Thursday, June 12, 2014

From condos to a wild river

I don’t know if the Waccamaw River is technically wild, but it certainly feels like it is. Winding, coffee brown in color, thirty feet deep, and lined with trees with roots that reach into the water, it’s hard to believe that we are just a few miles from the tourist haven of Myrtle Beach. 

We started our morning anchored near the Little River Inlet which is on the border of North and South Carolina. The small village of Calabash is up the creek and a few shrimp boats and local fishing boats passed us at anchor; from a distance we watched ferries, go-fast powerboats, and mini-cruise ships shuttle passengers to the beaches that line the pristine inlet.

I remember this part of the waterway from our trip south on Whisper. The first stretch from Little River to the where the ICW meets the Waccamaw River is lined with condos, golf courses, strip malls, and new residential subdivisions. It is straight, narrow, and uninspiring. The houses are big boxes stuck in the middle of fields with no trees or shade to speak of; I shudder at their energy inefficiency. 

One mile of this kind of scenery is one too many for me; the Myrtle Beach portion of the ICW is nearly thirty miles and, no surprise to me, I was completely uninspired to take a single photo on that stretch of waterway. We were unlucky and had the current against us the entire way. Once through the Socastee Bridge at mile marker 370 we turned into the Waccamaw River.

It was a totally different world. The concrete development gave way to a swampy, jungle-like atmosphere with trees growing straight out of the water and spanish moss hanging from the branches. Osprey yelled at us from their nests high up in the trees. The river winds and turns for miles. Small creeks branch off and we saw an occasional dock and fishing camp. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Around 3PM we turned right and motored up Thoroughfare Creek, dropped the anchor in front of a sandy bluff, and joined some local residents at the small beach to enjoy the fresh, cool water. People were fishing, wakeboarding, and tubing, and other people were simply sitting at the water’s edge enjoying the scenery. 

The sky turned gray then black around 7PM, the remaining boats left, and the skies opened up. It was perhaps the most dramatic thunderstorm we have ever been in on a boat: winds gusting to over 60mph, sheets of rain, thunder, lightning. Matilda slept in the  vee-berth, Freja and I read books and sang in the aft cabin, and Hans ran around on the deck getting soaked and making sure our anchor didn’t drag. 

storm clouds over the sandy beach we had been happily playing at just an hour earlier

It’s never much fun to be on a boat in a thunder and lightning storm. At a marina it never bothers me because there are always taller boats or buildings for the lightning to hit. But out in the middle of nowhere, at anchor off a creek off the Waccamaw River, it was a little unsettling. The storm has passed and the peepers and frogs have taken its place. We’re at anchor on our boat in a place you can reach only by boat and, despite the storm (or perhaps because of it. After all, what is cruising if not reinforcing your self-sufficiency and forcing you to be just a little more tough), I’m reminded why we liveaboard and why we’re out cruising.

No comments:

Post a Comment