The worst of the flooding was in Socastee, but it continued in Georgetown, where it dampened “Small Business Saturday”.
Day 41, November 24
Yesterday, from Southport to Myrtle Beach, there was astronomical coastal flooding but no rain. Today more astronomical flooding was expected, but the forecasts were peppered with rain, tropical downpours with more than 3″, plus thunderstorms, hail and and even threats of waterspouts. The worst of it was well away from us. What’s a little rain, we thought? So off we went. Grand Dunes had been a convenient stop but otherwise there was no reason to stay.
The trip started off with drizzle and rain. The gray dampness made the scenery dull and sad, even if there were some substantial homes and docks lining the narrow passage. The rain increased to a pounding downpour, and as it did, high tide approached. About eight miles or so from our starting point we came to the community of Socastee. It was here we saw the worst flooding we have encountered on this trip. The “King Tide” coincided with wind-driven water surge and now torrential rain. We slowed to a crawl. The scene gave an entirely new definition to a no wake zone.
The water levels were over the walls of the ICW and flooding well inland over docks, lawns, swimming pools, and in many cases right into living rooms. We did the best we could to send no wake ashore. The river was quite narrow so we were close to the homes. It was quite a mess. I would not want to own property here. The rain continued to pound down around us, rivaling engine noise as we crept slowly along, trying to maintain steerage way but not a lot more.
We came to the Socastee Swing Bridge and were concerned that the water level might be too high for it to open. The bridge tender did indeed open for us. We wished him well with the water. He said it was going down, finally. It had been even worse earlier in the morning. Socastee won’t be dry for some time to come. Astronomical flooding was expected to continue for at least another day.
After Socastee the river became more and more tricky as there was a substantial amount of large floating debris. Piles that had come loose, boards, heavy branches and pools of flotsam floated along. We had a difficult time picking our way through the mess and at one point we did hit something large, apparently with both our hull and our propeller. Everything seemed fine afterwards, but its not something you want to do if you can avoid it. We eventually passed the Osprey Marina where we had tried to stay the night before. Quite a few boats stop there and it is supposed to be a good place for fuel. Maybe on the way back.
After Osprey we entered the Waccamaw River. This was quite beautiful in spite of the continuing downpours. It was a sparsely developed and twisty road for us. A number of the private docks we passed had extended their piles vertically with two-by-fours in an apparent effort to allow the floating docks to float high and still stay attached to the piles. This flooding problem appears to be ongoing.
We could pick up speed for much of the Waccamaw. It was definitely flooded: upland trees were inundated well beyond the river banks, but there was little infrastructure to worry about. Maps of the area show rice fields set back from the river banks, but we couldn’t pick them out.
Eventually the rain stopped. The skies never completely cleared, but we got much better daylight and the river was prettier. Still brown, but prettier than the morning scenery had been.
By mid-afternoon we looped around and up into Winyah Bay towards the Sampit River. We were still finding a lot of flotsam, which we always tried to check out with binoculars on approach to make sure there were no hidden dangers. Bruce was focusing on one bendy branch and, on closer inspection, discovered it was actually a snake slithering along the surface. Shut the doors!! Neither of us is especially into snakes and we definitely don’t want one slithering up over our swim platform and… Ugh.
Just inside the Sampit River we arrived at our next stop, the historic town of Georgetown. The sun even came out to welcome us. Unfortunately the approach to this lovely spot is dominated by a paper mill that spews rotten smelling air. If you are lucky, the wind is blowing the stuff away from town. That afternoon we were not lucky. I suppose the locals get used to it, but for visitors it doesn’t exactly add to the ambiance.
We pulled alongside at the Harborwalk Marina so we would be right by the downtown area. We knew the town had a lot to offer in spite of the paper mill and wanted to enjoy wandering around during our short stay. We were not entirely surprised to see the banks of the town, along most of the Harborwalk, lined with sandbags in an attempt to fend off the flooding. It had not been successful.
Although the water had receded from the flooding earlier in the day, it had clearly come right up over the banks, into the parking areas, and even onto the main street. Several businesses were closed and in the process of mopping out. At least one car was disabled in the middle of the street from attempting to proceed through flood waters.
We felt especially badly for the merchants as this was “Small Business Saturday” and they had obviously put a lot of energy into trying to attract visitors for the day for Christmas shopping. The mood was low wherever we went. Determined, but low. It seems that flooding is a fact of life for these folks. They don’t like it, and they claim it is getting worse each year, but they deal with it.
Flooding aside, Georgetown is a charming town. Many historic buildings stand firm in spite of a devastating fire in September 2013.
Georgetown was first settled by the Spanish in 1526 and at the time was the first European settlement in North America to include African slaves. The colony failed due to an epidemic as well as an uprising by the slaves. The next settlement was by the English in 1670 to establish trade with area indian tribes. In 1729 the original plan was laid out for Georgetown in a four-by-eight block grid. The original grid city is listed as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. It bears the original street names, lot numbers, and has many original homes.
The Indian trade declined after Georgetown was established, and gave way to large rice and indigo plantations that were dependent on slave labor. Rice became the chief commodity crop by the early 19th century, and a staple of regional diets as well.
In many of the shops, rice is featured as a reminder and souvenir of Georgetown’s origins. The Rice Museum on Front Street is located in the lovely 1842 brick and stucco Old Market Building, the first building in Georgetown to be placed on The National Register of Historic Places. The South Carolina Maritime Museum and The Gullah Museum are nearby, interspersed by an eclectic assortment of shops and eateries. The Harborwalk is obviously a big draw for visitors, as it was busy even on this wet and mostly gray day.
We particularly enjoyed wandering around the lovely historic neighborhoods. The homes were architecturally significant and well maintained. The live oaks form dramatic canopies that evoke, especially for us New Englanders, quintessential lowlands grace.
While we wandered around town in the afternoon we scouted a spot for dinner. On a whim, we ended up deciding on Root, a place so new (open for just ten days) there were no reviews on line. It felt right, though, so we gave it a try. Excellent decision. The menu was interesting in innovative. We shared a steamed mussels appetizer that was the best we’ve ever had. I chose an excellent kale salad and Bruce had a very nice shrimp and grits plate. We went back to the boat fat and happy.
Our visit to Georgetown was topped off the following morning by yet another pleasant walk around the neighborhoods with our pups, and a stop at The Coffee Break Cafe. Our intention was just a cup of coffee, but the proprietor Ron deployed his delightful southern charm and we ended up with not just coffee, but also cinnamon buns. Because we just don’t get enough food. But we really enjoyed chatting with Ron and other locals. It was an appropriate end to our visit to another very pleasant South Carolina town.