Intracoastal Waterway - Day 4

Day 4 – 490 nm to go A hot and humid night with nary a breeze and little sleep to be had. We've been checking the weather daily but still no reasonable weather window to get us all the way to the Chesapeake. The winds are either 5-7 knots variable or strong winds from the north … right on the nose. We plan to continue along the ICW, at least to Charleston, SC.

It was easier to get up this morning than to lay awake in our sweaty bunk. We were anchor up by 0620 before the fiery red sun had even cleared the horizon. Another gorgeous sunrise greeted us with birds singing in the tall grass and waders plying the sandy shore. Pelicans circled, poised to plunge as soon as they sighted a possible snack. Dolphins were already making their rounds through the feeding grounds.

sun on the horizon

We've had our share of minor repair issues along the way. The tachometer has been flaky. The speed transducer hasn't been working and the wind vane direction is stuck permanently reading “N”. David wiggled wires for the tach, but it didn't do any good, so that will wait till we're in port. He has no plans to go up the mast at the moment, so we'll just check the flag to see which way the wind is blowing. He'll pull the speed transducer tonight to free it up.

The landscape is slowly changing. Instead of miles and miles of flat, grassy lowlands, we're beginning to see a background of more trees, a nice break in the scenery. We crossed Calibogue Sound and then across the Hilton Head Inlet. By 10am, we crossed into South Carolina.

now there's trees

One thing about the ICW that is a pain is the number of bridges we must negotiate along the way. There are some 144 bridges along the entire 1,243.8 SM (1080.8 NM) route, almost half of which were south of us in Florida. We figure we still have to negotiate 74 bridges and one set of locks. Depending on wind, current, weather and the type of bridge, this can be easy or challenging.

The fixed span bridges on the ICW are at least 65' MHHW. In other words, at the highest tide, there's still 65' from the center span of the bridge to the water. Our mast with antenna is 63', so we have 24” to spare. It never looks as if the bridge is tall enough. Tide gauge boards are usually posted on the fenders on the north and south sides of the span entrance showing the current allowable mast height.

tide gauge boards

The more challenging bridges are the opening varieties. They have varying opening times and requests for openings must be made to the local bridgemaster on a designated VHF channel (usually 09 or 13). Some bridges open on demand; others only open on the hour or half hour and sometimes not at all during heavy traffic times (0700-0900 and 1600-1800). We had downloaded a 2016 bridge list and referred to it frequently throughout our ICW passage. The timing of the bridge openings isn't the issue other than it can be inconvenient to hang out for another half hour if you've just missed a bridge opening by 3 minutes or so.

The biggest problem is that there are several different types of opening bridges and they all pose their own particular set of problems. For instance, the Causton Bluff Bridge/ aka Sam Vernadoe Bridge is a twin, double-leaf bascule bridge and the left section of the second set of leaves was not in operation, making the opening single leaf and quite a bit narrower.

sam varnedoe bridge

The Ladies' Island Bridge is a swing bridge and when it opens, it reveals two transit lanes through the bridge. We were all lined up to go through, but mistimed how long it took the bridge to open. Another boat was just off our stern and we were too close to the bridge which hadn't fully opened. We had no room to reverse without hitting our tailgating friend. Instead, David made a last minute hard turn to port and had to turn around and get to the back of the transit line quickly in order to make it through the bridge without delay. No big deal, but it was a bit trying to the nerves.

ladies island bridge

The Sister's Creek Bridge is a bascule bridge, but a new fixed bridge was under construction directly behind it. We waited till the bascule bridge opened, then immediately went under the under-construction span. Sometimes there are cables and wires strung across as well. It's always a bit nerve-wracking; nothing major, just a bit of angst. But then what kind of an adventure would it be without a little excitement and a few complaints?

sisters creek bridge

We found a pleasant anchorage near Church Creek, dropped the hook and enjoyed a calm evening.

We continue on tomorrow to one of our favorite east coast cities, Charleston, South Carolina for a welcome couple of days relaxation and Southern hospitality.