Trailering Magazine Archives - Destinations
The Ghosts and the Boats
With the Atlantic Ocean due east, and the Intracoastal Waterway due west, Myrtle Beach is due for more than 13 million visitors this year. Some will bring golf clubs (there are 120 golf courses along the Grand Strand, a 60-mile South Carolina beach area that includes Myrtle Beach) while others will bring boats. Some bring both.
The Grand Strand has become one of the hottest (and we're not talking temperature here although 75 degrees is the April average) destinations on the East Coast. More than 200 hotels are located along the Highway 17 corridor and the shoreline and the 11 acre Pavilion Amusement Park is located right on the Myrtle Beach waterfront (complete with a roller coaster aptly named Hurricane Category 5 that tops 55mph in its 2-minute run along the ocean).
The South Carolina section of the Intracoastal Waterway provides some of the ICW's most scenic -and interesting-- areas. Between the northern-most part of the Grand Strand (Little River Inlet which has access to the Ocean) and North Myrtle Beach, is an area called Barefoot Landing. Boaters can tie up for free for a period of three days (no power or water hookups) and walk to not only restaurants and shopping, but an outlet mall and the Alabama Theatre for a show and dinner.
Just north of Barefoot Landing is where engineers more than 60 years ago cut through about five miles of rock during construction of the ICW. It's called "the rockpile," and the name is appropriate as TowBoatU.S. Murrell's Inlet operator Brian Coggeshall can attest. "Even at low tide, the ledges of the cut are still underwater. I've had too many boats that aren't paying attention or are in too big of a hurry run aground on the edge of the channel which is a rock wall. It was originally cut to handle a tug and a barge going through the Intracoastal-about 100 feet wide. This is an area where trouble can occur."
Coggeshall says the ICW is always busy with barges carrying fuel or cedar chips and suggests contacting the tug captain on Channel 13 if there is any concern about how to proceed. Local boaters say they will call ahead prior to entering "the rockpile" area to determine if there is any approaching traffic (tug or barge or both). If there is, the smart option is to wait and let the traffic pass before enetering the narrow area. Ask the captain what he wants you to do if you're worried about there not being enough width of the waterway. These folks know what they're doing." The "rockpile" can be pretty narrow so even a trailer boater is advised to let the barge pass through if possible."
If you spend any time in the Myrtle Beach area, be ready to hear a ghost story or two...or ten. The intersection of love and water and boats has made possible many tales-some of which may actually be true and many of which are recent encounters with century-old spirits. Two of the most popular ghost stories about South Carolina are based in on the water. In one, "the Grey Man" residents of Pawley's Island (just south of Myrtle Beach) are warned by a grey man walking the beach to flee the island in the hours before a hurricane comes ashore. Those that have heeded the grey man's warning have returned to a house untouched by the winds and rain, while homes of those who ignored the warnings are destroyed. Alice of Murrell's Inlet is a woman who fell in love with a man who didn't have her family's approval. He had given her a ring which she wore on a ribbon around her neck. During an illness, her brother discovered the ring and cast it into the waters of Murrrell's Inlet. Alice died and today can be seen from time to time walking the beaches of the Inlet in search of her ring. Many boaters tell stories of seeing Alice walking in the water bent over and searching for the ring she lost. TowboatU.S. captain Brian Coggeshall who is a life time resident of Murrell's Inlet says Alice is buried on Pawley's Island. The story he's been told is if you place a wedding ring on her tombstone and walk 70 times in one direction around the grave and then return the next day with the ring and walk 70 times in the other direction around the grave, the ring will disappear (he hasn't done this as of yet).
Half a dozen or more marinas now grace the Grand Strand, not to mention the yet-to-open Grande Dunes Marina on the Intracoastal in Myrtle Beach (expected later this year). Plans are being put in place to build luxury homes, a gold course designed by golfer Nick Price and a new marina with 149 slips including 18 transients.
Anchor Marina, a BoatU.S. Cooperating Marina located at Mile Marker 347 on the Intracoastal Waterway in Myrtle Beach has everything the visiting (and resident) trailer boater needs. There is a boat ramp ($5 to launch) with plenty of boat trailer parking, a fuel dock with discounts for BoatU.S. Members and easy access to the ICW. There is also a pair of public boat ramps on either side of the ICW (locals call it the "ocean side" or the "land side). Both are beneath the Route 17 Bridge that crosses into downtown Myrtle Beach. Using the Anchor Marina boat ramp is also preferable when bad weather moves in. Because the two public boat ramps are so popular, there can be a waiting line during a storm because so many boats suddenly pull into the ramp which requires time to retrieve the trailer as well as the boat.
From Anchor Marina, you're about five miles from having access to the ocean via the Little River Inlet-the northern-most part of the Grand Strand. A number of artificial reefs have been set off shore (one is close in, another 11 miles out and another 33 miles out) so this is always an active place for fishing boats. Little River Inlet is home port for a number of casino boats that will take slot machine and blackjack players an hour out into the ocean beyond jurisdictional boundaries that prohibit gambling.
Little River Inlet is just south of the North Carolina border. For boaters traversing the Intracoastal, it is important to understand the bridges crossing the ICW in the two states operate on different VHF channels (North Carolina bridge tenders are on Channel 13 while South Carolina bridge tenders use channel 9). The staff at Anchor Marina always tells a boater at the gas dock to be aware of the change since they are so close to the North Carolina state line. Many times, a boat that has been traveling south isn't aware it has passed the North Carolina/South Carolina border and will try to contact the nearby Little River Swing Bridge (Mile 347.3) which only has a 7' clearance. When there is no response, the captain many times will call ahead to Anchor Marina only to be told of the change in VHF channels (and the fact they are in a different state). In many cases, however, the bridge operators also monitor Channel 16.
At the southern end of the Grand Strand is Murrell's Inlet where there is access to the ocean. Brian Coggeshall operates two TowBoatU.S. boats out of here and has this advice for the newcomer to the area: "We have a ramp in Murrell's Inlet that is next door to Caption Dick's restaurant. From here, a boater can go fishing right in the inlet for flounder or red drum (depending of course on the time of year) or if the seas are calm, access to the ocean is easy. The inlet entrance has a pair of jetties and is well marked. A lot of boaters will pull into an area called 'the Point' just inside the jetties and beach their boats for a picnic. Or, you can follow one of the creeks north all the way to Garden City and fish along the way."
If you are thinking about Myrtle Beach as a destination within the next month or so, keep reading. The week of May 13-22 is the famous "Bike Week" in this seaside resort when as many as 300,000 people, and their motorcycles, appear for a 9-day festival of food and music. This might be a good time to find another way to spend Mothers Day with your trailer boat. For the remaining 356 days of the year, there is no better place to bring a boat and family.