We left Charleston City marina using the current to take our stern out and away from the dock. It was a good stay, if a little expensive. We investigated the prices for hauling out in the City Boatyard but having to pay 250 dollars for a simple jet wash and a too high to mention daily DIY charge just for us to do our own work, on top of the daily boatyard storage charge was just outrageous. There are yards on the Chesapeake where you can leave the boat ashore for around 100 pounds a month, as well as live on them ashore. Many don’t allow liveaboards afloat nor ashore, so it pays to find a small, friendly marina that understands the needs of the average cruiser.
Returning to the anchorage where we spent the first evening, we put plenty of chain out in anticipation of possible thunderstorms that afternoon. Sure enough the skies darkened and the wind direction changed, bringing the black clouds closer until the lightning storm was just above us. It got very windy for a short time but the boat didn’t move an inch in the thick mud and we had plenty of deep water all around us and no other boats. It lasted a couple of hours before settling into a calm night and we slept until the alarm went off for our dawn start out of the Charleston Channel. We had the current with us and were soon sitting reading whilst the autopilot, genoa and engine took us swiftly to the next inlet at Georgetown.
We didn’t go all the way up river to the town, although it looked really pretty in the guide but anchored near the junction of the southern part of the ICW, just between an island and the coastal mainland in 4 metres of water. Again the holding was great and just as well for the current was very strong. When it changed direction we heard a bubbling noise and saw a wavy band of disturbed water moving along the channel. Haven’t seen anything quite like it before. It was a really pretty anchorage but sadly we were off again at 0200, to make the 80-mile next hop in daylight and to arrive through the inlet with a fair current.
It wasn’t a very exciting trip, just a lookout now and then in the empty sea until we got close to land again. We saw a 1000 foot cargo boat waiting for the pilot boat and hoped we’d get in before the pilot got aboard but no, they soon caught us up and I pulled off the main channel to get out of it’s way and avoid a huge wake. There was a good depth of water both sides and he was way bigger than us! Once through the channel we had a very quick current with us, taking us north towards a known anchorage at 8 knots with very little engine. Trouble was we couldn’t turn fast enough through the minute entrance into the anchorage with the current dragging us along, so we opted to go to the South Harbour Village Marina a day early. We booked in for a week and were pleased to hear the rate was 1.50 a foot daily but even cheaper to book for a week rather than 5 days with our TowBoatUS discount. It is a nice little marina with very helpful staff, 2 restaurants, a laundry and clean shower rooms. Some reviews mention the wake, as the transient dock is right on the ICW with all the little weekend motor boats but we didn’t find it a problem as 80% of them slowed right down as they passed the marina. Several diesel pumps made it easy to top up the tanks for our couple of hundred miles motoring on the ICW.
It is a bit of distance from anywhere though, so we decided to hire a car for a day to visit Wilmington and the supermarket, through Enterprise. Although we had a firm reservation, when we rang to arrange the pickup an hour beforehand, the local office didn’t have a car and failed to get one all day. Totally wasted day and the Call Centre blamed the local office for not updating the car availability whilst the local office blamed them for making bookings when they didn’t have any cars. Didn’t impress us one iota. We spoke to their escalation team who forwarded it on to the regional manager for some kind of resolution but as I write 5 days later we are still waiting ….. Instead we used Uber for the first time and have to admit it was impressive. They were 4 minutes away immediately, so we had to rush to get off the boat and to the marina office! Being the child I am, I liked watching the driver’s car progressing towards us on the app.
Our next step was to get to Morehead City next to Beaufort in North Carolina. We had 2 options: ICW in 4 stages to take the charted shallows at high water and the bridges at their opening times, or go outside from Wrightsville Beach to the inlet at Morehead City. The tides weren’t right for entering the inlet late afternoon and if the winds were strongly onshore it would be rough. I rang up Towboat US to ask about the chance of us getting through the trouble spots on the ICW and they agreed we could make it at high water. This stretch of the ICW is very narrow for the main part, just a dredged channel through mudflats and we couldn’t see many places to pull off to anchor. There was a marina, Harbour Village 45 miles up, that could take us and a well protected, deep bay a mile after the most notorious shoaling inlet at New River known as ‘Hell’s Gate’. Two other less protected anchorages are 17 miles north but we would have added another night if we stopped at either of those. We worked out the tides and bridges and wrote a time plan for the 4 days to get us where we needed to be.
For the first night we anchored at Wrightsville Beach, a pleasant busy resort with a couple of large anchorages. The best channel in for a deeper draft like us is the southern one. It is hard sand though and it took us 2 attempts to set the hook. A British/American couple, Roger and Dixie sought us out in Southport and were also in the anchorage so we had drinks on Beyzy and discussed our plans. Both of us intend getting a canal boat in the UK so we had plenty to chat about. After a peaceful night without thunderstorms we upped anchor to catch the 0900 bridge opening so we could get the next bridge 5 miles and an hour later. This took us to the next shallows for high water and a midday entry to the marina. You can only dock overnight by appointment as all the slips are private, surrounded by beautifully designed houses.
The entrance is well marked by 6 posts but you have to line up dead centre and dead straight and the strong current was sweeping us past. On top of that a small motorboat decided to cut us off, as the marina camera clearly showed, so we had a bit of a scary struggle against the current to avoid hitting the initial starboard channel marker. It was also quite shallow where we ended up, seeing 0.5 metres under the keel and this was almost at high water. Once we were inside the current lessened and we were able to turn around in the basin and manoeuvre onto the long fuel dock. It is very sheltered inside and we were right next to the WiFi mast, office and showers. It costs 2 dollars a foot but includes electricity and water, neither of which we needed. Mike, the marina manager, sent us an email with photos of the entrance, a video and a plan with very clear instructions. Not seen such great information before. He welcomed us in with a compliment about my boat handling skills, being a woman! Thinking about it, we have never seen a woman steering a boat in the US if there is a man aboard. Not saying they don’t but we haven’t actually witnessed it. So perhaps Mike was surprised to see me on the helm. He was also shocked to hear we’d crossed the Atlantic in Beyzy but then we are the biggest and deepest boat in his marina and with about 200 slips there are only 4 yachts. He said that due to the shoaling of some of the inlets, the yachts have had to go elsewhere.
We had been expecting a bad thunderstorm yesterday evening with ‘damaging winds’ but fortunately we had a minor one at dawn instead. It hasn’t stopped raining yet but there is nothing to do here anyway as there are no towns nearby to walk to and no restaurants. A local Italian will deliver pizza so that’s our dinner tonight. In the meantime we are starting to plan the next few months, getting the boat on the market and finding storage for most of the items onboard. We have joined ‘Trusted Housesitters’ and found a beautiful house and pet sit in the UK for over 3 months from late October and are looking forward to spending time in the stunning Lake District with a dog, cats, chickens and doves to care for.
Tomorrow we continue north along the ICW but it will be a rush to meet the high water deadlines further up but also to get out of this marina without going aground. We need to go through Hell’s Gate just after 1300 and will anchor in the big naval bay just after before catching the next high water the following day to navigate the remaining shallows before reaching Morehead City for early evening. We have already telephoned the dockmaster at Beaufort for a couple of night’s stay as the town is said to be very pretty.