Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cold Front

November 12-14
Georgetown, SC to Whiteside Creek, SC

In spite of their best efforts, our friends and family up north may take just a little bit of pleasure in the fact that, in spite of our best efforts to get south, we recently shivered through South Carolina temperatures ten degrees colder than those in Minnesota. We really don't expect sympathy, though, from people who have already seen snow a few times this winter!

Gale-force winds and overnight temperatures of twenty-six degrees were predicted, and Georgetown, South Carolina, became our port in the storm. Of course there were silver linings to those clouds. For one thing, we happened upon an almost-six-hundred-year-old Champion Live Oak tree. (A champion tree is the largest of its species in South Carolina, as recognized by The American Forestry Associates and Clemson University.)
The Champion Live Oak Tree

Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church,
finished in 1757
Walking around town, we saw historic homes built while kings ruled the Carolinas, an Episcopal church whose bricks had been the ballast of British sailing ships, and the town's iconic clock tower. Unfortunately, we missed the row of seven historic downtown waterfront buildings that burned down on October 25.
Georgetown's Clock Tower

Once the cold front passed and laundry passed the daisy-fresh test, it was time to move on. As we left Georgetown, a gray-and-orange Coast Guard inflatable came alongside and asked to board Pelican. They primarily wanted to check that we have all the required safety equipment, like life preservers, fire extinguishers, a waste disposal plan, and more. We’d never been boarded before, and my first response was Oh no! What are they going to nail us for? But the two Coasties who stepped onto our boat were real gentlemen. We found common ground with both of them. One had grown up in the Bahamas, the son of medical missionaries (Keith spent five years in the Bahamas while his parents were missionaries there). The other had lived in Hudson, Wisconsin, for a while. Close enough. After a thorough safety inspection they issued a “good as gold” certificate. Thankfully, at the end of October Keith had checked the expiration date on our flares (2004!) and replaced them. Otherwise, we’d have been issued a citation instead.

That evening we returned to a favorite anchorage from previous trips. Whiteside Creek, just a few miles north of Charleston, is a ribbon of deep blue washing between banks of golden marsh grass. The presence of only one other boat made for a peaceful night, although the captain woke up every time the tidal current switched to check that we wouldn’t snag our anchor buoy when we swung in the opposite direction.

 The excitement had died down, the cold front moved out to sea. All was well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Uncommon Variety

November 8-11
Oriental, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC

We had a really wonderful time with Keith’s parents and they seemed to enjoy their snapshot of life on a boat on the ICW. Even though it was definitely chillier than they expected. Now that they are gone, we miss Mom’s help in keeping us on course and Dad’s photo documentation of our time together.

 Mom commented that it’s impossible to describe what the trip is like to people back home because every part of it is different. So here are pictures of just a few of the many things we did during their visit:

Floating through cypress swamps—nothing like what we call a swamp in Minnesota, but places of uncommon beauty where imposing trees with gnarled roots rise out of the water, thriving in the salty-fresh tides.

Dad's favorite photo from the entire trip
Passing by the fringes of restricted military bases with evidence of explosions and firepower.

Walking through historic waterfront towns where stately homes and churches lining the streets were built while our country was still a colony.

Visiting a maritime museum in  Beaufort, NC, that houses booty and remains from Blackbeard’s ship, the QAR (Queen Anne’s Revenge).

Drifting past waterfront golf-course developments with multimillion-dollar homes…then ramshackle cabins and docks.
This picture combines two of Keith's passions: golf and sailing (well, a sailboat wake)
Waiting—again—for low bridges that swing open on a schedule, on the half hour or on the hour. If you’re late, you’ll wait.
This bridge-tender requested $20 per picture—"just throw it up on the bridge as you pass by."

Oohing and aahing over pods of dolphins—is it possible to not feel joy when you see a dolphin dance?…

squadrons of pelicans who perfectly time seemingly awkward dives to gracefully scoop up darting fish...

plus gulps of cormorants sunbathing with outstretched wings…
and convocations of eagles perched regally in the tallest trees watching for dinner far below.

Yes, those are the terms for groups of those creatures. (Given the name of our boat, we should have known “squadron” a long time ago but just learned that bit of trivia.) Isn’t it great that God created such fantastic variety to delight us everywhere we look? With just a word, He could have created an average, utilitarian world. Instead He said, “Let there be beauty and humor and wonder and altogether-loveliness to reflect Me.” And there was.

As part of a regular squadron of transient cruisers, our journey continues through rivers, creeks, canals, and open sounds to the next places of uncommon beauty.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Heading South

November 2 - 7, 2013
Deltaville, VA to Oriental, NC

Sean and Maggie
November 2 turned out to be the day we’d been working toward. All systems go, we cast off and Pelican began her southerly migration.

The trip back home for the wedding was worth postponing our departure for a while, with chances to see lots of friends and family, especially our son Sean and his girlfriend Maggie. Afterward Keith’s parents drove us back to Deltaville and came on board to experience part of the ICW with us. They had joined us for different parts of previous journeys: Dad from Chicago to Mobile, AL and both through the Erie Canal and from Georgetown, Exumas, to Nassau in The Bahamas. 

The Dismal Swamp
Just south of Norfolk, ICW cruisers have two canal options: the faster, more commercial Virginia Cut preferred by most power boats or the more scenic and serene (read: slower) Dismal Swamp Canal. We chose the latter. The last time we had passed through the beautiful Dismal Swamp route, a range of early spring greens heralded the arrival of warmth. This time, the fall spectrum of oranges, golds, and reds floating onto our deck announced its disappearance.

The Dismal Swamp

At anchor
Weather pushed us south quickly. After a brief overnight at the city docks in Elizabeth City (leaving no time to enjoy its legendary hospitality to cruisers), brisk northeasterly winds served up a spirited sail down the Pasquotank River. The next two nights we buried our anchor, literally, in secluded, out-of-the-way creeks far from the reach of cell-phone coverage. Wildlife sightings so far have included a swimming fox, dolphins, bald eagles, and multiple birds. 

Alligator River swing bridge
Through winding rivers, narrow land cuts, and wide open sounds, between nautical markers, crab pots, and swing bridges, we continue on our way. Every moment trying to recognize and be grateful for the gifts of grace God offers us right there.

At the moment we’re tucked in at Oriental, NC, the “sailing capital of the Carolinas” near the southern end of the Inner Banks. The cook is happy—she’s had a break and restocked the galley. And the captain is thrilled with a new GPS antenna installed through a fortuitous Deltaville connection. Now we’re ready to keep heading south.

Oriental Marina