Heavenly Hilton Head!

Hilton Head, SC (Sunday, 10/29)
Knowing the wind was going to really start to blow around 1pm, we knew we had to leave early to Hilton Head, SC. Of greatest concern was the area around Port Royal where we would be very exposed from the west wind as we transited south from Parris Island to the northern tip of Hilton Head.  Although it was only 4 miles, we knew from past experiences this could be miserable.

So, we left Bristol Marina as soon as the sky got light, even though the sun was not up. We cruised through the US 17 Bridge without incident and then made our way down the Ashley River until it joined the ICW.  Here we turned and headed south, slowing for the every small fishing boat who should be seeking safe shelter.  The wind was blowing, but we had the protection of the land and so it was not an issue for us.

The first part of the ICW south from Charleston is very slow going as there are lots of homes and boat traffic. Eventually we made our way to more rural areas and we were able to accelerate to our normal cruising speed of 20 kts. Through the winding waterway we passed along John’s Island, then Wadmalaw Island then Lady’s Island, and several inlets with open waterways and a bit of wind. Much of this area is unspoiled and natural low country as it is in national or state wildlife protected areas.  It is rural and quite beautiful.

Whitecaps on the Coosaw River

Soon we came to the town of Beaufort (pronounced Byuu Ford) – and not to be confused with Beaufort, NC (pronounced Boe fort).  From the Lady’s Island Bridge to the McTeer Bridge near the Port Royal Marina it is a no-wake zone and was slow going. We creeped past the Beaufort Marina (which was full) and the boats in their mooring field.  We passed the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club to the east and eventually the Port Royal Marina and the Navy hospital to the west.

Beaufort, SC City Marina

In the meantime the wind had started to build and we could see there was hardly anyone else on the water now.  As we headed south we came to Parris Island, home of the Marines and their famous Recruit Depot – a facility where Denise’s dad went to when he became a marine.

MC Recruiting Depot – Parris Island

The wind was blowing about 20 knots now, but it was behind us so it wasn’t too bad. However as soon as we rounded the point of Parris Island and headed toward Hilton Head we were in the crosswinds of the incoming tide and the western wind that had blown all the way down the Broad River.  It was really rocking and we had to slow the boat down a bit, but it was nowhere near as bad as our day on the Chesapeake crossing the Potomac River.  The journey here was short and we encountered one other smaller boat making the crossing ahead of us.

Finally, we entered the ICW Channel that runs along Hilton Head Island and the waves settled down almost immediately.  From there we only had a short ride to get to Windmill Harbor Marina, which has a lock you must go through to get into this well-protected area.  As we approached the marina (lock) entrance, there was a small boat sailing race going on that we had to negotiate around. We could not believe such small boats were out in these high winds.

Sailboat race outside Windmill Harbor Lock

About this time we were lining up for the lock and in communication with the lockmaster who informed us we are dragging a line under our boat. Our dinghy bow line had come loose and was now dangerously close to our prop.  Denise went back to pull it up, but it was fouled on something and she was not strong enough to break it free. At one point it sounded as if it had caught on the prop and the cutter was able to keep it from stalling the boat. Switching places (Denise driving), Mark was able to pull it free, and when he did it appeared to have been cut and about 1/3 of it remained.

Once this crisis had been averted, we were able to pull into the lock, get locked up, and dock the boat in the assigned slip at the marina. It was before 1 pm and that is when Gale Force winds (34–47 knots) were expected to kick in.  We were happy to be settled and out of harm’s way.

Inside lock at Windmill Harbor

The location of the slip was very convenient as it was very close to the pool, restroom facilities, and laundry. It was only a short walk to the South Carolina Yacht Club (SCYC) clubhouse, or across the footbridge to the dockmaster’s office. But best of all it was much protected on all sides.

Marina at Windmill Harbor

Once the boat was settled we intended to do some laundry as there is no charge at this marina. Unfortunately, another boater was ahead of us and had taken both washers, so we knew it would be at least one hour before it became available.  We walked over to the dockmaster’s office to check in and learned the SCYC was closed for dinner on Sundays; they are only open for lunch. This was a disappointment as we were looking forward to a good meal there. We had dined there when we were here in August of 2014 with our nephew Johnny and the food was really good.

Still waiting for the washers to be freed up, we decided to walk to the other side of the marina and check out the Sabre 45 that Craig gave us permission to go into.  As we approached the dock, we noticed a familiar boat we knew from our Great Loop adventure.  We walked up to and knocked on “Sum Escape” and found Julie & Tom Van Hall to be home! They invited us on board where we had a chance to talk and get caught up. We had met them at Hoppies on the Mississippi River and saw them several other times along the Loop, including in Marathon in February 2016.  We had stayed connected off and on via Facebook, but had lost touch with them when we headed to Maine. We talked for a long time and discussed our future plans.  While we are headed home, they are headed to South Florida again for the winter and we hope to maybe catch up with them.

Julie & Tom Van Hall (“Sum Escape”)

We then went to the check out the Sabre 45, docked right next to “Sum Escape”, taking Tom & Julie aboard for the look-see. It is a very nice boat and we like a lot of the features, but it is not something we intend to buy for a while.

Checking out the Sabre 45

Afterwards, we went back to check on the laundry and it was here that we met Bob Sherer (aka “Bob423”) who is on the sailboat “Feetwing”.  Bob is famous to those who cruise up and down the ICW as he is a frequent poster in ActiveCaptain® about potential hazards. Everyone wants to be behind him when transiting the ICW so they can get the latest updates.  We had a chance to take a picture with him and learn he is headed south tomorrow as well as us. Unfortunately, we are faster than him and this means we will no longer have the benefit of his sage knowledge as we navigate the very shoaled up ICW through SC and GA.

With “Bob423” – Bob Sherer

Since the yacht club was closed and we didn’t feel like spending money on an Uber we decided to eat dinner on board. Plus, the wind was really ripping at 30+ knots and we just didn’t feel like going out in it.  But also, staying in allowed us time to get the laundry done and finally get some of the blog updates staged (online) for publication; we finally had a decent internet connection!

Here are some other pictures from the marina:

Pool at Windmill Harbor

Tennis Courts at Windmill Harbor

Dockmasters Office at Windmill Harbor

Windy day at Windmill Harbor

Sunset over ICW from top of lock


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