Our Back Cove 37 Essential had a very good winter in Windmill Harbor Marina on Hilton Head Island and so did Donna and I. But the time has come to move north for two reasons—to get her closer to the Erie Canal to get back to Rochester, and to not to rub up against the 180-day rule in South Carolina that would subject us to their personal property tax.
We left Rochester last Sunday morning for what I would call the worst drive south on Rte 95 ever. We stopped in Annapolis to drop my car and continued on in a one-way Avis. With traffic in all directions, accidents, construction and the hours always lost getting around Washington, D.C., it took two full days to get to Hilton Head Island.
Tuesday we did our provisioning, returned the rental car and had a very nice dinner at the South Carolina Yacht Club with old college friends.
Around noon on Wednesday, we ran up to Beaufort, SC (Beeuuufort), a nice stop right on the ICW with a long floating public dock to tie up to. Donna found a few shops where they had stuff she couldn’t live without, and I found “Q on the Bay” a place with 20 craft beers on tap. We headed for Charleston in the afternoon, which we could easily make before nightfall but decided to stop in Tom Point Creek and moor for the night. We pulled a half mile or so off the ICW and you couldn’t find a quieter and more peaceful spot anywhere on earth. Sea grass as far as you could see with a few clumps of trees off in the distance. We pulled out the BBQ and fired up a nice dinner. While floating there, the words from an old Fleetwood Mac song came to mind: “and there isn’t another living soul around…” Not to date myself, but I was at the epic Fleetwood Mac concert in the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden back in ‘69.
Thursday. we ran to Charleston, cruised around the city marinas checking out the boats and eventually docked at the Charleston Harbor Resort Marina. In addition to all that Charleston has to offer it was the start of Charleston Race Week. This is a serious 200-boat regatta that brings out some very talented sailors in several different one-design classes and two big boat fleets as well. The largest fleet—with 39 boats—was the J/70 Class. I raced here a few years ago, but today we were just groupie-spectators. New this year is the move of all the social activities to the aircraft carrier Yorktown, adjacent to the marina. “Party on Hanger Deck 3” was a new one for me! We went to the opening ceremonies and had a good time along with all the competitors. Conditions are always challenging; results for the regatta can be viewed here, www.charlestonraceweek.com.
We left Charleston Saturday morning with our goal to get as far north as we could. Conditions were dicey with torrential downpours, lightening and a little hail thrown in to keep you focused. I noticed something new that day with my electronics in that my VHF automatically flips over to the weather station whenever there is a severe weather announcement. Also, you have to manually turn back to 16. There were constant announcements Saturday. Later in the afternoon things cleared off a bit and we tied up at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club minutes before the next round of lightning and torrential rain pounded us for hours.
On Sunday, the weather did a 180 and it was a beautiful day. We pulled out the Little River outlet into the Atlantic and ran straight to Southport in record time. We jumped back inside, onto the ICW, to avoid going way around Frying Pan Shoals. An hour later, we jumped back out into the Atlantic at Wrightsville Beach and had another nice run all the way to Beaufort (Bofort), NC. We tied up on the City Docks for our complementary two-hour stay, walked around a bit and enjoyed a few cocktails on the waterfront at the Black Sheep. Back on Essential, we moved across the channel and moored next to Carrot Island. Two years ago we saw wild horses roaming here; none this year.
On Monday, we headed out for a 160-mile run up to Coinjock, a favorite stop on the “Atlantic Cut” of the ICW. Up Adams Creek, then we headed east out the Neuse River into the Pamlico Sound, later by Roanoke Island, into the Albemarle Sound, up the North River to Coinjock. This is called the “outside” route, even though you are still inside the barrier islands. This proved to be a big mistake. The wind was much higher than predicted and we took a beating with the choppy waves in the shallow sound waters. We would have been much better off taking the “inside” more protected route—a few more miles, but would been a far more comfortable ride. A rare Captain’s error that won’t happen again. In Coinjock, we enjoyed the prime rib dinner they are famous for. It was a bonus to find that when we ordered a bottle of wine that was out of stock, we were invited to bring in our own wine from Essential’s wine cellar instead. Donna especially liked this, since it was her turn to buy!
Tuesday we slept in till 10am, then headed up the last 50 miles of the ICW to Norfolk. This section of the ICW has never been good to us and this trip was no exception. We missed two bridge openings by minutes and had to wait. We then got to the Great Bridge Lock and found mechanical problems delayed the open for an extra hour. While we waited, I pondered the question of why they even call this a lock? It only rises or drops 12″—on a good day maybe 18″—and that’s inches. Most of the locks we have gone through in the past on the Erie Canal, Welland Canal, and St. Lawrence go 20 to 40′ and more—not inches. It should be called something like a tidal gate…
We eventually made it through Norfolk and had thoughts of running up the Chesapeake a few hours, but it was lumpy. After yesterday’s beating, we elected to run across the Newport News Channel/James River and pulled behind Old Point Comfort and dropped the anchor.
Wednesday morning, we headed out early for the final 120 miles to Annapolis. The first two hours were rough with a southeast wind blowing straight off the Atlantic. As we got up the Chesapeake, the wind lightened some and was more aft, and the ride smoothed out considerably. The last few hours into Annapolis were a very nice way to finish our delivery. Essential will spend a month at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard waiting for the Erie Canal to open. We also have a major engine service scheduled with Bayshore Marine while here.
A few closing comments:
The ICW traffic was quiet; the northern migration hasn’t kicked into high gear yet. I expect the in two weeks it will look like Rte. 95 going north. You will need to make a reservation well in advance for marina space and the popular mooring holes will be packed full.
Fuel prices were a relative bargain compared to last fall. The highest price we paid the last two weeks was $3.99, and the best price was $3.49. Last fall going south, we averaged well over $5.00 a gallon. I think fondly back to the fall of 2020 when the average price of diesel on our ICW trip was under $2.20 a gallon!