We have enjoyed a few days of glorious weather, which always makes the day brighter, even while white-knuckling the occasional shallow waters of the ICW. The mornings have become a bit crisper (after all, it is autumn!), with lows in the 40s but highs in the mid-60s. When the sun is out, it can feel like a sunroom in our fully enclosed cockpit, but when the sun disappears behind a cloud, it can get downright chilly again. So we dress in layers, then we undress, and then dress again.
All of that undressing is fraught with obstacles. We tie everything on that might fall into the water, which makes peeling layers a bit comical. Eyeglasses, sunglasses, and hats are primarily the victims of overboard folly. We already lost one pair of expensive eyeglasses on Day 2 of this journey (I’m not saying which one of us) and we aren’t looking to lose more. If I come back next spring without losing either of my cameras, or my iPhone that performs as a camera, I’ll be amazed. I’m always vying for a super duper photo with my amateur equipment, and that swishing water is just waiting to swallow up my treasured swag.
But picture-taking has to take a backseat for safety, especially while in the ICW. Both of us have to keep an eagle eye out for everything. It’s actually sensory overload at times. Each day at the helm we have electronic and paper charts, four guidebooks, two iPads with different as well as similar information, and an iPhone with the day’s route programmed into Navionics. Four Raymarine displays (in addition to the chartplotter at the helm) show us depth, speed over ground, speed in the water, wind speed, wind direction, compass heading, and autopilot settings.
We have AIS and possibly radar up with our chartplotter, so that we can know who’s around the bend or the name of that big tug coming towards us. And we have two sets of binoculars, including a pair of stabilized binoculars (which holds the image steady in spite of waves and boat motion), so that each of us can see ahead in the far distance.
The VHF is buzzing, either with static or with someone hailing us, or with someone whom we thought was hailing us. Our ears are attuned to unusual sounds, beeps, alarms, sputters, clicking, or crackling. We use wireless headsets when anchoring and docking, so we can hear each other without shouting.
Smells waft in from land and trigger a horrified rush below to investigate “what’s that burning smell,” only to breathe a sigh of relief when we pass an outdoor bonfire on the upwind shore. Only taste seems to be the sense that doesn’t send a momentary shot of anxiety, as we sip our morning hot chocolate or coffee.
Because we waited for a rising tide this morning, we did not tempt running aground in the McClellanville stretch of the ICW.
And because we anchored shortly thereafter to wait for the next rising tide during daylight hours, which means tomorrow, we hope to pass through the next treacherous spot at Isle of Palms with a repeat of today’s uneventful journey. It was indeed interesting to listen to the VHF this afternoon and hear a boat say that they draw six feet and ran aground not once but three times at the Isle of Palms and could not get through. They had to turn around. Sobering thought! Glad we are waiting for that rising tide!
And then there are occasions of pure joy of being in these remote marshes and canals of the ICW. Like today, when I spotted a bald eagle in a tree at the edge of the marsh.
Or when dolphins greeted us at the mouth of Dewees Creek as we turned in to anchor. These are the kind of “pinch me” moments, when nature has me catching my breath and appreciating this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sure, we hope to do this again. But this, right now, is our first time. And that makes it unique. Although we have heard stories from sailing friends, have attended countless seminars, and have read books, there is nothing like experiencing it firsthand.
We are blessed to be in this place, at this time. Yes indeed.