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Wappoo Creek Draw Bridge

We read all the reports, reviews, advice etc about not traversing Elliott’s Cut at half tide because of the rate of current flow. But we did it anyway; with a following current.

After a very careful ‘leaving the dock’ from St John’s Yacht Harbor (just south of Charleston SC), careful because of the current, wind and the fact there was a boat in front of us and behind us, we punched our way against the current up the short section of the Stono River to Elliott’s Cut.

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So tiring, cruising, I’ll just lie here and stick my head in the toy basket.

There was no turning back once we made the turn. We were sucked in and swept along at 12.3kt (13.5+mph) with each stony bank seemingly not much further way from us than our boat is long. We thought, as the Cut spat us out into Wappoo Creek, we would slow down considerably. Not so much. We were still going a good 10+mph with a low, closed swing bridge ahead. Obviously we weren’t the first people to be in this predicament because the bridge captain was watching for us and timed the bridge opening perfectly. Through we ‘sailed’ and out towards Charleston. That should have been our excitement for the day. Ha!! Famous last words.

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Outbound

The two rivers that merge at Charleston, Cooper River and Ashley River, are very busy with commercial traffic. First we dodged a tug towing a dredging barge.

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Outbound and more inbound

Next was an inbound and then an outbound container ship, the inbound calling us on the radio to make sure we had seen him and the other ship. We assured the captain that we had. Then we had to sprint across their channel, close behind the outbound ship as there were two more lining up to come in. Phew. Survived that peril. No more according to the charts, just a little bit of shoaling.

The tide was falling rapidly and with the big blue blood moon last night/this morning, the tides are in ‘spring’ phase – big springs, meaning super low tide. Hmmm.

IMG_7195Chugging along, punching the tide, Ben Sawyer swing bridge opened on cue. The navigation aids were counting down. I was on the helm. Things were getting shallow but no problems. Until I realized that the sailboat I had been keeping an eye on, it was in the channel facing towards us, wasn’t getting any closer. “Paul, take the helm I need a pee.” On my return to the bridge, the yacht was still in place. I hailed him on the radio to find out his predicament. IMG_7196He didn’t answer. We found out all on our own as we gracefully slid to a halt in the silt and mud about 400m south of him. To be brief, the low low tide combined with the silting and non-dredging for years meant that the 12ft depth we should have had was less than 5ft. We need 5.5ft minimum and it turns out that the sailboat needed 5.75ft. Several tries and 45min later we managed to plough our way through and continue on. OMG, I can’t take much more. But lunch was quiet.

Once again I had the helm. As I tried to turn the boat to starboard (right) she wouldn’t respond. I had the wheel hard over but still no joy. “PAUL, if I ever needed you to take the helm, it’s now!” He did and it seemed to sort itself out. Damn.

Finally, after all the delays and excitement, we could see our turn-off creek, dusk was falling early because of the low grey clouds (Paul is already on the helm) when all of a sudden and I mean sudden, the boat took off to port (left). Turning the wheel made no difference. The depth sounder had registered 5.5ft (we should hit bottom) then back to what it was before. The port engine stopped and we were heading for the shore not knowing what had just happened.

Again, all of a sudden, the boat lurched as if let free from something, the wheel responded, Paul gingerly restarted the port engine and added revs and brought the boat back on her heading. There didn’t appear to be any lasting side effects and we managed to squeeze into our dock space without any more excitement. Except that we had the current with us and the wind against us but Paul is becoming quite the expert. All we can surmise is that we caught a crab pot that was well anchored, enough to pull our 37 tons around, but then the cable cutters on the prop shaft managed to do their stuff and set us free.

That was yesterday. Today the wind is howling again and it is cold so we decided to stay put at Leland Oil Company, McClellanville SC for a second night. Have been told we need to visit the fresh seafood retail warehouse – on our way and the coffee shop and the restaurant. Probably manage all three.

Thanks for reading.

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