Rock Bottom (Waccamaw River, SC)

Georgetown, South Carolina to Carolina Beach, North Carolina
2-4 March 2018

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The Waccamaw River, South Carolina

Catching the tide meant an early 6am start and it actually worked out well, making excellent progress at 6 knots heading towards the Waccamaw River. 140 miles long it runs through South and North Carolina. Another young cruising couple we connected with in Charleston had posted a video blog about this river and kept going on about how amazing it was. Simon and I both being cynics had thought they’d just exaggerated for their followers but it actually was beautiful. To some folk it’s probably not a big deal taking your ocean going sailboat and putting it on a river but I feel there is something pretty cool and a bit daring being walled in by a forest growing out of the water, mainly because manoeuvring a yacht can be quite challenging. Tall slender trees towered above us set in front of a clear blue sky and the sun sparkled like gold across the flowing water.

 

2f6925584dc676810f8ece87f81990c6e49536ca0632fd9b23c194cf1c9d23a0A couple of miles past a potentially good anchoring spot was the Osprey Marina, an opportunity to refuel and fill up with water.  A scenic protected harbour 150 yards off the Intracoastal Waterway up a private deep-water channel. As you’d expect most moorings and slips tend to be located near big bodies of water so being surrounded by woodland was really strange. We’d never seen anything like it before it almost felt magical as if it was a secret marina hidden from the real world.

 

With the tanks restocked and still only midday rather than go back on ourselves to the previous comfy protected anchorage we decide to keep going another 10 miles up to Myrtle Beach where there was a free dock for the night. After passing lots of interesting riverside houses on the way and arriving in perfect time to sit down for a family meal Simon pulled a U-turn to get portside on the dock. It was a little tricky as the 2 wharfs on one side of the river were just past a fixed bridge and there was a strong tidal current. As soon as the boat was a few metres away from tying up the depth suddenly dropped and the keel brushed the bottom. Bollocks this isn’t ideal, after a couple of attempts on both piers to suss out the actual level of water as opposed to the charted depth we had to admit defeat, it was way too shallow for our draft.

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Passing riverside houses 

 

What a disappointment especially as I’d seen a real spit and sawdust waterfront restaurant just down the road offering all you can eat crabs legs. Onwards it is for dinner on the move while Daddy Bear eats alone at the helm. According to the pilotage information a protected area sat another 10 miles up river, but now dusk was approaching. As night fell a giant Casino Ship overtook on the port side lit up like a Christmas tree. Simon used to love a little flutter on the black jack table but being parents nights out drinking in bars are long gone these days!

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Calabash Seafood Restaurant (Myrtle Beach)

He steers the boat down a strait leading off the main waterway to drop the hook. It has been a long day everyone is tired and just wants to get the boat secured for a relaxing night. Brilliant yet more problems! This anchorage is not protected at all the wind is kicking up, the currents twisting and turning in opposite directions. Squinting and trying to get our bearings in an unfamiliar place in the pitch black, Simon picks a spot to let out the anchor. Moving back as more chain is released the depth starts going down reaching 1.4 metres, not good as its mid tide, which means by low tide we’ll be aground. The anchors got to come back up, with no windlass Simon has to pull it by hand with me at the wheel helping while Daisy tries to press all the buttons on the navigation equipment. Shouting over the noise of the wind and the rigging clattering Simon finds another spot dropping the 25kg weight again and letting out the chain, swinging around in the wind the depth drops too much for a second time… this is beginning to get tedious.

Body aching, cold and wet Simon hauls up the chain and anchor….again. Doing a few loops to check the whole area now we’re sure we got this manoeuvre down but the gusts and tide aren’t making it easy, as soon as I start reversing to straighten the chain and dig the anchor in it drags and there’s a great timber mile marker right on our stern. As the skipper Simon is adamant we’re not going to hit it, as the helmsman I disagree. It’s already a tense and tiresome situation and now this conflict is about to take us to whole other level of frustration. At that point the pin is pulled from the grenade and world war 3 breaks out.

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All while this is taking place some ‘useful’ chap is trying to call us up on the VHF radio and give us advice on where to anchor. Cheers mate now Foxtrot Oscar! After re-anchoring for the fourth time Simon is content that we are in sufficient water to compensate for low tide. We finally go to bed physically and mentally exhausted, but its not over there’s still more fun and games to come.

The Lean of Shame (more embarrassing than life threatening!)

Cupboard doors are flying open, forced by the weight of what ever is inside resting against them. Plates, books, cups, pans fall with a bang, smash, crash tipping from one side of the boat to the other. The fruit bowl slides down the dining table pouring out oranges and apples, which thud as they hit the saloon bulkhead. The entire contents the boats starboard side is now laying on the port side, including Simon and myself. Its around 1am Daisy is awake and crying, disorientated as she has rolled down her pop up cot, no long laying on a bed but a wall instead. I literally climb up my bed and pull myself through the yacht as the once level floor is now a slope, reaching Daisy I do my best to console her.

Wandering Star, wandered too far
An example of a boat in a similar predicament to ours (plus mile marker post!)

Either the tides here are bigger than we calculated or we’ve swung around into a shallower area.  The tide hasn’t even reached its lowest point yet so there is more incline to come, making me feel slightly uneasy. Clutching Daisy and supporting her I try to get in a comfortable position. I’m SO tired all I want to do is sleep but it’s at least another 2 hours before the tide turns. This is the last thing I want to deal with after today’s dramas, as the water level drops the boat begins to lean more and more. I’m almost standing up and lying down at the same time, accepting there is absolutely nothing I can do about it the priority is to ensure Daisy is comfy and she eventually falls back asleep on me.

After 3 long uncomfortable hours I can finally rest her back in her cot and go back to my bed. My only saving grace is the knowledge that I can get off this frigging boat tomorrow onto solid land and explore Calabash, the Seafood Capital.

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A bath in the sink on Cape Fear River 

No matter how hard you try you are not getting off this boat!

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Comforting the gang on our final rough passage

Morning breaks and I’m ready to jump ship unfortunately it’s not to be. With a mile long dinghy ride to the town in 30 plus knots of wind it is too rough to go ashore so first thing we leave for Southport. Our ETA is early afternoon so at least in time for a moral boasting lunch in a restaurant.
ARGHHHHH we can’t get onto any of the docks or into any of the nearby anchorages due to shoaling. FFS! With no other options we were stuck on board for another night and had to anchor just off the Cape Fear River. Cabin Fever River would be a more appropriate name.

It wasn’t even really the time trapped on board that bothered me as I spent 23 days at sea during the Atlantic Crossing, it was more not being able to visit and discover these interesting places that we read so much about. It was frustrating and disappointing. Finally on day 3 after an extremely rough passage to Carolina Beach it felt so good to get tied up along side  Gibby’s Dock and Dine knowing that we had a free berth for the night and a well deserved meal out. Welcome to North Carolina!

 

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1 thought on “Rock Bottom (Waccamaw River, SC)

  1. Ops…. gosh what a journey.

    Like

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