An Ending and a New Beginning – Part 1

Partly I have been a bit side tracked…partly our world went up in flames. Hence the delay in making any new blog posts – apologies!

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My last post in June 2018 left us on beautiful, wild Cumberland Island, Georgia preparing to sail to our old “happy holiday” spot of Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Which we did, attracting lots of attention as we sailed in with people waving from the beach and dodging our 39 foot catamaran through the flotillas of jay-walking kayaks very slowly.  A spot that sees few sailing yachts it seems.

But I have jumped ahead. Our trip would be 26 hours of sailing at the stately speed of 5 -6 knots, so we had plenty of time to check our progress, snooze, raise sails, drop sails, drink tea etc.

That night, I realised that my “VHF radio voice” needed to drop an octave at least. And I’m not saying please anymore.

Somehow, no matter how much time you have to prepare, something on the night shift will always catch you unawares and this time it was the hornet’s nest that is the inlet to the Savannah River with its to and fro of massive commercial ships.

The recommended routes into these major rivers extend perhaps 3 miles out to sea and are lined like aircraft landing strips with red and green lit marker buoys, to guide the large vessels. It just happened that as we were passing across the top of the channel at 1am seven ships were on their way out – or in – giving us a daredevil challenge that felt like trying to run across a motorway.

“A-ha” I hear you say – “she will call them on the VHF radio again, and all will be well!”

That night, I realised that my “VHF radio voice” needed to drop an octave at least. And I’m not saying please anymore.

None of them buggers wanted to talk to the squeaky voiced woman from sailing catamaran Pentesilea, and we just had to work our way through, waiting for them to pass by, in unfriendly radio silence.

Our destination of Edisto Beach, South Carolina sits on the USA South Eastern coast where three rivers gather to the sea out of the enormous, ACE Basin area – the Ashepoo, Combahee and the Edisto.

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The pristine maritime marshes on the edge of the ACE Basin

The flow of all that water, through 350,000 acres of undeveloped natural environment, has several interesting effects namely; waters chock full of fish life, which means bigger fish in the sea waiting to eat them, which also means skies full of fish hunting birds of all kinds.

After 150 miles at sea and an overnight trip we were stuck – unable to get on land unless we wanted to make a hot, sticky spectacle of ourselves dragging it onto the beach, amongst the beach-balls and sunbathers.

It also means the sea is pretty muddy here where it all gets washed down stream – probably good that you can’t see too much of what is in there if you want to swim! The sandbanks off the coast also get dissolved and moved constantly by all this water flow… so when the chart says you will have 15 feet of water, the depth sounder tells you you actually have 5 feet!

We crept in slowly, enjoying the feeling of returning to this much-loved place in a very different style and noticing how different it all looked from our new viewpoint.

A sign – or perhaps the reason – why the town area has very few sailing yachts visit is that the marina on the river was completely nonplussed by the idea that we wanted to park our RIB dinghy there and come ashore for a while. After 150 miles at sea and an overnight trip we were stuck – unable to get on land unless we wanted to make a hot, sticky spectacle of ourselves dragging it onto the beach, amongst the beach-balls and sunbathers.

After a small amount of over-tired hysteria I called the Edisto Island Yacht Club up the creek to see if they could help, which was the best thing I did all week.

…with 4 dozen power boats all anchored in the shallows along the sandbar like a car park, and tables piled high with sandwiches, home baking and a bright orange cocktail of dubious recipe called “monkey juice”.

Club manager Charlie – universally acknowledged to be a gem of a man – found us a shallow corner of their dock, cleared it with his Commodore and then his Fleet Commander Ronnie Henderson (yes, this is how Yacht Clubs job titles actually work!!) and we were set for a week of so much kindness, southern hospitality, new friends and a lot of fun.

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Trips back to the boat at night. Like that moonlit walk home from a good party.

Night-watch sleep-deprived as we were, it was of course good manners to scrub up and accept an invite to drinks that evening at the Club House – at least for a few hours. By the end of the night we were fully in the Edisto swing and providing some entertainment in return I hope, with our misadventures of amateur sailors in Puerto Rico and tales of storms at sea.

The next day we were easily persuaded to join the lovely Ronnie and his witty wife Paula and their friends, for their annual trip out into the ACE Basin to meet other local Yacht Clubs – mostly fishing and pleasure boating folk – on a sandbar for a beach party picnic.

When the tide came in it would all be quickly packed away as the river covered the sand bar beach up again.

Ronnie and Paula made sure we were included in everything that was happening even though we were actually just strangers who had mooched a free parking space.

The power boat trip there with Ronnie driving was hilarious and the fastest we had ever traveled on water – although the soft thud and complete stop as we hit one of those tricky moving sandbars was a surprise and the subject of much teasing that day. I think he got us off again by dissolving it from under us with the propeller…

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And then we stopped dead on a sandbar!

How wonderful to actually get way out into the vastness of these pristine marshes, wooded islands and interconnecting rivers.

The picnic was like nothing I have ever seen, with 4 dozen power boats all anchored in the shallows along the sandbar like a car park, and tables piled high with sandwiches, home baking and a bright orange cocktail of dubious recipe called “monkey juice”.

The next day was a yummy fish-fry dinner at the club and so on…and so on…these people know how to enjoy themselves!

Ronnie and Paula made sure we were included in everything that was happening even though we were actually just strangers who had mooched a free parking space.

By the time we left we had been looked after royally with a standing offer to borrow Ronnie’s own truck as a run around for doing our shopping, dinner at their home, use of Charlie’s washing machine, a gift of a Yacht Club burgee (a small pointy flag) and many lovely new friends, whom we look forward to revisiting.

We dodged the fearless/oblivious kayaks on our way back out of the river a week later, waving up at the Yacht Club windows as we headed out sea from a place we were sorry to leave.

Onwards and upwards to North Carolina!

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Edisto, the marsh and the river from our anchorage

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