From Fayetteville NC to Myrtle Beach SC by Boat - The Carolina Voyaguer Cruises the Intercoastal Waterway

The Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 4,800 km (3,000 mile) long recreational and commercial waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States - see the wikipedia ICW article for details.

The Carolina Voyaguer began her ICW adventures in May of 2004, launching at the River Sports ramp at Cambellton landing on the Cape Fear River (~6 miles from my home in Fayetteville) with 15 gallons of fuel and a bicyle strapped on the foredeck. I had with me DeLorme's 87 page Atlas & Gazetteer of the state of NC.

At that time the United States Army Corps of Engineers was operating the three locks on the Cape Fear between Fayetteville and Wilmington (they no longer operate them for recreational boating due to the cost). The operator at lock 3 (the Huske Lock & Dam) reacted gruffly to my naive request to climb out of my boat and up the wall of the lock so I could watch him operate the lock.

After riding my bike a few blocks to a gas station to fill an empty 5 gallon gasoline container, I cooked dinner on a back-packing stove and spent the night sleeping on the bottom of the boat anchored in the middle of the river near Elizabethtown just above Dam & Lock # 2. Substantial water casdades six feet down the face of Dam #2. The carcus of a fiberglass recreational boat was to be seen admist the boulders in this cascade. I slept with my GPS receiver at my side - thus able to verify the function of my anchor at a glance during the night. Locked through #2 in the morning. The operator expressed admiration of the rigging of my boat. Saw a brown bear swim across the river in front of me 10 miles below Elizabethtown! Reached the Wilmington waterfront that evening.

Moored at the municipal peer in Wilmington on 5/19/2004.

At the encouragement of a fellow boater (with a 50' boat), I spent the night with my boat tied to the municipal pier and my tent erected on it (even though I didn't have a reservation and it was impossible to get one after 5 pm). My neighbor had motored in 40 miles from his home north of Wilmington to instruct law enforcement officials on questioning witnesses at a conference there. I joined him and his friends for dinner at a seafood restaraunt. He was very enthusiastic about my prospects for cruising the ICW in a 15' boat. At his encouragement, I decided to extend my trip to Myrtle Beach, and left Wilmington the next morning.

Fellow travelers on the ICW.

The previous evening I had bicyled 2 miles to the Exxon station at the east end of the Hwy 17 bridge to buy 5 gallons of gasoline (I arrived in Wilmington with essentially no gas). I intended to buy more gasoline before leaving the Wilmington area but didn't manage to find a marina that was open (DeLorme's Gazetteer isn't the best source of information on marinas!). But, I figured that at 6 miles per gallon, I had sufficient fuel to reach Southport 20 miles down the Cape Fear. Didn't think about how my mileage would be reduced by the 2' seas I would soon be in. Ran out of gasoline 2 miles from Southport. Set anchor in 50' of water. Turns out I was in the ICW channel, and in a position that required the Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry to go out of her way to get around me. I should have pulled anchor and allowed the 15 knot wind to push me NE - but didn't want to thus close out my option of swimming to shore to buy fuel.

I had a cell phone and Sea Tow's phone number (but no membership). And I wasn't going to pay them ~$250 for a gallon of gas! Was thinking of swimming ashore for gas (I'm a strong swimmer). Plenty of boaters stopped after I waved frantically at them, but none had access to their gasoline! A Coast Guard Auxillary Unit happened by and offered to call Sea Tow for me. I declined. I poured my camping stove fuel in my boat tank, mixed in the proper proportion of oil, and got 300 yards closer to a petroleum loading facility. Decided I still shouldn't swim given the wind, waves, and boats. The Coast Guard Auxillary Unit followed along. After an hour, they got permission from their commander to drive me into Southport to purchase fuel. In route, one of them told me about his experience running out of diesel fuel in a shipping lane in the Chesapeak Bay. Being in the Coast Guard Auxillary, he was able to ask the Coast Guard to bring him fuel. As we pulled away from the Carolina Voyaguer, a large international container ship out of Wilmington drove within 50 feet of her at speed and proceeded right over her anchor rope - fortunately without catching it.

That afternoon (5/20/2004), the Carolina Voyaguer passed 1 km north of the Museum of Coastal Carolina. Spent the night very comfortably camped on a boat dock on the ICW near the Little River. At the end of the dock's walkway was a construction site for a luxury home. It appeared that construction of the house had been abandoned a year previously before foudations were poured.

After breakfast, I motored into Myrtle Beach. Found a dock adjacent to a boat ramp at a new luxury home development site on the ICW near Hwy 501. Tied to the dock. Left a note (will be back to retrive by evening followed by name and cell phone number) Took a GPS position, climbed a fence, scrambled onto Hwy 501, and called a taxi. I had about half an hour to get to the Greyhound Station to go back to Fayetteville, and come back with car & trailer for my boat. Once I finally conveyed where I was, he instructed me to walk to the end of the controlled access highway - that he would meet me there. It turned out to be ~2 miles! Got to the bus station 15 minutes after the bus was scheduled to have left - but it was still there.

Back in Myrtle Beach with car, trailer, and GPS receiver at about 6 pm. Found there was no public road I could take to get to my boat! Eventually got there at dusk - by driving past a no trespassing sign. A fabulous (looking) ramp. Backed the trailer in - and its wheels off the pad built for the ramp and into the mud! In retrospect, it is clear that I should have immediately made every effort to get the trailer back onto the pad - I wonder if they would have covered this in a boating safety course?

I leasurely put the boat on the trailer, and tried to pull her out. Didn't budge. Even with the boat motor pushing full-force, it didn't budge. What resulted was one of the car tires spinning down to the point that the car wouldn't move even without the trailer! Called my wife and found that I could expect a rising tide. Called a tow company. The first guy I called passed me off to his competition when he learned what I needed. The second guy agreed to come out. Except he couldn't find me! I eventually got on my bicycled and peddled to the front end of the development where I could specify the cross streets. My the time I got back with him, there was water up to my gas peddle!

Water up to the gas peddle - left a waterline on the back of the car that was still visible the next day.

I hooked his cable to my front suspension, and his truck brought car, trailer, and boat right out. My motor started! I followed him into Myrtle Beach to get cash from an ATM machine to pay him. Stopping for a light, 20 gallons of water would slosh from the back of my car to the front!

I pulled upto the ATM machine shown below, and obtained the cash to pay him. But then my car wouldn't start! I hypothesized that it was water in my gas. As they did not sell HEET (alcohol to dissolve the water in the gas) in the 24 hour gas station on the premises, I resolved to sponge out the remaing water, sort out things to pitch, and begin drying the rest out, and then spend the rest of night sleeping in the boat.

Downtown Myrtle Beach at 2 am drying out my possesions.

It was too noisey to sleep well. At 4 am I tryed again to start the car - and succeeded! So I headed for Fayetteville. Stopped in Lumberton and bought a can of HEET and put it in the car. But then it wouldn't start. Finally, on the 10th attempt, it started.

Turns out the fuel injection circuitry is on the firewall in the passenger compartment at about the high water line. After I rinsed it with distilled water and dried it, the car worked fine. Once I got home, I took out every bit of upholstry that got wet, washed it, and dried it before reassembly. The car is still in service, and has no "flooded car smell". The air-bag sensor (mounted under the driver's seat) was destroyed. It is a $1300 part from the dealer. I got one for $30 from a junk yard.

Here is a link to return to John Mattox's Carolina Voyaguer Project