Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Myrtle Beach, SC – Beware of Elephants in the ICW.

We made a quick change of plans on Tuesday, 4/17. We had planned to stay in Georgetown until the 19th but we decided to cast off early and cruise the next leg up to Myrtle Beach, SC for two reasons. First, the marine electrician that we had been waiting for to come on the boat and do some work informed us that he would not be able to get to us until Thursday or Friday, which was too long of a wait, and there was a storm front coming in for several days that could sock us in for a while, and we didn’t want to linger in Georgetown any longer. So it was time to move on to our next stop to the Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach.

We got out of Georgetown a little later than usual, about 11:00 am. Our normal daily float plans are about forty to forty-five miles long so this trip would get us to the marina about 6:00 pm. The cruise would end up being in two halves. The lower half would be the same of what we have been accustomed to. It wound through low lying marshes like southern South Caroline and almost all of Georgia. But this was a bit different. The Georgetown region has a very interesting history. During the 19th century and early 20th this region was one of the leading rice producing areas in the entire world. As a matter of fact for several decades, lets say from 1870 to 1920 it was the largest rice exporting sea port in the entire world. So these marshlands we were cruising through north of Georgetown were not marshlands at all but are abandoned rice fields. Looking at the charts and when visually inspecting the banks of the ICW we could see numerous little canals either still wet or dried up that were used to channel rice harvests down to Georgetown.

The upper half of the cruise straightened out considerably to the point that the ICW would point in one direction for several miles at a time. The scenery was wonderful in it’s own way. Towering cypress trees formed a wall on each side and the channel was deep and forgiving. We would cruise miles up these bordered lanes. And as we spent so many days earlier in the marshes which to me were boring this new scenery was a very welcome change of pace. The water though is ugly. Instead of it being green or blue or even a bit grey it is dark like really bad dark-brew coffee. The rule is to rinse your boat’s hull down every day at dock but don’t wash it down as it will only get dirty the next day. This lasts until a bit south of Norfolk, VA when the ocean water starts to take over.

Ok. Now I get to the highlight of the day. During our cruise we have seen a lot of wildlife including porpoises, rays and birds of every type. But on this day we saw a new critter on the banks of and in the ICW: and elephant! Cruising through South Myrtle Beach the starboard shore of the ICW was lined with houses on fairly large plots of land and as typical there would be an occasional empty lot. Well, I glanced over to one of these empty lots and saw two people riding an elephant! …A freaking elephant approaching a boat ramp into the water. Just before the top of the ramp the two people got down removed the saddle and let the elephant get down into the ICW and play in the water. I can hear the Coast Guard navigation warnings now. “All stations, all stations, all stations. This the Coast Guard, Charlotte sector. Break. There is a tree sticking out of the water mid channel at Barefoot Landing swing bridge, marker red 44 is missing at Enterprise river and, oh yeah, there’s a pachyderm in the ICW at South Myrtle Beach. Use caution when navigating these areas.”