After filling up the fuel tanks, we pushed away from the fuel dock at slack tide, around 9:30 on Wednesday morning. After being in Charleston for a month, it felt great to be underway again. The first hour would be the most stressful of the day, as there were numerous areas of shoaling once entering the ICW from Charleston Harbor. We left an hour after low tide, so as not to be crossing the area at dead low tide. The reason we didn’t wait until later is that there was a fixed 65’ bridge right after the shoals and I didn’t want to make my way beneath at high tide. All went well. We saw as little as 5 1/2’ in the shoaled part of the ICW and made it through just fine.
The day was gorgeous, if not a little on the hot side. We are definitely in summer. When we pulled into Charleston a month ago, the early morning air still required sweatshirts or jackets. No more! Now, it’s minimal clothing (which means bathing suits). The scenery was spectacular as we motored northeastward for most of the day. About the only event of significance was the dreaded return of the horseflies. We continued our epic battle all day long. We deployed a new weapon in the fight, however: Fly Strips. Four horse flies met their demise by way of fly strips. I only sustained one significant wound — a large welt on my abdomen inflicted by one of the enemy.
At 6:40, we dropped anchor just north of Georgetown at an anchorage known as Butler Island. We let out 120’ of scope in 15’ of water and held firmly. In nine hours, we traversed sixty-two miles, which is a fairly substantial number. It seemed the current was with us for most of the day. We averaged almost seven knots over the course of the day. We grilled some burgers for dinner and played a card game of golf before bed. Thursday morning would be an early start to make the most of the tides.
We were surprised by a most impressive storm right around midnight. For a little over an hour, the tempest roared. Gusting winds whipped through Beatitude’s rigging, rain pelted her decks, and lightning illuminated the early visible shore line obscured by the heavy rain. We sat in the salon for an hour as spectators since we could in no way sleep through it. I monitored the course of the squalls on my iPad, while also using the Garmin chart plotter app to make sure our anchor was not dragging. Despite the excitement, all ended well. The storm subsided, we got a few hours sleep, and Beatitude’s anchor held.
At 6:05 a.m. on Thursday, we weighed anchor and progressed northeastward up the Waccamaw River toward Myrtle Beach. This stretch must be among the most beautiful segments of the ICW, perhaps the most beautiful. On a gorgeous, cool morning we meandered through cypress swamps and abandoned old rice fields. Large fish leaped over two feet out of the water as we passed by. A soupy fog layered over the warm, green waters of the river. Alligators swam out of the path of our vessel. Ospreys watched nervously from their nests atop virtually every ICW marker. For three hours, we saw no other human. This brief episode in our travels will persist in our memories like a Michelangelo or Rafael masterpiece, or a great European Gothic cathedral. It was a religious experience.
Soon such unspoiled nature gave way to Myrtle Beach. It’s not that the stretch of the ICW through Myrtle Beach was especially horrible. It’s just that it followed immediately upon such indescribable beauty. The weather was perfect throughout the day. It warmed up in the afternoon, but the heat was ameliorated somewhat by a cool ocean breeze. We passed beneath a dozen or so bridges, but the tides were such that most lacked intimidation. The Holden Beach Bridge, just inside North Carolina was the only antenna scraper of the bunch. It was high tide when we went through, and our 64.5’ mast just squeaked beneath the 65’ bridge.
We covered a lot of ground on Thursday, a total of 72 nautical miles over eleven hours. We could not have asked for a better day to cover so much ground. At 5:20, we tied up to the dock at St. James Plantation Marina in St. James, NC, a picture-perfect type place. We cleaned up, put a load of clothes in the marina washer, and enjoyed a lovely dinner at the marina grill. We hope to make it to Oriental by Saturday evening. That means we’ll need to cover approximately 55 miles/day over the next two days. If there are no surprises, that certainly seems doable.