Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Charleston, South Carolina

We arrived in Charleston after a five day passage from Cuba, running north west through the Old Bahama Channel and then north up the coast of Florida and Georgia, riding the Gulf Stream current towards our first US landfall.  The current did not disappoint, giving us 10 and 11 knots over the ground for many hours.

Approaching Charleston in the early morning, we were surprised to see three large square rigged ships ahead of us, all waiting in the offing for Charleston Pilots to guide them in. On VHF radio we spoke with the tall ship Picton Castle, seen above, and learned that a tall ships festival was happening in Charleston that coming weekend.

We sailed on through the entry channel, all 15 miles of it, entered Charleston Harbour (without a pilot) and berthed at the Charleston City Marina, the Mega Dock. Welcome to the USA!

Checking in at the marina office we learned that our two day stay on the dock would cost over $300.00 Australian dollars, plus power and water of course, and plus taxes .... but OK, they do provide a great courtesy bus service, and the staff are very friendly, but ouch it sure costs. So we made the required phone call to US Customs & Border Protection, and soon enough were visited by two very courteous border protection officers, who cleared us into the United States and departed with all our citrus fruits, pork products, eggs etc. The fact that they asked us to throw all this "dangerous" stuff in the river makes a mockery of the actual risks associated with this produce - we refused, and insisted they take it with them for proper disposal (incineration). Maybe not such a great welcome after all!

Ah, but Charleston is just so genteel (and yes, I've been wanting to use that line for weeks). A city of only 20,000 odd souls, the major industry is tourism, followed closely by more tourism and then education coming in a distant third. A single cruise ship arriving in port will swell the population by more than 10%, but when they leave the old town is staggeringly beautiful, and the university students get on with life as they do anywhere else in the world - with music, good food and boundless optimism. Charleston was the major British trading port before the War of Independence, and also a major center for landing and selling slaves from Africa, so it does have a chequered history.

After a couple of days on the (expensive) Mega Dock, our bank manager insisted we move off, so we anchored in the designated anchorage area just off the marina, spending time with local resident friends we had first met in Trinidad.

Cutting Away The First Obstacle
Two days later it was time to leave, however our departure was rudely delayed by something big and ugly attached to our anchor chain. With about 20 meters of chain still out, and the windlass straining, we hauled to the surface a major ball of chain,  three anchors, rope rode, and general barnacle encrusted mess. Our chain was wrapped twice around this nightmare, which also had another chain running to the bottom, now drawn tight.

With over a knot of current running in the river it was going to be a challenge to clear this, so first we cut the other chain with our angle grinder, taking some pressure off. Then we were able to motor forward against the current and eventually flip the twists of our chain off the ball of anchors. It was too big to lift onboard, so then we cut it away and let it fall to the bottom. Next we continued retrieving our chain only to find our anchor was stuck fast on something big and heavy.  We engaged the chain stopper on deck and tried to motor off it, but only managed to blow a lot of diesel smoke in the air. At this point we decided to call a diving service and went forward to release our chain - we'd be here for another night - but found the chain stopper jammed by the rising tide.

Hooking Up The New Rocna & Swivel
Now we were truly stuck - the windlass couldn't haul chain in and the rising tide was rapidly pulling the bow under water. Out with the angle grinder again, and we proceeded to cut our own precious chain, abandoning the big Rocna anchor we purchased in Thailand.

Then it was back to the Mega Dock marina for three days while a replacement anchor was delivered to Charleston for us. We will not anchor in that part of Charleston Harbour again!

Despite these problems, our overwhelming memory of Charleston is positive, it is a great town for cruising visitors. An excellent anchorage is available off the James Island Yacht Club, just a few miles down stream, where we christened the new anchor before heading off into the North Atlantic again.


  1. claim your insurance??
    Did you try relieving the chain stopper with the main winch and an alternative line... like snubber hook? sounds like a big pain!!
    sorry to hear.

  2. Hi Kris, did not claim on insurance, we have a fairly high deductible. The tide was racing in and we were already bow down and a foot out of water on the stern. I think if we put any more pressure on the winch we could have done serious damage to it and the deck. Lucky we are a steel boat. Cheers, Ley


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