The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins
Skinny Dippin'

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cruise to Georgetown SC April 2011

We are just home from a week’s cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway!! It was an amazing trip from Carolina Beach NC to Georgetown, SC and back again in six days. We actually left a day later than planned to avoid the predicted storms on April 16th and we are really glad we did. The largest tornado outbreak in NC history happened that day. We were really lucky. We were on the boat at Carolina Beach. I was able to practice my full hurricane tie, simply for the practice and to inspect all of my spare lines for the first time this season. As storm cell came towards us on the boat, it split in two and went around us. Whew!

We began our cruise Sunday April 17th. We left Joyner Marina at first light - or 8am. The winds and river were incredibly calm considering the storms that blew through the day before. We caught the outgoing tide and were making 11kts down the Cape Fear -WooHoo!! Our plan for today is a 52 mile cruise to North Myrtle Beach. We’ll be passing several inlets along the way, the most notable would be Shallotte’s inlet. We’ve renamed it “Shallows” inlet. Definitely favor the greens going through here.

Sunday night, we had reservations at the Harborgate Marina, located right at the Little River swing bridge. This is a great little marina with full length finger piers on both sides. Nice floating docks and experienced dockhands. Anita was working the office and had a bag of gifts ready for us! A beach ball, baseball cap, Frisbee and beer huggies! All this and at only $1.25 a foot! There is a restaurant named “Filet’s” right there at the marina, with indoor and outdoor seating…nice view of the waterway and pretty good sushi too!


Monday, April 18th had us cruising through the notorious “Rockpile” on our way to Georgetown. Today would be a 62 mile journey, and Tom will not relax until we make it through the Rockpile stretch! We didn’t see a single rock on this passage…not a one. The waterway passing Myrtle Beach is as you would expect….some of it was natural or golf courses and some of it could have been highway 17 with all the billboards! We passed Bill and Margaret on Margarita shortly after going through the Swing Bridge. They were coming back from their winter in the Bahamas. (soo jealous)

The Waccamaw River was amazing….stunningly beautiful. You find yourself totally engulfed in parkland on both sides of the waterway. The Spanish Moss covered Cypress trees grow right out of the water. The flat calm water and the tree lined edges made it look like we were cruising in the biyeau. We saw tons and tons of Osprey and even one Bald Eagle. There are several good anchorage spots along here, but no where to pee the dog! As the Waccamaw River joined up with the Pee Dee River, the water changed into a pretty strong head sea. Skinny Dippin’s bow was bouncing out of the water and she was ringing her own bell. It reminded both of us of turning the corner at Minnesott Point on the Neuse River going towards Oriental! (no pictures of the rolly's sorry!) 

We arrived at Harbourwalk Marina in Georgetown about 2pm.Chris is the Dockmaster here. He’s got nice new floating docks and super clean restrooms. Harbourwalk also sports a nice big front porch over looking the harbor. It’s early enough to jump on the bikes for a quick tour of old town Georgetown and a stop at the Food Lion for some Fat Tires!!

We had dinner at the Big Tuna and drinks on the rooftop at Buzz’s Roost. Dusk brought with it swarms of no-see-ums, although they were very large and we could very easily see-um. Georgetown is definitely worth a stop. Lots of little shops within walking distance to the marina. There is also lots of room to anchor in the harbor here, if you prefer.

Tuesday morning we got a slow start on purpose. We were only going 30 miles today, back up the Waccamaw to the Osprey Marina. This was on our itinerary only because of all the great reviews posted online. All reviews were absolutely correct. The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. They also do a gift bag, with cheese and crackers, dog treats, and beer huggies! Osprey has a fabulous front porch and a little grill. We ate on the boat, after another bike ride to the Food Lion. It’s funny how you run out of mustard and relish just in time for hot dogs. The Food Lion was about three miles away….not a bad ride, but not one for the faint of heart. The roads were busy and very little shoulder area to ride on. But the traffic seemed to be very friendly to bikers.

We so enjoyed our day at Osprey and thought about staying an extra day. The marina is full of super friendly boaters and cruisers, and we could stay and listen to stories for days and days, but we decide to press on back to Myrtle Beach. We fueled up at the Osprey and Tom changed the fuel filters. This left us without any spares, so we decide to go to Doc Holidays today, because it’s ½ mile from the West Marine. On our way back up, we definitely see the notorious rock ledges. The rocks really do come all the way out to the channel markers on both sides, starting at marker 18 going north all the way to Myrtle Beach proper!!

We pull into Doc Holidays, he gives us a face dock on the ICW even after we requested a real slip. No gift baskets here., no dockhands. A guy who keeps his center console there grabbed our lines as the dockmaster comes around the corner. We get tied up and walk over to West Marine for spare filters. Then we tell the dock master we’re leaving. We’re not comfortable on the face dock and frankly he’s more expensive than back up at Harborgate. He was a little confrontational about our wanting to leave, which made us want to leave even faster. So we did….Tom called up Anita at the Harborgate, and she had the same slip we had the other day available for us. We’re in! We shove off and go just a half a mile or so to where we know we’ll be comfortable. Tonight we’ll eat at Captain Poo’s biker bar that was right next door. Fun…and within walking distance.

Thursday we decide to leave so we’ll catch Shallottes Inlet at high tide. That has us leaving at 930am. We have another perfect weather day. Little wind, calm water and the temps have really warmed up. Summer is here! We are staying in Southport tonight. Southport Marina is only 15 miles from our home marina in Carolina Beach, but we don’t want vacation to end just yet. The weather is forecasting for high winds and possible storms tonight and we don’t want to get caught in the Cape Fear if one decides to blow in. Friday is forecasted for 20% chance of rain….and with only 15 miles to go, we can wait all day and still make it home.

Southport is a sleepy little tourist fishing village. Lots of marine history here. We had a fabulous dinner at Mr P’s before settling in for the evening. The winds were howling at 25-30kts, but no rain or storms came with it. I got up several times this evening to check our lines and make sure Skinny Dippin’ is safe.
Friday dawned overcast and still windy. Although the buoys were reporting only 10kts sustained with gusts to 20. The tide was coming in at 8am, high tide was at noon-ish. All morning the wind was opposite the tide, which would make for a very ugly cruise up the Cape Fear. So we waited for the tide to turn and with the wind and the tide in the same direction, the river would flatten out. It worked, but then it started to rain. So we motored in the rain against the tide and the current and made it home at 430 Friday afternoon.

This week’s cruise was totally awesome. It’s almost difficult to put into words the beauty of our coast and the joy of being on the water with my best friend. Tom and I are really learning so much about boating, about weather and about each other. We are communicating better than ever and have become a great team. If we continue to grow in skills and experience, I can totally see us being a delivery team in the future. We are enjoying the actual cruise as much, if not more than the destinations. Cruising is being totally immersed in nature….living in this moment….making memories that will last a lifetime.

This was a week that has left us both looking forward to the next cruise adventure. We’ll spend the summer on the water doing little projects and reporting those as they happen. Our next big cruise will most likely be back to the Neuse River for Hurricane Season. After that, I look forward to planning cruises to Ocracoke, The Pamlico River and the Carolina Loop! While we envy those who can cruise long distances and for months or years at a time….we’re also learning that cruising close to home is a wonderful way to spend time on the water enjoying each other’s company and reveling in the beauty of Coastal Carolina.

Fair winds and calm seas!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Cruise 2011 - Getting ready!

Planning the 2011 Spring Cruise!!!

Today we are sitting in the salon looking at charts planning our next big cruise!! We have a week to cruise with. We’re currently in Carolina Beach. Our old marina neighbors are having a party the weekend that we‘d be starting our cruise.. But should our first big cruise from here….be back there? No….we need to go somewhere new….somewhere south.. We’re both pretty sure we’ll be back on the Neuse again soon, so we need to do some cruising south of the Cape Fear and cover some new waters!

Charleston, Georgetown, Myrtle Beach….How much time do we have? How fast can we cruise? Charleston SC is approximately 175 miles down the ICW from where we are. At 7 or 8 kts…we’re looking easily at 2 to 3 days to get there and back…..that leaves us 1 day to spend there. That’s not enough. The weather would have to be absolutely perfect. And that never happens.

Georgetown SC. Still quaint and very historic. Lots of southern charm. Should we try going off shore? If the weather is good, we could go offshore on the way down, and back the ICW. How far is that, 80 miles….we can do it. Wait…it’s 97? That might be a little far for our first offshore run. Darn….that would have been so cool.

Myrtle Beach? We’ve been to Myrtle Beach, albeit a long long time ago and we have never arrived by water.

Planning a cruise for me, is almost as exciting as actually going on the cruise. We use paper charts and excel spread sheets. I create Float plans, back up plans and back up plans for the back up plan. We have in one document where we plan to go, how long it will take to get there, the tide expected and the marina contact information. Cruising itself is an exercise in being flexible. It’s important to always have a fall back plan, or just be ready to accept that the best laid plans don’t always work out. But when we take cruise vacations, we always have a plan that we’d like to follow if the weather is in our favor.

It seems float plans are a thing of the past. I posted a thread on one of the boating forums to see who else uses them and what do theirs look like. No one else uses them….not one other boater on our most frequented site. Interesting. While it’s true being a cruiser requires the ultimate flexibility, but the planning of a cruise is a fun part of the cruise itself. I’m sure once you get to cruising long distances and for months and months at a time, a float plan would totally not make sense. Certainly they are not needed for a day cruise or an overnight. For us, for now, it’s an important part of our cruise experience.
We had a new bimini made this spring. It’s just a simple five bow bimini. We went from the old forest green to a new linen tweed that looks somewhat bronze in the sunshine. Once the new bimini was installed…the old fly bridge cushions looked 100 times worse than they did the weekend before! I had ordered enough Sunbrella to make a window shade to snap across the front windshield. However, the cushions looked so bad to me, that the windshield was going to wait. I needed to jump right into my new canvas projects and tackle the cushions. I’ll be using that 5 yards of Sunbrella that was meant for the windshield. And I want them done before our cruise south!!

We decided on the closed cell waterproof foam. It’s insanely expensive compared to the non-waterproof…but the Beaty motto has always been “anything worth doing is worth over-doing”. We got the DVD from Sailrite on how to make your own cushions. (it’s available streaming online too) I sewed a lot when I was younger. Mom taught me. But there were some pretty neat little tricks on that DVD that I never would have thought of. The machine itself is a tank, and I think it would sew plywood if you asked it to.

I precut the patterns on Thursday night…so on Saturday we could get started. We started together…both stapling our piping to the plates….and then we fell into a nice team effort, of me preparing to sew, and Tom sewing. It went twice as fast as if I had to do all the prep work and sewing myself. We now have two of the three fly bridge cushions complete and the helm chair. We had to get more piping due to the splices in the material caused a little waste, and because we decided to use piping on the helm chair too.

Here’s an interesting story. The piping I ordered was called “neutral” in the paper catalog….but when it arrived it was more like a taupe. I emailed with Matt at Sailrite, and the “neutral” on the web catalog IS more taupe that cream. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted off white, or cream colored to go with the darker linen tweed. I originally asked for some extra for free, since I got the wrong color, there were factory splices to deal with and he wouldn’t want to hold a precut length…but then decided that I wanted it anyway, and told him to charge me for it. He didn’t. He’s sending me enough to finish in the new color scheme ….for free. I love this company. They aren’t just a sewing machine store….they actually like their customers. How odd is that in this time?

We will have an all new fly bridge when we set sail. I can’t wait to see the cushions and helm chair on the boat. I will take pictures and post them for sure. Our “planned” cruise will take us to North Myrtle Beach on Day 1 for an overnight - no sightseeing this stop. Georgetown SC for Day 2 and 3, back to Myrtle Beach for Day 4 and maybe 5. There could be a stop at Bald Head Island on the way home as Day 5 or 6. Day 7 will have us driving back home with a ton of dirty laundry, hopefully a tan, and a ton of pictures to add to the blog.

See you on the water!!