Beaufort strikes again!
11/25, (forgot to write down the engine hours), 60’s/50’s, calm, partly cloudy - I rowed Murph back in to the sandy island at dawn and then we got underway, motoring for points south.
A fog set in, obscuring the houses on shore but still allowing enough visibility to navigate. Conditions started to improve around 11am, and then we had bright warm sunshine for a couple hours. I opened all the ports, lifted the V-berth cushions, and hung our dish towels on the lifeline to take advantage of some drying time. The cushions develop condensation on the underside from the warmth of our bodies meeting the cool surface of the boat interior.
The tide was against us for most of the day. It was around 3:30pm when we entered Brickyard Creek, which eventually flows into the Beaufort River. We have never had a good stop here, and yet it’s a fairly necessary place to spend a night given the distance to an anchorage in either direction. Dog land access is a challenge because the 8’ tidal range creates currents that are difficult and sometimes impossible to row against. Also, at low tide, the mud flats extend far out from shore so a man-made landing is essential. We stopped at a boat ramp at Brickyard Point and I rowed Murphy in while Dobbs poked around looking for a place to anchor.
The creeks are narrow and shouldered with mud and oyster shoals. We only poke around like this at dead low tide, which it was, because running aground on a falling tide of 8’ could be, well, uncomfortable, to say the least. Dobbs did find what appeared to be a workable area, but (foolishly, in retrospect) we though there might be a better place a mile or two further on, so we continued. That spot did not pan out and, in a hurry to get back to the first location, Dobbs didn’t follow the GPS track we’d recorded going in and had throttled up. In seconds, the current set us and we ran firmly onto a mud shoal. By wiggling the boat with the motor and rudder and heeling her to port and rocking (me leaning out from the shrouds and bow), we were able to get off in a couple minutes. Dobbs felt horrible for what happened; I tried to reassure him that it was an accident and that Grace wouldn’t even be out here if it weren’t for all the repairs and improvements we’d made. If we did damage, we could fix it. We motored back up to the first spot and just as we were about to turn in, a power cat zipped around the corner and went in ahead of us. There was only enough room for one boat.
The sun set below the horizon and the remaining options seemed to be: go back out and anchor in the Coosaw River or proceed south to Port Royal Landing Marina. We were unsettled from the grounding, so we chose the marina. To get there, we had to navigate Brickyard Creek in the dark, clear the Lady’s Island swing bridge, and motor another couple miles down the Beaufort River. We’ve stopped at the Beaufort City Docks on previous occasions, and we don’t find anything to recommend them. They have a mooring field where the balls are set too close together and boats collide when the tide turns (!). Approaching Lady’s Island, we thought the aft part of the engine power train was being noisy, but we couldn’t be sure because there was also road noise from the bridge, helicopter noise from the nearby military base, and we’d been motoring for 12 hours so our ears were tired. We did some basic checking - ran the motor in reverse in case the prop was fouled with grass or something else; pulled up the cockpit floor panel to visually inspect the shaft, stuffing box, coupling, and motor; looked in through the forward access at the front of the engine. Everything checked out. Dobbs did note that the typically heavy “clunk” when shifting from neutral to forward - when the transmission engages - was sometimes softer, sometimes missing. We did make it to the marina - the motor was still performing, thank goodness, because Dobbs had to execute a 3-point turn inside the fairway in a strong current.
At 8pm, we had lines on the dock in the one available space. After putting the boat to rights for the night, we sat at the table staring blankly, drinking glasses of wine. Today did not go so well at the end. I re-heated Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, which we sucked down with gusto. I made a list of all the things we should do in the morning to make best use of this unscheduled marina stay.