24. The Grand Strand

Oh, hello.

The morning after my last post, I was feeling something new, something different, something wonderful. I woke up on a boat that not only wasn’t beeping at me, but was warm, full of fuel and fresh oil, full of water and groceries, and it even smelled kinda nice. For what might be the first time since I moved aboard, there was nothing hanging over my head begging to be fixed, and it felt great. It felt like home.

Last Morning in Southport

I was able to enjoy that wonderful feeling for nearly half an hour! That’s when I found that my laptop had apparently had some sort of mental breakdown in the night. It was just sitting there… trying… really hard… but not actually doing anything. I can’t say that I was surprised by this. The machine is something like seven years old, and part of me was waiting for this to happen. I really can’t complain, it doesn’t owe me a nickel.

While this wasn’t strictly a boat problem, it did mean that my Coastal Exploder chart plotter was now out of service. Being my primary navigation tool, it was something that I’d need to address.

My backup is the Navionics app on my phone. It’s not ideal, but it would be enough to get me along safely until the laptop could be repaired or replaced. It didn’t look like there would be much difficult navigation on this leg, anyway.

So, on a sunny but cold morning, we departed Southport, and aimed the pointy end westward down the ditch. The trip was uneventful and pleasant, with views and scenery typical of North Carolina. That is, until I crossed the border into South Carolina, where the view out the window changed significantly. The long, straight legs of narrow channel surrounded by low lying shorelines and sandbars gave way to the Little River, which is, well, a big river. The channel widens, deepens, and starts to meander around. Like a river. The local boat traffic picked up, and there was more civilization on the shores. It took almost no time at all to realize that I’d already lost track of how many golf courses I’d seen. It caused me to lapse into a shamefully bad Australian accent, and go all Steve Irwin.

The Little River Swing Bridge let me right through, and before I knew it, I’d lasso’d myself a dock at the Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach.

As was becoming another common theme, I really hadn’t planned on spending more than a night there, but with my computer (which is also my TV, internet connection, work station, chart plotter, favorite pet, and only friend) still drooling on itself, I decided to stay another day and have it fixed. I found a place that was half computer repair shop and half major arms dealer. There were more guns on the walls than I have hair follicles. The gun and computer wizard told me that my hard drive was dying. Replacing it would likely be an easy enough fix, and about a boat buck cheaper than buying a new machine. So that’s what we did. The thing starts up quicker than shit through a tin goose now, and I didn’t lose a single file, which is marvelous. I might just try to get another seven years out of it.

I hired a car for a day, and took a spin around the Myrtle Beach area. There are more hotels and resorts there than there were guns on the wall at the computer shop. There are even more pancake houses, and at least twice as many golf courses. Lots of retired white people, and lots of Trump flags. I don’t believe I met a single local. It seems that everyone there was from someplace else.

There was also what looked and sounded like a house fire across the river from the marina at one point. It also smelled like a fire, which made me realize I hadn’t had any BBQ since I’d been in the Carolinas, which I believe is a federal offense.

I remedied that by going to a place called Pop Pop’s a little outside of town. The place looked a little sketchy from the road, and after the Casey’s incident I wasn’t keen to take chances, but I’m glad I went in. I had the place to myself, and found the staff to be very lovely people. When they handed me hot, fresh made pork rinds within seconds of my ass touching the chair, I was ready to marry them.

Normally seeing a place that’s completely empty at dinner time is a red flag. I think this time though, it was the tornado watch that was in effect that kept people otherwise occupied.

It had been fairly windy all day, and for a little while before the storm front moved in, it actually calmed down. When the front arrived though, the wind was no joke, and the rain came down in absolute buckets. My deck chairs were violently rearranged several times, and at one point, one of them tipped over and fell on the deck directly over my head. This startled me so badly that I actually shit the wall behind me. Right through my shorts. Damnedest thing. Stung like hell.

I decided that I didn’t want to experience that again, so I went out and tied the things down. I also decided to take the flags down before they took themselves down.

The weather kept up like that until well after midnight. The noise from the gusts and periodic torrential rain woke me up half a dozen times at least. The next morning showed some light damage to some of the boats around me. A few had some canvas damage, and at least one dock box got yeeted into the drink.

After such a crummy night’s sleep, and with winds that had now settled into a steady SW gale that was forecast to continue until late, I scrapped my travel plans again, and settled in for a third night at Barefoot. I spent the day doing laundry, and trying to find someone who was willing to cut my hair, without success.

The next day, the wind was gone, the sun was out, and I was ready to shake a leg. We got underway early, with Georgetown in our sights.

This turned out to be one of the best cruising days that Sylphide and I have had yet. The first third of the trip was through the well manicured back yards of rich people.

Then came the Waccamaw River. I really, really liked the Waccamaw River. I just couldn’t seem to take enough pictures of it. Every other mile I would come around a corner, and find something else to take a picture of. Even though the trees were all bare and gray, it was still beautiful. I’m really looking forward to going back up through there when things are greener.

In addition to the excellent weather, and the excellent scenery, I just dumb-lucked my way into a very fair tidal current. Sylphide was positively bounding down the river. She was like a happy puppy welcoming her human home from work. We hadn’t gone this fast since the Niagara River. It was so exciting that I forgot that shooting vertical video is a capital offense. Sorry bout that.

As I drew nearer to Georgetown, some locals came out to welcome me. The boat they arrived in was aluminum, and had bright orange inflatable tubes around it. It also had ‘US Coast Guard’ written on the sides, and some very festive flashing blue lights. The welcoming committee then proceeded to invite themselves aboard and into my home. We spent the next forty five or so minutes having a chit chat about how they liked my boat, but it really could do with some more placards, and that it would be oh so wonderful if my fire extinguishers said ‘US Coast Guard Approved’ on them. We also discussed literature, and they suggested that I really must get myself a copy of the latest Nav Rules book. They also suggested that I take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book, and get myself a ‘garbage management plan.’

Because we had all enjoyed each other’s company so much, they decided to ‘let me off with a warning,’ and kindly gave me some wallpaper to hang up in my bathroom. We shook hands and laughed and laughed and laughed. In their final bid of friendship and good will, they got their boat up on plane about twenty feet abaft my beam, and waked the everloving shit out of me. What a great day.

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