Dolphin Party

The next day we pulled anchor and motored north, off to explore more of Georgia’s luscious and steamy waterways.

The ICW really doesn’t have much in the way of sailing. We will raise the sails a few more times I’m sure, but the ditch is so narrow I will be surprised if we get to turn the motors off. Georgia’s portion of the ICW is full of grassy swamplands speckled with white water birds on both sides. But of course they don’t want their picture taken.

Regardless of the redundancy, the landscape was serene. I wish I was more of a bird person, we must have passed over a hundred species of water birds.

Stan continued to shower us with his fountain of knowledge as we motored north. It wasn’t so much a matter of how to drive the boat or how to sail it, but how all the systems work and how to fix them if they break.

That night we anchored somewhere near Skidaway Creek in Georgia. The 360 view yielded water, grass and sky only. There was no beach nearby to walk around on, so Adam, Emilia and I decided to take a little dingy ride around the swamp.

The dingy motor was running fine, until it wasn’t. Right before I could get nervous about it, I started to see dolphins pop up all around us.

After expressing an unmistakable curiosity at our predicament, they came right up to our dingy and swam underneath it. As the dolphin party commenced, we drifted further and further from the big boat. I would normally be panicking around such time, but I was busy with Flipper and friends. Finally Adam yelled at me to pick up my oar so that we could row back to the big boat. Unfortunately, my oar came out of its oarlock, giving me virtually no row power. Then I realized how strong the tide was flowing against us. It took me probably 20 minutes to row with one disconnected oar back to the boat. Adam couldn’t use his because it was connected and functioning properly, which meant it was just rowing us around in circles since mine had no torque to match it.

We got back to the boat and wasting no time observing more dolphin shenanigans.

They partied with us for another hour or so, giving us a distraction from our unhappy dingy motor situation. There wasn’t much to be done about it tonight, so we decided to tackle that beast tomorrow.

Emilia had a trampoline party while Adam continued working on the life line netting. If it wasn’t for that trampoline, I don’t know how we would keep Emilia even slightly sane at anchorage. It’s one thing when we can go out to a beach somewhere, or dingy into a little town, but when we are stuck on the boat, there has to be a place for her to burn some fuel. Otherwise I would be feeling like not so great a mommy.

Now, I know there are plenty of families out there who live on monohulls, and happily. I just can’t currently comprehend how.

Adam did some more fishing after dinner, and caught more sharks!

This one was a Bonnet Head shark. That’s three different species of shark he has caught so far including the hammerhead and one other unidentified.

The next day we were off and running at the early hours. I finally started to catch a good night’s sleep when we utilized the generator in the evenings for AC. It was a hard sell for Stan and Adam, but I kept on squeaking my wheel. Call me fancy pants, but I put my foot down for AC!

We calculated the cost of the generator fuel, and it was about 6$ a night.



The next day we were off and running (motoring) before the sun. We were pulling 10 hour days at least, and making really good time when the tide was on our side. And when it wasn’t we still made good time doing maybe 5.5 or 6 knots when the tide was at its worst. In the Frog, our 28 foot monohull, we would go one knot when a medium/slightly strong current was against us. We had Barges passing us in the narrowest portions of the ICW. We laughed it off, but underneath it we were blushing with embarrassment. 

We made it to Beaufort, SC after 53 nautical miles of winding waterways. And despite the loud and obnoxious motor boating trump parties going on in every place that the water was wet, I was still excited to see Beaufort.

After finding a tiny spot in a crowded anchorage with a swift current, we dingy-ed to shore for some Beaufort exploring and grocery/laundry chores.

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Oh wait.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. All of the things that one does in a tourist town suddenly became a lot less enticing.

Instead of sightseeing, Emilia and I spent the next few hours in Beaufort City Marina’s laundry facilities. I was amazed at her ability to stay entertained in the most boring of all places imagine-able.

It brought back fond memories of my childhood.

Luckily for Emilia, the laundromat won’t be the most interesting place she goes all month.

Adam had intended to get an Uber to the nearest grocery store, 1 1/2 miles away. But after observing the social behavior of Beaufortians, he decided to rent one of the marina’s bicycles instead.

And he got everything on the list!

When all the laundry and grocery retrieving was complete, we shoved it into the dingy and rode against a crazy current back to the big boat.

After dinner it was more trampoline fun.

The next morning, we were off to Charleston, and beyond. The view lovely as usual, and Emilia really set the mood with her morning meltdowns. (I really have no clue where she got that from).

Of all the towns that we passed on this trip, Charleston really had me wishing I could stay for a while. I have never been there in person, but the view from the water looks enticing and perfect for sailors. The harbor was full of little sailboats

And big boats

We managed to do our own bit of sailing on this leg.

After we passed Charleston, we raced to make the 5 o’clock opening of the fixed swing bridge ahead.

After that we approached our anchorage in a secluded little river off the ICW. Adam, Emilia and I dingy-ed over to an oyster shell beach where he caught finger mullet for fishing bait. There was just enough time on the shell beach for Adam and I to get some arguing done, and some feelings ventilated. After a quick bicker and a shell hunt, we made our way back to the big boat a little fresher with out emotional laundry aired out. The boat is big, but not big enough to really hash out a disagreement without everyone hearing. And anyone that knows us knows we love hashing. There will be no stuffing of feelings in this family!

Before Adam commenced his nightly fishing routine, Stan showed us some more magic on the boat.

Not only is Stan one of the easiest people to get along with that I have ever met, but he is incredibly smart.

Like really smart.

After a few crisis fuel filter situations, he created a system that would allow you to flip a lever to to a different fuel filter so that you won’t have to change one out on the spot. We all know by now that anything that can break or clog, will do so when you least need it. He prefaced his fuel filter invention diagram with a few horror stories of changing fuel filters at the worst imaginable time.

Adam was the perfect sponge for all of Stan’s boat lessons. Eager and gifted in the language of mechanical devices.

After the run down on fuel filters, he proceeded to catch (wait for it)

more sharks.

The next morning we continued north, on glassy water.

We were flanked by utterly uninhabited landscapes on both sides. It’s enough to make you wonder if homesteading is allowed here.

We passed a road to no where, which seemed on par for the course here.

After days of endless motoring, we managed to pack in a little downwind sail without the motors. The jib gave us a perfect patch of shade.

Can you hear that? Its the sound of no engines, and the rush of water behind the transom is generated by wind alone. So lovely.

In order to prevent the jibes we experienced last time we sailed downwind, Stan showed us how to tie up a preventer. Easy peasy.

That night we anchored on the Waccamaw River, somewhere around Myrtle Beach, SC.

Our anchorage was divine, tucked away, surrounded by Cyprus, Oaks and Pines rooted below the water.

We dingy-ed out for some exploring and passed an ancient Cyprus that must have been hundreds of years old.

As we approached what appeared to be prime alligator stomping grounds, we saw the true nature of this ancient beast

Hollow as a straw!

We continued our dingy explorations with a most eager passenger.

and landed on a little beach amongst the Cyprus knees that looked ripe for some underage drinking and meth smoking. We did in fact run into some underage drinkers looking as conspicuous as possible, docked on a tiny fishing boat.

Oh, South Carolina.

That evening Emilia climbed into the captain’s chair.

After dinner we let the scenery unfold

and evolve.

The next morning we continued our northward trek on water made of glass.

As soon as we crossed the North Carolina boarder, we left the swamp lands behind us and entered beach town.

It didn’t take long before we began to pass a long, slow graveyard of boats.

At first it was just one or two scattered along the edges of the waterway.

And then we passed Southport, which puts all boat graveyards to shame.

The entire Southport Marina was picked up by the storm surge from Isaias and sailboats were deposited an impossible distance from the water. People were waking up to the scene of boats in their backyard. Some people were inside their boats when they were unceremoniously lifted by the surge in a tangle of other boats and deposited alongside a forest. While gas and diesel continue to leak into local creak beds, insurance companies are arguing with marina owners over how to retrieve the boats. Generally, insurance companies will look to Boat US to haul boats back into the water for salvage. But Boat US is saying that insurance needs to hire land cranes for this work. In the meantime, Southport is a graveyard of boats; a terrifying reminder of every sailor’s worst nightmare.

After 81 nautical miles of motoring, we anchored at Wrightsville beach.

We dingy-ed to shore and luxuriated in the sunset views.

We made sure to play the ‘how fast can you run’ game with Emilia, about 100 times. And when we were sure she had burned through all her extra fuel, we went back to the big boat.

The next day, we motored along with visions of sailing in the forefront of our minds.

As I write this, I realize that all the days are starting to meld together into one big motor boating blog. But Hey, it’s the ICW. That’s pretty much what you get.

This day our destination was Taylor Creek. We anchored there on the Frog years ago when we traversed the ICW south from the Chesapeake Bay. We were starting to get sentimental at the idea of our journey coming to an end. We also didn’t want Stan to leave! He was such a rock of support and knowledge on this trip.

We lifted the sail in a narrow channel to take advantage of a long stretch with an easterly breeze. We bumped ground while raising the main, but scooted off just in time to hoist it all the way up. We approached our last fixed bridge just as a shrimp boat was coming through from the north. We hailed the bridge tender and requested an opening hoping he would let us also pass. But instead, he shut the gates and made us wait till the next opening, 30 minutes later. It was a long freaking 30 minutes. We kept the main sail up and just motor sailed back and forth.

We requested another opening right on the hour, just in case he forgot and didn’t see us there, obviously ready and waiting. He replied that we had to take our sail down.

That would have been useful information during our 30 minute wait.

So we scrambled to get the sail down and barely caught the next opening.

It must get boring for the bridge tenders up in their little boxes. They gotta get whatever entertainment is available.

We had our roughest ride yet on the Bougue Sound, approaching Beaufort, North Carolina.

We put the sails up since it was wide open.

It gusted over 18 knots, so we put a reef in the main, my favorite thing.

Being a nervous sailor, I love reefing the main.

When we arrived at Taylor creek we immediately spotted our old friend, the Miniskirt, a 105 foot 7 million dollar luxury sailing yacht.

The last time I parked the Frog at a slip in Beaufort, I almost smashed right into her while a dozen crew members were waxing the boat in matching crew shirts. The current on Taylor creek is wicked fast and strong.

Taylor creek was so different than the last time we parked here! They got rid of all the moorings along the creek. So instead of trying to anchor amidst 50 some sailboats, there were only 3 or 4 along the entire creek.

Across our anchorage on Taylor Creek sits Carrot Island. It’s home to wild horses and beautiful nature trails.

I didn’t see any horses, but I did find some tiny crabs instead, and watched them scuttle along. Also one of my favorite things.

Adam went fishing that night, and I don’t even have to tell you what he caught.

Sharks, if you didn’t guess.

The next day we finished the last leg of our trip and made it to Oriental.

It was only a half a days trek. We ran aground about 30 minutes into it all, but scooted off without much problem. When we got to Adams creek we were greeted by a bald eagle, and a train of shrimp boats.

There is something really nostalgic about shrimp boats. Nothing says the water more than a smelly old rugged shrimp boat. Like a tiny crustacean’s version of Deadliest Catch.

We were hoping to sail the last portion of the trip, but Adams creek deposited us into the Neuse with the wind directly on our nose.

We hailed the fuel dock at Oriental Marina before arriving to top off our fuel and to and give me a chance to dock the boat one time where it should be easy, before pulling the boat into our permanent slip which was not going to be so easy. So far Stan has docked the boat at every fuel dock. But this little bird had to fly sometime, and so I took the wheel. As we approached the dock, we realized the approach side wasn’t wide enough for our beam (would have been nice to know when we hailed the marina to let them know a 38 foot catamaran was coming in for fuel.) So I put the engines in reverse and we decided to back in on the other side of the fuel dock, adjacent to the public dock. As the engines were running in reverse, my mind began to do the same thing and I couldn’t remember which way was left or right. I panicked like a scared chicken. I threw my hands up and demanded that Stan take the wheel. Maybe it was the look on the face of the power boater at the public dock that we were about to ram our stern into. I don’t know, but I will say, in some feeble attempt to save a little face here, that I was great at docking the Frog. The same does not appear to be so for this boat. Stan took the wheel with all the cool a cucumber could muster. It was a perfect landing. Too bad he’s leaving us in the morning!! We left the fuel dock with all my hopes of docking the boat smashed to bits. Next up to pull our boat into her slip will be Adam. About 300 feet from the fuel dock was our new slip. It was well protected but not easy to access. Today the conditions were perfect. It was dead calm. Thank the docking gods because this was Adams first time driving the boat under 2000 RPM’s. He pulled this beast into her slip like a semi truck. It was perfect. However, those 5 minutes of docking were probably the most stress full of the entire trip.

I guess that’s a good thing!

Let’s hope we can muster up the courage to actually mover her again.

We were elated to have arrived, but this meant we had to say goodbye to Captain Stan.

Not something I was looking forward to. His help and unshakeable support were invaluable. We could have signed up for another year of his boat lessons. But also, he was just a really cool guy and such a pleasure to share company with. I hope that some day I might exhibit just a fraction of the ethereal calm and pleasant nature that Captain Stan brought to this boat.

But being the high strung spaz that I am, I probably shouldn’t hold my breath for that.

One response to “Dolphin Party”

  1. Such a descriptively beautiful narrative. So glad our son married a writer! Also, your photos are priceless. My favorite is of Emilia “driving” the boat!

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