ICW Blues

Maybe they are more accurately called the ICW Browns – that has been the color of the cypress-stained waters in this part of the waterway, until abruptly the water turned back to green once we passed the Cape Fear River.  But that wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

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The water doesn’t just look brown; it IS brown.  It’s like strong tea.

The last few mornings have found me covered to the top of my head with the down comforter, moaning when Rick wakes me just before 7 am so we can move north.  I feel like a high school kid not wanting to get ready for the bus, but when I wake up, I’m reminded that I’m on a great adventure.  But it’s not been very much fun lately.  In fact, it’s been downright miserable.

The weather took a real turn for the worse when we left Charleston.

001 - Leaving Charleston and the Battery

Charleston’s Battery on a grey morning.

With the rains came really low temperatures and high winds.  The first night out of Charleston, we anchored at my behest much sooner than we’d intended, since the weather was so terrible.  What could have been a gorgeous evening surrounded by salt marshes in the South Santee River became an anxious night at anchor, watching the wind gusting consistently over 40 knots.   And at anchor, we can’t run our heater because it requires 120-volt electricity.

The next day, I insisted on a marina (and believe me, I LOVE being at anchor) so we could plug in and be warm.  We stopped at Wacca Wache in South Carolina, near Murrell’s Inlet.

002 - Wacca Wache Marina, Murrell's Inlet SC

The Wacca Wache marina, on an especially pretty and secluded-feeling stretch of the waterway.

And then the next day, at Southport Marina just over the North Carolina border.

booger

The Southport waterfront, with a light-heartedly named boat Booger.

(While we’ve been sequestered in our little ICW universe, there’s so much going on half a mile from us.  Wacca Wache, for example, seems like an idyllic little backwater stop, but the sprawl of Myrtle Beach is just moments away.)

006 - Cypress Swamp

A cypress swamp in South Carolina.

016 009 - Sunset Beach NC

The ocean and beaches are never far from this stretch of ICW, but become especially evident when we approach an inlet from the ocean to ICW.  Swamps give way to dunes and beach houses (Cindy L., this picture of Sunset Beach from the ICW is for you.)

Just in case you think we are being Bahama-softened wusses complaining about the weather, temperatures had been in the 30s in the morning, with wind (on the nose) in the 20-25 knot range.  That means a formidably low wind chill.  And we’re not really prepared with the proper clothing.

My typical outfit has consisted of a t-shirt, fleece, windbreaker or foul-weather jacket on top; a ball cap with a pashmina scarf wrapped around my ears; sailing gloves; foul weather pants; and Keen sandals (my warmest shoes) with socks.  Fashion plates we are not!

026

Me, in some of my many layers.

With the weather woes, we’ve come to the first stretch of the waterway I’ve experienced where the chart plotter and our actual position only have a passing familiarity.  Even under the best of circumstances, driving the boat up the ICW requires attention and care as the channel is often very narrow and makes many jogs, twists and turns.  Even though we use the autopilot, we are constantly making minute adjustments to our course.  Navigational marks help, and when in doubt, we follow the channel marks and/or stay in the apparent middle of the channel.  Rick and I take turns doing 2-hour watches, and whoever is on watch is concentrating hard.

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Dare you honor that channel mark?

However, this isn’t always enough.  On Thursday, in the middle of the marked channel, both on the chart plotter and visually, I suddenly found the depth drop from 14 feet to 7 feet to 5.4 feet (we need 5 feet).  By the time I throttled down and shut off the autopilot, it was down to 3.8 feet and I was touching the bottom.  We backed off the shoal – it was soft mud – and went on our way, but I was rattled.  The rest of the day, the chart plotter showed me at times traversing through land, even though in reality I was in plenty of deep water.

In the meantime, the one of us who is off watch is busy doing other things – making lunch, reading, blogging, fixing things, washing dishes.  But one of those activities has been informed house hunting (damn you, Merlin Ed, for showing us the Zillow app!)  Whenever we see some houses we like, the GPS and Zillow functions on our iPhones show us available properties and prices.

This has dovetailed conveniently with our 2-night stay in Wrightsville, NC, at the Seapath Yacht Club.

024 - View at Seapath Yacht Club

The dreary view from the docks at Seapath Yacht Club — a marina I would highly recommend for its friendly and knowledgable staff.

Here we are a few minutes’ walk from Wrightsville Beach – which isn’t at its best in this cruddy weather.

018 - Wrightsville Beach 019

It’s spring break for a lot of people, and since they’re at the beach, they WILL go in the water and surf.

Similarly, a drive to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach revealed an equally bleak seascape.

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At Kure Beach, the colorful houses do little to brighten the day.

But a bonus has been the opportunity to visit the historic, active and attractive town of Wilmington.  Although it’s cold and rainy, the town looks lush and green, and there’s plenty of life in the old-fashioned downtown commercial district.

033 - Wilmington NC 037

An old-style downtown district with no chain stores, as well as rows of attractive restaurants and cafes along a waterfront walkway on the Cape Fear River.

And the historic residential district is equally appealing.

046 051 052 055

I’ve already picked out “my” house….

Add another one to the list….

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