Dear Family and Friends ~
Well, it was a quiet year aboard Voyageur . . . from late September of 2011 until July 26, 2012. After feeling our way down the fog bound coast of New Jersey that September, we cruised Chesapeake Bay (where we were ambushed by a remarkably effective cruise telemarketer . . . more on that later) and visited the Annapolis Sailboat Show (where we were ambushed by a remarkably effective stainless steel arch salesperson . . . more on that later).
After leaving the Bay, Voyageur and crew worked their way down the Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk, VA, to Southport, NC, and paused there for shrimp n' grits, worshiped with the town's remarkable Methodist congregation and looked carefully at the weather and sea condition forecast. A day or two later, due to big wind and waves offshore, we decided to stay on the inside and ultimately followed the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to Hilton Head Island.
ActualIy, I don't mind at all taking the inside route to Hilton Head. The trip from Charleston to Beaufort, SC, is one of my favorites on the Intracoastal because the waterway meanders from creek to creek through the beautiful and timeless South Carolina low country. It is quite remote, with few houses or docks or signs of life and only two bridges along the route, both 65-footers. Golden marsh grasses stretch along both sides with scattered pockets of trees.
Sometimes, when we see shrimp boats or trawlers or sailboat masts over the grass, it looks like they are sailing through a golden sea.
The route is sometimes only five miles from the seacoast and at other times 20 miles inland. There are many good anchorages on side creeks or even in the main rivers out of the traffic channel. Tides are 5-6 feet and currents 1-2 knots, though somewhat stronger in the narrow cuts. We usually transit this 65-mile stretch in three or four leisurely days, moving when the tide is between half and full to have sufficient depth in the narrow land cuts between rivers. A fast motor yacht can do the stretch in a day but its crew will miss some of the joys of taking it slow.
I suspect they find joy in other things . . . like going by sailboats WAY too fast and WAY too close.
In this part of South Carolina, any piece of land that is surrounded on four sides by water in any form (river, creek or sound) is called an island. So the coast is a patchwork of islands, often with Indian names. And the names are quite unique to yankees like us.
The Ashley River takes us south out of Charleston harbor and turns west onto Wappoo Creek where there is a drawbridge that opens only at scheduled times. Once through the bridge we motor the short distance to Elliott's cut, a tricky half mile man-made cut with rocks on either shore and swift currents of four knots or more in either direction depending on tide. We've been through Elliott's at slack current, no big deal, and on other occasions going with or against a four knot current . . . challenging in either direction but always a fun ride! The cut takes us to the Stono River where we turn right to go upstream around John's Island. Here we are 18 miles from the sea at Kiawah Island.
Soon we're on Wadmalaw Sound, moving downstream on the Wadmalaw River, past Toogoodoo Creek, a good anchoring spot. The Wadmalaw becomes the North Edisto River which we follow for seven miles to a right, upstream turn onto the Dawho River which leads us to North Creek which leads us to the half-mile long Watts Cut which leads us to the wide South Edisto River. Here we turn downstream seven miles to Fenwick Cut across Fenwick Island, about five miles from Edisto Beach, SC. A right turn takes us upstream on the Ashepoo River toward the Ashepoo Coosaw cutoff across Hutchinson Island to another upstream turn onto Rock Creek to another Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff to the Coosaw River, only three miles from St. Helena Sound and the coast.
To describe this section of the waterway accurately I'm looking at our charts while I type. But as I study the charts I seem to have a old spiritual song going through my head . . . the Wappoo connected to the Stono; the Stono connected to the Wadmalaw; the Wadmalaw connected to the Edisto; the Edisto connected to the Dawho; the Dawho connected to the Ashepoo; the Ashepoo connected to the Coosaw; now hear the word of the Lord.
Anyway, we follow the Coosaw eleven miles upstream around Coosaw Island, then take Brickyard Creek past a Marine Corps Air Station and on to the Beaufort (Bu'-fert) River that flows between Beaufort and Lady's Island. The Lady's Island drawbridge opens on the hour at 9, 10, 11, 1, 2, 3, and 4 o'clock so punctuality along this stretch of the waterway is important.
We spent a couple of days in Beaufort, enjoyed shrimp'n grits again, made some new friends and greeted some old ones and took Bob to a local clinic for a swollen bursa on his elbow. After they aspirated his elbow and we stuffed him with Cipro for a couple of days (which threw him for a loop) we left for Hilton Head Island and Shelter Cove Marina, a day down the waterway, where we spent some quality time with friend Linda on her Island Packet cutter MoDachaidh (mo-DOCK-ee).
On the warm afternoon of 20 November, 2011, we left Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands astern and headed out Tybee Roads Inlet to the open ocean. Alternating three hour watches for the twenty-three hour, twenty-six minute run to St. Augustine Inlet whistle buoy, we both looked forward to a reunion with friends at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor and Memorial Presbyterian Church. During our life aboard Voyageur, St. Augustine had become our second home.
Thanksgiving 2011 was one to remember. Friends Stu and Dorothy invited us to spend the day with their family enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving Low Country Boil . . . shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes and crab legs together with appetizers and desserts of all kinds. . . washed down with a few of their famous "Pain Killers" A few days later, Jane took her tape measure on a tour of north Florida supermarkets and finally found the perfect turkey to roast in Voyageur's modest oven . . . fourteen inches long by seven inches tall and nearly rectangular in shape.
Advent and Christmas followed with all the blessings of the season including the annual bunch of wonderful international college students hosted by members of Memorial Presbyterian Church through a program called Christmas International House. Then we settled in for the winter. Until early February 2012, Voyageur and her crew lay in slip G15 spending quiet afternoons with her crew pouring over books and brochures about cruise ships of all sizes and colors and 2013 cruise itineraries that included the likes of the North Sea and the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and the Atlantic (which we subsequently chose) from Barcelona to New Orleans.
That decision in hand, we began to plan a September / October / November 2013 return trip to the UK including visits to London, Edinburgh and Stone before a three week narrow boat cruise on the midlands' Warwickshire Ring with friends John and Jackie from St. Augustine. Then we'll join twenty-six hundred of our closest friends in Barcelona to begin the Atlantic crossing which will take us to Mallorca and Malaga in Spain, Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas before arriving in New Orleans. We live on a boat so . . . what do we do for vacation? We go boating. But I digress.
It was now early February and our impending return to the Bahamas in April was . . . well . . . impending, with much work to do before Voyageur was ready for the trip. On a cold, blustery winter morning she was gently nudged into a Camachee Cove yard slip at about the same time Jane and I were saying so long but not good bye to dear friend Stephen at Arlington Cemetery.
He and wife Sharon helped us realize our cruising dreams. They introduced us to friends and Island Packet single handers Alan and Linda aboard s/v Whisker and s/v MoDachaidh respectively with whom we visited the Bahamas for the first time in 2009.
Voyageur would have everything removed from her cockpit and stern to make way for installation of the stainless steel arch and solar panels we purchased in Annapolis the previous fall. And, like most projects Bob had ever been associated with, this one took WAY more time, effort and financial resources than was anticipated. The arch (some of our friends with rapier wit and a fondness for cheeseburgers refer to it as "the golden arch") and solar panels, controller and wiring took five weeks to install.
On March 16, with all refitting complete and friends John and Jackie aboard, Voyageur left St. Augustine and headed south.
After dropping John and Jackie in Titusville, we kept moving further south to Lake Worth (West Palm Beach), our jumping off place for the islands. There we met two of Bob's high school classmates, Jay and Brian, and friends Jay and Susan from Litchfield, and made new friends Mark & Meridee aboard m/v Folie a Deux and Bill & Rosie aboard m/v Nexus.
On April 26 in an early morning mist we pulled the hook, left Peanut Island astern and headed east out the Lake Worth Inlet, bound for a sheltering, uninhabited anchorage called Great Sale Cay about eighteen hours away in the northern Bahamas. The passage was a quiet one with little or no wind to help our 50HP Yanmar diesel push us across the Gulf Stream. We dug the anchor into Little Bahama Bank at about 11:00 PM and pulled our down comforter over us for a short sleep, our first under Bahamian stars in two years.
The next morning we hauled the hook at "O Dark 30" and headed out into the Sea of Abaco. There, after breakfast and a couple of leisurely hours under sail headed for Green Turtle Cay, one of us said to the other, "Instead of going back to the states in a month or two, why don't we keep Voyageur in the Bahamas for a year?" After a bit of discussion, we agreed on the idea and for the next three months we cruised the Abacos before leaving Voyageur in Man-O-War Cay and flying to Miami.
And now you know the rest of the story. "The rest of what story?" . . . you may ask.
Well, it's the story of how the Great Sofa Tour of 2012 began.
Bob & Jane Fulton