Zeta ended up not being a big deal in the end. A couple days in the marina with a fair amount of wind, but nothing to write home about. So we hung out, chatted with our neighbors, and when the weekend came, headed south.
With a full weekend of calm weather ahead of us, but needing to be in Charleston the following weekend, we had some mileage to put behind us this week. My work week was also packed solid because of quarterly planning meetings, so we weren’t going to make much progress mid-week.
This area of the ICW starts to get quite tidal, with regular inlets and short rivers that lead out to the ocean, leading to lots of shoaling (underwater sand buildup spots) from all of the daily water exchange. As such, charts tend to be out of date within months, as shoals pop up out of nowhere, causing very shallow spots in the middle of the charted route. We’ve been reading alerts in the past on various sources (activecaptain, mostly) to know when to be cautious and make sure to go through near a high tide, but this summer found out about a set of tracks released by Bob423 that are regularly updated and can overlay into Navionics (and other apps) to give the latest safest water as proven by Bob and his community of other ICW travelers. Their community data is significantly more up to date than anything else we’ve found.
Setting out on Saturday, we knew that, just west of Southport, was a notorious spot called Lockwood’s Folly, which I’d been seeing alerts for the past couple months saying it’s super-rapidly shoaling, and down to around 4 feet deep along the currently-charted (and buoyed!) route. While we were in Southport waiting out Zeta, we saw Bob put out a message with an updated “beta” track that actually followed some deeper water (charted that way, anyway) far off course that he hadn’t tried before that he wanted someone to try out. We knew we’d be heading out early in the morning, near high tide, and with a forward-facing sonar we were in a good position to give it a go. We veered off course at the right place, and never saw less than 10 feet under our hull! We reported the data back to Bob, and I exported track and depth data out of BoatKit, which he sent off to the coast guard, and next week they’ll be re-setting the buoys for the new route!
After the excitement of beta testing Lockwood’s Folly, Saturday was otherwise a fairly mundane long journey through rural North Carolina, on an ICW that was mostly an endless series of neighborhoods. Late in the day, we entered South Carolina, and made a pit stop at Osprey Marina, the cheapest diesel around for a while, before we headed into the Waccamaw River. Checking out, the plexi wall around the cash register was emblazoned with a large “TRUMP 2020 MAKE LIBERALS CRY AGAIN” sticker, so we knew what kind of country we were in. Why anyone can comfortably have a worldview centered around others’ pain is beyond me, but that apparently describes slightly under half our country right now, sigh. We’ve been trying to keep a list of proudly-Trump-supporting businesses to avoid when we come back up in the Spring, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to find diesel south of Virginia if we hold fast to the list.
As the sun set, we entered the Waccamaw River, a very cool winding swamp-like river system with limited civilization nearby. On the way north, we had a couple very peaceful days on anchor here, and heading back south, we were disappointed that timing didn’t quite work out to spend more time here. But we still set up for the night on a nice little side river and had a peaceful (but warm) night among the wildlife noises.
Speaking of warm weather, we’ve been having absurdly warm weather for weeks now. We’ve had 3 summers so far this year: February in Florida, July in Maine, and now another in November in the Carolinas. The average for the area for this time of year is highs of 70 and overnight in the 40s, but we’ve had weeks of 80 degree humid weather, with only a single cold night that got into the 40s. As I’ve started getting emails from ski areas talking about getting ready to open in WA, I feel so utterly disconnected from that world right now.
Waking up in the morning to head out, we decided to pull anchor during the only 10 minute window that it monsooned, so my drowned rat crew was not super pleased.
We spent another uneventful day winding through the rest of the Waccamaw River and emerged into the “low country” of central South Carolina. We were originally planning on picking one of the few semi-sketchy anchorages along the river for the night, but the wind forecast kept increasing throughout the day, for the next couple days, so we decided instead to pull in at McClellanville Marina and wait out the wind for a couple days.
In the afternoon, I had noticed the starboard voltages periodically spiking higher than normal, but it didn’t seem awful enough to do anything drastic, and it would come and go. Unfortunately, when we went into the boat after tying up at McClellanville, the inside of the boat smelled like a hot springs — one of the starboard start batteries (Lifeline sealed AGM) apparently did not like the overvoltage and had started off-gassing hydrogen sulfide. So we frantically aired out the boat to keep from dying, set up fans in the aft cabin bedroom to run for a couple days, and slept in the front bedroom for the duration of our stay. I pulled the coil wire off of the alternator so it would stop generating when under way until I could get a replacement (one of the few things left that I don’t carry a spare for, since it’s not a terribly critical piece of equipment, believe it or not).
Tuesday, before work, we left the marina and headed ~7 miles down the ICW to Awendaw Creek, a well-known ICW anchorage, and a spot we stopped for a day on the way north in the spring, to basically spend the week. No weather of interest was forecast, and it put us around 38 NM to Charleston, which would be an easy trip to knock out Friday (which I had off work after the four days of planning meetings). So we hung out there, for 3 nights, while the expected election madness played itself out.
I tried to work with the one place in Charleston that could theoretically replace the voltage regulator on my alternator, but after 2 days of repeatedly calling and failing to get them to figure out whether or not they could actually fix it, I gave up and had a new higher-amperage alternator shipped from Seaboard Marine to the marina in Charleston to pick up in a couple days. I’ll have the broken one fixed up at some point in the future and then keep it around as a spare.
Several days of meetings and nights of great sunsets later, Friday rolled around, and we tootled on into Charleston to spend the weekend. The city was basically entirely shut down (early COVID times) on the way north, so we didn’t do much other than grocery shop the last time here, so we were excited to actually see some of the city this time around. We knew we’d be able to get food this time, which we were excited for, but after searching a bit for other outdoor activities to do, found that there’s a hojillion walking tours, which seemed like a perfect COVID activity. I researched several options, and found that one that seemed likely to be the most irreverent, and we signed up for a Saturday midday time slot.
The walking tour turned out to be excellent. The guy was a complete history dork and went into huge detail on the slave trade origins, the evolution of the city, and how all that still affects the composition of the city (and the state) to this day. It was both incredibly informative and entertaining. If you’re in Charleston, I highly recommend Oyster Point Walking Tours, they were excellent. Of particular highlight was, while he was talking about a church in front of us, the bells all started ringing, nowhere near a :00/:15/:30/etc. time border. We quickly realized that they had just called PA for Biden, and celebrations were starting to break out. Later that night, Hannah went out for an errand and saw celebrations downtown as well.
After the walking tour, we got an enormous and delicious tray of loaded fries, burgers, and drinks, and waddled back to the boat for the evening, not needing to eat again until the next day.
Today (Sunday) was, unfortunately, fairly gross out, with on and off rain and consistent heavy wind, so we are holed up on the boat to finish off the weekend. The alternator’s changed and we’re back in full running shape, as well. This week, we’ll head toward Beaufort or Savannah, depending on how weather holds up. We have yet another storm coming through, so we’re waiting to see how the forecasts solidify for Tropical Storm Eta before making final plans…