We left Brunswick GA marina a few days before my sister Martyne and her husband Jeff were to meet us. We wanted to get a bit further along for them to have a few days of travelling both inside the ICW and some outside passages.
And so we left what was beginning to feel a lot like home, Brunswick Landing Marina on the 10th of July for our pick up point at Hilton Head, SC. We left just as the sun was rising in GA, and travelled the long haul to the outside channel makers for our offshore passage from St Simons Sound into Hilton Head, via the Tybee Road inlet.
We did not take into account the incoming tidal current in Brunswick which slowed our progress to about 5 knots.
The 95 mile offshore trip was uneventful, pleasant even, as I caught a large Tuna along the way.
We caught the tidal current into the Savannah passage at Tybee Roads, as we meandered to the north around Hilton Head Island. We were making up lost time with the current, as we steamed ahead at 8-9 knots.
We were still too late to make our planned marina stop at the Windmill Marina, as they have a loch which you have to enter before tying up in the marina.
We slept nicely that night on the hook in the May River only a few miles from Windmill Marina entrance. After being in industrial Brunswick the anchorage was a very pleasant, although a bit hot and sticky experience. With good deep water around us we dropped the hook in about 6 metres of water near a salt marsh. The current was strong, and the water was very warm. But it was absolutely peaceful.
The next day we waited for slack high tide and headed over to the loch to enter the Windmills Marina.
The loch is about 19 feet wide, and our beam is 16 feet. We were happy that we took the advice of new friends Ted and Mary on a Nordhavn 47 called Sea Star, to put our second kayak (which we had purchased in Brunswick) athwart ship, along the back end of the boat deck. This kept our beam so that we did not have to worry about the loch.
We moved through the loch and toward the end of the marina, pretty tight maneuvering, but with no wind and current it was pretty easy to do.
We backed into the new slip, with fixed docks, that did not change in height due to the loch. We were surrounded by large tasteful country club homes and low rise condos. We were also given a guest pass to enjoy the South Carolina Yacht Club facilities, located the opposite side of the marina. This did include the use of a nice big swimming pool, cabanas for shade, padded lounge chairs, and a tiki bar.
After we were settled, we washed the boat in anticipation of our guests’ arrival the following day.
After the arduous and hot wash down, and boat cleaning, we enjoyed the last of the afternoon lounging poolside, sipping some darn good Pina coladas.
We slept very well that night in air conditioned comfort.
Martyne and Jeff arrived from their long drive from Atlanta airport to Hilton Head. And we settled them onto the boat. It is really fun to have guests; it reinvigorates the excitement of Southern Star. They were both amazed with the level of comfort and room on board. Soon we were sitting pool side, and enjoying the rest of the day.
Next day we decided to take advantage of having wheels, as Hilton Head is pretty far away from the marina. I had to organize a phone repair or replacement, and we also decided to tour Savannah by car rather than by the long way up the river by boat.
The trip to Savannah was nice, a very quaint town. We walked around in the searing southern sun, stopping to have iced teas along the water front.
We found a hidden treasure for BBQ, on yelp. Driving away from the tourist part of Savannah to a poor section of town to ‘Tricks BBQ’, which was car wash and take out only BBQ. We decided to pass, as we wanted to sit, but the owner was adamant that we taste some of his BBQ ribs, for next time.
Wow, and so we ordered 4 orders of ribs with baked bean and coleslaw, waiting in the 4 chairs under the shade awning, feeling very ‘white ‘ and out of place. We took some photos with the owner once the food was ready, and found a beautiful green park to eat our BBQ ribs, under the shade of an old oak tree. It was a truly unique experience, and one well worth the effort.
We headed back to Hilton Head, I got a new phone at Best Buys, had to get the sim card trimmed to fit at the AT&T store, and was back in comms again.
We dropped the car at Hilton Head airport the next day, and took Uber back to the boat. Another day of lounging for our jet lagged guests, some more poolside lounging, and a few naps for the day.
We left the marina the next morning, went through the loch, and motored back to the anchorage at Mays River. Jeff and Martyne loved the solitude. We even splashed around in the tea coloured water, and put the kayaks in the water for some fishing adventures.
Sunset over the marsh was amazing. It was a great place to hang out after the marina/pool experience.
Next day we waited for tides, and a short fishing excursion, and we headed around the western side of Hilton Head Island to anchor overnight off skull creek.
We got caught in a massive thunderstorm as we made our way along the western channel. Black clouds covered us, lightening flashed very close to us. Our visibility was reduced to 50-60 meters. I ran with the radar on and drove at no wake speeds to stay in the narrow channel, rain pouring over us.
Our intended anchorage was very narrow, and we stopped for lunch and for the storm to pass near the green channel maker near Skull creek. After lunch, I decided to move to get away from the channel, and we went out to another anchorage on the north side of Hilton Head Island. It would have been ideal to stay there as we were close to the inlet, but with the unsettled weather decided to go back to the narrower anchorage by Skull creek, where we settled for the night.
First light, we were off and out of the channel and into the ocean for Jeff and Martynes’ first offshore experience on Southern Star. They both took sea sick pills just in case, and both were pretty sleepy for the 76 mile trip to Charleston City.
We trolled as we made the passage, but got no strikes. We experienced another thunderstorm after being underway for about 5-6 hours. The leading edge looked ominous, like a tornado was following us. There was really nothing that we could do, the storm was moving faster and was massive. We could see the rain bands of at least 5-6 miles wide on our radar. The storm caught up and over took us. We moved into the pilot house, and watched the weather with some dread.
The storm moved across, the winds picked up to maybe 20-25 knots, the seas white capped, the boat rolled slightly, but the stabilizers kept the ride comfortable.
After an hour or so, the skies cleared, and we seem to have survived intact. The current and winds made our passage a bit faster than we anticipated, and we docked at the Charleston City Marina a little before 6 in the evening.
As Ted and I walked over to the marina office, we met Doug on a Nordhavn 76, getting ready to head north, and also met Rich and Ann on their Beneteau Swift – ex N55 owners and great friends of Ted and Mary on N47 Sea Star. We had hoped to meet Rich and Ann at Windmill marina but health issues had meant they had relocated to Charleston. We wish Rich well as he undergoes his treatment there.
We had been looking forward to seeing Charleston, which everyone we met told us was a favourite stop. And Charleston did not disappoint. We woke to an overcast day perfect for exploration – still very warm but without the searing sun.
We took the marina courtesy shuttle into town, passing through streets of beautiful southern homes and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The shuttle dropped us outside the city market where Martyne did some shopping for gifts. We wandered on through the shopping district, passing boutique shops. Finding somewhere for lunch proved to be challenging – the places we had thought would be good were either closed for lunch, or had long queues. We collapsed into Sticky Fingers which revived us with great food, iced tea and air conditioning.
We were keen to see the old slave market and then walked on to the waterfront which like every other aspect of Charleston was beautiful, and immaculate. Martyne suggested walking back to the marina around the waterfront, rather than calling the shuttle. And although the walk was longer than we anticipated, it was worth it to meander along the wide pavement, with Charleston Harbour on one side, and another stunning avenue filled with large, beautiful Southern style homes with immaculate gardens and large covered porches complete with ceiling fans and wicker furniture. It felt like walking through the film set for Gone with the Wind or going back in time to that era.
It is hard to describe how beautiful Charleston is – we had high expectations of Savannah and were disappointed. We had equally high expectations of Charleston and all I can say is Charleston was even more breathtaking than I could have imagined.
We were all exhausted when we finally returned to the boat and collapsed again with cold white wines all round. We found our Australian flag coozie on our boat when we returned, with a boat card from Larry and Sue on Beverly S, who we had spent an evening with at Brunswick before leaving, and were now at Charleston.
The next day promised to be hotter and we had a quieter day. We had a late breakfast and had intended to take the shuttle to the West Marine to get some fishing gear and then to the Costco for groceries. However we decided instead to get groceries at the local Harris Teeter and shuttle driver Robert dropped us there and collected us an hour later. We took Uber later to get the fishing gear.
We had expected to have guests visit for drinks that evening, so spent the afternoon cleaning the boat, and Jeff and Martyne got on the job as well, polishing the stainless as we worked around the boat. As it happened, the expected visitors could not make it, but we had a lovely clean boat for our departure from Charleston the next morning.
We walked over to see Larry and Sue who were waiting for a new transducer and will be following us northwards in the next few days.
We left Charleston around 7am and had a good tidal push out to the ocean and through the channel markers. No thunderstorms today – just a lovely day passage with slight following seas and winds. Sadly still no fish despite the new gear. Our destination was Winyah Inlet where we planned to find an anchorage. It proved to be a very long journey once we got inside – brutal current but again in the right direction. We continued up the river joining the ICW past Georgetown and finally found a spot we could drop the hook just out of the channel. It was gorgeous and a perfect spot for an evening glass of wine and sunset photos.
The next day we were travelling onwards on the ICW to Myrtle Beach where we were hoping to reconnect with Nick Smith who we had first met at Port Lucaya, and again at Brunswick, and who had urged us to visit him at Barefoot Landing Marina.
The first part of the trip was fabulous – a winding trip through salt marsh, then drowned cypress creeks and overhanging trees and beautiful antebellum mansions. We told Jeff and Martyne this was the African Queen experience.
The ICW slowly changed from the African Queen, to the ditch. As we neared Myrtle Beach, the houses sprung up along the banks were small, not grand and some plain run down. Myrtle Beach itself was stacked with cheap houses, all with For Sale signs posted outside on the bank of the ICW. There were some larger newer homes, but without the beauty or character we had seen further south.
The ICW narrowed as we progressed northward, and also as the tide continued to drop. We passed under a number of bridges, the banks of the River bordered by businesses and more houses. We were moving onto modern world.
And Jet Skis, everywhere. They buzzed by us, they passed by us. We soon grew to ignore their incessant buzzing, like you do when flies continue to buzz but not land.
We followed the ICW charts closely, monitoring our depth, and finding the channel markers fewer and fewer between. Giant crabs advertising seafood dinners, splayed alongside the ICW, and Myrtle Beach grew before us as the tourist destination of the south.
Barefoot Landing Marina is a wide spot in the ICW, on the eastern bank. Just across the ICW is another larger and more luxurious marina, called Barefoot Marina and Resort.
We contacted the dock master, Brad on the VHF and were directed to a space alongside the bank. The wind was from the east, blowing us away from the dock, and the tide still was falling causing a current downstream. Ted made a run at the dock, the tide and current pushing Southern Star away. The dock master was busy with another boat, and we decided to come back around and to wait for Brad.
The second pass, we got close enough to get Brad an aft spring line, but Brad did not tie it very short. So we had trouble using it to spring alongside. Instead a bow line was passed and the engine reversed, the thrusters attempted to push us against the wind toward the dock.
The docking was not pretty, but we finally pulled in alongside the pier and finished getting set up with shore power, etc. for our stay in North Myrtle Beach.
Hilton Head and Savannah photos: