12/06/2008/11:03 pm, Beaufort, NC
This picture of the muddy water kind of fits the day.
We paid a visit to the Customs and Border Protection Office in Morehead City for the purpose of obtaining a replacement for our expired cruising license. After much discussion, argument, and condescension, the officer handed us a folder and told us, "Now you have all the information you need. You can help other cruisers understand the rules too." So, since I still don't understand their rules, here is my advice: If you can possibly avoid the Morehead City Customs and Border Protection office, do so.
This was the most irritating experience we've had with any kind of officialdom on this trip. What made it so difficult was her unwillingness to listen to our point of view, to explain the reasons for the rules she cited, and to consider exercising any discretion. At one point, when Jim asked the reason for a rule she was telling us we had to follow, she replied, "You don't need to know the reason. You just have to follow the rule." Interesting...
It would take far too long to give all the details of this experience so here is the short version. Our yearlong US cruising permit had expired and we wanted to renew it. We had discovered while in the Bahamas that a foreign vessel (built outside the US) cannot apply for a renewal until 15 days after the expiry of the old one and must be entering from a foreign port. This didn't work for us because we didn't want to stay in the Bahamas that late, and we were hoping for a little discretion in applying the rules - the same discretion that our fellow cruiser had been the recipient of. No such luck.
No cruising permit for us - just a local permit and a requirement to obtain permission to both enter and leave each region and pay the accompanying fee all the way from here to the Canadian border. That's a lot of regions. If we had only known this when we got the permit originally, we might have been able to time things better, but in our experience, when one permit expires, you just apply for a new one. The issuing officer told us nothing to contradict that impression and there was nothing on the permit itself or in any accompanying literature to indicate these conditions for renewal. When we produced our permit to show the Morehead City officer that the renewal information was not on it after she told us we just hadn't read it, she took it away from us and refused to make a copy for our records.
She also raised the issue of requiring Canadian vessels to report in to each US region even with a cruising permit. We attempted to explain that two seasoned officers, the one who issued the permit and the one who cleared us into the United States in Maine had assured us that with the permit, there was no requirement to report to each region. She kept saying they were wrong. It was hard for us to understand why we should take her word for it, and not theirs. We also do not understand why one can enter by land or air, travel all over the country and never have to report in again, while it seems to be different for mariners.
Eventually, she called her supervisor out to deal with these difficult Canadians. He at least listened to us, agreed that Customs and Border Protection Officers have wide powers of discretion, but he too refrained from exercising them other than getting us a copy of the expired permit.
A couple of other events made our Beaufort experience less than ideal. It all started on Tuesday when we tried to make a phone call. Jim's T-Mobile phone is not working here for some reason so we went ashore in search of a payphone. After looking in all the likely places without spotting one, a fellow at a tour boat office told us there was one beside Finz. Well, there might have been at one time, but not now; we found nothing the length of Front Street. Finally, the man at the Post Office told us the only one he knew of was at the library, four blocks back the way we had just come and two blocks to the right. Keep in mind that it was 33 C that day.
On Wednesday morning, we waited 20 minutes for a cab to arrive, climbed in and headed off. The driver was pleasant and chatty until he got a phone call from his dispatcher. Apparently someone was complaining about a long wait, and he launched into a frightening diatribe that went something like this: "You tell him we don't want his f...... business. He can stick it up ... ... sideways. He's not going to get a pickup. I'll give him some lead, that's what I'll give him." He then continued on in his friendly tone to Jim, turning to me and saying, "Excuse my language ma'am." It was a relief to get out of his cab.
After returning to Beaufort - in a different cab - we walked to the coffee shop and because we were hungry, thought we'd get some sandwiches. The time was 10:50. The sign on the wall said they started serving lunch at 11 but things seemed to be pretty much ready - bread on the counter, tubs of sandwich fillings made up. The cashier asked the woman if we could get sandwiches 10 minutes early but she shook her head. "No"
We ordered our coffees but didn't bother to order food when the magic hour of 11 arrived. A lost sale didn't seem to matter.
One positive event here was a pleasant conversation with Terry (Marigold) in the Backstreet Pub on Tuesday. He is single handing, has crossed the Atlantic once already and is making plans to return to Europe via the Azores. We love meeting these adventurous types who follow the "Just go do it" maxim.
10/06/2008/1:38 pm, near Southport
We departed Georgetown SC about 7 am on Monday and headed north. Southport/ Cape Fear makes a convenient point to head out to the ocean again so it was the ICW route for us. The weather has stayed blistering hot - around 30 + all day every day. Sue says this is more typical of August than June. We'll need to do something about fans before too long.
The Waccamaw River was beautiful, with tree-lined banks, birds, turtles and lots of fish. Just as on the way south, we marveled as we moved north at the number of long, long docks that stretch like fingers out to the waterway. The houses are tucked into the trees on shore and the walkways go out over the marshes. The view changed steadily from rural trees to wide open marsh, to beautiful mansions and docks to stucco clutter and docks. We gave a wave to Anchor Marine and Captain Poo's as we passed. We had a wonderful time there in the spring, but we had to keep moving this time. We saw lots of children out in boats and playing along the shore. School's out in South Carolina. It seems so early but apparently that's the way it is here - and they don't go back until after Labour Day either.
Because we had current against us almost all the way, we had to stop at Calabash Creek again. It took us close to 12 hours to make 53 nm. We stopped here in the fall and there were 7 or 8 boats - just 4 this time. The boat next to us left almost immediately afterward and we were a bit worried that they felt we were too close. We didn't think so, and they didn't say anything to us as they passed, but we were still pleased to hear them say later on the radio that they moved because they were concerned about tide and depth. This is a narrow little spot to get out of the channel - essential because big boats go through early and late from Calabash - but there is certainly room enough to manage it.
As we sat with our books, we overheard what we thought would be an "impossible" conversation on the VHF. Salty Paws, down on the Georgia/Florida border was talking with Coast Guard in Beaufort, NC! They both commented on it too - that's about 300 miles. The coast guard officer said there have been very strange skips in transmission lately.
Because we needed to time our transit of Shalotte Inlet and Lockwood's Folly just right for depth, we waited till 9 am to leave. We also had to time it right for the Sunset Beach Pontoon bridge that opens on the hour (and not at all at extreme low tide) and to navigate carefully across the shoal at the opening into Calabash Creek. (Hug the ICW Red 2 - there is also a Red 2 for the Creek and the shoal stretches out past it.)
We crossed the tricky bits between mid and high tide and by staying in mid channel for Shallotte, and almost kissing the reds at Lockwood's we had at least 7 feet all the way across the inlets.
In North Carolina, there are acres and acres of land that hold back-to-back houses fronting on canals dug into the marshland. Every house had a boat or two - or three. We noticed a number of for sale signs and wondered if these were signs of harder economic times. On the other hand, the huge numbers of sport fishing boats, floating patios, speedboats and sea doos would indicate that many folks still have dollars to spend on toys and fuel.
We just stopped at South Harbour Village Marina for 25 US gallons of diesel ($118.35). They have wifi so I'll get this up. Once we get to Cape Fear Inlet, we're off to the ocean - arriving in Beaufort NC on Wed.
08/06/2008/1:31 pm, Georgetown SC
We had a sweltering hot and very interesting weekend in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Sue and Terry arrived late morning, and after a short visit out to Madcap, we trooped off to town. First stop was the Goat Island Grill where we all lunched on crunchy salads and swilled down glass after glass of iced tea. Next stop: the Rice Museum, part of which is housed in the former Kaminski Hardware Store. We hadn't seen it when we were here last fall and it was worth a stop. I learned that the land was all cleared and leveled in order to make it suitable for rice growing. Somehow, I had thought it was already in that state and that's why rice was selected as a crop. Not so. Cypress trees were felled, stumps removed, irrigation ditches dug, and the rice planted, tended and harvested - all by slaves. In the heyday of plantation days here, 90% of the population were slaves! One display board gave a first person description of daily life of a young slave boy - detailing all the jobs he and his family did, and, beside it, an account of the daily life of the gentleman/owner. The contrast was marked.
We viewed the remains of a ship, thought to be from the late 1700's - a low, open cargo ship that would have sailed up and down the rivers, collecting and delivering cargo from one town to another. It was loaded with bricks and a couple of millstones when it was found, and some of those bricks are on display as well.
Also in this museum is an exhibit about "Miss Ruby" - a teacher for over 50 years. She must have been quite a woman, and her views on discipline and values were interesting to listen to. She was a lot tougher that we were.
Despite the heat and humidity, we strolled along some of the streets and stopped by the Kaminski House to spend a fine half hour in the shade as we listened to a steel drum band made up of a group of 8-10 year olds from a nearby school. They could really play, and we enjoyed selections made popular by Harry Belefonte, Bob Marley and Bobby McFerrin. It's the first school based steel drum band I've heard of.
After a stop at Independent Seafoods where we picked up some nice fat local shrimp and a couple of triggerfish fillets, we headed off to do a little grocery shopping. We managed to fill Terry and Sue's trunk with "essentials" and then transported ourselves and all our purchases out to the boat for the evening.
We introduced them to "Dark'n Stormies" - that Goslings rum, ginger beer and lime drink, and then spent the next few hours enjoying a cooperative dinner. Jim grilled the triggerfish, Sue and Terry boiled up the shrimp and I made Bahamian Peas'n Rice and steamed some fresh green beans. We took turns in the galley, seeing as it holds one cook and about half a helper at a time. Because it was so hot - over 30 C - we were all glad to move out to the cockpit whenever our turns in the galley were finished. A nice white wine, accompanied the meal and we followed it with a Canadian treat - Ice wine.
They stayed on board and we all sweated and melted in our various berths, fortunately enjoying a bit of a cooling down over night. Sunday morning, fortified with coffee and fruit, we piled into their car once more and drove out to Brookgreen Gardens. We knew nothing about it at all although I looked it up in the cruising guides afterward and it sits about Mile 387.5 on the ICW. This was the highlight of the weekend.
Originally a rice plantation, it is now home to the Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington Sculpture Garden, as well as other sculpture collections, many walking trails, a little Low Country zoo and a cypress aviary. We loved every minute of the time we spent here. A wonderful tour guide, Alice, took us on an hour-long walk through several of the gardens, where we gazed at gorgeous statuary and colorful flowers. She knew both her botany and her history. The sculptures were gorgeous, fountains and pools set them off perfectly, and the garden walls had bits of poetry inscribed on them. It was a place we could have spent a whole day. We ate a fine lunch at the restaurant on site (big beautiful salads, chicken or tuna stuffed croissants, shrimp and grits) and then spent the afternoon wandering through the aviary and zoo.
This zoo housed birds and animals that, due to injuries or other histories, would be unable to survive in the wild. We were able to get up close and personal with a couple of bald eagles. The female is about 30 years old and suffered a wing injury about 15 years ago. Because of that, she could no longer fly and hunt so was brought here where she appeared to be flourishing.
A prehistoric looking alligator moved lazily through the swamp, and in the aviary, a blue heron did what I swear was a Michael Jackson Moon Walk. We found a night heron there too - the first I've ever been able to see.
We bade farewell to Sue and Terry back at the dinghy dock, and as they headed off on their 3 hour drive home, we settled into some planning for the next few days, ate leftovers for dinner and stretched out on our still hot berths for some sleep.