Our stay at the Osprey Marina in the wilds of the Waccamaw River was originally planned to be 3 days to allow us to weather a storm that was passing through, but we extended our stay by one more day to enjoy the amenities of this friendly place. It didn’t hurt that the slip fees dropped to $0.25 a foot for the fourth night either. It was easy to settle in here, with the friendly staff, the free breakfasts, a welcome bag that included cheese and crackers, which we put to good use getting together with a couple from Rochester on the front porch the first night. We worked on the computer, while relaxing in the rockers outside the office, overlooking the narrow entrance channel. Taking a walk to explore beyond the grounds, we discovered a small local zoo, with a herd of buffalo among other exotic animals.
Leaving around 8:30am the next morning, the tide state was at dead low, but we were trying to arrive at the Maritime Center at slack current. Traveling the ICW stretch before the Ben Sawyer bridge, our depth alarm kept sounding, reminding us of the low water here. We were thanking ourselves that we were on Junior, not Orion, since the bigger boat would have been aground in the middle of the ICW, waiting for higher tide. (We spoke to someone the next day with a 5 ½ ft draft like Orion that did exactly that.) With only 2 ½ ft below us, the depths were merely an interesting sidelight, not the drama of past years. Whew! We traveled up the Cooper River as a container ship passed us outbound and pulled onto the dock before noon. The weather had finally warmed up and we looked forward to a beautiful Thanksgiving week in Charleston.
Charleston holds a special place for us and pulling into a slip at the Maritime Center feels a lot like home. So, this was going to be a bittersweet stay. With plans to trailer Orion Jr north, it seemed possible that we might never get back to this city on a boat. While we could always visit by land, we both know that it would never be the same. So, we drank it all in – taking walks through the charming streets, down to the Battery, along the river; sampling pralines on Market Street, lunch at Hyman’s, church at The Circular Church; watching the container and cruise ships move up and down the Cooper river; and simply socializing with the dockhands and boaters at the marina. We celebrated Thanksgiving together with the other boaters, complete with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. The warm weather for much of the week seemed too good to be true, making it easy to linger in the cockpit, rather than being chased below by cold.
South of Charleston
Although we attempted to time our travel through the ICW south of Charleston carefully to take advantage of favorable currents and bridge openings, we were dismayed to discover the 20+ knot winds on the nose as we pounded west into the waves generated by the wind over the westerly flowing current. Orion Jr was seesawing through the waves, with the outboard frequently cavitating (popping out of the water) as we crested the larger waves. Rather than subject ourselves to more of this torture, we called it a day early and anchored in the protected Tom Point Creek, which was amazingly comfortable after the strong winds and waves outside its mouth.
“Ben Sawyer Bridge, Ben Sawyer Bridge, this is Orion Jr calling.” Cathy repeated her hails a couple of times, getting no response. With the bridge only a mile away, this was the latest in a series of signs that we had a problem with our VHF radio. When we had a similar experience hailing the Maritime Center from a short distance away, we knew it was time to replace the weakest link in our radio system – the antenna. Dave had already ordered a replacement Metz antenna after we had been having difficulty talking to marinas, bridges and other boats all the way down the ICW. The antenna was waiting for us in Charleston. To check that the antenna was truly the problem, Dave connected it to the radio down below and called Cathy on the handheld on shore with the old and new antenna. The difference was dramatic. He then was able to talk to the Ben Sawyer Bridge from miles away.
Yep. The problem was the antenna.
This was going to be Cathy’s first trip up the little boat’s mast. We chose a quiet morning, with no ship traffic in sight. The little boat swings much more wildly from the passing ship wakes than Orion did. Cathy didn’t want to be up the mast with that kind of rocking. It turned out to be a very easy switch – an unusual event in boating repairs. With the antenna in place, Dave talked to the bridge west of Charleston, with several miles and tons of buildings in between and had no trouble hearing or being heard. Problem fixed. The only downside would be the increased chatter that would now disturb our travels. The price of success.
Water, Water Everywhere
Our trip south of Charleston, pounding into waves on the Stono River proved more eventful than just giving us a rough ride. We were shipping water over the bow with each wave. What we didn’t realize until we arrived at the anchorage was that the water was running through the edges of the forward hatch into the V-berth, making for wet bedding and cushions. With fading sunlight, we pulled everything up on deck and managed to get the wind and weak sunlight to dry the bedding enough to make for a warm and dry night’s sleep. Dave replaced the weather-stripping ( a delayed project from the summer) and we hoped for the best.
Just before we turned into the anchorage, we heard our small high water alarm go off. Cathy checked to see where the water was coming from. The bilge had enough water (not a lot), that the bilge pump float switch should have triggered the bilge pump to empty out. However, even turning the bilge pump on at the breaker was not causing the pump to work. After testing the wires, Dave determined the pump was bad. We installed a less-powerful spare on board and the problem appeared to be solved. The good news was that the extra water gave us a chance to test the manual bildge pump, which worked like a charm.
So, we're done with SC and as December began we moved south to head into Georgia on the ICW for the first time. Uncharted territory for this crew, but that's part of the reason why we're on a different boat this year.