Southport, NC to St. Augustine, FL

Why is this dog so happy?

Although we wanted to sail on the outside from the Cape Fear River, the weather forecasts sounded a bit too rough and I was (and continue) nursing my wounded left shoulder. So, we continued our southward journey following the ICW. Our initial objective that day was Calabash Creek on the border of North and South Carolina, but we were making very good time and just kept going as we passed Calabash around noon. The thing about the ICW is that roughly half the time you get a big boost from the current and the other half, you’re just puttering along at a fraction of your normal speed as you fight the current. One inlet gives while the next one takes away. Some days, though, you get luckier than others and hit the flow just right all day.

Amy’s new best friend

We were somewhere along the man made cut near Myrtle Beach, SC, when we saw on the AIS that a tug was approaching pulling a barge. There was another sailboat a short distance ahead of us and we both pulled over to the right side of the channel to give the tug room. It turned out that what the tug was towing was a collection of wide diameter pipes that stretched about a mile behind the first tug back to a follow tug supporting the tail end–sort of like those large ladder fire trucks that have drivers in front and back. The sailboat in front of us pulled a little too far to the right and went aground. Amy was at the helm and smartly slowed down to a crawl to avoid hitting the sailboat and not getting run over by the tug. She maneuvered Mary T between the two within what seemed like inches. To our disbelief, the skipper of the sailboat was gesturing to us to grab a line from him to tow him off. We were hardly in a position to play rescue boat as we had to avoid both him and the oncoming tug which followed the pipes. As they were not in real danger we thought we’d just call a towing service for him, however, we saw that after the tugs all passed we might be able to assist. So, I took the helm and went toward them, bow first. Amy caught their line and secured it to our forward cleat. I then put Mary T in reverse placing us in a sideways position to channel traffic. As we pulled we saw some movement of the grounded sailboat but were very put off by the skipper’s suggestions on how we should handle our boat. We were doing him a favor and did not feel it was his place to be so demanding. We did not wish to go aground ourselves.

After about ten minutes gunning our boat in reverse, we saw a trawler headed our way. We figured it must be Sharon Ann with whom we’d chatted on the VHF radio earlier in the day and knew they were behind us. I called them on the radio and told them what was going on in front of them. They offered to create a wake that might help bounce the stranded boat off the mud, but the skipper of the grounded boat did not want that. We relayed this to Sharon Ann who then offered to try and pull them off. Amy then cast off their line and told them that Sharon Ann would give it a try. We continued on but could clearly see that Sharon Ann’s powerful motor was able to do the trick.

Later that afternoon, we arrived at an anchorage at the top end of the Waccamaw River. Minutes later, the formerly grounded sailboat arrived and went right by us without so much as a thanks for trying. They would not have even waved if I hadn’t made an exaggerated wave first. Oh well–maybe they were mad at us because we didn’t make enough of an effort or whatever.

The next day we left at first light and decided to go to McClellanville, a small town  below Georgetown, SC. We had read about it in a guide book and thought it would be a good place to sit out some nasty weather due our way. As we pulled into Leland Marina, we saw that Sharon Ann was docked there as well. The crew walked by us about an hour or so after we arrived and we asked how things had gone with the grounded sailboat. “No, they didn’t really thank us,” was the reply.

After showers in a studio apartment on the premises (the regular shower facilities are being renovated), we headed into town. The dockmaster had told us about an art gallery reception on the main street of town, so we dropped in. While the art was interesting, we were more enticed by the spread of hors d’oeuvres and choices of wine. I kept thinking to myself that my old friend, Timmy, would be very proud of us. But, there is no such thing as a free glass of wine–some stranger always wants to chat you up. Lucky for me though, it was a very nice lady who was on the board of directors for the gallery and was most interested in the fact that we were traveling around, and living on our sailboat. She had so many questions that I didn’t have to struggle to make small talk. When Amy came over, the conversation evolved into her work on “Red Dot on the Ocean.” Although it was a very pleasant conversation, it did prohibit me from getting more wine, cookies, and brownies.

We eventually moved on to the restaurant across the street which was supposed to be the best in town. We had read a little bit about it on TripAdvisor so knew not to expect too much. We were not surprised. Although the food was decent, the service was somewhat off-putting. The first waitress was OK but later, while still working on my dinner, another waitress came by ready to take my plate and hustle us out. We politely told her we were in no hurry and thankfully, she got the message. She never came back to our table again.

The next day was very ugly with heavy rain and strong, gusty wind, so we just stayed on the boat. We had only seen the town by dark and were disappointed that we didn’t get to walk around to see all the magnificent trees and grand old homes. The following day, Monday, we set out for Charleston.

One of the many fine, old homes in Charleston

One of our favorite cities, Charleston has a great many things to offer–fine dining, great architecture, friendly people, places to go, things to do–but what it doesn’t have, in our opinion, is a good anchorage. Nonetheless, we anchored in the Ashley River off of the City Marina. Our friends, Raffi and Lisa, along with Lisa’s sister, Laine, were already there and we were going to spend Thanksgiving with them. After anchoring, we headed to shore to have a walk around. Our steps took us past the College of Charleston and into the heart of town. The homes along the way are just dripping with southern charm. We came back the next day and had lunch at our favorite Charleston restaurant, Poogan’s Porch. We also had some Thanksgiving food shopping to do. It’s a long walk across town but, it’s not bad if you stop along the way for a bite or drink.

Mega yacht at the Mega Dock

The wind picked up the next day and caused many boats to dance around on their anchors as the swift current and strong wind opposed each other. We were holding fine on our anchor, but a large, blue-hulled sailboat near us was coming perilously close to us causing great concern of a collision. Our thinking was that they had way too much anchor rode out. Had there been no wind, they would just fall back with the current, however, their movement were all over the place. We kept thinking that they would move to another spot but they never did. So, for our own peace of mind, we moved to the nearby marina. Later, another boat that had been on the other side of the blue boat, did the same.

Although we were spending more money than we anticipated, we not only enjoyed the security but also the showers, laundry, and ease of access to town. Late in the afternoon, we went over to Windfall to celebrate Thanksgiving. Besides Raffi, Lisa, and Laine, cruising friends of theirs, Webb and Brenda from Plan B, were also there. It was a delicious and bountiful meal. Thanks again, Raffi, Lisa, and Laine.

Lunch at Poogan’s Poorch–our favorite Charleston restaurant

We left on Friday, bound for as far south as we could get. The weather, except for a few days in the Beaufort, NC, area, had been very cool and overcast. We were eager for warmth and sunshine. Our anchorage that evening was in Rock Creek somewhere near the Ashpoo River in SC. It was a beautiful night with but one sailboat nearby. The next morning we awoke to gunshots from hunters–sounds that make one wonder about what happens to the bullets that miss their targets. From this anchorage, it was a very short hop to Beaufort, SC where we again met up with the group from the Thanksgiving evening. We all had lunch together at the Beaufort Inn, a very classy yet reasonably priced place in the center of town.

After a pleasant afternoon walking around town, we headed back to Mary T to prepare for our off-shore trip to Florida the next day. We left early Sunday morning and had a great ride down the Beaufort River with a strong current carrying us at 8+ knots. We raised sail once in Port Royal Sound and got to sail for a few hours before the wind quit on us. From then on it was a motoring trip. As evening approached, we were treated to an almost full moon and Amy came on for her watch. As she turned on the radar, she realized that it was not working. The symptoms were the same as had happened to us on the Delaware Bay back in August. The cure that time was simply pulling the plug out and plugging it back in. Although a simple enough procedure, it requires removing eight screws with a unique tool that is rather small and tedious to use. Fortunately, the waves were rather flat so, the work went almost as quickly as if we were at a dock. However, when we turned the chartplotter back on, the whole unit was malfunctioning the way it had done in October when we moved from our normal slip at Shipwright Harbor Marina to one that was on the more sheltered side in anticipation of “Sandy.” The cure for that particular problem was a total reset of the unit that causes all settings, waypoints, tracks, and routes to be erased. Thankfully, after the reset, the radar did work. You win some, you lose some. It took a while to get all the settings corrected but after about 45 minutes, things were back to normal.

Early morning on the St. Johns River near Mayport

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we even got in another hour or two of sailing. We had a choice of going full bore and trying to reach the inlet to St. Augustine at high tide, or taking it easy, slowing down, and going in to the St. Johns River inlet near Jacksonville. We chose the latter as St. Augustine’s inlet can be a bit tricky at low tide. From Jacksonville, we followed the ICW to St. Augustine and were at a mooring by 1:30 in the afternoon.

Since our arrival, we’ve been enjoying all this old city has to offer including another get together with Raffi, Lisa, and Lane who arrived a day after us.

Our expectation is to leave here Friday and continue on to Daytona, Titusville, and then Stuart or thereabouts.



One comment on “Southport, NC to St. Augustine, FL
  1. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear about boaters who take advantage of others and add insult to injury by not offering a bare minimum “thank you.” As the skipper and owner of a 36 foot sloop, I am not setup to tow other boats, never mind maneuver in tight quarters with dangerous marine traffic. Normally, I only offer assistance when life is at risk or the situation looks totally OK. And I expect the same from others with similar craft. Here’s to Any and Kenny for going above and beyond to assist the grounded skipper, despite his attitude, which will surely get him and his vessel sunk some day.

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