Finally, after four days in the Intracoastal Waterway, we headed out to sea where we feel much more at home. We did enjoy our stops in the ICW, though. Oriental was a quaint little town with friendly people everywhere we turned. We stopped at Outfitters to borrow bikes to take to the grocery store. The woman at the store encouraged us to try the bicycle built for two. Bill blamed the tires being flat, but I think we just don’t have the coordination to ride this! Maybe if we weren’t so pressed for time we could have mastered this skill; the bikes had to be back by closing time in 45 minutes. A quick stop for a beer and a snack after the bike ride yielded many more lively and friendly people.
More ICW traveling the next day yielded many dull and exciting moments. We were in a narrow channel for much of the day. Sometimes, the water appeared wide, but the deep part was very narrow. See the photo of our GPS. White is navigable, blue is too shallow (see the 3.9 foot mark? we need 5 feet), green is often exposed grass, and yellow is land, but all were slightly submerged this day, given the floods. See the other photo with the trees mid channel! We were entertained by many interesting boats. I especially enjoyed the sailing kayak and the many fishing boats. The bridges were much less welcome and/or enjoyable.
Beaufort was a surprise. I had imagined this town as industrialized, like Norfolk, but it was far from it. This town is the first one on our journey where I could imagine myself living. Taylor Creek lines the sweet town, making anchoring and walking to town a synch. People were incredibly friendly, inviting us to their potluck Sunday Dinner, and other events. SUPing (Stand Up Paddle board) to the island with the wild horses was a treat. These horses have lived there for generations, digging up ponds with their hooves to create drinking holes without salt, and building several herds and their own territory rules. Ocean, town, and wildlife live harmoniously here.
But we wanted to head south, so we sailed out of Taylor Creek Monday morning at the crack of dawn in a stiff north breeze. Brrrr. I had just laundered all my bulky clothes, thinking I would stash them away in some remote cabinet on the boat. Nope. I needed every piece of clothing to not freeze out there. The forecast was for 15-25 knots of north wind and a 6-9 foot sea. We were pleasantly surprised to find no sea at all. The exit out of the harbor was simple, and we enjoyed our second breakfast of the morning.
Unfortunately, those promised seas did materialize, but they were dead astern, so the boat just rolled over the bumps instead of crashing into them if they were coming toward us. Bill set out his line soon after departing and BOOM it was gone. A huge fish took the squid and a hundred feet of line. The poor guy is swimming around with a pierced lip. While some teenagers opt for this decoration, most fish would not choose this outcome, I am certain. But a more reasonable sized Mahi Mahi took the next hook.
Life at sea just kept getting better. A school of dolphins joined us for the ride. They flew up to the top peaks of the waves, turned quickly and zoomed down the waves, right for our boat, diving down beneath our keel, then popping up at our bow. They did this for hours! I wonder if they were aware of the humans on board. I’d like to think they were playing with us. When our kids were younger, we took many vacations in tropical waters on chartered boats. They experienced this often and I longed for their company again. Magical experiences are always magnified through the eyes of children.
As the sun went down, the sky turned pastel pink and blue. I tried to capture this in a photo but, as usual, the photographer lacks skills. We have become accustomed to sailing at night, and enjoy the peacefulness. The Coast Guard, however, kept breaking our peace and announcing “hazards to navigation” throughout the night on our VHF radio. Apparently, an unmanned, drifting 44 foot boat was on our line of passage. Our moonlight and radar never revealed its presence.
The second day of sailing was less exciting. No fish were caught, no dolphins were seen, and the seas were laying down. We sailed lazily toward Charleston. Entering the breakwaters was a bit hairy though. The outgoing current and incoming wind created steep waves that rolled our boat wildly. Then three ships came toward us. We scooted as far out of their way as possible, but one set up such a huge wake that surprised us. Next time, we will try to plan on arriving in an inlet during daylight. This was just after the sun set and our light was completely gone. Even our spotlight went out; it blew a fuse as soon as we turned it on and there was no way one of us could go below with all the chaos on deck. But we were soon safely in the harbor and dropped our hook, eager to explore Charleston. After a good night of sleep.