The South Carolina Saunter

We continue moving north, taking our time, along what is now familiar territory for us on the ICW.  Then the weather starts to mess with our plans.  Along the way, we cross paths again with fellow Loopers we’ve met previously, and meet new ones.

Click the Google Map button below to open the map  in a separate window.  There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.

Hilton Head Island, SC

Mar 29 - April 1, 2022

A little over an hour after leaving Isle of Hope, we crossed the Savannah River into South Carolina.  The winds had picked up considerably as we approached Hilton Head, but that didn’t seem to stop the paragliding boats. We were rather surprised to see them towing tourists high above the water in the 25+ mph gusts.   Not being fond of heights, you would not catch me up there even on a totally calm day.

We didn’t have far to go to the marina in Hilton Head, so we arrived early at Palmetto Bay Marina on Broad Creek.  This marina was totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  The storm surge and flooding from the heavy rain raised the floating docks up above the pilons securing them, and then the 90 mph winds coming straight at them just piled everything up on shore.  They’ve been rebuilding ever since, and recently reopened a second phase of rebuilt docks that included a looooonng transient dock where we tied up (and noted how very tall the new pilings are now).  In general, we prefer marinas that are not super resort-ish or touristy, which along with the desire to help a marina get reestablished was a reason we chose this one.

Two boats we had met at Jekyll Island were also at Palmetto Bay a few days with us:  Inconceivable and Out of the Blue.  We got to know them even better as we had docktails literally on the dock one evening, then when rain moved in the next night we went to the hurricane bar there at the marina.  Out of the Blue is from Sturgeon Bay, WI and are a little over halfway done with their Loop.  Inconceivable just started in Florida like us after having shipped their Ranger Tug across land from Oregon.  

We had a stay of one week planned for Hilton Head to relax and enjoy all that this island famous as a family vacation destination had to offer.  Besides the social scene mentioned above, we:

  • utilized the extensive bike trails to explore the greater area around the marina.
  • took in a movie at a real theatre with popcorn and an eclectic ‘old Hollywood’ vibe.
  • sampled some traditional southern fare at Low Country Backyard after the movie. Even liked the shrimp and grits, though neither of us really like grits.  But when in Rome…
  • heard and saw dolphins alongside the boat numerous times.
  • hunkered down for a day of not-so-nice weather
  • took Roxy for long walks and fielded multiple questions/comments a day about Roxy and what kind of dog she is and how pretty she is (no one ever asks anything about us, we notice).
  • decided there is an indirect relationship between the setting sun and the invasion of no-see-ums, which meant that we all disappeared inside our boats at dusk as if there were vampires nearby. Which I suppose there were —  hundreds of teeny tiny vampires with wings.
Dolphins right beside the boat while at the dock in Palmetto Bay.
Sampling traditional southern fare in a funky outdoor patio at Low Country Backyard.
Gator in a pond right along the bike path. Yes, that's a pond -- with a lot of growth.

Beaufort, SC

Apr 2

The one year anniversary of taking ownership of See Level!  How can it already be a year, but only be a year???  We’ve come a long way – on so many fronts!

We woke up and saw that weather was not looking good down the road, so made a snap decision to pull chocks from Hilton Head and continue north a couple days earlier than planned. It was a short trip up to Beaufort.  While transiting we did notice on our tracking app that our friends on Baker Street Blue were a couple hours behind us.  We messaged them and turns out they were headed to the same place, so another social opportunity!

Crossing the Broad River, winds started to pick up plus we were going against the current.  We were about to enter the Beaufort River and we ran smack into a small Saturday afternoon sailing regatta!  Of course, they are under sail and have right of way, so Dave had to slow down to let them pass.  At one point we were moving backwards from the winds.  It was an awesome sight to see the boats heeled over with the crew hanging off the gunwales as a counterbalance.

We took a mooring ball in Beaufort instead of pulling into the marina.  We love mooring and wish it were available at more marinas; you don’t have to worry about hitting the dock, positioning lines, or setting fenders.  It’s basically a large floating ball anchored to the bottom in one of several ways at a set length so they are all spaced out evenly.  Dave drives slowly up to the ball, I grab the line attached to the top of the float, run a couple of our lines through the eye on the end, cleat them back on either side of the bow, and Voila! we are ‘anchored.’  The only bad part is that the line I grab sits in the water most of the time, so it’s all slimy with growth and makes a huge mess on the deck – and me, for that matter.  Fortunately we have a spray hose right up there at the bow so can easily spray down all the mud and gook in about three minutes.   We love the peace and freedom of being on a mooring, surrounded by water and the gentle bobbing that is incredibly relaxing.  It’s quiet, and dinghy rides in to walk Roxy or see what’s on land are fun. 

The mooring field as seen from shore. We're in there on the far right.
A vacant mooring behind us, with a sailboat and the town lights in the background.

We joined our friends from Baker Street Blue and new friends on Pura Vida II for dinner at The Bull Tavern, which had come highly recommended.  In general, I don’t associate establishments with ‘tavern’ in their name to be places that require reservations, but this one apparently did.  That evening they were fully booked, but they did offer to serve us on the sidewalk in front which has some chairs and side tables.  This was rather different, but actually worked well for our group of six to sit and talk to each other, and personally I was more than happy to be outside rather than squeezed into the small indoor seating area.  (We’re still wary of crowded places in an attempt to avoid COVID.)  We all walked back to the dinghy dock as a brilliant sunset was playing out before our eyes. 

Charleston, SC

Apr 3

Pre-dawn dinghy trip to shore for Roxy, then an early start to a long day ahead to get to the other side of Charleston Harbor.  As quick and easy as it is to grab a mooring ball, it’s even quicker and easier to depart as you just literally drop the line and you’re off, with a lot less mess.  Our friends were just a few minutes ahead of us, as we had to secure the dinghy after our Roxy shore run and walk. 

Nice day on the water, but being a Sunday it meant there were a lot of other boats out, particularly small recreational boats.  In general, the Cruiser Conventional Wisdom is to stay at the dock on weekends near large towns, because it’s too crazy on the water.  But we were trying to keep moving while we had good weather, so we violated this. The closer we got to Charleston, the more boats we saw.  Entering Elliott Cut, the last leg before the harbor, they come at us in droves!  There was a crazy strong current coming from behind us that further reduced the ability to maneuver and would swing the bow back and forth to top it off.  Dave did a masterful job , while I covered my eyes. 

This was actually before entering Charleston Harbor — it got even worse there but I was too busy to take video.

Most of the marinas are on the south side of the harbor, but we’ve been to Charleston several times and so were making this a one night stop.  ‘Let’s get ahead for the next day’, we had told ourselves smugly, ‘and pick a marina on the north side of the harbor.  That will be quite smart of us.’   But as mentioned above, if we were really smart we would be to not be out there on a weekend.  Because upon entering the harbor, we were assaulted by even more boats coming from every which way.  Pontoon rentals, center consoles, fishing boats, speedsters kicking up enormous wakes, and even a beginner sailing class intentionally capsizing to practice righting.  It was Mad Max in boats.  Once again, Dave was masterful and far more patient than I would have been, only giving warning blasts of his horn once when a pontoon boat turned in front of us about 50 yards off our bow, while I curled up in a fetal position.

We finally made it across the harbor and got back onto the ICW, finding ourselves again in a narrow channel, shallow depths (approaching low tide), and small vessels zipping around us like swarming gnats.   It seemed like forever before we made it to Isle of Palms Marina.  Finally docked just off the channel and safe from the onslaught, we were entertained late into the evening by the widely varied genres of music blaring from radios on the small boats that continued to parade by:  rap, country, classic rock, and even Abba.

Murrell's Inlet, SC

Apr 4-7

We had planned on spending a few days back at Wacca Wache Marina (still think that is name is the most fun to say over and over) to see our friends, and an impending couple days of thunderstorms played right into our itinerary.  Our Canadian friends Erika and Holger greeted us at the dock, having wintered there.  They took us on a much needed grocery run, but also for a lovely walk on the beach.  One evening they shared all their expertise on cruising in Canada, a part of the Loop we will be doing this summer and to which we are greatly looking forward.  We also had several great conversations on German history, healthcare, politics, and more over wine, ice cream, or nachos.  The predicted thunderstorms did materialize, but the marina was well sheltered and not a problem at all.    

Beach walk with Erika and Holger.
Wacca Wache Marina, with on of the airboat tour boats that run out of there.
Docked next to our friends on Bodensee, another power catamaran.
Anchored off of the marina , every time I looked at this boat I felt like it had a story to tell.

Little River, SC

Apr 8-9

The Waccamaw River is one of most beautiful stretches of undeveloped land on the ICW.  It was pretty when we had come through just three months earlier and it was mostly brown.  Now we were seeing the lime-green of new spring growth on the Cypress trees along the banks, ospreys and their nests, and so many little inlets and joining creeks.  Bonus was cruising along as the sun came up, with the colors reflected on the glassy waters.

After the Waccamaw, we traversed The Rock Pile again, this time at a falling tide so able to see more of the rocks along the way.  Pretty in a rugged sort of way.  That brought us to our destination of Lightkeepers Marina.  We were a couple days ahead of our original plan, so took the opportunity to stay an extra day in this very well sheltered marina while some gusty winds passed through, get laundry done, and work on a couple boat projects.  (There’s ALWAYS boat projects to be done).  There’s not much here within walking distance except for a Dunkin’ Donuts, which we took advantage of one morning for breakfast. 

Apparently where buoys go to die...
Lightkeepers Marina in Little River

Little River is the last stop before the border, so next we begin the North Carolina chapter of our travels north.  While still a bit ahead of our voyage plan, extended weather forecast is looking a bit squirrelly – rapidly changing, high winds, fronts moving through.  Which means we will be doing a lot of cerebrating, pivoting, and contingency plans as we do the mental jigsaw puzzle of voyage planning.  Let the games begin!

Pops’ Stats Corner*

  • Tot days covered this blog: 12
  • Travel days: 5
  • Miles traveled:  247.3 (215 nm)
  • Marinas:   Mooring Balls: 1
  • # bad words Karen used while crossing Charleston Harbor: TNTC**
  • # bad words Dave used while crossing Charleston Harbor: 0
** Too Numerous To Count

*’Pops’ is what the family called Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.

9 thoughts on “The South Carolina Saunter”

  1. Nice pictures. On your way to Beaufort, you would have passes Dataw Island which was Kevin’s choice for retirement. You’ll passed Southport on your North-south traverses.

    1. We’ve actually passed both of those now — I’m behind in the blog. Thought of you when we passed Southport. Have some friends that are stuck in Dataw while awaiting a new prop shaft after having been towed there, and they talked about the community and how wonderful the locals have been, helping them out with transportation and even access to the country club facilities.

  2. Marge Sagstetter

    I was with you in spirit last week, Karen, as we visited family near Wilmington, NC and visited Holden, Southport, and Wrightsville beaches. I thought of you each time we crossed those ICW bridges!
    We lucked out with wonderful weather and I loved that beachy vibe. So happy for you to be enjoying that Every. Single. Day! Sending hugs and wishes for safe passage!

  3. Love the last pic of the boat with the colored lights (and of course all the pics)

    And naturally Roxy gets more attention! She’s, we’ll, Foxy Roxy!

  4. Sunsets Forever

    Love the photos and sharing your cruise journey. Quite the Quip: Where buoys go to die

  5. Erika and Holger

    We very much enjoyed your visit in Wacha Wache. We will be following you after the first May weekend. See you on the water somewhere.

  6. Robert Lee Neider Jr.

    Dave/Karen, Loved your blog thru SC. Wish I’d have connected earlier w/ you. We love the Low Country and still have family in Hampton Roads. Look forward to following your blog and possibly catching you on the return in 2023. Bob/Kathy

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