Departing the Waterway at statute mile 375, four miles south of the Socastee Bridge, this “off-road” venture on the lovely, upper section of the Waccamaw River, abandoned by the AICW, has pleased many cruisers and has proven to be a worthy side trip.
One fixed bridge does lie between the AICW and Conway. We have never found a published vertical clearance for this span, but it has always appeared to us to be 30 feet or so. Clearly, the wonderful side cruise to Conway is off limits for most sailcraft.
The wonderful review below was sent to us by our good friends Peg and Jim Healy
Sanctuary and crew made our first visit to Conway, SC, on the Upper Waccamaw River, on October 29 and 30, 2013. On the advice of the dockmaster at Osprey Marina, we departed the ICW at Enterprise Landing, at daymark G”1.” The channel in that area is narrow, and shoals to 7-1/2 feet for a short distance. Once past that area, the river widens and become a magnificent cypress swamp meandering stream. Navigation planning was only slightly more complicated than usual. “Standard” NOAA charts do not cover the upper Waccamaw. The rule is, as always when upbound, “red, right, returning.” The river is adequately marked with clearly visible daymarks. Navigation is straight forward. We stayed to the middle of the river on longer, straighter stretches, and favored the outside radius of turns and switchbacks. From the ICW at Enterprise Landing to Conway, there are three shoal areas: first, just above G”1,” second, in the vicinity of R”12,” and third, in the vicinity of R”16.” We never saw less than 7-1/2 feet in any of these areas. Tidal ebb and flood currents are insignificant for cruising boats.
We stayed at the Conway City Marina. The marina “basin” is on the west shore of the marina. The entrance is on a curve in the river. The tidal range here is about 18″ – 24.” Reports of shoaling across the marina entrance are correct. Local guidance is to favor the green center-quarter when entering and leaving the marina basin. We were in the red-center quarter upon arrival, and even though we arrived virtually at high tide, we plowed through soft mud in the area of the entrance. The second day of our visit, we relocated to another dock at high tide. By favoring the green center-quarter, we cleared the shoaling in about 5-1/2 feet of water. There is stone rip rap on both the green and red outside-quarters of the entrance, so caution and slow speed is advised.
The Conway City Marina is not a transient destination. As first-timers to the area, we had excellent telephone support from the attendant, and we were certainly made welcome. There is no docking assistance provided. The marina offers three docking locations. One is a floating face dock inside the marina entrance. There is room on that dock for 2, 40′ cruising boats. There is also a small resident river tour boat on the north end of that dock. Outside the marina, 1/4 mile upstream on the west shore, there are two 40′ floating docks immediately below the SC Rt. 905 road bridge. These docks are part of an extensive and beautiful River Walk system. All of the docks have 30A and 50A power. None have potable water. The docks themselves are aging, and in a generally dilapidated state of repair. Cleats on the in-river docks are loose and somewhat small for cruising boats. That said, the in-river docks do have two obvious advantages: first, approach depths are better, and second, the walk to the town is much shorter and easier. It is a very long walk to anywhere from the dock located in the marina entrance channel.
The City of Conway is the Horry County Seat. There is A LOT of government here; a lot, including a large jail complex and the county courthouse. Discount coupons (“Discover Conway Downtown Shopping Card”) for visitors are available at the Visitor’s Center, 903 3rd Ave; (843) 248-1700. Get several cards, because you give up the coupon when you use them. History and architecture buffs will enjoy the city. There is a historic downtown walking trail. The locals are friendly. There are several good restaurant choices Grocery shopping and the post office are not within what I consider to be walkable distance. Despite the limitations, this river trip is exquisite. It is unique, beautiful and well worth the effort.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
Currently at Rock Creek, Pasadena, MD
We go to Conway every spring and fall when passing through the area. A nice alternative to overnighting at a dock @ $1.00 per foot is to anchor in Cox Lake, behind R 16. Good depths and plenty of room. From there it is a half hour run up-river to one of the free docks on the river. Spend the day in Conway and return to Cox Lake for the night (or run back down the river and anchor before getting to Enterprise Landing.