustments and minor course adjustments are the only entertainment needed on days like today.  It's just beautiful out here...

The skies clouded and it became hazy as we neared the Tybee Roads Inlet and began the work of dropping the sails.  Why don't we leave them up you might ask?  Well, I'm very cautious and nervous about entering unfamiliar inlets.  I read everything I can find about entering and although we have reasonably good weather for it, I still enjoy the control of entering under motor with the sails down.  Once we experience an inlet, I can totally leave under sail, but for our first time in, we are cautious.

Coming into the dredged channel through the shifting shoals, we see that there is a ship standing just offshore.  A pilot boat races past us as we move over to the Red side to make plenty of room for commercial traffic.  Our AIS, which has been relatively silent, sounds the alarm...

I'm not going to play chicken with this big boy!  Bruce begins to freak out a little as I edge further over to the red side.  We have a little bit of outgoing tidal current as we have arrived earlier than anticipated and the tide has yet to turn.  But we're making way fast enough for us to get outside of the channel just as it makes a turn to Port... we're going to Starboard.

The ship seems to be racing up on us and Bruce cautions me to get out of the way... It looks as if it's going to run right over the top of us and I assure him that the ship will turn before it makes mincemeat of us...  By this time, we are just outside of the channel.  At seemingly the last possible moment, the behemoth makes a neat turn and passes us by as we slowly motor away...

Don't go outside of the channel...  Ya THINK???
But WHY are we out of the channel and motoring away?  We're being adventurous, that's why...  The Tybee Roads inlet has nothing for us... It leads to the Savannah River, which is treacherous, busy and has no good anchorages.  But there is another sound just to the North... Calibogue Sound.  (I love saying that word... Calibogue, Calibogue, Calibogue)  Coming in at high tide, we were confident that we would have no problem getting through the shifting shoals between Tybee Roads and Calibogue...

Sure, I was a little nervous, but we proceeded slowly and followed the instructions I could find, consulted all of the resources at hand, and then plotted our course.

We watched the depths and never saw anything less than 10 ft.  Luxurious depths after our days in the ICW back in the Florida Keys...

Harbour Town light.  A familiar landmark.
The waters calmed and began to get deeper.  Suddenly we were seeing 30 feet, 40 feet... 50 FEET!  We had made it!  We passed over the bar and were in the Sound.  We began to see weekend boaters out frolicking and having fun.  There were parasailers and fishermen... We even saw one boat pulling in a shark that looked to be about three feet in length.  WOW!

Entrance to Bull Creek
There were sailboats sailing around in the narrow strip of the Sound.  Bruce wanted to put the sails back up but we were literally twenty nine minutes to our anchorage...  So, we motored through the sound and made our turn into the Cooper River for a short way, then turned into Bull Creek to pick our spot.

Wide open marsh to our East and West
What looks to be a narrow strip of water on the chart, turned out to be a wide open and deep waterway.  We rode the incoming tide into this deep creek... marveling.  Back home, a creek was about three inches deep...  This is the Mother-of-all-Creeks!  The depths were plentiful, over 20 ft. in many places.  We wanted to be out of the center so we picked the Eastern shore to begin looking for our spot.

N32°09.613', W080°51.089'

The Bend
The current was deceptively swift running beneath the water's surface.  I learned this as I made the turn to come upwind so that Bruce could drop the anchor.  We were swept up the creek quickly and I had to motor back to find my spot again...   We checked the depths close to shore.  We found no less than 15 ft. about 20 feet from the shore so I felt confident in our position... we dropped anchor far East of the channel and before the bend...

We were set for the night.  Even though there were winds in the 12-15 knot range by this time, the water was smooth and flat, with the exception of the wakes thrown by passing motor boaters.  But it was Saturday night and they would be going home soon...

A tour boat brought a group of people out to see the sunset.  They took pictures of us, while we took pictures of them!

Neither they, nor we were disappointed by the sunset tonight...

Bruce and I took our seats with our sundowners and waited for the show.  There was one casualty... my drink was spilled by the wake of a passing speedboat...  Oh well, I'm sure he had somewhere important to be...

I got another drink, cleaned up the spill and was back in position well before the main event.

Please enjoy this sunset with me... I couldn't choose just one...

It was just awesome and the pictures do NOT do it justice.  The tall trees on the islands in the distance provided the perfect frame for the magnificent change from orange to fiery red...

After the final sizzle, we waved goodbye to the tour boat and watched a pod of dolphin roll by... We enjoyed the quiet of the anchorage as the boaters all disappeared, leaving only the sound of birds as they found their beds.  What a beautiful surprise this anchorage turned out to be.

We were excited by our newfound adventurous streak in having braved the shoals while entering Calibogue Sound.  We searched our brains to come up with anything we might know about this new State we had entered... South Carolina.  Nothing.  What does this State hold for us?  We shall see...  Bring it on South Carolina!

In the morning, we woke early and checked the tides...  It would be good to get going early.  The currents would not be our friend today as we would cross inlets that would play havoc with our ability to make speedy forward motion.

We pulled up the anchor and got underway, this time we would stay inside.  We travel today towards Beaufort, SC.

We are undecided as to what we will do or how long we will stay at this point... But for now, our forays into the Atlantic are done... and Jezabelle is a happy South Carolina Cat...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Little Hole In The Walberg

N31°41.000', W081°09.396'

We left Brunswick GA after two nights, on the high tide.  I've read warnings of some skinny spots at the entrance to the Frederica River, but as we had no problem getting in at low tide, I had no worries about getting back out...  Maybe we're getting brave, or maybe we're getting just the teensiest bit cocky... but our experience has been that much of the doom and gloom I've read about so many of these places has been unfounded.  I'm really trying to continue my vigilance and not let my guard down, but the loss of some of the fear is welcome.  I'm pretty sure my husband would say that I still harbor more than my fair share of caution...

It was a gorgeous morning.  We raised sails, at my urging while still in St. Simons Sound.  The St. Simons Lighthouse stood guard in the early morning sunshine as we passed by,  riding the gentle swells...

Lapped by a shrimp boat
The dredged channel leading us back to the Atlantic is more than six miles long and the swells increased the further out we traveled.

The sails helped to keep the boat from rolling too much, but when we finally reached the point where we turned Northward, we were rocking and rolling.

Bruce was busy trimming sails while I brought us around to our course.  Once we were settled, we realized that the winds were just too light and dead on our stern for a comfortable ride.  We tried rigging a preventer to keep the mainsail from flopping when we surfed down the backside of a swell...  We had to keep the engine running to make any kind of speed... Just our luck!

After a while, the winds dropped even further and went further south.  It looked like it was time to jibe the main.  We had already rolled the jib and the winds felt like nil.  Bruce came back to center the traveler so that he could manually bring the mainsail over... and BOOM!  The main came over on it's own!  I guess technically this accidental jibe was my fault... I should have been watching the sail instead of watching my husband.  Or maybe he could have had his face out of the way of the mainsheet... so it was perhaps a joint effort.  Whichever way you look at it... I had BROKEN my husband!

He even had to Nurse himself, getting his own ice bag and holding it to his head while I continued on at the helm.  It didn't bleed much, but it did start to swell up right away.  I'm guessing it would have been a candidate for a couple of stitches had we been close to medical care...  Bruce is the BEST patient ever though, and he swore it didn't hurt.  Had this been MY eye... there would have been all kinds of noise and waterworks!  But he just sat out for a few minutes, then went back to work trying to get the sails to aid us and reduce our rolling for a better ride and speed.

After  our rough start, we actually did to get in a bit of sailing.  The winds picked up a bit and came around to the beam.  Bruce had the sails trimmed for speed... but we were still only getting enough to allow us to power back on the throttle, and not enough to turn the engine off completely.  We wanted to get into St. Catherine's Inlet before evening.  

I stayed at the helm, readjusting our course now and then and making sure that we shaved off as many miles as we could while remaining in safe depths and avoiding the dreaded shifting shoals.  Bruce had his lunch while sitting not the bow.  He loves to go up there and listen to the water shushing by.  Or maybe he was plotting a way to get back at me for smacking him with the mainsheet...  I'm onto you Buddy!!!

Towards early afternoon, the winds we had been continuously coaxing into providing us with forward propulsion, gradually began to subside and slip back behind us.  Our sails began to droop and flop and no amount of finagling kept the jib from hanging like a rag...  It was time to roll it up.

Safe Water Buoy
With the winds going the same direction as we were and barely registering on our instruments, the air seemed to be dead calm.  The seas flattened out, reducing our rolling, but it started to feel really HOT!

Time passed slowly and our minds began to conjure up visions of buzzards circling overhead (no, those are pelicans... I swear) and a reverse mirage of dessert sands where there should be water...

My thoughts became hazy as the sweat poured from my every pore... There is no place for fashion on sailboats.

We began to perk up a bit as we neared the outer buoys that marked the dredged channel into St. Catherine's Sound.   The sea state began to get bouncy as we turned back up into the wind to drop the mainsail.  What?  There's WIND???

Where did all of THIS come from!?  Our speed had gradually increased and my assumption that we were benefiting from the incoming tide was only partially correct.  The winds had come up suddenly, just as we made the turn into the channel.

The incoming tide bore us swiftly into the Sound and all thoughts of sweltering were blown away as the winds increased.  14... 18... 22...24 knots!!!  Blown away with the wave tops was my hope of entering the sound at a sedate and stately rate.  My worries about entering unfamiliar and treacherous waterways, whose descriptions offer dire warnings of "best entered during settled weather", had no time to surface as I held the boat steady and kept watch on the depths.

The navigational aids were well placed and all in proper position.  We easily followed them into the deeper waters of the Sound with no mishap.  The swells grew smaller and the motion of the boat settled out and suddenly we were in smooth water and approaching the entrance to our little hole-in-the-wall... Walberg Creek, where we would drop the hook for the night.

We followed the waterway around the point and found the winds blowing right at us.  The Creek was perfectly aligned with the wind and the wall of thick trees offered no protection at all.

We motored up into the Creek, monitoring the depths as we went.  The tide was coming in strong and against the wind, causing the surface of the water to kick up a bit.  We found a spot where it seemed to be more smooth and turned our stern to the wind and bow to the tidal current.  We dropped the hook and took our time getting it settled in.

There was plenty of swing room with good depths in the teens right up near the shore.  I had my suspicions that we would be lying to the current no matter what the winds did, and I was right.  We relaxed and watched nature settle for the night over the marshes and in the trees.  The winds continued to howl, with the highest speed recorded at 35 knots and while the trees offered little protection, the shores close by did enough to dampen the fetch so that we experienced little motion.  We DO appreciate our big heavy boat at times like these...

We remained vigilant after dinner until the tide reversed and we were sure that our anchor would hold.  It did, and we spent a supremely peaceful night, awaking to calm conditions and soft morning light.  We would have enjoyed staying over for a day to explore the sandy, driftwood strewn beaches of the point, but we chose to press on.

We've heard much praise for the beauty of Georgia's ICW, but have chosen to forego the pleasure until we can return in the cooler fall.  Three nights were all we allotted to Georgia on our Northward journey.  I'm looking forward to many more as we make plans to return.