Day 7 – 365 nm to go We were up with the sun once again and plying our way up the Waccamaw River. We were under the fixed Ocean Highway Bridge by just after 0630. Yes, there was another beautiful sunrise. Yes, I took a photo or two … and yes, I'm sharing the best one. Some things (and people) are very predictable.
We passed by the entrance to Georgetown, noting that it would make a fine stop on our southern transit next season. The area was known in the past for “Carolina gold”, i.e. rice fields, and indigo plantations … and, also, alligators. No swimming. The rice fields still stretch for acres and acres, but more noticeable is the acrid smell of paper mills and the smokestacks on the horizon.
The Waccamaw River is wide and deep and it was a pleasure to be on it so early in the morning. The landscape has changed once again. The Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, a 55,000 acre reserve, borders the rugged eastern bank of the ICW. Forested wetlands, tidal marshes and pine forests are home to a wide variety of native bird, fish and mammal species including red fox and black bear. Having a canoe to paddle around in the tiny inlets and streams would be perfect. Spanish moss aka Old Man's Beard, hangs from the trees and provided a lasting image of this picturesque area in my mind.
The water here is the color of iced tea … tannic from the heavy tree growth on and near the riverbanks. We could see the brown water lapping against the shore. Tannin is a naturally occurring substance and isn't usually harmful, just not very appealing. Cruisers who travel the ICW regularly refer to it as the “ICW mustache” because it leaves a brown stain on white boat hulls.
By 0930 the bright sunny day had disappeared, leaving a dull, gray, overcast sky in its wake. Motoring as we're doing requires fuel, a rather unusual occurrence for us. We'd passed up several fuel stops along the way in favor of the highly recommended Osprey Marina ... “cheapest fuel on the ICW”. The entry channel was narrow and a bit dicey for Nine of Cups, but we arrived unscathed at the fuel dock where a friendly and efficient dockhand helped with lines, a fill-up (at a bargain price), some ice and an uneventful send-off back down the channel. We were back on the ICW in less than an hour. Interestingly enough, marina signs and fuel prices are advertised along the ICW and reminded us of the old billboards on US highways in days gone by.
Ospreys are absolutely everywhere along the ICW waterways. We saw them in trees, on docks and flying above us. They particularly like building their huge, terribly untidy nests on the post markers. It was unusual to see a marker without an occupied osprey nest.
We left the quiet, solitude of the wildlife refuge and headed towards Myrtle Beach. The river traffic increased significantly. We now shared the river with barges and tugs, pontoon boats and speedboats.
We knew we'd arrived at the most congested area when the jet skis, like a swarm of gnats, descended upon us. They travel fast, swerve and spray, make wakes, are noisy and annoy us significantly. We have little tolerance for them, but of course, each to his own and they have as much right on the rivers as we do. We just wish they were a bit more aware of the nuisance they cause.
The adrenaline rush of the day, not counting the 13 bridges we had to pass through, was transiting “the Rockpile”, an infamous stretch of the ICW with rock ledges at the narrow river's edge that jut out precariously into the channel. We managed to get through without harm or foul and continued on across the Little River Inlet into North Carolina and up the Cape Fear River. Our anchorage for the evening is known as Tina's Pocket, a little spot just behind the channel leading light towers to drop the hook off the Cape Fear River.
It had been a long, 14-hour day. After charting and dinner, we attempted to watch Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear. We were highly unsuccessful in this endeavor. We woke each other up half way through and called it a night.