- Katharine Hesmer
DAY TWO | December 15, 2021
Southport, NC to Butler Island, SC
Woke up early — as in 5:00 early — to start the day, and immediately realized this was a bad idea. It had something to do with not being able to see. A thing. So we floundered around near the banks of the ICW (not close enough to run aground but still . . . close enough) and finally got underway. We won't make that mistake again.
Since our boat is so slow, we want to get in as many traveling hours as possible each day, so we leave as early as we can and motor nonstop until sunset. This might be a good time to mention the CRAZY good fuel efficiency of this boat. It has two diesel engines which hold 500 gallons, and burn about 2.2 gallons per hour total, giving us a range of around 1500 miles without refueling.
Our goal is to meet our daughter Whitney and her boyfriend Will in Miami a few days before Christmas. They've been on vacation in New Orleans for the past week, and will head to Miami around the 20th or so to visit friends. We hope to get to Miami around the 21st, but honestly have no idea how far we'll get each day due to tide and wind. Based on Skeet's calculations, the 21st is a pretty good guess. Especially since it's Skeet's calculations. That boy blows my mind sometimes.
Breakfast by chef Kack was sausage egg and cheese biscuits, featuring my not-so-famous vacuum-sealed sausage patties. Aren't they lovely. (Oh look — she slid another vacuum sealer reference in there. 🙄 I just told Greta "don't get old because we talk about stuff like vacuum sealers and trash compacters". Which reminds me — my next Ted Talk will be about the trash compacter on this boat which is old technology but a gift from the heavens in tight quarters. Stay tuned.) But I digress. The biscuits are the take-and-bake kind you can find in the freezer section of most grocery stores. I took them out of their container so I could wedge them into any rare remaining free spaces in the freezer. We've got an awesome little toaster oven that handles most tasks, and a microwave/convection oven combo. The only issues arise when you try to use the stovetop at the same time. The battery doesn't like all of those demands on it at once, so sometimes you have to pull some tricks out of your hat to make the meal happen. And meals aren't my strong suit in the first place, so . . . be glad you're not having to endure any of my 'tricks'. 😳
Today was a beautiful and warm start to our trek south from Southport. It was incredibly relaxing and peaceful. Not much boat traffic at all, and no wind. We used the time to unpack, get settled, and do a little decorating for Christmas, including a super tacky inflatable Christmas tree. Don't knock it 'til you try it. Sure beats fighting tangled Christmas lights and needle droppings, and it takes up zero space. Just plug it in and voila — instant Christmas. Perfect for us lazy instant-gratification types.
That's the kitchen. Check out that gigantic fridge!! And speaking of gigantic, that fridge was another PITA saga and HUGE project tackled by Ron and my cousin Paul, who spent weeks trying to fix the one that came with the boat to no avail. Long story, but let's just say, imagine deinstalling a full-size fridge, getting it up a narrow stairway to the tiny pilot house, and then off the back of the boat and onto a floating dock. And then doing the same thing in reverse with the replacement. Even Whitney's boyfriend Will was recruited for all of the heavy lifting. The process involved removing refrigerator doors, tearing up the countertop and cabinets to get the old fridge OUT and new one IN, and deinstalling the railing on the back of the boat . . . a railing that was installed when the boat was originally built, aka you have to contort your body into a pretzel to reach the impossible-to-reach hardware attachments.
But I digress. Again. We covered a lot of ground today, making it all the way down to Butler Island in South Carolina, which is close to Pawley's Island. We passed by Oak Island, Sunset Beach, Little River, and Myrtle Beach among other spots. Sunset Beach is where my sister Knox and brother-in-law Dan have a vacation home. They've been vacationing on SSB since they were dating in their 20's, so it's a special spot for so many. We sent her a little hello video as we went by, even though she's currently in Greensboro. Just making sure she recognized that bridge.😜
In Little River, we passed by the home base of the casino boats. These are 3+ hour cruises where once offshore, you are allowed to gamble even though gambling is prohibited in South Carolina.
One cool aside I'd like to share is the tremendous advantage of having Skeet and his incredible brain as part of any adventure. I highly recommend it. As someone on the autism spectrum, he essentially has a GPS in his head, and something resembling a photographic memory that I am still trying to understand. If he's interested in a topic, he knows about it inside and out. Unbeknownst to Ron and me, he had looked up all the bridges between Wilmington and Florida weeks ago, knew their names, clearance, style, (fixed or bascule, for example) and opening schedules. He's also really good at using the VHF radio to contact the bridge tenders, each of whom you notify as you go up or down the waterway so they know you're either waiting for their next opening or asking for an opening on demand. Open-on-demand bridges are called signal bridges, meaning you request an opening whenever you need one. One signal bridge we passed through today was in Little River. It was pretty interesting as you could hear the bridge tender alerting other boaters in the area that they were getting ready to open for us. Here's a timelapse showing our passage through the bridge.
Skeet is also fascinated with maps and weather — an invaluable skill for a crew member. He studies our route, weather, and tide every morning, and confers with Ron, sharing whether we're going with or against the tide and wind, which matters a lot when you're already cruising in a slowmobile. (Greta and I are essentially just the bow candy 😂 but we are very valuable bow candy nonetheless. I mean, it's hard work to look this good.)
Tonight for dinner I took the easy way out and had a delicious chicken pot pie from NOMA in Wilmington, which used to be the Everyday Gourmet, owned by Patrick and Elsie Shields. Patrick made a mean chicken pie, and NOMA has preserved his recipe and uses it to this day. I'm supporting the cause with consumption. What a martyr.
We had another peaceful night anchored at Butler Island. To put the boat "to bed", we first drop the anchor with a windlass, which makes our lives super easy. Essentially, it just means that we can raise and lower the anchor mechanically rather than manually. It's a lifesaver. There are two foot pedals on the bow that look like large black buttons in the floor. One slowly drops the anchor, and the other raises it back up. Next, we turn off all the navigation lights and instruments, and turn on the anchor lights which communicate to other vessels that we are "parked". Let me know if there's anything you're curious about and I'll do my best to answer you without making vacuum sealer references. But no promises.
See you tomorrow!
12 hours underway; 72 nautical miles traveled