After the hurricane, Eric awarded the girls a pirate flag since they were so brave during their first hurricane. Shortly thereafter Carl and Les (Eric’s parents) stopped by and helped us rest, regroup, & resupply. The girls, Les, and I stayed in a hotel one night to get away from hurricane drama. We swam in the pool, relaxed in the hot tub, and we may have had a cocktail or two. The boys did manly things like rebuild the generator, get the water maker working, help a local get his boat off of the marsh & subsequently help him ‘throw a few back’ when they weren’t successful. By the end of their visit, we are running low on water, so the time had come for the grandparents to head back to their place, and for us to continue on.
Leaving St. Mary’s is bittersweet. We met a lot of great people and truly enjoyed anchoring there, but with all the dingy docks closed we know that raising anchor makes the most sense. We’ve even met a few local law enforcement types – some kind & understanding, some…not so much. We were running out of things and needed to grab necessities before we left. Easier said than done though. We’d been kicked off the boat ramp dock…sirens, bullhorn, and everything…but we explained our situation and were told of a dock we could use, but only once. Ironically, as we were leaving the ‘ok to use once dock’ we happened across once of our new friends in his powerboat. He offered to bring the girls & I to our boat since our dingy was loaded down and riding low and slow; however, as he tried to pull away, he couldn’t. Upon investigation, he found that his prop had fallen off! So, we called Eric back, and he and our ‘running much better now’ dingy pulled our friend’s boat to the boat ramp dock that we’d just been kicked off of. We felt bad leaving them there, but one confrontation with the police is a good daily limit.
So we left and are sailing north to St. Simeon for the night. The girls have started their first round of homeschool tests – phew! They are a challenge (ended up taking a whole week for them to finish). A funny moment broke the testing tension while anchored at St. Simeon – we were keeping the boat super quiet while the girls were taking their tests and, unbeknownst to us, a dolphin surfaced right at the back of the boat and made a racket while taking a breath. We thought someone had snorkeled up to the boat to cause some mayhem. Funny, but scared the crap out of us.
We’ve continued on to Tybee Island. During our sail, we pick up a hitchhiker. A little bird has found us over 3 nautical miles out (what is he doing out here?) and decides to hang with us for a good portion of our sail. The kids have nicknamed him ‘Little Brown.’ He is dancing all over the boat. He flies off, then works his tail off to fly back to us (we are motor sailing at about 7 knots – so I imagine it’s a chore). At one point he flies inside the salon so the girls and I have to get him out. He ends up landing on my head, so I walk him out. Just call me the ‘bird whisperer’.
We arrive in Tybee a bit later than we like because the wind dies during our sail. The sun is getting low as we’re entering the inlet and there is no way that we’ll make our planned anchorage before sunset. Eric and I scramble to look for a new acceptable place to anchor, because anchoring rule number one = don’t anchor at night. The chart indicates a likely anchorage just off a lighthouse a little further down the inlet. It is out of the channel and seems to have good depth. As the sun is touching the horizon, we arrive at our makeshift anchorage. We don’t know if there are any rules against anchoring here, but clearly the lighthouse is no longer in service so we should be ok – it looks like it hasn’t been lit for 100 years. We are able to get the hook down before dark and all is well. We crack upon a few adult beverages to celebrate our success just as a tour boat comes about 30 feet from our cat, at which point its captain shares the history of the Cockspur Island lighthouse to his paying customers over a loudspeaker, so we get to learn all about the dilapidated lighthouse for free. A good way to settle in for the night.
We move to a new anchorage in the morning on the NW side of Hilton Head called Skull Creek, so we’re officially in South Carolina! This anchorage is a gem. There isn’t much around – mansion houses to the east, a small marina to the south, and sheltered from the inlet to the north. Lot of dolphins and very peaceful. The occasional recreational fishing boat goes by, which throws a small wake that rocks the boat a bit, but we don’t rock like a monohull, so it’s alright. Most boaters are compassionate and slow down for us. Life is good.
The girls have finally finished their first round of tests, so we celebrate by going to the beach! We dingy over to the inlet & basically have our own private beach. The girls have a blast. It’s nice to sit in our beach chairs and truly embrace the cruising life. Again, life is good…although here we learn that one should not drag a dingy onto the beach during high tide, especially when the tide if almost 7 ft. By the time we head back to the boat, the dingy is 50 ft away from the water.
At this point, we have officially been cruising for a month, so its time for the girls and I to delve deeper into ‘boat learning’. Eric gives us dingy lessons. The girls do an excellent job. Me…I’m not great, but I can get us where we need to go. Admittedly landing alongside the boat is not my forte, but I know I’ll get better. On another note, Eric tried to down our youngest child today. Her reward for finishing school early was to go tubing for the first time. Well, he didn’t tie the tube up right, so when he got a little speed on, the tube nosed over and flipped Cloe in the water. It was quite something to see Cloe start with excited yells of jubilation then switch to wide eyed screams of fear as the tube capsizes. My loving husband comforted her with “lean further back on the tube and it won’t flip” (thank you genius) and, to Cloe’s credit, she tries it again. Cloe shows incredible bravery as she climbs back on the tube with tears running down her face. Her first mistake was to trust her misguided father who, once again, starts to accelerate the dingy and the nose of the tube submarines flipping Cloe off the tube. As you can imagine, Cloe has decided that her tubing life has come to and end.
We stay at Skull Creek for a week or so. Thankfully Eric has figured out why we’re having compass discrepancies, which we’ve noticed during our last few sails. The problem is solved by moving the homeschool supplies. Apparently one of the girls will be doing a science lab requiring iron filings and a magnet, and they were too close to the compass and mucking up the reading. Whoops. While here, we also see phosphoresces in the water for the first time. It is captivating watching the water light up when agitated.
During our sail to Charleston, we actually catch a fish! Unfortunately, we aren’t prepared. While I’m grabbing the larger bucket from below, the fish jumps off the hook, out of Eric’s hand and hits the smaller bucket on deck which dumps both it and itself overboard. Fishing fail! After this incident, we have a ‘crew meeting’ and draft a better “fishing while sailing” plan to follow from here on out so we don’t lose any more fish.
We have a long day of motor-sailing (not enough wind…again) and decide to anchor near Fort Sumter. A few boats are already anchored here, so it must be fine. Admittedly, it’s too rocky for me and the huge freighters coming by bounce us more often than I like. Then, as the sun is setting, everyone leaves! Every single boat that is anchored here pulls up and goes elsewhere, and this all happens within 15 minutes! Well, I’m not comfortable staying here overnight if they aren’t. What do they know that we don’t? So I tell the crew that we aren’t staying out here ’alone’…so we leave…at sunset…for a different anchorage. Yes, we are going to break anchoring rule #1 and will be anchoring at night. Anchoring in a place you’re unfamiliar with at night is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s not the best of boating practices. You can’t see really well, so it’s unnerving. The anchorage we find is already pretty full. Thankfully, Eric saves us by seeing a hazard before its too late…the mast of a sunken boat near the East end. We do, however, anchor without a problem. Admittedly, we are a little closer to one of the boats than we like, so we stay up for a bit watching how we swing during the tide change. We end up being fine, so we call it a night.
Charleston is an awesome city. Eric takes the girls to Fort Sumter. It is, now, a 15+ minute dingy ride to get there from our new anchorage, and I’m not a big fan of long dingy rides…so I stay behind to catch up on things. They have a great time learning the history of the fort. The next day, we all go in to shore and explore the city. Locals recommend we should experience the Farmers’ Market, so we do, but find it to be more of a ‘bazar’ than the farmer’s markets I know from Germany, but its still an experience. Even though they have food trucks at the market, we decide to visit a restaurant so we can rest our weary feet. We happen across Rue De Jean, a French restaurant recommended in our cruising guide, so we decide it must be fate and choose to eat here. The food is exceptional, the atmosphere unparalleled, and we leave with our bellies full, ready to tackle the rest of the day. Our next stop is the Charleston Museum. We learn a great deal of history about the area…the rice industry, who knew? Well, we didn’t, and feel pretty stupid for not having known. The labor it took to grow and harvest rice…inconceivable! The museum also has an excellent kids area. The girls get all dressed up, and have a great time.
Charleston really doesn’t want us to leave. We try heading out two different times: once, the inlet is too choppy, and the other, the weather isn’t cooperating. On one of our failed attempts, we decide to stay in the harbor and do some man overboard drills with the tubing floaty. Happy to report that we retrieve the floaty every single time…this includes rounds with me on the helm. On our ‘real’ last night in Charleston, the girls and I make a big batch of Apple Crisp. We share it with one of our new boaty friends, Captain Lee. Captain Lee has been living on the hook in the Charleston anchorage since before 2000. At first, we aren’t really sure about this guy who looks like…he’s been anchored out for almost 20 years, but we learn that he has experiemced a lot in his years and has a heart of gold. He is indeed a character. The girls really enjoyed meeting him and hearing his stories. He’s helped make our time in Charleston unforgettable.