4/21/19 to 4/25/19
April 21 at 6:35 AM, we left Lady’s Island Marina near Beaufort, SC. It was clear and nice, but still cold – 50°overnight. Though we left early, we had 5 boats pass us in the first few miles of the Coosaw River, so everyone must have thought it was a good day to go boating. We got to Charleston earlier than anticipated with a great push from a rising tide and decided to pass our planned anchorage and go a bit further.
As we approached Charleston, we went through Elliott Cut, a short, narrow, shallow man-made cut. The current always increased through this area (the Venturi principle), and even more so at mid-tide. We tried to plan for slack tide, but as we went through (Paula drove this time because Tom got to drive last time), we saw what we think was the fastest speed Life’s TraVails has ever gone – 12.3 MPH. Doesn’t sound like much, but that was almost twice what we normally do…and we were at half throttle.
We continued through another land cut past Charleston at low tide and it was low! We bumped a few times on the bottom (meaning the water was less than 4.5′ deep) but we got through. (Note to self – only come through this area at high tide.) We finally stopped to anchor in Dewees Creek, a nice quiet anchorage we had all to ourselves after the dolphin sightseeing boat filled with passengers left before dark and left us alone with the dolphins.
From Dewees Creek anchorage, we traveled 73 miles to Bull Creek anchorage, again in long pants and long-sleeve shirts. The water was completely still, like glass. More long land cuts (narrow dredged channels with land on both sides) alternated with stretches of beautiful houses to keep us entertained (pictures at bottom).
When we got into the Waccamaw River, it was beautiful (picture at top)!!! It was about 200 yards wide with lots of depth (no bumping here) with big trees so thick along both banks, you could not see anything but trees. We saw 14 dolphins for the day (Paula always kept track), 4 turtles, a bald eagle, and an owl. A beautiful day all-round and we covered another 73 miles.
We got an early start the next morning, even though we were only going 57 miles to Holden Beach. Our motivation? Lorenzo lived there and we couldn’t wait to see him again. Lorenzo was a gem we met on our first Great Loop and we couldn’t ask for a better long-distance friend (meet Lorenzo in this blog). By 2:00 PM, we docked at the Town of Holden Beach Transient Docks with Lorenzo standing there to welcome us with open arms and catch our lines. He had arranged dockage, a chiropractor for Tom and brought us more fish netting, another story. (Read about losing our bumper ball in this blog).
Off he and Tom went to the chiropractor. When they arrived back at the boat, we all headed for our favorite restaurant in Calabash, Ella’s Seafood, known for its awesome “Calabash shrimp.” And Ella’s hush puppies are to die for! It was so good to see Lorenzo looking so good and still loving boating.
Again, we left early because we had plans to see more friends, Claud and Lori, who we had met years previously on a Canyon Ministries rafting trip. As we made our way through the Cape Fear Sound, we were passed by a container ship (left). Take note, Paula did not use the zoom on her camera for this picture. At first, it looked like we were on a collision course, but Tom knew the cargo ship would be turning as it would have grounded well before it could have gotten to the depth of water we were in.
After arriving at Carolina Beach, we pulled alongside the face dock at Joyner Marina and served potato soup, jello, and crackers to Claud and Lori as we enjoyed catching up with them. Alas, too soon, it was time to shove off to make more miles. It was a difficult departure, as the tide was shoving us toward the dock, but with help from 2 dockhands, we were off again. Thank you, Joyner Marina, for the free use of the dock and power.
Our passage north was delayed by a 40-minute wait for the opening of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge which only opened on the hour, but we didn’t have too far to go to our anchorage at Middle Sound adjacent to Wrightsville Beach.
The next day, Thursday, we had a long day planned. We wanted to make it to Morehead City to stay in a marina for 2 nights as thunderstorms were forecast for Friday. We got up at 5:10 AM and prepped to go.
Let’s begin this story by saying I, Paula, do not like stern anchors. Normally a bow anchor is set to keep your boat in place. Then the boat swings on it and will always face into the wind or current, depending on which is stronger. When the tide or wind changes, the boat will swing, keeping it aligned with other boats in the area. Stern anchors are set in addition to the bow anchor to prevent swinging. I know that at times there are good reasons for setting a stern anchor – like when in a tight space without much room, be it limited due to land, shallow areas, or other boats.
We began our evening in Middle Sound by anchoring past the abandoned sunken sailboat (pictured above). Now don’t say this should have been our first clue. We use Active Captain, an app which allows other boaters to review anchorages, and the latest reports said it was a good place. We set our anchor and had busy traffic until dark with small boats zooming past. Just before dusk, we noticed, as the tide dropped, our boat was a little closer to shore than we really wanted to be. Tom figured out the boat was touching the bottom, not allowing us to swing. We thought if we set a stern line, we could at least prevent the boat from swinging closer to shore when the tide did rise again, as it would about 6 hours later. Tom started an engine (the props are higher than the bottom, so that was safe) and voila! – we swung free. Don’t ask us to explain that as it didn’t make any sense to us (he didn’t put it in gear, just started it), but we were happy. He threw a stern anchor out and all was well.
At least until morning.
When Tom began pulling the stern anchor up, he discovered the line seemed to be stuck on something under the boat. Well…it was. Tom tried and tried and finally braved the inevitable…he was going to have to go swimming. The air temperature was around 70 and the water was colder. In he went. And it was definitely the inevitable. Somehow, the line had wrapped itself around both props! After about 10 minutes, he had us free. And it was only 6:20 AM.
And now…the rest of the story.
We started up the engines and pulled up the bow anchor. We got it up and began making our way back to the main channel. Until…bump, bump, bump…we were stuck again. We tried reversing back to the deeper water from which we came; we tried powering through (that sometimes works); finally, we sat.
What’s next, you ask? We could wait 6 hours until the tide rose enough to free us or we could make the call.
We made the call. Boat US is the marine version of AAA, a tow service to which we had paid money for 5 years and never used. That means never had the boat been disabled, never had we grounded, never had we needed their aid. Until now. Tom had a very straightforward conversation with the dispatcher except for the part when he was asked where we wanted to be towed and Tom said “straight forward about 100 yards;” the dispatcher wanted a real destination. When Tom told him .5 miles to the Figure 8 Bridge (which by the way, we had already called for an opening before grounding), that was acceptable. ETA – 45 minutes, 7:40.
So, we sat and waited. Tom trimmed his toenails. Paula wrote this dialogue. Right on time, Tow Boat US arrived at 7:40. Jeremy, the captain, first planned to pull us backward. But after we told him we had stabilizers, he decided he’d go forward. He tied to our anchor bridle and began weaving back and forth in front of us to make a trench through the sand through which to pull us. This went on for about 45 minutes until, poof! at 8:22 AM, we were free again.
Once in the channel, we turned again toward the Figure 8 bridge. About .5 mile past the bridge, Tom went down to make his normal after-underway engine room checks and heard an alarm. The port engine was overheating. He shut it down from the downstairs driving station and went down to check the engine room. When he opened the engine room door, smoke poured out. Not knowing the reason for the smoke, he shut down the starboard engine too. We dropped the bow anchor so we wouldn’t drift…right in the middle of the not-too-wide channel. Time: 8:32. Paula hailed Tow Boat US again and who should answer but Jeremy. He was only a few miles away and was back alongside us at 8:48.
After troubleshooting, it was determined the reason for the smoke was overheating of the port engine due to a failed raw water impeller. Now there’s another story here too. The same thing had happened to us on the starboard engine on the first Great Loop just after departure from Georgetown, SC (story in this blog). It ultimately caused damage to a piston and the piston had to be replaced, costing us 10 days and beaucoup money. Tom found out from the manufacturer this was not an uncommon problem, so based on Lorenzo’s suggestion, he installed temperature alarms at several places in the system so if the temp started rising, we would know it before it got hot enough to cause real destruction. It saved us this time. Though the port impeller would have to be replaced, it had done no major damage.
Tom had a spare impeller on board, changed it out, and started the engine again. Paula checked, as always, to be sure it was “spitting.” (That indicates water is being injected into the exhaust to cool it down.) It wasn’t. Back to the engine room. Then it was discovered the exhaust hose, due to the high temps and age, had disintegrated (right). That was not something that could be fixed on the spot.
Jeremy made a couple of calls for us and found a marina with a slip back in Wrightsville Beach and we limped back, single engine, to Seapath Marina. This time we did not have to wait for the Wrightsville Beach bridge to be opened. Paula called ahead, told him we were a disabled vessel (Paula preferred to call it a “compromised” vessel) and asked if we could have the bridge opened for us when we arrived rather than waiting for the top of the hour. They complied (much to Tom’s surprise).
We were assigned a spot on a T-head (end of a dock) at Seapath Marina and the wind, fortunately, pushed us toward/against the dock for a not-too-difficult landing (with a bump that felt sort of like a soft aircraft touchdown).
Paula had texted Lorenzo after Tom had taken his swim just to tell him the amusing story. By the time he called, we were just starting back to Seapath Marina. Before we had arrived, Lorenzo had the part we needed and had plans to head our way, about 45 minutes from Holden Beach where he lived. Paula really believes when she gets to heaven, she is going to find out Lorenzo never really existed in a bodily form on this earth. He was like our guardian angel, always there when we needed him, ready to lend a hand.
When Tom talked with him, Lorenzo said we need not have gone to such extremes to see him again. He was going to mail the jacket Tom left in his car. Paula said it was because we failed to get a picture of him the day before.
Before Lorenzo arrived at our boat, he had found out, as Tom had, the exhaust hose we needed was not a standard off-the-shelf item. (Don’t ya luv it?) So…he made our part!!! We might have waited days for a special-order hose. See? Are you coming to agree with Paula’s assessment of Lorenzo?
OK, that’s enough fun for you today!!! Meanwhile, we’ll be fixin’ the engine.
But, for your further enjoyment meanwhile, see the pictures below. We definitely had a better day than those folks did! (We call those “bad boat days.”)