Reach The Beach

We drove down to Georgetown, SC this past Saturday from our condo in Myrtle Beach.  We would spend most of the afternoon on a lighthouse and shelling tour on Winyah Bay.  What a perfect day for the trip.  Calm winds (since with even a moderate breeze Winyah Bay gets very choppy), sunny and temperatures in the high 80’s.

Winyah Bay is formed by the confluence of the Waccamaw, Black, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers.  It provides access to the Atlantic Ocean and was a favorite hiding spot for Blackbeard.  It’s also part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway which runs from Norfolk, VA to Key West, FL.

As we headed out of Georgetown Harbor aboard the Carolina Rover, we were introduced to Captain John and First Mate Ed.  Ed also served as our tour guide and local historian.  The history lessons were especially important since the Georgetown area has a long and interesting past.  Many historians believe that the first settlement in North America by Europeans was in Winyah Bay in 1526.  When the Marquis de Lafayette landed in Georgetown in 1776, he described it as DeBordieu which loosely translates to a place so beautiful that it must be the border of God’s country.  During the Civil War it hosted a Confederate fort and was the scene of the Confederate sinking of the USS Harvest Moon.  The Union ship’s smoke stack is still visible.

We found several perfect whelk shells and a horseshoe crab tail on the North Island.  The North Island is a totally undeveloped island which still supports wild pigs, bears and Carolina panthers.  It is part of the Tom Yawkey (former owner of the Boston Red Sox) Wildlife Center.  My daughter and I had a blast looking for and finding some incredible shells along the jetty.

On our return trip we passed the Georgetown Lighthouse.  It’s been operational since 1801 although it is no longer manned and has been completely automated.  It continues to serve marine traffic in the bay.  We were not allowed to go inside of it due to security concerns resulting from 9/11.  It has also survived many hurricanes over the years including Hugo in 1989.  The water was as high as the lowest window on the lighthouse after the storm.

I hung out at the stern and had a great conversation with Captain John.  It turns out that we are both from Charlotte, NC and that he now lives in the town where I grew up.  He had his captain’s license for many years but never really put it to use.  Having become a little bored with retirement, he decided to captain the Rover tours.  Other than the excitement of dealing with the occasional thunder storm, captaining the Carolina Rover is relaxing and fulfilling for him.  He also knows exactly where to find dolphins in the bay.  That really made my daughter’s day!

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