Back in the summer of 2012 I volunteered to help my friends Vic and Gigi bring their newly acquired Defever 44 up from Georgia. I chronicled our trip with the intent of submitting this to Paul for him to consider for Neuse River Sailors. As I am prone to do, it fell by the wayside and just did not get done. I stumbled upon this recently, and other than the dates, the impressions and emotions are as valid today as then. Paul, being the ever generous and benevolent web master, agreed to post it to his web site. So here it is. Enjoy the journey, I did.
Since this was the first real experience either of them had with a boat of this type, and I am a power boat owner myself, with limited, very limited, knowledge of these things, I was invited along as crew to help bring the boat from Brunswick, GA to her new home at Matthews Point Marina in Havelock, NC. We will be traveling without a dinghy and be at anchor nearly every night. A good chance to test out all the systems. I will try in my stilted fashion to give some feel for the journey. Forgive me my lack of eloquence. So begins the saga of Salty Turtle.
Arrived in Brunswick, GA around 4:00. Salty Turtle is all she was advertised to be. 1987 Defever 44 in pristine condition. The plan was to leave Monday morning and start North. Problem. Tropical Storm Debbie arrived the same time we did. The storm is moving extremely slowly (3 mph) with a track that no one can agree on. We are likely going to sit still and depart Wednesday.
Finally free of Debbie. No rain, but winds are a bit too strong to venture north. Departure first thing tomorrow morning.
Fired up Salty Turtle’s engines and left the dock. Fueled up at the marina and headed north at around 8:30. The day was essentially uneventful. The Salty Turtle is a strong, heavy boat. From the fly bridge you can barely tell you are underway. Most of the trip is spent winding our way along the ICW through salt marshes. Pretty water. The only issue was the entrance to Little Mud River. We arrived at pretty much dead low and had to dig a channel for those following us. Saw porpoises, and a sea turtle. They were too quick for me to get a picture. Spent some time learning the electronics: Chart plotter, radar, depth finders, auto helm, etc. Anchored at Pine Island at around 5 PM. Once we figured out how to start the generator, the evening went smoothly. Cooked up some Bambi burgers on the grill and watched the sun go down. Now I just need to figure out how to light the anchor lights. Looking forward to an early start in the morning. Destination, Beaufort SC.
Another beautiful day on the water. Underway at around 7:00, arrived Beaufort approximately 3:45. The intracoastal waterway in Georgia up to southern SC winds lazily through a sea of marshland. Depending on the tides, the marsh is nearly flooded with just the tops of the weeds showing, or a green jungle. Early this morning, at around low tide we saw herds of feral pigs grazing in the marsh grass. Around Hilton Head we had pod after pod of porpoises along our track, and what Vic says was a manatee splashed the surface just in front of the boat. We are anchored just south of the Lady’s Island bridge. Somewhere around Charleston tomorrow.
Underway again at around 7:00. Spent most of the day with the current dead in our face. Saw most of the ICW at low tide. Not a pretty picture. Mud flats, floating docks on the bottom, oyster beds high and dry. There seemed to be some nice homes along the way, but unless I see this stretch at high water, I don’t need to come this way again. Things were pretty uneventful until we approached Charleston. Everyone with a boat is on the water. Somehow I ended up at the helm as we exited the Edisto River. Enter Elliot Cut. Elliot Cut is a small throughway just before entering Charleston Harbor. The water pours through this narrow passage like shit through a goose. In addition to dealing with the tremendous current, there were a number of small power boats in the cut at the same time as us. With a boat this size, maneuverability is not an option. Either they get out of the way or it’s crunch time. Fortunately, the small power boats in front of us saw us bearing down on them with me at the helm and the look of Satan on my face and decided to power up and get out of our way. I have heard that bigger boats have traversed the cut, but I would hate to have to be the one at the helm. After this, other than keeping a watchful eye on the traffic, crossing Charleston Harbor, the traffic around Isle of Palms, etc. seemed relatively unexciting and was relatively easy. We arrived Dewey’s Creek and had the anchor down at around 4:45. After a couple of rum and tonics my sphincter finally unpuckered and I grilled up a dinner of Bambi Rib Eyes wrapped in bacon. A glass of Irish Whiskey to seal the deal and off to bed. Tomorrow’s destination, somewhere on the Waccamaw.
Underway at 6:55. Again with the current in our face all day. Blistering hot. We motored north crossing the South and Northern branches of the Santee. Nothing of note. More salt marshes. Traversed Wynyah Bay and entered the Waccamaw. Very nice. Old rice plantations, cypress trees, Spanish Moss. We anchored in an ox bow about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Beautiful place. Ancient cypress trees laden with Spanish moss. We just beat a line of thunderstorms that threatened to provide an interesting evening. We are scheduled into Southport tomorrow.
Underway by 7:00. Beautiful day on the water. The thunderstorms of the previous evening passed us by, though apparently creating havoc up and down the east coast. The day was blessedly cooler with much less humidity. Again, beautiful day on the water. Other than the normal chaos that apparently one must deal with at Shallotte and Lockwood’s Folly inlets at dead low tide and a holiday weekend, the day was without incident. We made great time arriving at South Harbor Village Marina at around 3:00. The folks here are great, and I would recommend this place to anyone moving up or down the waterway. Good restaurants at the site, pump outs, fuel, you name it. Our friends from the Point, Buck and Vicki on Victoria Gaye, happened to be in Sunset Beach today as we were traversing through on the ICW. They were at the Sunset Beach Bridge as we passed through this morning with some friends of theirs with a video camera to document our passage.
Underway by 7:00. Anchor down by 3:00. This is getting too easy. We have gotten to know the boat to the point where it is routine. I monitor the engine room checking fluid levels in the engines, generator and stabilizers. Report to the Captain and First Mate (you choose who is who) the systems status, fuel and water levels, then we light the engines and away we go. The only excitement came this morning shortly after we were under way when we got an “unknown” alarm. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary at the helm. That only left the main cabin, or the engine room (OH, S___T). As it turned out, I located the issue as a battery powered smoke detector in my cabin (the forward V berth). Since I could not figure out how to silence the infernal thing, and there was obviously no fire in or around my sleeping quarters, Gigi pulled the unit off the wall and disconnected the battery. Problem solved. Vic is facing a moral crisis however. First, he no longer has to wait for bridges on the ICW with a vertical clearance of greater than 22 ft. This he finds as simply wrong. The worst part though, is since this boat has a 30 gph water maker and carries 300 gallons of fresh water, the boat has a fresh water wash down pump. To an old sailor like Vic, using fresh water to clean mud off of the anchor seems morally reprehensible. Since I am not afflicted with this moral conundrum, sometimes just to get his goat I will use the fresh water wash down just to clean mud off the deck. Sometimes I will simply point the hose in the air and spray water overboard. He stands there helpless with a look of pure disgust on his face. I inform him that now that he is a big ass power boater, he has appearances to maintain. At one point I thought he was actually going to throw me overboard.
We left Southport without incident, traversed the southern end of the Cape Fear and Snow’s Cut and entered the waterway just south of the Carolina Beach Inlet. We had to wait on two of the three bridges. Even Salty Turtle can’t slip under a swing bridge with 12 foot clearance. This actually was a good opportunity for the Captain and First Mate to practice station keeping maneuvers as we waited for bridge openings. Piece of cake. Otherwise the day was uneventful. We arrived Mile Hammocks Bay and had the hook down by 3:00. Need to check, but my guess is we averaged about 8 knots today. We are planning an early departure in the morning to catch the 7:00 Onslow Beach bridge opening. Depending on the current, we should be home at Matthews Point by about 3:00 tomorrow. Might even arrive early enough to get a burger and dog at Bill and Helen’s annual 4th of July bash.
Underway by 6:30, actually arrived at the Onslow Beach Bridge a few minutes before 7:00 and the Bridge Tender opened upon request for us. "The Turtle literally flew up Bogue Sound, through Morehead City and up Adam’s Creek, making 10 kts at times. Almost like she knew the trip was almost over. We were contacted by our friends at the Marina around 1:20 and we let them know we were in the Neuse River and could see the entrance to Clubfoot Creek. As we passed Bill and Helen Brinson’s home on the Creek we could see they were in full 4th of July cookout mode and announced our presence with Salty Turtle's throaty air horn. Galen Newton, another live aboard at the marina, met us in his skiff and documented our arrival. Hook down by 1:40. The Captain(s) and crew (me) of Salty Turtle were transported to the Brinson’s for a proper 4th of July cookout. Hugs and kisses all around, glasses raised, stories told. Salty Turtle was home.
Some final thoughts. The intracoastal waterway from South Georgia to our home at Matthews Point is a true wonder. From broad expanses of salt marsh to tannin stained Cypress Swamps, it is a treasure that we must all do our part to protect. If you get the chance, this is a trip you must make in total or in part. Places with names such as Little Mud River, Elliot Cut, Hell’s Gate and the Rock Pile will be the source of stories for years to come. I would also like to express my sincerest gratitude to the folks that made this trip special. Dale Longtin who provided car delivery service and stuck it out with us through Tropical Storm Debbie. The uncounted number of folks that made it a point to regularly check on our progress and wish us safe passage as we moved north. You can’t imagine how these simple acts of kindness are appreciated. Buck and Vicki Dawkins that were gracious enough to arrange the filming of our passage through the Sunset Beach bridge. To my loving wife Maril who felt it more important that I stay onboard and see our friends safely home than rush back to Raleigh, even if it was a holiday weekend. And my special thanks to Vic and Gigi for introducing me to this part of the waterway and allowing me to be a part of this very special point in their life. I have seen the water through their eyes and am better for it.
To all the people that love the water and the clean salt air, 'til next time.
A few more pictures.