08/11/2007/8:48 am, Georgetown, SC, Mile 403
Our little trip ashore to Georgetown on Wednesday evening consisted of a walk along the main drag, a catch-up chat with Ken, Colin and Sharon on Sulis and, on their recommendation, a quick trip to Independent Seafoods where we picked up some very fine shrimp ($6.99 lb), trigger fish, and stuffed crab. Jim cooked up the shrimp in his trademark flambéed Sambucca Shrimp dish...mmmmm good.
It was very cold on Thursday morning, so we fired up the fireplace, and in half an hour the cabin temperature was up almost 10 degrees. We went back ashore to have another look around before departing for points south. Some of the streets reminded us of Upper Victoria and Rupert Streets in Amherst - the Victorian houses and trees with branches arching over peaceful avenues. We were fortunate enough to encounter John and Rosalie at the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Bureau and spent a good while chatting with them on a wide range of topics involving Georgetown and South Carolina generally. They are transplanted Yankees and were thus able to give us a great inside/outside picture of the American South. They were interesting folks themselves, having moved here from New Jersey to be nearer their daughter. They volunteer at the Visitor's centre - and John's passion is history so he is a valuable source of information; they are involved with the local theatre company; they ride their bikes out to the beaches; in short, they are filling their re-tirement with all sorts of new pro-tirement activities.
On another trip here, I'd like to visit the Rice museum and the Kaminski House, but in the meantime, we got a good picture of life before and after the Civil War here, and were able to be on the lookout for abandoned rice plantations as we traveled along the next stretch of the ICW. I had always thought of cotton when I thought of Southern plantations, but this area was noted for its rice and indigo - the plant whose fermented leaves produced a blue dye. If I remember correctly, almost 70% of America's rice came from 7 or 8 plantations in this area during the period leading up to the civil war. We learned that those plantations and the wealth and lifestyle enjoyed by the white families were possible only because of slave labour, and that slaves made up almost 75% of the population of this area. The plantation families used to depart every summer for Charleston and other seaside towns to avoid contracting malaria and yellow fever - the mosquito-borne diseases that circulated freely in the hot, wet climate of the rice fields. The slave families were left behind, of course, to do the labour intensive work of taking care of the crops that made that lifestyle possible.
After a stop at the Kudzu Bakery for delicious honey-oat bread and strawberry-rhubarb jam, and a return trip to the seafood store for more shrimp, we hoisted anchor and headed onward.
As John had told us, we found abandoned rice plantations all along the way. We could see the remnants of irrigation ditches and vast fields once given to rice, now returned to the wild. Travelling through the ICW is a wonderful way to see the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Centre Heritage Preserve. He was once the owner of the Boston Red Sox, and willed this land to the state. We saw huge flocks of what I think were bobolinks - called rice birds when the rice was plentiful here. They were as thick and fast as clouds of mosquitoes. There was also a huge raptor-type bird with a white band across its tail, rust colour on underside and perhaps on top - could it have been a Golden Eagle? A couple of groups of black and white, red billed, long legged birds were clustered on oyster middens (piles of oyster shells) - the American Oystercatcher? And... we saw our first alligator at about Mile 424 - at Red 26! He was heading north as we were heading south - just floating along the side of the creek minding his own business. A very cool addition to our list of "sightings".
We spent Thursday night in an anchorage in the Awendaw Creek (Mile 435.7) where I cooked our triggerfish for dinner. (I just sprinkled a little Old Bay seasoning, some pepper and lemon juice over it, and then baked it in the oven) It has a nice meaty texture and good flavour. We wanted to try it because that is what Steven Callahan told of eating in his book "Adrift". Mind you - he ate it raw, and for many of the 76 days he was adrift. Have I told you yet what an amazing book that is?
There was a cold NW wind that kept us garbed in hats and gloves despite the sun as we motored through the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. We have been feeling a wee bit torn about how to traverse this country. It would be lovely to get outside and put the sails up - sails? Seems so long ago! But on the other hand, we would hate to miss all this new geography. Before we started, Jim and I thought we would like to do the whole ICW once to see what it is like, and we are still holding to that plan. I had no idea there would be such a variety of scenery. The ICW is often referred to as "the ditch" and indeed it is dug out of the land like a ditch, joining rivers and creeks to make a passageway south. But it is so much more than that. We travel through wild stretches with nothing but marshes, and wild-ish stretches with marshes and houses and long-long-long wharves stretching out like arms to the open waterway. We pass towns and inlets. We enter and exit little cuts through rock, and make our way around shoaling corners, and see palmetto trees and cedars and pines all jumbled together. We skirt the edges of resorts that date from the early 1900's as well as those of today. We pass islands that used to be frequented by bootleggers and now house golf courses and playgrounds and lots of legal alcohol.
So it is in this spirit of discovery that we continue motoring our way along and make our much-anticipated visit to Charleston!
07/11/2007/3:30 pm, Georgetown, SC, Mile 403
Oh boy - did Ken ever give us a good steer to come up to Captain Poo's at Anchor Marina (Mile 347) for happy hour last night!
Wings, oysters and tacos were on the menu for 25 cents apiece. The place was full of folks by 5 and the music started at 6. We were lucky enough to snag a table just as a group left so we had a prime spot near the musician and the dance floor. Our new friend Ken joined us for a spell, and we made the pleasant acquaintance of Marg and Bob from Calabogie, Ontario - not all that far from Ottawa. Who'd a thunkit? Here we are in South Carolina and the lady passing the tomato basket (more about this in a minute) is from just down the road? On the other hand, why am I still surprised by such meetings? They keep happening to us.
Now about the tomatoes: A big basket of them was making its way around the room. Apparently the owner was giving them away, and as folks from each table helped themselves, someone took the basket to the next table. I never did find out what made Marg say immediately, "Are you Canadian?" but she did and of course that led to lots of conversation about our trip. I passed the basket on to another table where the male recipients thanked me effusively and I couldn't seem to make them understand that they weren't MY tomatoes - I was just spreading them around. The saga doesn't stop here though, because much later in the evening a couple sat down at our table, the woman (probably 70 something) spotted the four tomatoes there and said - "Oh those must be mah tomatoes! Ah told Connor ah wanted some and he must have left them for me!" At that point she started popping them into her purse. I had to move quickly to clamp my hand over 2 of them, move them back to my side of the table, saying, "Actually, those are MY tomatoes." We called it a draw as she kept the 2 she had already stored away, and I kept my 2. The gentleman with her drawled, "All ah know for shoah is they ahn't mah tomatoes." and Jim breathed a sigh of relief that the showdown was ended.
We tried some boiled peanuts thanks to Marg who shared a basket of them. The texture is really different - soft, meaty and slightly salty. Apparently the US ambassador to Canada has been extolling the virtues of the South Carolina peanut and we are happy to add our approval too.
Don Drexler provides music here at Captain Poo's every Tuesday night, and he is certainly an entertainer. He has all his arrangements prerecorded, and he plays guitar and sings along with them. It is loud, familiar, enthusiastic music and we enjoyed every minute of it. He started at 6 and was still going straight out when we left at 9. Some of it was golden oldies, some rhythm and blues, the occasional bluegrass number and some Carolina beach music. We're learning about this. It started as Motown or R&B, and the local folks back in the 30's and 40's developed their own kind of dance to it - called the shag. According to Ken, the fellows used to do the fancy footwork while the women did a simple in and out step. Now they both do some pretty fancy footwork. I found it to be quite elegant to watch - a little like jive, a little like jitterbug. (Did I get this right, Ken?)
A couple of other singers did some numbers - and there was a good bit of South Carolina pride apparent.
There were some very good dancers in this crowd of mostly locals. We could tell that many of them knew each other and they were all out for an evening of fun and dance. There was a real sensuality about the women - many of them older than we are. Having just watched the Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood a few nights ago, we could see some of that same exuberance in these folks. I know that is likely way too much of a generalization based on one evening's experience, but there is something different and engaging about the people we have met and observed so far. We already have an invitation to visit on our return trip. How is that for warm hospitality?
We managed to dance quite a bit ourselves - to the slow numbers. There was no way we could manage the faster ones with all that shagging going on!
We called it a night about 9, wandered down the ramp to Madcap with its red and white flag proudly waving in the breeze, and buried ourselves under the down comforter. While the days are still warmish, the evenings are cool.
When we woke up this morning (Wed) it was downright cold - not much above 0 Celsius I'm sure. The hats and gloves were essential. We made a long trip today - all the way to Georgetown. We had to skip the pretty little anchorages along the Waccama River in order to have time in this historic town, but we certainly enjoyed traveling through the cypress trees with their draperies of Spanish moss, and turtles basking on every sunny log. Oooh - I long for a good zoom lens. Soon...
There was no northbound traffic through the "rockpile" so we had absolutely no difficulty transiting that rock-bordered part of the ICW. The engine purred. The current was with us and boosted us a good knot on the latter part of the trip. The channel here in Georgetown is pretty full - I'd get here before midafternoon next time.
We stayed aboard for a bit to make sure we don't swing into the channel - a working channel - and now having deemed it safe to do, we'll head ashore to see what delights await us there.
06/11/2007/3:55 pm, Little River, SC, Mile 347
On Sunday, after waking up to dawn at a new time (Clocks fell back last night) we continued our trek along the ICW, covering Miles 244.5 (Mile Hammock Bay to 295.2 (Carolina Beach), traveling past many waterfront homes and hundreds of little fishing boats, each carrying two or three people casting their lines. It seems to be the Sunday thing to do. No sign of fish though!
We pulled into Carolina Beach - just full of condos and docks along both sides, but with a roomy anchorage nestled amid the hustle and bustle- in the late afternoon, followed rapidly by Sea Duck, Wind Drum, and Sulis. It seemed time for a party so we invited them all over for happy hour. Jim went next door to give Sward on Dream On a couple of extra hands in some work she was doing - but she was too involved in her fix-it job to join us. Just as we were gathering, Friendship came circling in so we invited Seldon and Jackie to join us. This made the biggest crowd we have squeezed into Madcap's cockpit - 11 of us in all! It made for a wonderful few hours as we shared stories and plans and tips, and food and drink of course. As I told Sharon, I left my community of friends behind, so I'm building a new community. It feels like a very fine community too!
Everyone made early starts in the morning - in fact we were among the last to go at about 8 am. We quickly moved out into Snow's Cut with its lovely golden coloured banks, and then into wide open Cape Fear River. We were fortunate that we were moving on an ebb current, and the wind was behind us so we made great time, and the water was smooth. It seems that in most places where we are warned that the water could be rough, we luck into calm conditions. We didn't go into Southport, but cruised on by to try to make the 2pm opening of Sunset Beach Bridge. For awhile it looked really good - we were moving faster than we should have been - we had the engine cranked up - it wasn't doing its power up/power thing - the current was helping us. But then, the tide changed and we slowed down. We also ended up being careful not to push the engine as much because it was making different noises. Our tachometer isn't working so we have to guess at our rpm's by listening to the sound. We ended up making the 3pm bridge after a verrry leisurely trip. It did give us time to see goats roaming along the banks, and to say hello to the fisherfolks as we passed.
We pulled into the Calabash River anchorage along with 4 or 5 other boats to do the usual ICW anchoring thing. It's been said that watching boats anchor is prime entertainment for the folks who are already there and I have to say that is true. Some boats are quick to find a spot and drop; some circle and circle; some drop and haul/drop and haul. Some use hand signals and some use loud verbal communication between cockpit and bow. Jim and I have the hand signals down pat, and we are usually quick droppers although we've done our share of circling if the space is crowded. Everyone usually finds a spot.
We read that some cruisers have had bad experiences here because of wake from the working boats out of the Calabash town dock. We had no trouble, but I would be sure to anchor out of the channel. But then again that is only common sense.
After a short conversation with the folks on Arcadian and plans to meet up with them soon again, we set off in the dinghy for some calabash style seafood. It was a little disappointing. We expected hot, crisp deepfried seafood and we got warm limp deep fried seafood. Oh well! The ride back under the stars was lovely.
On Tuesday morning, we set off for the Buckport area - we thought. But we were hardly out of the anchorage when the engine started with the noises again - bigger and louder. Jim opened the engine compartment for about the 15th time to see if he could identify what was causing it and this time he saw sparks. That really helps identification! It was the alternator. We slowed to a crawl and pulled in at Anchor Marina, just a few miles down the way.
The folks here have been just great. Guy and Don caught our lines as we rafted up to Enchantress, whose captain, Tony, graciously said we were welcome to do. (Space is tight here). Guy, Director of Operations acted as mechanic and diagnosed that the bearings had worn on the alternator. He pulled it out, got new ones on and put it all back together again within a few hours. He also changed the secondary fuel filters to see if that is the cause of the power drops and surges, and thinks there was some water in one of them. Laura - or Miss Laura - as women are known in these parts - (the Service Manager) was also great to meet. She spent lots of time with us, welcoming us to the area, helping us reposition the boat, to the floating dock. We had time to chat with Don from Shadowfax out of Toronto and also here for a repair, and Ken a local gentleman who came by to chat.
We decided to stay here for the night and make an early start in the morning because we'll be able to make Georgetown in one day. So - much as we regret seeing a kazillion boats go by us, we know we'll still get there, and we will go safely.
It was Ken who encouraged us to go up to the bar this evening because we will have a chance to hear some South Carolina Beach music.
So we are off to clean ourselves up a bit and go absorb some more atmosphere - and a beer or two! Lucky Madcap sailors once again.