11/16/20 to 11/23/20: Crossing Into South Carolina

Since leaving Beaufort, NC, we have day by day moved ourselves down the next 150 miles to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We have been blessed with spectacular cruising weather except for one day of high winds that kept us at the dock. We've watched dolphins frolic -- though no photos, unfortunately -- and stayed a cautious distance from some heavy duty dredging equipment, barges, and a surplus military landing craft that bunked with us at the dock. Add to that the enjoyment of some quietly beautiful ICW scenery amidst extensive shoreline development along the North and South Carolina coasts.

Passing thoughts .........

Swansboro, NC -- a quiet watertown that frequently gets inundated by storm surges if not direct hurricane  hits. Three years ago on our first visit, Swansboro was drying out from severe flooding. This time the town looked great, if very quiet. A large number of "thank you, God" banners and yard placards says to me this is a town of the faithful.

Hampstead, NC -- features an upscale housing community with its own very nice marina, Harbour Village Marina. We spent a couple nights here waiting out high winds. Very, very quiet. The houses surrounding us were huge, beautiful, and vacant. Most are summer escapes. When you live in a few hundred square feet on a boat, the thought of a 4,000-square-foot house sitting empty most of the year just sounds sad. 

Carolina Beach, NC -- a very popular North Carolina beachtown a few miles from Wilmington that no doubt for us would be too crowded, too frantic at high season. But on a sunny November day in the midst of a pandemic, it seemed close to heaven. We walked a mostly deserted beach and boardwalk, watched a local egret hunt a quick snack, and re-provisioned at a Publix a few blocks from where we docked. The late afternoon glow and ensuing sunset were so pretty. Sigh. I am a sucker for sunsets and beachtowns off season.

Myrtle Beach, SC -- a new state and a little different vibe. Myrtle Beach is like a marine-themed Disneyland: spotlessly clean, perfectly maintained, entertaining and above all, welcoming. We're at the face dock of Barefoot Marina, directly on the ICW. So far passing boats have respectfully cut to idle speed  as they pass through so we haven't been waked yet. The nearby airport provided jet streams to the pretty sunset. Christmas carols wafted across the waterway from a jammed open air restaurant during a Saturday happy hour. On our side, the fried oysters from the marina restaurant were absolutely delicious. 

Jet streams on a Myrtle Beach sunset.

Myrtle Beach from the dock -- a themed dinner boat, lots of high rises, density.

The three mile chunk just before Myrtle Beach is known as the Rock Pile. At low tide you can see the red rock walls that line a fairly narrow channel. It's not a spot where you want to meet a huge vessel. We radioed ahead and did fine. But it's always a good feeling to move past the Rock Pile.

Holden Beach color and character. Plenty of boatyards, seafood shacks and sportfish aficionados.

One of about a bazillion small fishing and pleasure boats we saw on the water between Carolina and North Myrtle beaches. It was a beautiful Saturday and anyone who could be on the water was.

A nearly deserted and very beautiful Carolina Beach. 

Cozying up on one of the swings on the Carolina Beach boardwalk. Those swings are fun.

Sometimes you just need to take a moment. Carolina Beach.

A favorite  sunset photo. No filters, no fuss.

We crossed a couple different inlets, including this one at Little River, that will take you out of the ICW and into the big water of the Atlantic. Even in the ICW you get a sense of the muscular swells that await.

The ICW is used regularly by commercial fishermen and marine transport of all types. This guy was just as ugly and big as he looks.

An interesting stop at Harbour Village Marina in Hampstead, NC. The marina is surrounded by huge, gorgeous homes that could grace the pages of a home decor magazine. The community was eerily quiet. Apparently many of the homes are for summer use only.

Swansboro, NC, in the afterglow.

This former military landing craft caught everyone's eye in Swansboro. We watched the captain slowly, carefully move toward Casper's Marina. And then he pulled in right behind us at the dock! Very odd looking out a window to this view. 

Swansboro pecan tree. Plenty of brown, dried "fruit" was on the ground, but the green version still clung to the tree. 

Captain Mark. 

Swansboro waterfront.

We've already come across several dredging operations to clear the shoaling that naturally occurs after storms and hurricanes. It's an endless, expensive and time consuming process. It can take years for a shallow section of the waterway to be dredged, only for the shoaling process to start all over again. This one was near Beaufort, NC.

The surf was colder than I expected. Refreshing! All part of a beautiful day. Carolina Beach.


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