Monday, January 11, 2010

Wilmington, NC to Charleston, SC

We spent a great couple of days in Wilmington, visiting the land home of friends Tom and Debbie, who keep their sailboat at our marina in Annapolis. Because getting mail is a challenge when you don’t stay in any one place for more than a few days, we had had our mail, and the new boarding ladder we’d ordered at the Annapolis Boat Show, sent ahead to them. Reconnecting with our mail was a treat – no bills and no bad news! We had a great homemade dinner with them and tour of the town, where Debbie offered such odd pieces of information as the fact that there’s a large film industry in Wilmington, as well as a surfer culture from the local college, and that kids who had gone to school here were often liked it so much that they were willing to take seemingly underemployed jobs like waitressing to be able to stay in the area after graduation. Also a great short visit from Dan’s sister Karen and her husband. Karen had heard about, but never seen, our boat. The dinghy trip out to where we were at anchor in the harbor was an adventure by itself. Karen was intrigued with the storage aboard the boat, which she said reminded her of their camper, every square inch put to use.
(photos: our anchorage the first night, Cow House Creek; and the second, Awendaw Creek)

After leaving Wilmington we took a short day, motoring just a few hours to spend the night at Carolina Beach (surrounded by beach houses ranging from ostentatious to funky), then two long days down the Waccamaw River and the marshes. For a while I amused myself trying to photograph silhouettes of Spanish moss hanging from the trees. By the second day, though, we were out of the trees and surrounded by wide swaths of marsh grass with a few tree islands. My friend Cindy calls it the “river of grass” and said its one of her favorite places. For me, especially with the bronzy tones of autumn, the low grasses and wide horizons recalled the Kansas wheat farm where Dan grew up. But the phrase “featureless marsh” came to mind as well, and I realized how easy it would be to get lost here without our trusty GPS chartplotter. It looked the same everywhere we turned. We anchored in a wildlife refuge surrounded by unfamiliar bird calls and lots of stars.
(photo: Spanish moss along the river)

UGH! What’s that noise?

Also during this period our steering developed a groaning sound during right turns, a sound that wasn’t immediately urgent but certainly needed attending to. But when we stopped that night and tried to diagnose it, nothing! The steering worked perfectly. We took the compass off and sprayed lubricating oil on the chain at the helm; but next morning as soon as we got underway the sound was back, even louder. We start trying some serious diagnosis: Does it happen with the autopilot? (no) Does it vary with engine speed? (not noticeably) Does it happen with the engine running when tied at the dock? (no, again) Is the cable tension adjusted properly? (yes) We’re anxious to get to Charleston, tie up in a marina, explore the city, and find a mechanic.
(photo: there's nothing particularly special about this bridge except that it's located almost exactly midway between Annapolis and Miami. Halfway there!)
(originally published 10 November 2009)

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