Drivin’ South: Wrightsville Beach, NC to Cat Island, SC Single Handed

By Rich

There were three legs to this trip which are best consolidated into a single entry in the interest of brevity. My first stop was the Southport marina in Southport, North Carolina where I spent a day and a half getting an oil change, a cooling system service and doing laundry while hiding out from a bit of spirited weather. Southport Marina was a very good place to stop – I’d highly recommend it.

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Next it was on to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where I ducked in to the Marina at Grande Dunes. It was during this leg that I experienced some of the more alarming shoaling I encountered during the trip, particularly around the Lockwoods Folly inlet. In fact several small inlets are encountered during this leg, often with dolphins serving as traffic cops. Very cool. There were some less scenic scenes encountered along this stretch as well, including the very odd sighting of multiple wrecked and abandoned commercial fishing trawlers. I have no idea why the wrecks aren’t being cleared.

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The weather was very cool during this passage, so it was long johns and full ski gear. It was almost enough to keep warm, but not quite when the wind was blowing from the side.

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The Marina at Grande Dunes is a neat little setting. They seem to have cut it right out of the land adjacent to the ICW. There’s not a ton there, but the staff was friendly and helpful and I was able to walk to grocery store.

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Next it was on to the Minum Creek 2 anchorage just west of the Winyah Bay inlet. During the last two ICW passages I’d had favorable currents and I knew at some point that the check would come due. On this passage it did, and I found myself in a foul mood fighting an even more foul current for much of the day. The day started out in thick fog, which meant motoring only at idle speed to start with. It was on this passage that I encountered by far the narrowest section of the ICW. A temporary mark warns mariners of a shoal extending across more than half of the of ICW directly adjacent to a collapsing dock on the opposing shore. Only 50-60 feet separate them and both loomed ominously out of the fog as I approached. Glad I would never think to try ICW passage making at night!

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The scenery south of this spot (roughly statute mile 360) got to be pretty interesting, with plenty of homes and docks lining the channel.

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However, heading south one next encounters Cypress Swamp, which was by a margin my least favorite part of the trip. Motoring a sailboat through a swamp has some novelty to start with, but before long I found this totally isolated spot to be just plain creepy. I throttled the Westerbeke up to get out of it as quickly as I could while praying to the diesel gods for a reliable passage.

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Fortunately the swamp passage only takes an hour or two at sailboat motoring speeds and then the scenery opened up again. Winyah Bay was quite scenic, and the Minum Creek anchorage, which was in marsh land, was astoundingly beautiful. It almost made up for the swamp. Almost, but not quite. Periodic visits from adolescent dolphins were a significant cherry on top to a night in this awesome setting.

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