The anchor is up at 7:20 AM in the New River near Daufuskie Island, SC on this, the 30th day of our winter voyage. Although today’s leg is only 32 miles, it is filled with endless twists, turns, switchbacks and navigational challenges.
Within a few miles of our anchorage, we pass from South Carolina into Georgia. The Georgia coastline is only one hundred miles in length as the crow flies. But the meandering ICW adds another 40 miles to the journey.
The ICW is a network of small rivers and creeks connected by manmade canals called cuts. The New River is connected to the Wright River by way of Walls Cut. The Wright River is connected to the Savannah River by way of Fields Cut. Sections of the smaller rivers and creeks must be dredged in order for the ICW to remain navigable. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has insufficient funding for dredging. During periods of low tide in the cuts and dredged areas, there is a sometimes as little as a foot of water under the keel of Cutter Loose. These circumstances require constant vigilence. Moving the boat too far left or right of the centerline of the ICW channel could easily result in grounding.
The ICW crosses the Savannah River on the diagonal and enters a cut on the opposite shore. Just as we are about to enter the River, the sailboat immediately ahead of Cutter Loose runs hard aground. This is enough of a distraction to make us temporarily unaware of a huge container ship riding the flood tide upriver at a considerable clip. The current in the River catches the bow of Cutter Loose and pushes her upstream and away from the cut on the opposite shore. Soon we are back in control and looking for space outside of the ship’s channel where we can hold our position while the container ship races by. Other vessels plying the waterway are less fortunate and draw the ire of the Savannah Pilot steering the container ship. Thusfar, it has been a stressful morning.
We follow the meandering Wilmington River past Thunderbolt, a critical mass of marinas and repair yards where the largest yachts in Savannah are docked. Because it is Sunday, the Skidaway Narrows Bridge opens on demand. Soon Cutter Loose is being swept along with the current in the Vernon River tracking our entrance into Delegal Creek, our destination for the day.
As we are about to enter the Creek, Cutter Loose is on a reciprocal course with another Island Packet sailboat. She has a familiar name and a Pittsburgh hailport. Friends Dennis and Debbie docked their boat at Spring Cove Marina in Rock Hall, MD in the 1990s. They now live in Savannah. It has been a decade since our paths have crossed. One of the most rewarding aspects of cruising involves re-encountering sailing friends.
Later in the afternoon, we meet friends Dick and Mary who also live in Savannah. After a quick tour of Cutter Loose, they graciously provide a tour of their home and their neighborhood, followed by dinner at their country club. We are especially appreciative of their willingness to serve as our mail drop and to grant us laundry priveleges in their lovely home.