4/6 – 28/16 Summary: Our move up to Charleston went well, including the narrow cut called Elliott Cut where the current could easily match the speed of one’s boat, so timing was important. This section of the ICW was one of the nicest we had seen with a large variety of sights along the way. Docking went well at the Charleston Marina and we were soon walking to town for dinner.
The Marks arrived the next morning and we toured (because they had a car) both the Charleston Tea Plantation and Magnolia Gardens – a full day. The following day we walked the town, including the old neighborhood with its “federal-style” homes, taking a tour of one of them. Then went to the world-famous (well they said it was) Hyman’s Seafood for a great dinner.
Our next stop was Georgetown where we toured the Rice Museum and Paula found very nice yarn shop. Kit and Pam also stopped in Georgetown, so we had dinner with them before walking back to our marina about a mile from town with plans to leave first thing the next morning. (“First thing” seemed to have taken on a timeframe of about 8:30 or 9:00 for us).
We did leave…but not for long. One of the engines overheated about 15 minutes from the dock and actually seized the engine…not a good thing! We returned to the dock. Long story (see below) but we eventually limped up to Holden Beach (about 80 miles) on one engine, where our now very good friend Lorenzo was able to secure a slip for us and find a guy to fix the engine…and he loaned us his car while we were there.
On the way to Holden Beach, we executed a very complex plan Paula had put together to get her parents down to see the boat and actually ride with us for about 20 miles. At ages 98 and 95, it was a bit of a project getting them on and off the boat, but we did and they had a great time on a beautiful day on the ICW.
While in Holden, Randy and Kathy Faucette, and their granddaughter Alexandra, NC friends stopped by. The next day BJ Eisel and Mary McGuire, more NC friends, stopped by and we toured Brookgreen Gardens with them the following day.
The rest of our time in Holden Beach (9 days) was spent either tearing down the engine, cleaning parts, or putting it back together with the help of an excellent diesel mechanic, Bob Hinger, who of course was a friend of Lorenzo’s.
Just before we left, Lorenzo gave Paula a docking lesson explaining that driving the boat is just like driving a shopping cart. Simple! She did well, so that afternoon we finally left Holden Beach! Thanks Lorenzo for all your help!
Now behind schedule, we continued north, hoping to get to Norfolk to leave the boat for about 10 days to return home.
This is where you stop reading unless you want all the details, some of which were not too pretty! Thanks for stopping by.
Details – We timed our departure from our Fenwick Cut anchorage to arrive at Elliott Cut and Charleston at slack tide. Elliott Cut is a very narrow (one boat only) half-mile-long cut where the current rips through even at slack tide. We had what Paula described as “the perfect ICW day” with calm, large open-water or dredged sections and nice houses. With a tidal push, we arrived at Elliott Cut an hour earlier than desired, so turned around and went into a “holding pattern” to wait for slack. When we did take the cut, even though we ran at half power, our speed through the water increased from 5.3 mph to 10.5 mph!
Arriving in Charleston, we got an easy-entry slip (and Tom did a great job of sterning in, in spite of many published cautions of the strong currents in Charleston marinas). Then it was off to Hominy Grill with low-country specialties like she-crab soup and “nasty biscuits” (fried chicken and cheese on a biscuit with sausage gravy). Somehow Tom charmed the ladies at the next table who had each ordered a different dessert, to let him (us) taste every single one!
The next day, we had a lovely time visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation (with all-you-care-to-taste tea bar) and Magnolia Gardens with Grand Canyon river friends Al and Dee Marks. Winding down later that evening, we enjoyed serendipitous fireworks (occasion unknown) from our aft deck.
The Charleston Tea Plantation, begun in 1987, is the only working tea plantation in America where tea is grown and processed from tea plants made from cuttings from plants that date back to 1888. It was begun by Bill Hall, a 3rd-generation tea-taster with a 4-year degree in tea tasting! We love “factory tours” and learned a lot about tea production. (Skip the rest of the paragraph if you don’t care.) Tea is the 2nd most-consumed beverage in America (water being the first). White, green, oolong, and black tea are made from the same leaf. The difference is the drying time of 2 – 18 hours, with black being the longest. Tea flavors are really added infusions. Herbal “teas” are not really tea as they are not made from a tea leaf. Avoid decaf (coffee or tea), a process done only in other countries, as it involves formaldehyde and other chemicals and is actually banned by the FDA in America (though it can be sold here). The tea bush grows 6-8” every 20 days during growing season and only that fresh new growth is cut and used. The Charleston area is perfect for tea growing – hot, humid lowlands with lots of rain and good drainage. Charleston Tea Plantation harvests 127 acres approximately 12 times each summer with just 1 harvesting machine (which Bill Hall designed and built) and 4 employees to tend the fields compared to other countries where hundreds hand-pick tea on a hillside.
Magnolia Gardens’ 500-acre estate with its 60-acre informal garden dates back to 1680 and contains 900 varieties of camellias and 350 types of flowering azaleas. Dee knew many of the other plants. In addition to walking the gardens, we took the 45-minute nature train tour and got some of the history of the plantation and saw lots of wildlife, including several alligators along the river bank.
The next day, with Al and Dee continuing their drive to NC, we walked all over downtown Charleston (8 miles total) – the touristy Charleston Market, 2nd Sunday on King (when it turned into a walking street), Waterfront Park, Rainbow Row, (colorfully painted houses dating to 1778), The Battery, and toured the Nathaniel Russell House (a federal-style house completed in 1808 with a 3-story free-standing circular staircase, the grandest house of its time).
We were lured into Hyman’s Seafood (5th generation ownership) by free sidewalk hushpuppy samples. Hyman’s was voted #1 seafood restaurant in the SE by Southern Living magazine 10 years in a row! It seems to us many restaurants with awards like that have escalating prices and deteriorating quality. This was definitely not the case at Hyman’s, as we shared a delicious dinner of scored flounder (which covered the entire plate) and an appetizer of crab cakes (for which Paula had a $5 off coupon).
Though we enjoyed Charleston, especially because we got to enjoy part of it with Al and Dee, we decided we really preferred Savannah, perhaps because of its smaller-town feel, beautifully tree-lined streets and the architecture of their houses. Charleston felt more like a city. The typical home, the Charleston Single House, was built just one or 2 rooms wide with double covered piazzas (porch), with the narrow portion facing the street. Though rumored to be to avoid taxes based on street frontage, it was actually to take advantage of sea breezes and the limited amount of space, as in the 1700s, Charleston was still a walled city with a limited amount of land.
On 4/11, we pulled out of Charleston intending to motor about 50 miles to an anchorage. But we were making good time and decided to continue to Georgetown, 67 miles. In the morning, we walked to town (pop 9,099) and just as we walked by, their wonderful yarn store opened. And they had Sit and Knit 30 minutes hence. Unfortunately, Paula couldn’t take the time (nor did she have her knitting with her), but she did run back after our mid-morning breakfast for a few minutes to see what everyone was knitting. It was a very welcoming group, and she even got some lovely patterns from the organizer.
We also met a fun couple over breakfast, Capt. Rod and Fran Singleton, locals who live on a boat and run Lowcountry Tours, a boat-touring business in Georgetown. Friendly fellow-believers, we had a great time chatting with them and finding commonalities (cruisers, tandem bikers, Fran a knitter). A sweet God-incidence.
In 1840, Georgetown produced 50% of all rice grown in the US. We were at the Rice Museum doors when they opened to learn more. It took 20 years to go from draining to plant the first rice – 7 to drain and build trunks to control water, 7 to clear it, then 6 to build the berms and canals to control the water. Slaves from Senegal, who knew how to grow rice, were used because of their knowledge. (90% of the people in the Georgetown area were slaves.) In the Rice Museum was also the Browns Ferry Vessel, an 18th century 50’ cargo ship raised after more than 200 years underwater and deemed the most important single nautical discovery in the US.
At 1:20 PM, we pulled off the Georgetown dock for S. Myrtle Beach. 15 minutes later, our right engine overheated and shut down, with accompanying smoke alarm. A 180 returned us to the dock, where we let the engine cool down the rest of the day, hoping no damage was done by the overheat. Bummer!!!
Kit and Pam had arrived earlier in the day, so we walked to town again (9 miles total for the day) and had an enjoyable dinner with them. Afterwards, we met Jeff and Gail Dunham on YOLO (You Only Live Once) who were 2 weeks short of finishing the Great Loop. After dinner we were treated to a wonderful rainbow!
The next day, 2 mechanics looked at our engine (one found through the serendipitous meeting with Capt. Rod the previous day), but after conversing with Lorenzo Johnson in Holden Beach (see previous blog Stuart to St. Augustine, Part 2), we decided to single-engine the boat to Holden Beach where we could get the work done for $50 per hour vs. $125 in Georgetown.
We had good weather to move 28 miles to Osprey Landing in S. Myrtle Beach through a beautiful stretch of the mainly narrow (75 yards) ICW, with lots of ospreys on their nests and sunning turtles. Cypress tress at the water’s edge blocked the wind. But…our dolphin-sighting record was ruined – it was the first day making forward progress since the very beginning of our Great Loop from Gulfport, MS we didn’t see a single dolphin! We knew it would cease sometime (as the water gets too cold further north for them), but we were nevertheless sad.
It was a very tight slip entry at Osprey, but because the marina knew we were coming in on 1 engine, there were lots of people standing by to help. Fortunately, Osprey had no current and once we had the bow in place, they basically pulled us into the slip. The morning we left, we got similar “princess treatment.” They pushed us back until Paula could throw 2 lines to hands on the fuel dock behind us who then pulled us into position for a straight-out departure. We couldn’t have done it without all the helpful hands on deck. Thank you Miles and staff at Osprey Marina.
In the midst of all this, we had concocted a plan to get Paula’s parents to the boat. We got up early the next morning, Thursday, rented a car from Enterprise, drove the 3.5 hours from Myrtle Beach, SC to Greensboro, NC, picked up Paula’s parents and retraced our route to Myrtle Beach, putting Pat and Naomi in a hotel for the night. The next morning, they came to the boat and we boated the 19 miles north to Barefoot Marina in N. Myrtle Beach while Enterprise repositioned the car to Barefoot. We then drove them back home that afternoon, returning to the boat ourselves the following day.
Paula’s parents had not been able to see the boat since we bought it 3 years ago, and it was hard for them to envision what the boat and the ICW were really like or that we weren’t “sailing” on the ocean. We didn’t know how we were going to get them to experience what we were doing but were so glad we found a way to do it. First, they had to pass the “test” of proving they could climb a stepladder, but their motivation was huge, and we got them on and off the boat safely and gave them a memory they won’t soon forget. Mom even drove the boat a little while.
A shout-out to Enterprise car rental here. Enterprise is very friendly to cruisers, with pick-ups and drop-offs at marinas. But this whole plan almost crumbled when their limited weekend hours made it difficult. Manager Henry, once he heard the story of how we were trying to afford Paula’s parents this experience, went above and beyond to make it work for us. Without him, this dream would never have happened. Thanks, Henry!
We did a little more car shuttling when we returned to Myrtle Beach, meeting Bob and Kate Tucker in Holden Beach and looking with Lorenzo at the slip we would use the next day. Then it was back to Myrtle Beach, dropping off Bob and Kate at their RV.
That evening, we enjoyed walking around Barefoot Landing, a touristy collection of shops and restaurants, before meeting a friend of Paula’s who she hadn’t seen since high school. Bruce York met us at T-Bonz and we had a lovely evening catching up and reminiscing about our childhoods and the time that has passed since. Thanks Bruce for fitting us into your schedule!
Monday morning, April 18, we gathered Bob and Kate and once their dog was in doggie day care and the rental car returned, were all off to Holden Beach. Bob and Kate had planned to spend more time with us, but due to our engine problem, all they got was one day on the boat. But it was another lovely day with perfect weather. (Kate said it was the most relaxing day of their whole RV vacation to the east coast.) We were very thankful to have them on board with Bob’s extra set of hands to ward us off the concrete pillars as Tom single-engined the boat into the Holden Marina slip with less than a foot to spare on each side. And Lorenzo, awaiting our arrival, worked to keep us from hitting his boat and lined us in.
Tuesday, Bob Winger, the retired 30-year diesel mechanic Lorenzo had found for us, came by to help Tom tear apart the engine. Diagnosis: bad #6 piston. Cause: one of the rubber fins on the raw water (sea water) impeller that pumps water through the engine for the cooling system broke off (pictured right), restricting the flow causing the engine to overheat and seize. The next 7 days were filled with hours of dirty engine room work for Tom (who quit having fun a few hours into the 6-hour project just to remove the oil pan). It took 2 days to break the engine down and clean the parts. Paula was the “go-fer,” making sure Tom drank enough water and didn’t get too grouchy.
Unfortunately, parts did not get ordered in time on Tuesday, but American Diesel said Wednesday’s order should arrive on Friday. Friday came…but parts didn’t. Since UPS was closed on the weekend, we had to wait 3 more days for parts to arrive. We impatiently saw our calendar days passing behind us, but Tom filled his time with many other jobs; he removed and cleaned parts, cut hoses, honed the piston cylinder, rearranged instruments on the flybridge, repaired a chair, condensed documentation paperwork, and unfroze the aft head holding tank valve (just to name a few).
Paula inventoried more boat areas, blogged, posted Active Captain reviews, and finally applied the last 6 coats of varnish on the aft handrails.
We also enjoyed Holden’s Days at the Docks craft fair, fun fellowship with friends Kathy, Randy, Alexandra, BJ, and Mary visiting in the area, and a super seafood dinner at Ella’s in Calabash with Lorenzo and Lois. With 30 restaurants in a town of 700 residents in Calabash, you know there must be something gastronomically special! “Calabash-style” means fresh-from-the-docks seafood deep-fried in a light seasoned batter with melt-in-your-mouth hushpuppies. Lorenzo said he used to feed his family of 7 at Ella’s for under $20 and Ella’s décor looked just the same.
The extra days also enabled us to visit lovely 9100 acre Brookgreen Gardens, a beautiful sculpture garden (even including Lego sculptures, peacock below) and wildlife preserve. Our tickets were compliments of new knitting friend Pam Mahany of Georgetown. Thanks, Pam!
Work on the engine resumed mid-afternoon on 4/25 and by 5:00 PM the next day, Paula cranked a repaired engine while Tom and Bob gave high 5’s in the engine room. It had been exactly 14 days since the engine failure. Of course, we had made about 80 miles of forward progress on a single engine, but we had also lost 8 days at Holden Beach without moving. We were so ready to be on our way.
We made one last run to the store for a few supplies the next morning and visited Mary’s Gone Wild. Interesting place. But…Lorenzo’s sinuses were talking to him, rendering him unable to give Paula a docking lesson. So instead, we drove to Southport to see it by car so we wouldn’t have to stop there with the boat, “buying” us another ½ day. The day finished with a lovely dinner with Bob, the mechanic, and his wife Susan on the deck of Inlet View Grill. Both Bob and Susan have a great sense of humor. And we were so pleased with Bob’s knowledge of our diesel engine, his work, and fairness. Though we hope you never need his help, we highly recommend him!
On Thursday, we awoke to overcast skies with intermittent rain. But Lorenzo, though he still felt bad, made the effort to spend some time with Paula on docking. At a dock across the river, she did 2 stern-ins, 1 bow-in, one starboard to a facing dock, then returned to our marina where she once more approached the facing dock and Lorenzo jumped off. Paula finally got the docking lesson she had anticipated for 3 months! She would have really been disappointed had it not happened. Thank you so much, Lorenzo! By mid-day, we were on our way.