Savannah to Home Port, Rock Hall
29 April 2021 | Rock Hall, MD
April 12-28: After crossing the Savannah River early on Monday (Apr 12) we proceeded on the waterway through Fields Cut then Walls Cut, up the New River and down the Cooper River west of Daufuskie Island and on through Calibogue Sound, west of Hilton Head Island. This area featured plenty of wide and deep natural waterways where we could sail and motor-sail through portions of it. Daufuskie Island has many nice waterfront homes, but accessible only by small ferry boats, since there is no bridge. The waterway narrows west of Hilton Head Island then opens into Port Royal Sound for more sailing the three miles across to the mouth of the Beaufort River and up river nine miles to the town of Beaufort, SC. We decided to bypass the town itself, having enjoyed visits there on previous trips, and proceeded beyond the drawbridge then off the ICW to Factory Creek and the Lady's Island Marina. The marina had a nice restaurant right there and offered a courtesy car to re-provision at a nearby Publix market, which was convenient. Tuesday (Apr 13) we continued up the Beaufort River, through the narrow cuts in Brickyard Creek, then out into the Coosaw River where we proceeded downstream for nine miles to enter the Ashpoo-Coosaw Cutoff. Though this section had some reported tricky bits with shoals, we saw no problem spots. From there it was a short distance on the Ashpoo River, through Fenwick Cut into the South Edisto River. The narrow Watts Cut was next to lead us into the marshy Dawho River. Here we deviated from the marked channel near the river mouth and found a deep passage following BOB423's track through here to safely enter the North Edisto River. This river winds its way upstream to the northwest of Wadmalaw Island where it narrows near a branch point with Church Creek, off the ICW, that forms a perfect spot for an overnight anchorage, and we stayed the night. We encountered dolphins playing around the boat here after dark.
Our good luck with the weather was holding (Weds, Apr 14) as we proceeded from Church Creek down the Stono River until reaching Elliot Cut into Wappoo Creek that forms a connection to the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor. Elliot Cut can be tricky with very strong currents and a drawbridge with a limited opening schedule, so it's worth getting the timing right here. We've much enjoyed visiting Charleston on several previous trips, including almost a week on our last visit in 2018, so we pressed on through the harbor, past Fort Sumter, then the Ben Sawyer swing bridge and beyond the long Isle of Palms coastal area. We found anchorage at Awendaw Creek, off the ICW at mile no. 436, in an all-natural marshy area that forms the mouth of the Harbor River. It's a good spot right around the corner from the open ocean but lies behind a vast distance of shallows and tidal flats between there and the Atlantic. It's also about four miles south of McClellanville SC which is best transited at times other than low tide. On Thursday (April 15), the rain and storms had passed north and south of us but we remained dry. The waterway is man-made canal in this section as it crosses the South and North Santee Rivers then opens into Winyah Bay. This was a relatively short day (29 nm) from our anchorage to Georgetown, SC, where we got a space at the Harborwalk marina, and a convenient place to refuel as well. This left us enough time to walk in the scenic town with its long oak lined back streets and active Main street and waterfront. Friday (Apr 16) was another short day (26 nm) up the beautiful Waccamaw River which could have been sailed in anything but the northeast winds we had that day. We enjoyed the trip through the flooded forest to arrive at a loop off the waterway, or an 'oxbow' near the settlement of Enterprise (mile 375). It was a bit of a trick to find a shallow enough spot to anchor since much of the water in these river bends is quite deep, especially in the outer edges of the curve. We were amazed to find water depths of over twenty five feet just yards away from cypress trunks and wondered about how the riverbank and tree roots could be structured there. The anchorage was beautiful there with surrounding wooded marsh. We went on a dinghy tour of the edges and were amazed to find deep water tributaries just a few yards wide that went on into the flooded forest for quite a way. The next day (Sat, Apr 17) was a long day of less interesting motoring in the canal inside of Myrtle Beach, across the inlet at Little River that forms the border between North and South Carolinas. We're never ceased to be amazed at the continuous stream of expensive looking waterfront homes along the waterway there, some with piers out to docks that are hundreds of yards long. This day took us past the shoaling trouble spots of Shallotte Inlet and Lockwoods Folly Inlet, but we luckily never found the bottom! We found dock space at the St James Plantation Marina (mile 312) which was very nice, but their restaurant had closed due to a fire, and transport from there into the town of Southport NC, which we like, was not available. Normally we would have stayed at the Southport Marina close to town, but hurricane Isaias destroyed the place in August 2020, and is currently being rebuilt.
We had planned to head for a daytime ocean sail out from Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach, going back in at Beaufort; however, the forecast headwinds and T-storms for Monday were off-putting. So from the Southport area (Sunday, Apr 18) we headed up the busy and wide Cape Fear River with a good flood tide to speed us along, through Snows Cut and continued along in the narrow sounds behind Figure Eight Island and Topsail Beach to the Harbor Village Marina (mile 267). On Monday (Apr 19) we then continued northwards setting us through the restricted areas of Camp Lejeune Marine Base which from the waterway, looks like a nature preserve, until you see the remnants of various military vehicles scattered about and rusting away in a few areas. Beyond that we passed by Swansboro and continued through the long Bogue Sound, past Morehead City and Beaufort NC then away from the coast north in Core Creek to Adams Creek canal and anchored in a side creek, Cedar Creek (mile 188). This was a longer day (70 nm) through some brief T-storms and heavy showers towards the end. The next day (Tuesday, Apr 20) was even longer as we made our way out into the Neuse River, past Oriental NC, through Bay River and canal to cross the Pamlico River, into the Pungo River. At the end of this river starts the 18 mile long Alligator-Pungo Canal which is straight and not too narrow, but has the slightly lower than average Wilkerson Bridge, that we've often touched with our masthead antenna. This time water levels were low enough to get us under without a "ting", to our relief. We then continued northwards in the 12 mile long Alligator River, which we motor-sailed with a following breeze to make it to the Alligator swing bridge by 1845. Off to the east a few miles was a spot off the shore near the "East Lake Lodge" that made for a comfortable anchorage in south winds. This was our longest day's run of 89 nm in 12.5 hours. We did this so as to be able to cross the Albemarle Sound before forecast NW winds kicked up in the afternoon on the following day. In so doing with an early departure (0630) we made it the 31 nm to Coinjock by 1145 (Weds, Apr 21) after decent sailing across the sound and part way up the North River. Weather forecast for Thursday (Apr 22) was such that we may have stayed put at the dock there in Coinjock, but by morning it didn't seem quite as adverse as predicted, just very cold (40F), so we set out from there. This took us through some narrow canal spots on approach to Currituck Sound then up the North Landing River to the very straight Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal to end at the Great Bridge Locks for their hourly opening at 1400. From there we motored down the Elizabeth River under several bridges through the increasingly industrial areas south of Portsmouth and Norfolk. This season's passage through this area struck us as being much more active than in previous trips. There were bulk cargo ships loading/unloading at docks previously vacant and tug/barge traffic was heavier than ever. Container ports and naval shipyards were all very busy. We docked at a face dock at Ocean Marine in Portsmouth by 1600, with an aircraft carrier in dry-dock across the river from us. This marks mile -0- for the ICW.
After exiting the Elizabeth River into Hampton Roads and then into the Chesapeake on Friday (Apr 23) we sailed north until the winds died around midday. We continued in the Virginia section of the lower Bay until reaching the Great Wicomico River on the western shore near Reedville, just south of the Potomac River. There we had planned a stopover to see friends at their beautiful home on the water of a cozy side creek up that river. It was great seeing them since our last visit two years ago. They were so gracious to have us stay the weekend while the weather for travel northwards was less than favorable. We got a tour of the Little Wicomico Oyster Company that had seemed to be doing a booming business farming oysters in an area that used to be a marina. By Monday (Apr 26) it was time to depart by late morning. The sailing was decent out in the Bay south of Smith Point though still from the northwest, but by early afternoon we were motor-sailing across the Potomac and on to the Patuxent River and anchorage at Solomons MD. It was a crystal clear full moon evening in a perfect calm anchorage, at a spot we've been many times before. We felt like we're in home waters by now. Although we could have made it to our home base the next day, we wanted to make a stop in Annapolis to see cruising friends that live there, and that we had seen in Florida a few times over the winter. We had a very good dinner in Eastport after walking from the harbor, and it was great to catch up with them. The next day it was an easy motor across the bay in light winds to our final destination in Rock Hall Harbor by 10 AM (Weds, Apr 28). It was so nice to see our friends Randy, and Scott and Kathy there at home port in North Point Marina. The overall journey was done over 28 days, with 5 layover days, and covered 1023 nautical miles.