After following the mostly sheltered waters of the AICW running south from Charleston, while cruising to Beaufort, South Carolina, cruisers might well be excused when they exit the southwesterly entrance of the Ashepoo – Coosaw Cutoff, for gasping just a bit at the wide swath of open waters which spread out before them. This mighty body of water is the Coosaw River, which the AICW follows mostly west to the northern entrance of Brickyard Creek (thence south to Beaufort).
Our very good friends, Captains Mark and Diana Doyle, have obviously explored these waters themselves over the past couple of decades while researching their superb “Managing the Waterway” series of guide books.
As you will read below, one stream where they had dropped the hook before was Wimbee Creek. This stream cuts off from the Bull River, which itself makes into the Coosaw’s northern flank near Statute Mile 521 (see chart to the above right). HOWEVER A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE GREETED OUR EXPERIENCED CRUISING DUO ON THIS OCCASION!
As you will read below, Diana and Mark discovered the hard way that a portion of Wimbee Creek has a very foul bottom. Farther upstream (see below), it’s apparently safe (or at least “safer”) to drop the hook, but the creek’s waters, southeast of charted “Chisolm,” where chart 11518 shows a sounding of “11” feet, are definitely off limits!
The SSECN is declaring a Navigational Alert for these waters!
On June 10, 2012, we anchored in Wimbee Creek, a popular anchorage off Bull River, running north of the Coosaw River in South Carolina. In 13 feet (MLLW) we deployed a Bruce anchor with 120′ of chain, compensating for the expected additional 7 feet of tide in this area. Like nearly all our surveyed anchorages in Georgia and southern South Carolina, we anticipated high current.
Unfortunately, within a few hours our ground tackle started behaving abnormally. At first we attributed it to opposing wind and current, but it was soon apparent something more serious and unusual was occurring.
The wind continued to climb and thunderstorms could be seen advancing so we decided to retrieve the anchor and re-set. We were stopped short at about 60 feet of chain—in 13 feet of water—stuck on something so large that any attempts by the windlass or by “running over” the anchor merely pulled our bow down!
We were stuck, short-scoped, with strong thunderstorm activity predicted throughout the night, but with no choice but to wait for TowboatU.S. to bring a diver the next morning.
We payed back out the recovered 60 feet of chain and spent an uncomfortable night.
Roy Stegall, a cruiser on s/v Gideon who works part-time for TowboatU.S. Port Royal, and Gene Clark, an experienced diver, arrived on the scene at 0745 hrs. the next morning. It took Gene a couple of hours of blind handwork in the tannic, murky high current to get control of the situation.
His report from down-under: A wide area of huge “rocks”—which we later determined were likely dumped construction debris from an old foundation—covered the mud bottom. Some of the chunks were half the size of the TowBoatU.S. vessel! As the strong winds and currents continuously shifted, our chain had actually been pulled UNDER one of these huge boulders, requiring a rolling hitch and hard horizontal yank using the TowBoatU.S. vessel to pop it free.
This was no ordinary anchor-fouling. The anchor was free and about 20 feet from the boulder. This was a chain-fouling!
A resident yelled out from his dock that a nearby trawler, anchored further up the creek on what looked like a back-up nylon rode, had just lost its anchor and chain in the same area and was waiting to try to locate it.
So this area is a serious hazard and has claimed at least two boats.
The problem site is south of the center of Wimbee Creek, off the second residential dock. Do not anchor anywhere near the first through third docks. Instead, proceed further up the creek, and stay well off the shore.
The chartlet below shows our new anchored position, the fouled area, and the depths (and tides) we read thoughout this anchorage.
Our heartfelt thanks to the excellent team at TowBoatU.S. Port Royal for safely turning around what could have been an even worse situation!
Best and see you On the Water,
Captains Mark & Diana Doyle
Did I luck out! Two years ago, I anchored in that exact same spot (well, obviously, not exactly the same; I’d still be there).