Hilton Head Island, SC (Saturday, 4/13)
Today started early as we had a lot of water to cover, but more importantly we had to get past some known shallow areas on the ICW when we still had the tides in our favor. As soon as there was sufficient daylight, we pulled out of Jekyll Island Harbor Marina and headed north.
Just outside of Jekyll Creek, we passed the dredge getting ready to start for the day. This area is known for having “skinny water” (meaning shallow depth) as it shoals frequently from the tides of St. Simons Sound to its north. They have just started to dredge here, and even though we were 2.5 hours before low tide we still went slowly for fear of running aground.
Once past the dredge we continued on at our usual cruising speed for 20 miles before turning up the Altamaha River to Two-Way Fish Camp. As you can probably imagine, we are always shopping for reasonably priced fuel and this slight diversion was worth it. If not for the cheap price, there is not much here; only a restaurant and a small marina with a few live boards in a very remote area. We filled the fuel tank and we were on our way back down the river to the ICW.
Our cruise took us past Doboy Sound, Sapelo Island, and St. Catherine’s Sound and into an area known as Hells Gate*. This area is very shoaled-up and we tried to make sure we did not go through here at low tide like we did when heading southbound in 2017; we saw less than 3 feet under our 3.5 foot boat at that time. Following the GPS coordinates and path shared by Bob423 (aka known as “Poughkeepsie Bob”) of Waterway Guide, we safely traversed the area without incident.
*Not to be confused with “Hells Gate” on the East River in NY, or near Boothbay Harbor in Maine.
Soon afterward we came to Mark’s least favorite part of the ICW in GA; Burnside Island and Skidaway Island. It’s a stretch of water that is all no wake zone as it is populated with docks with boats in the water. Usually there are lots of SPOREs (Stupid People on Rental Equipment) in the water and we have to judiciously navigate around them, especially on a Saturday. But because the weather was not great, there were few people out; just a few hard-core fishing boats.
We passed through Isle of Hope (a place we stayed at on our way to Maine in 2017), and shortly thereafter we came to Thunderbolt Marina, just south of Savannah. We have yet to stay here on Island Office, but maybe we will on our way home in the fall. They are known for bringing you donuts and newspapers to your boat in the morning.
We continued north passing the handful of marinas and soon crossed the Savannah River; a major shipping waterway, and today we had to slow to allow a big cargo ship to pass.
Once on the other side of the river, we had now entered into our second state: South Carolina where the ICW continues on its winding path. We headed north, then east, then north until we had Daufuskie Island to our east, and shortly thereafter we rounded the northern part of the Island. The channel opened up here into Calibogue Sound where we could see the southern part of Hilton Head Island and the Harbor Town Marina Lighthouse.
We continued cruising north until we came to Windmill Harbor Marina; our stopping point for the night. This is one of our favorite stops along the way and the third visit. The marina is surrounded by condos in a planned community and you must enter through a lock before docking. It is small and allows only one boat at a time, and we had to wait on another boat that had arrived just before us. However, the turnaround is quick and 15 minutes later we were parked in a slip in almost the same location as our first visit in 2014.
The boat was filthy from all the sea spray, so Mark did a quick rinse off while Denise cleaned up the interior. This is when she discovered that after less than a week on the boat, her sandalitis was back; yes, this is not dirt, its funky tan lines from the deck sandals she wears.
Quickly we raced to finish up and get an Uber ride to take us to St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church for the 5:30 Palm Sunday mass.
When mass was over we took another Uber back to the marina for dinner at the South Carolina Yacht Club, located directly across from where our boat was docked.
We ate here on our first visit (it was closed on our last visit – a Sunday and Monday) and we knew the food was good, so we were anxious to dine here again. The meal did not disappoint. We ate in the casual dining room (bar) of the Club and the staff was very friendly and unpretentious. It was not a typical stuffy yacht club and there were several families also enjoying their time there. The food was great too! We again discussed how we would like to come and stay here for longer than one or two nights. After dinner we took the path along the marina to get to the other side where our bat was, and prepped for an early departure in the morning.
Charleston, SC (Sunday, 4/14)
Today the weather was not so great and it was forecasted to get stormy by the afternoon. We left Windmill Harbor Marina as soon as the lock opened at 8:00 am to overcast skies and threatening rain.
The winds had picked up a bit and Denise was concerned about crossing the Port Royal Sound, north of Hilton Head. It was a bit bumpy, but it only takes about 20 minutes to get across. However, the boat got a good spraying of saltwater again and we had to use the windshield wipers to see.
In no time we were in the protected waters and to our west was Parris Island; home of the US Marine base and where Denise’s dad did his basic training. The slogan on the water tower says it all; “We Make Marines”.
Cruising along we saw the Port Royal Marina, the US Navy Hospital and the town of Beaufort (pronounced BYU-FORT – not to be confused with BOW-FORT, NC).
While in route, we passed the Carolina Queen and many houses with docks along the ICW.
Some of our other sights along the way included more small fishing boats (causing us to have to slow down), a Kayaker braving the winds, and a Fireman’s boathouse. We agreed we need to get that sign for Shawn Edwards (husband of one of Denise’s nieces).
We knew when we saw the tour pedaling boat (Saltwater Cycle) and the Charleston Crab House that we did not have that much further to go. It wasn’t long before the ICW joined the Ashley River and we were looking straight at the Charleston City Marina. Also visible were the cranes towering over new construction as the development of this great city is in full force.
We turned up the Ashley River and under the two bridges to the Bristol Marina where we purchased our boat in 2014; it felt like our boat coming home. But docking was quite a challenge as it was very windy and the current was running with it. However, Mark piloted the boat beautifully into the slip and with the assistance of two dockhands Denise got us all tied up; it was best she was not driving as she would have played bumper boats to get us in the slip.
As this was home to our yacht broker as well, there were several new and previously-owned Back Cove Sabre yachts in the marina. Additionally, there were several Pursuits, Tiara’s and even an old Hatteras yacht as these are the other brands represented by the broker.
Once tied up we walked the nearly quarter mile up to the marina and checked in. Afterwards we walked around the docks to see some of the other boats, including “Dot’s Deal” – a Sabre 45 that had just come on the market this week. We liked this model, but this particular boat has a red hull and we do not find that appealing. There was also a Sabre 48 at the end of the dock that we really liked, especially when we saw its name was “Judy Davis” – the same name as Denise’s Godmother and wonderful aunt. (Yes a picture was sent to her).
But we found it most ironic that the boat directly behind us on the dock was called “Satellite Office”.
The weather continued to deteriorate and although we never really got rain, the wind really blew and our boat rocked a bit. However, we were tired from a long day and after a dinner of leftovers, downloading and cataloging pictures, we retired for the evening.
Charleston, SC (Monday, 4/15)
After a great night’s rest, Denise got up in the morning and went for a short run. From the marina she took the now-familiar path past Brittlebank Park and the Joseph Riley P ballpark; home of Charleston Riverdogs (a minor league baseball team that are an affiliate of the New York Yankees).
And to The Citadel Military College.
But today she dedicated her run for running friend Donna who is battling cancer (Donna Strong).
After breakfast we walked up to the yacht broker’s office to say hello and retrieve a package; new running shoes Denise had ordered but couldn’t get delivered home before we left. We said hello to Craig our broker and then returned to the boat for work (Mark), the writing of this blog (Denise) and then for lunch.
In the afternoon, we walked over to look at the Sabre 45, as Craig had told us it was open and we could go take a look. Of course he wants us to buy this boat, so he was very encouraging of us “exploring” it. We again agreed it would be a nice boat to own, but the price is high and we don’t like the hull color. Of course we could spend $10k to have it painted from red to something else (blue?).
We returned to the boat as Mark had several conference calls and Denise had to get the blog done. We also had the pleasure of having Kim Russo of AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruising Association) stop by and delivered a few newly purchased burgees. Our current Gold-Looper burgee was tattered from 3 years in the wind and we acquired a newly created Down East burgee. These will go on the boat tomorrow after the wind dies down.
After Kim left we walked across the street from the marina to the newly opened Publix. It could not be more convenient and we were ready for a few fresh items. We also had decided to get a rotisserie chicken for dinner and once again eat dinner onboard. We might be crazy for passing up the opportunity to dine in one of the great foodie cities of the south, but we know we have many other dining-out experiences in the days ahead. Plus, we just didn’t have the time tonight to eat out and get everything done that we had to do.
After dinner we cleaned up the galley, finished and posted this blog, and then prepared the boat for our very early departure in the morning. Tomorrow, we head to Myrtle Beach for more adventures aboard Island Office.
A few other pictures from the last few days: