Oystercatcher, Shakedown Cruise, May 2016, Day 4: Beaufort to Toogoodoo Creek

A brown pelican atop a buoy in the Ashepoo River
Day four of our six-day shakedown cruise from Charleston to Beaufort, South Carolina and back would take us from Beaufort to Toogoodoo Creek. At almost 40 nautical miles, this would be the longest day of our journey, and it would be one that would change my thinking about how I would approach my upcoming cruise of four weeks.
My daughter and I rose before dawn and walked to a nearby Huddle House for some vittles.
I would later be glad that I honored her request for this big breakfast, because it would be a long time before we would eat lunch on this longest of days.
I timed our departure so that we could ride the last of the flood tide up the Beaufort River.
The Beaufort River gradually becomes Brickyard Creek, which then joins the Coosaw River.
On the Beaufort River the wind was on the nose, which made for lots of spray. This was just before we shut the forward hatch.

Soon after we made the turn into the Coosaw River things calmed down, because the wind was now on the quarter. This would have been a good time to unfurl the headsail, but my daughter, who had against experienced insomia, asked to take a nap.
I couldn't sail this boat by myself, because I was enslaved to the tiller. This was one big thing that I wanted to address before I spent four weeks aboard this boat in June and July. Every day that went by on this shakedown cruise, I came to understand more and more that I needed to have some way to relinquish the tiller every now and then. As things stood at this time, the tiller would drop down toward the sole of the cockpit and then swing one way or another whenever I let it go. This was annoying and unacceptable.
Something else that came to a head on this day was the issue of cockpit seating. We were four days into this six-day shakedown cruise and the fiberglass lids on the cockpit hatches were, quite literally, becoming a pain in the butt. After a while it felt not much different than sitting all day on a concrete block.
As I made my way down the Coosaw River I was joined for a while by a shrimp boat. Miss Sandra was her name, and as I recall she was captained and crewed by black men who hailed from the State of Georgia.
She turned down Parrot Creek for the Morgan River, and that was the last I saw of her.
The farther I went down the Coosaw River the more I picked up speed from the ebbing tide. One thing I've not discussed very much in these postings is the issue of depth. Here, as you see, I was at 40.5 feet. Notice on the chart, however, that the nearby depths are as little as 5 feet. Throughout this shakedown cruise I was constantly devising contingency plans if the motor suddenly stopped working. Sure, I would put up the headsail, but how much leeway would I have available before I ran into the shallows? Would I need to retract the centerboard, or would I need to have it down in order to be able to sail into the wind? What about that other vessel that's approaching. If I steer clear of him, where will that leave me? Better give myself some leeway here and some leeway there. The current is pushing me one way, and the wind another. Better give that buoy plenty of room. That's the way I was constantly thinking.
By the time I reached the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, the swells had picked up. That made my turn into the wind near the entrance to the Cutoff somewhat challenging.
Let's just say that the calm waters of the Cutoff were a nice respite. It was around this time that my daughter stirred from her slumber. I was glad, because that coffee had caught up with me a long time before this, and I was desperate for a trip to the head. This was yet another reason why I wanted to have some quick and easy way to secure the tiller. In such a situation I would pull away from the ICW's magenta line, head for deep water with plenty of leeway, power down to several knots and then secure the tiller. I say this because, you'll recall that several days earlier I had almost collided with another sailboat that was moving full steam ahead along the magenta line with no one present in the cockpit.
The Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff is indicated in yellow below. It's called the Cutoff because it's a shortcut between the two rivers. Because of its shallow spots, some sailboats, at low tide, will go the long-way via the confluence of the Ashepoo and Coosaw (pictured beneath the yellow oval).
The depths were not bad when I took this picture. Nevertheless, I had powered us down, just in case things changed suddenly. Notice the black dotted line. At the advice of Captain Sterling, I had set the GPS chartplotter to track our course. These breadcrumbs, as the Captain called them, would allow me to see where we had traveled on our passage south from Charleston. Notice the second set of breadcrumbs behind us as we make our way north towards home.
We exited the Cutoff and entered the Ashepoo River.
We were still riding the ebb tide, so we were able to hit 7.6 knots in this body of water.
It's not uncommon to see brown pelicans atop buoys on the Waterway.
Things became a little more challenging as we moved up the South Edisto River. The tide was working against us.
We had, at times, approached 8 knots while moving down the Coosaw and Ashepoo Rivers. Now our speed was almost half that. You'll hear some sailors say that there's no point in trying to time your passages along the ICW, since you're always getting a mixture of tides. I would say this is true to some extent, but to me it makes no sense to ignore the tides when you know that certain departure times will allow you to take advantage of tides on large bodies of water. Based upon my experiences on this six-day shakedown cruise and on my four-week cruise that followed, you can save a lot of fuel by timing the tides. In some instances, especially in the remote and wild sections of the ICW in South Carolina and Georgia, this could make the difference between reaching your destination and running out of gas. It does happen. In the 80 miles between Charleston and Beaufort there are no services, at least none that don't require detours.
When I took this picture, the wind was directly on the nose.
After we rounded a bend, it was on the beam.
This is often the way it is on the ICW. Just when you'd like to shake out a sail, it's time to make another turn.
We entered Watts Cut, a shallow man made stream that joins the South Edisto River to the Dawho and thus the North Edisto. You can think of it as a passage over the northern end of Edisto Island.
Watts Cut.
We were still working against the ebb tide. Notice the depth of 6.4 feet.
In this relatively calm section of the Waterway we finally got a chance to eat some lunch. It had been seven hours since breakfast.
The depths continued to demand my attention. To be on the safe side, I raised the rudder.
I also raised the centerboard. This reduced our draft from 5 feet to 2.
This marker says it all. There's only about a foot or two of water underneath it.
A GPS chartplotter is a wonderful piece of equipment to have on the ICW, especially when single-handed (which I sometimes was on this trip). Without it, you stand a greater chance of running aground. On the other hand, if you're a slave to it, you're also likely to run aground. The screen below is a case in point. Notice the breadcrumbs. On the trip down, I steered clear of what was obviously a problem spot. According to the chartplotter, my course took us into the marsh. This, though, didn't happen. If I had blindly followed the chartplotter, I would have run aground. This screen shot is mild compared to others I would make in my four-week journey in June and July. Sometimes the chartplotter would show me sailing through a sea of grass.
Soon the Dawho Bridge was in sight. This bridge joins Edisto Island (on the right) to the mainland.
Once we were past the bridge we were able to ride the ebb tide down the Dawho River.
The Dawho with the North Edisto River in the offing.
Riding the ebb . . . and saving fuel.
Our goal was Toogoodoo Creek, a large tidal creek around the transition point between the North Edisto and Wadmalaw Rivers. This had already been a long day. There were many times while on the Dawho River that I wished we had anchored along the South Edisto. To me, 25-30 miles a day on the ICW is comfortable. This 40 mile day started to take the fun out of it.
Safely anchored in the Toogoodoo, we broke out some snack food.
King Oscar brand sardines . . . "By Special Royal Permission." I don't know who King Oscar was or why his royal permission made any difference, but these things sure were good.
At this anchorage we were joined by a motor yacht and then by this sailboat. It was mid-May and there were still some straggling cruisers making their way back north for the approaching summer.
This fellow from Niantic, Connecticut had had a long day as well. We had remembered seeing this nice looking boat at the Downtown Marina in Beaufort the night before. Fortunately, he and the motor-cruising couple did not huddle around us in this spacious anchorage.
For supper we fixed some sort of pre-packaged chicken and noodle dish. I'd never tried it before. It wasn't that great, but hey, it was food and it filled our bellies.
Sure, this 3 quart cast iron skillet adds weight, but it makes life in the galley so much more pleasant.
The cast iron cooks evenly, and it works well with the Origo alcohol stove.
Offshore there were clouds and rain. Given the bad forecasts we had had before we departed Charleston, we'd been pretty fortunate on this trip.
There was also rain to the west.
Just before the sun set, its golden rays broke through the clouds.

At sunset the full moon began to rise in the east.
From the Huddle House in Beaufort to the waters of Toogoodoo Creek, this had been a long day, but a beautiful one. We had treated Oystercatcher well, and she us. Now it was time for some sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment