With small craft warnings and fairly strong winds, we stayed tied up at Ocean Isle Marina yesterday and planned for a 9:30 am departure today. After the fiasco with departing without a confirming reservation at our planned destination, we made sure yesterday that we have a reservation for this afternoon at Wacca Wache Marina in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. Our trip today will include navigating through Little River Inlet and its shoaling, two swing and one bascule bridge that must be opened for passage and the ‘Rock Pile’ a notoriously narrow passage with rocks that grow out of the water (especially at low tide). So with our log at the helm and the guidebook open to the necessary information, we blow the horn at 9:05 am (we’re getting real good at prepping the boat for departure) and head south towards South Carolina.
The Little River Inlet is our only inlet today, but it doesn’t disappoint as even with nearly high tide, our depth alarm goes off a few times. Fortunately, we’re prepared and passing through at idle speed, so the shoaling issue is over without incident. The Little River Swing Bridge is five statute miles further down the ICW and at 7 feet closed it must be opened and will open on request, so as we approach, we ask the tender for an opening and he says to come right up and he’ll give us that opening. After ending the VHF conversation with the tender we keep the handheld radio on channel 09 and the main radio on channel 16. Suddenly we hear a boat calling for TowBoatUS on channel 16 and when he gets a response he tells them that he has run aground one mile south of the Little River Swing Bridge and needs a tow. So we become very attentive looking out for the bridge to open and prepare for whatever may be on the other side after our pass. Once we are clear of the bridge, we can see up ahead a decent size trawler way over to the side of the channel and we can’t see any movement or an anchor, so we quickly determine that this must be the grounded boat. I grab for the radio to call him, but just as I prepare to key the mike, I hear TowBoatUS calling him to switch to channel 14 and I see a boat approaching him from the south, so I know he’s going to be pulled off the bottom soon. We acknowledge him as we pass and he signals that he’s okay.
The next area of concern is ‘the rock pile’ and we really have no clue other than the guidebooks as far as what to expect, however the guidebooks suggest a ‘securite’ on the radio before entering this two mile stretch of water and ask for responses from any traffic, commercial or recreational. A sailboat responds that they are northbound and there’s plenty of water for a pass, so we’re okay to make our way into ‘the rock pile’. Soon we are passing the sailboat followed by a large cruiser and we acknowledge both with hand signals. That wasn’t so bad!
The next low bridge is a railroad bascule bridge and everyone I’ve talked to say they’ve never (get that, never) seen it closed. So we approach and sure enough, it’s open. In fact, as we pass through it we can see that the tender house is boarded up and looks like it’s been unoccupied for the last twenty years! So all we have left is the Sawcustee Swing Bridge at 11 feet and opens on request. We go through the radio protocols again and pass through very smoothly again.
Soon we are nearing the fresh water Waccamaw River and gentle bends to port and starboard with only a handful of northbound vessels to pass. In fact this whole cruise today, we have not passed or been passed by a southbound vessel. When we’re a mile from the marina we call them on the radio and two dock hands are on the dock to greet us and we slip into N2 as requested at 2:30 pm. After tipping the dockhands and securing Kailani, we walk up to the office, which is on the second floor above the Deck 383 Restaurant to complete the paperwork. When we get to the office, I provide our MTOA information to Becca for our 25% discount on dockage fees ($1.50 per foot vs. $2.00 per foot) and we’re given a welcome packet with two Wacca Wache Koozies. As we’re completing the paperwork I ask what Wacca Wache is Indian for and Becca and Tracy both ring out in unison “Happy Happy”!
After that school session I have to eat so we walk back downstairs to Deck 383 for what the menu describes as ‘Upscale Shabby Food, Cold Beverages and Amazing Views’. We proceed to order two ‘upscale shabby’ burgers and enjoy a nice late lunch. We have decided to spend two days here so tomorrow, we may get out our new bikes and do some exploring.
While we were in Deck 383 I posted a ‘check in’ on facebook and our old friend and training captain Geoff Gow (who’s now freezing up in New York City on his next career), responded back to me that another of his clients live just around the corner from here and they’re great people. So I check it out and they are Harbor Hosts for this area and I send out an email to them to see if they’re in the area tomorrow, possibly we can get together.
Sunset is beautiful here (as usual, it’s the same sun no matter where we end up!) and we catch up on some emails, etc. for the remainder of the day and look forward to a full day of fun tomorrow with forecasted nice weather.