Oystercatcher, Shakedown Cruise, May 2016, Day 2: Church Creek to the Ashepoo River

B&B Seafood at Bennetts Point off the Ashepoo River
The second day of our six-day shakedown cruise from Charleston to Beaufort, South Carolina and back would take my daughter and me from Church Creek, a saltwater stream near Charleston, to the Ashepoo River, a body of water in the heart of the beautiful and remote ACE Basin. This journey of 26 nautical miles aboard Oystercatcher would offer us many sights and sounds along the way, not only on the winding course of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), but also on the detour we would make to Bennetts Point off the Ashepoo River.
I woke up early and fixed us some breakfast.
It was dawn on Church Creek and the air was cool and breezy, perfect weather for cooking with the companionway hatch open.
The sausage patties were pre-cooked. It was simply a matter of browning them in the skillet. I had bought these Jimmy Dean brand patties in the past, and I would buy them in the future. They were easy to stow in the fridge, they kept longer than raw sausage patties, and they produced much less grease and smoke while in the skillet.
As far as coffee was concerned, I used my Coleman stainless steel percolating coffee pot simply for heating the water that I would use for the Folger's instant coffee I would make in my coffee mug. I had learned in the past that the Origo alcohol stove would easily boil the water in the coffee pot, but it would not bring it to a hard enough boil for it to percolate inside of the pot. Therefore, I purchased the Folger's instant coffee for this trip. It took me a while to get used to it, but I must say that it made things more simple aboard the boat. No longer would I need to clean the pot and deal with spent coffee grounds.
I took this picture while I was cooking. Notice that I'm airing out my pillow case prior to stowing it and my pillow in the space behind the settee. My daughter was still asleep in the V-berth. She liked the green nightlight on the Bebi Electronics LED that I had installed in that space.
Our goal for the day, as I said at the start, was to go from Church Creek to the Ashepoo River. I have indicated our starting and ending points with red circles on the chart below.
As the sun rose, I enjoyed my breakfast and my hearty mug of coffee. I confess that I love this mug that I found at West Marine years ago. I use it all the time, on land and on the water. You never have to worry about knocking it over.
Up at the top of the mast the Bebi Electronics anchor light was still shining brightly. This "Owl" style light, as it called by Bebi, has a sensor that automatically turns off the anchor light soon after sunrise.
Before long we were on our way.
From Church Creek we rejoined the ICW and made our way along Wadmalaw Sound. It was close to high tide, so it was not very difficult to motor against the last of the flood tide.
The ICW zigzags around Yonges Island by necessity. There are many shallow spots in Wadmalaw Sound.
A landmark on rural Yonges Island is Stevens Towing, a company that's been in business for over one hundred years. Originally the company ferried people and provisions to the rural islands of the Lowcountry. Today the company tows barges along the East Coast, and it has a busy commercial boatyard right along the ICW.
I noticed that one of their barges bore the name Church Creek. I had to get a picture of that.
Just around the bend from Stevens Towing I noticed this old house. It looked like it had stood watch over these waters for many years.
As we continued past Yonges Island the sun broke through the clouds. This would be the last time we would see the sun on this day.
The tide was just beginning to ebb, so our speed was slowly increasing.
It was a Thursday morning, so there were plenty of commercial crabbers out checking their pots.

The Wadmalaw River slowly became the North Edisto River as we drew closer to Edisto Island. The ICW does not follow the North Edisto River southward to the ocean. Instead, it veers westward and follows the Dawho River over the top of Edisto Island.
As we turned up the Dawho River I noticed another sailboat traveling the ICW toward us. It was customary for boats to give each other some passing room when they met. This boat did not give way, but stood firmly along the magenta line. This magenta-colored line, which is visible on nautical charts and on GPS chartplotters, marks the center of the ICW. My first thought was that this captain was simply waiting as long as possible to give way. The closer we drew to each other, however, the more I realized that this captain did not see me. To avoid a collision, I quickly gave way - even more so than I had already given.
At that moment I glanced toward the other boat's cockpit and immediately realized why the captain had not seen me - he was not at the helm. To be specific, he was not even in the cockpit! Just as we passed, the guy came hustling up the companionway ladder. As soon as he reached the cockpit, he turned and grabbed the wheel. Never once in all of this did he see me. Why? Because when he turned to grab the wheel, he turned with his back toward me. By the time he was facing forward I was already in his wake. This captain had obviously relied too heavily upon his GPS chartplotter and autohelm, and he never knew that it could have cost him his life and the life of others.
The Dawho River had a few tricky spots, and it was necessary to keep a sharp lookout for buoys whose placement often defied intuition.
We were now motoring against the tide, so our speed noticeably declined.
Pictures rarely capture the swells you experience upon a boat. There was a lot of fetch on these waters, and behind us there were following seas, pushing us here and there. On top of this, there was an ebb tide. This was a contributor to the swells. The wind and the currents were working against each other.
The Dawho Bridge joins the mainland to Edisto Island. It's not a busy bridge, because Edisto is still mostly an island of fields and saltwater marshes.
Soon after the bridge, the Dawho became narrow and shallow as the ICW transitioned from this river to what is known as Watts Cut.
This cut is a man-made feature that joins the Dawho to the South Edisto River.
Now that we were past the Dawho River we were riding the ebb tide instead of fighting against it. Our speed increased the closer we drew toward the South Edisto River.
The picture below gives you some sense of the narrowness of this cut.
Before long our speed was 6.7 knots.
Then it was 7. We were almost to the river. Notice the depth. We were only about two hours past high tide.
Things really opened up once we reached the South Edisto River.
The speed increased to 7.3 knots.
The traffic increased too.

Our trip down the South Edisto River was a rough ride. This picture that I took near the start just doesn't convey the experience. The wind was on the nose and there was spray coming up over the bow. Notice that we've shut the forward hatch. Not long after this we would shut the companionway hatch as well. I didn't take any other pictures during our passage down the Edisto. I was preoccupied.
The swells grew as we moved south down the Edisto. At Fenwick Cut I had to turn abeam to them in order to make it into the cut. Fenwick Cut is the narrow man-made passage between the South Edisto River and the Ashepoo. You can see it on the left side of the chart below.
The wind and the waves dropped off as soon as we got through the cut.
We motored up the Ashepoo against the ebbing tide until we reached Bennetts Point and Mosquito Creek. This trip to Bennetts Point was a detour from the ICW. Our sole purpose in visiting was to check out B&B Seafood on Mosquito Creek. Bennetts Point is a community at the end of an 18 mile long dead-end road. Many of the residents are commercial fishermen.
As we motored up Mosquito Creek we saw what looked to be a father-and-son crabbing team. The son had already learned these crabbing skills well. He was quick at baiting the crab pots and throwing them back overboard.
We'd called ahead to B&B to ask if there was space available at the dock. A man from the store lent us a hand when we came in.
The B&B sign by the water had directed us to the proper dock.
Nearby a small shrimp boat sat tied-up.
The name on the stern was one of a kind.
An even smaller boat sat on a trailer near the store.
Just as the sign suggests, they had a little bit of everything at this store. I asked the two black men in the store if they were the brothers - the B&B brothers. They said they weren't the brothers, but they did add that they themselves were cousins. Then they pointed to a picture on the wall of the one living brother who owned the store. They said his name was Tadpole. I asked them why they called him Tadpole. One of the black men said he'd known Tadpole since he and Tadpole were both little, and all he knew was that they'd always called him Tadpole because that's how much he liked the water.
Ah . . . the Moon Pie, that most Southern of Southern sweet treats. My daughter couldn't leave the store without getting one.
In the parking lot, in the middle of all the pickup trucks and boat trailers, was a pole with gourds hanging from it. Didn't see any birds, but maybe they were out digging around for worms. You know you're out in the country when you see gourds hanging from a pole.
After a short visit, it was time to return to Oystercatcher.
Along the dock my daughter spotted a crate with some crabs in it.
These blue crabs were crawling all over each other. A crabber had dumped them into this crate along with the fish head that he'd used for bait.
Across the dock from us we saw a crabber's boat, with its pots sitting there ready to go.
This boat was a good bit more spiffy than others we'd seen.
Aside this boat on the shore was a gigantic pile of oyster shells. Oyster season was over, so it would probably be October before they'd start adding to the pile again.
Notice the polyballs at the bow and the stern. I made a habit of affixing them there prior to docking. The one on the stern was especially helpful when leaving this dock and others.
Aside from the Moon Pie I had bought us two bottles of Gatorade and a six pack of brew for the fridge. It was my way of saying thanks to the fellas for helping us at the dock and letting us walk around for a little while.
It was early afternoon, and the weather looked as if it might turn bad. I could have tried to push onward to an anchorage off the Coosaw River, but I thought it wise not to. Besides, it was getting close to low tide and the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff - the passage between these two rivers - was shallow, and I had no idea what to expect of it. Better to drop the hook near Bennetts Point. That's what I thought, so that's what we did.
Shortly afterwards the rain and thunder began, so I believe I made the right decision. When there was a lull in the rain, I went out on deck an put up a rain tarp. The sunshade awning was made of sailcloth, and it was not good at repelling the water.
In order to get the tarp over as much of the cockpit as possible, I had to remove the topping lift from the boom and place the boom off to one side.
When suppertime arrived, I only set up one of the counter extensions.
That was enough for the simple meal that we would have this evening - chiken fajitas. Yes, beef fajitas on night one, chicken on night two. Easy and little to clean up.
This picture gives you a good idea of the shelter provided by the tarp.
With the cockpit more or less protected from the misty rain, I used a squeegee and some paper towels to dry it. This enabled us to enjoy this space in comfort. Notice the two cushions to the left. We would use these on each side as backrests.
This picture gives you a better idea of how I stowed the boom. Notice that I have run a line from the mast to the split backstay. This line served as a backbone of sorts for the tarp.
Throughout the afternoon and early evening the wind continued to blow. Notice in the picture below that I did not take down the sunshade when putting up the tarp. I simply put up the tarp underneath it.
Just before sunset there was a brief moment when we thought we might see the sun. No such luck. The air remained cool and bug-free, so we again slept with the hatches open, enjoying the breeze throughout the night.
The next morning we would make our way up the Coosaw River to Beaufort. That's the subject of my next posting.