The trip from flooded Georgetown to Isle of Palms, just outside of Charleston, was incredibly lovely but also challengingly shallow at times.
Day 42, November 25
Our visit to Georgetown was a quick one-nighter but we loved it and will probably return on the trip home. Delightful spot. We topped it off with a pleasant morning walk with the pups and coffee and cinnamon buns at the Coffee Break Cafe, then cast off to head out into the fog towards Isle of Palms.
Yes, fog! Fortunately all our Maine cruising has us well-trained for such conditions so we were unphased, and it lifted quickly anyway once we were under way. We cruised out the channel slowly, getting a good look at additional flooding along the docks south of town. Not a pretty sight.
We cruised the pretty six miles down Winyah Bay, then turned across the shallow entrance to the Estherville Minim Creek Canal. As we entered the canal we passed the unusual Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Bridge. It is actually a floating bridge, a barge, really, with ramps, that is pulled across the river when needed. Fun to see. It is not often used, and I doubt they could have used it when we went through anyway because the flooding was so bad the access roads on either side were impassable.
Once inside the canal we had a lovely ride through the Yawkey Wildlife Center and Reserve, followed by the Santee River which cuts through the Santee Coastal Reserve and the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
It was chilly out, but the sunshine had some warmth and for the first time on this trip we were able to spend some time on the flybridge enjoying the scenery. Absolutely lovely, remote, and lots of bird life to enjoy. Miles and miles and acres and acres of unspoiled and rough natural beauty. Such a pleasant ride, and thanks to both the high tide (and flooding), we had plenty of water under the keel so little to worry about in the shoal areas we passed.
Until the tide went out and we did have to start worrying about shoaling.
By mid-day we were approaching dead-low tide. Just past McClellanville on Matthews Cut we experienced some of the worst shoaling yet on the trip. Our pleasant run suddenly became challenging and nerve-wracking as we scanned the crowd-sourced data on where shoals were currently building, and where buoys were out of place or missing. As tides approached dead-low we coasted ever-so-slowly through numerous problem areas trying to minimize the chances of bumping the bottom, or worst yet, planting ourselves firmly in the mud.
We came across a group of three sailboats, one of which was not so lucky. He had found the bottom on one shoal and was busy trying to raise TowBoat US on the VHF as we approached him. Sometimes sailboats will ask power boats to run by fast to produce a wake that will allow them to bounce off the bottom. We tried calling him and were willing to offer him our wake, but he never responded so we slowly motored past. He looked unhappy.
Thus the day continued, through various cuts and creeks. Infrastructure along the shores became more frequent as we approached the greater Charleston sprawl. At times we proceeded slowly, picking our way through shallows, and at other times we were able to proceed freely. By mid-afternoon we had Isle of Palms in our sights, and called the marina there to get instructions. It was an easy-in opportunity, and as I completed the task with Captain Ron styling Bruce nearly peed in his pants. Mission accomplished.
We saw nothing in Isle of Palms other than the parking area, stray cats and the Morgan Creek Grill. It was a very busy spot on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Lots of folks had been out on their boats enjoying the good weather, and since our slip was adjacent to the launch ramp, there was constant traffic of small skiffs and fishing boats lining up to get hauled out on trailers. It was lively and the buzz was good.
Beyond the ramp activity, we saw nothing in Isle of Palms other than the parking area, stray cats and the Morgan Creek Grill. Not because there is nothing there, but because we did not explore. One of those days. In. Rinse. Walk dogs. Dinner. Bed. Done. Charleston in the a.m.