Bonnie and Jim Miller sailed their Newfoundland-registered Victoire yacht ‘Vagrant Sea’ from the Queen City Yacht Club in Toronto via the ICW to the Bahamas
Boat Storage in Charleston – ICW South part 8
We had not planned to store our boat anywhere along the way, so we needed to do some quick thinking once we decided to head home without it. Everyone we met contributed advice about how to choose a boatyard. The basic issues were price, security and availability. Other suggested considerations included proximity to common hurricane paths, sun shade, absence of overhanging trees, location on a body of non-tidal fresh water (so the boat would get a nice long rinse) and numerous esoteric concerns which gave us headaches at their very mention.
We compiled a lengthy list of questions to pose when we called yards: Do you have space to handle a boat our size and a crane or travel-lift with the capacity to haul her? What is the monthly rate per foot? Cost to haul and launch? Charge for blocking — flat rate or monthly rental of supports? Power wash? Are masts stored in or out, and is there a cost for stepping the mast? For storing it?
Can we work on the boat at the yard? May be do our own bottom-painting (not permitted by law in some states)? Do you have 24-hour on-site security? Are there any restrictions on when the boat can be launched? May we stay aboard while the boat is on the hard? Tie up at the dock for a few days prior to hauling and after launching? If not a marina, are there washroom and shower facilities? Can you store a vehicle at the yard?
We asked cruisers whose opinions we valued to recommend yards and enjoyed learning the reasons for their choices. Some folks made a good argument for going as far north as the Chesapeake, since costs are likely to be lower, hurricane risks reduced, and summer heat intensity not quite as bad as more southern locales. People favoured particular towns or regions because of good airport access, friends nearby, or, in one case, lots of good low-priced restaurants. The majority of suggestions named Indian Town, near Stuart, Florida, as first chioce, for price ($2/foot/month) and a host of other reasons. We wanted to go a bit farther north, since we don’t know which direction we’ll be taking when we rejoin the boat … and we also understood there was a huge waiting list at the time.
We started north on the ICW from Port Canaveral armed with phone numbers and our list of questions. What a frustrating exercise that was! The vast majority of calls ended in no answer, number out of service (so our book was a few years old) or an answering machine. Now what’s the use of leaving a message when you are on a boat? So we lowered our expectations, chose the Savannah to Charleston stretch as conveniently close to Jim’s sister’s home in South Carolina and, through dogged determination, found a couple of people at the end of the phone. One old curmudgeon told Jim the monthly charge was “$4.50 a foot if you pay in advance, six dollars if I have to write up a bill”. We elected not to inconvenience him.
All this fun took place against a backdrop of some extremely violent weather. It just makes your day when you tune into the marine forecast to hear that there is a tornado watch in effect for the next two hours. Jim reminds me that the odds of being hit are the same as those for winning the lotto and I try not to dwell on it. On our way back from the Bahamas, I had mused that we probably could anticipate fewer thin water episodes now that we were such experienced sailors. In my dreams! We grounded at least once a day; we just didn’t fuss about it.
At last we found a yard in Charleston which sounded good on the phone and there we went. We straggled into Charleston one evening only to get caught in a supper-time bridge closure. Drat, we had things to do that night and couldn’t waste nearly an hour. We dropped anchor next to the bridge and in 45 minutes had designed, executed and consumed a meal to put any half-hour TV cooking guru to shame. We stuck to a single glass of cabernet served coyly in tumblers on the cockpit table. Up came the anchor, up went the bridge, good-bye ICW.
Delta Marine, new home to Vagrant Sea, had given the undesired response to several of our carefully crafted screening questions, so we knew we would spend several days preparing the boat for haul-out in less than cosy circumstances. The yard is on the grounds of the former Charleston Naval Base, where many U.S. military and government facilities (it rated high on security) are found, but it is not a marina, so there were no amenties. The first day there, Jim was approached by a guy who looked like Yosemite Sam – seventy years old, wild white hair stuck out at interesting angles, scruffy old clothes. He wanted to borrow booster cables and Jim obliged.
He even found another vehicle whose owner was willing to provide a boost. Then Jim sees the old geezer fiddling under the hood of a Mercedes. Uh-oh. We adopted the “don’t get involved” attitude and decided we could afford to kiss the cables good-bye if we had to. Buddy gets the car started, says he’d like to keep the cables with him as he was going to buy a new battery. Within the hour he returns. After expressing his thanks, he explains that he is Chief Stewart on this ship next to us, a roll-on/roll-off carrier which is approximately the size of the SkyDome. Wouldn’t we like to come aboard over the next few days for meals, showers, laundry, and anything else they could offer us? Boy, Jim sure knows how to pick his friends!
Talking about preparing the boat to be closed up in a steamy southern summer would be almost as tedious as doing it. If all the dire predictions come to pass, we can expect the boat to be crawling with new life forms upon our return. I’ll happily swap my list of mothballing tips (which we didn’t follow) for descriptions of remedial measures we can take when we get back to the boat next winter.
Should I mention I am now back in Holyrood, on the shore of Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Every last person who has a boat is gliding out of the harbour to admire the million-ton icebergs tastefully scattered around the bay. It’s a bumper year for the bergs, and this year many have a marbelized appearance, shot through with shades of blue and green.
Right, and where is our boat?
Fair winds and snug harbours,
Bonnie James – Vagrant Sea
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