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Hilton Head Island
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Center for Carolina Living A yachtsman’s yahoo: What sea captain wouldn’t want to dock at Harbour Town? The Hilton Head marina, famous for its octagon-shaped, striped lighthouse, currently is home to The Stars and Stripes, America’s famous sailing vessel. Boutiques, galleries and restaurants are other reasons to visit the quaint Sea Pines neighborhood.
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Intracoastal Waterway
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Center for Carolina Living At your own pace:
The Intracoastal Waterway -- ICW-- is an interstate waterway for commercial and recreational vessels, stretching more than 3,000 miles from Boston to Key West.
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hard aground With eddie jones: the collected columns of coastal cruising's best-known curmudgeon
written by eddie jones.
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Mountains
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Cruising The Carolina Coast
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he Carolina Coast is a ragged hedge of colliding currents and sun-drenched islands anchored by a series of shifting shoals that compose an area called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."

These four mid-Atlantic shoals, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Cape Fear and Cape Romain, funnel warm ocean currents from the Gulf Stream into the chilling storm clouds of fast-moving cold fronts, creating a navigational nightmare for any skipper skirting the Carolina coast.

Fortunately, there is an alternative for those skittish sailors seeking to sail from town to port without risking both wife and limb. It's called the Intracoastal Waterway and it's a bashful boater's best friend.

The ICW is an interstate waterway for commercial and recreational vessels, stretching more than 3,000 miles from Boston to Key West. Built earlier this century to provide a safe inland shipping route for military and commercial ships, the ICW remains the premiere passage for recreational sailors moving north and south along the Atlantic seaboard.

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Georgetown, SC - The Hammock Coast
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Myrtle Beach City Highlight
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rom the local native in a small skiff to the professional captain delivering a new motor yacht, the Waterway provides a secure route between the islands and inlets of the Carolina coast.
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Center for Carolina Living Fishing is a fashionable career in the Lowcountry and shrimpers and skippers alike enjoy golf on the links at Hilton Head.. Center for Carolina Living
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From Elizabeth City to Hilton Head, the Waterway is brimming with small towns, ritzy resorts and long unspoiled beaches. South of Charleston, the Waterway begins to turn back on itself every few miles as the Lowcountry spreads inland with the rising tide. It's a slow style of sailing, but for many, it's the most scenic stretch of the Waterway. Here are opportunities for side trips down the North Edisto River to the beach communities of Kiawah Island and Seabrook Resort, where long walks on wide beaches can cure the most contagious case of cabin fever.

Farther south in Beaufort, SC, the scent of fresh seafood lingers as shrimp trawlers nudge the creosote dock pilings along the main waterfront. Fishing is a fashionable career in the Lowcountry and shrimpers and skippers alike enjoy golf on the links at Hilton Head. Harbour Town and Shelter Cove Marina offer an assortment of sophisticated shops, superb docking facilities and excellent dining, making them favorite stops along the Waterway.

Hilton Head stands in stark contrast to the coastal communities bordered by the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. Sailors heading north of Charleston will catch a glimpse of what coastal living was like before highways and fairways reshaped the dunes and creeks of the sea islands. As your cruise enters the shallow waters of Winyah Bay, you'll begin to see and smell the port city of Georgetown, overlooking the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Sampit rivers.
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Center for Carolina Living Southport has the feel of an old New England fishing village, but with the climate of the subtropics. Center for Carolina Living
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This coastal village was honored by King George of England as a colonial port of entry. Take a day to explore authentic colonial architecture in the historic district and sample the fare of riverside bistros along Front Street.

Myrtle Beach may not have the charm and heritage of a Bucksport or Pawleys Island, but what it lacks in pedigree it makes up for in marine services. Cruisers find plenty of marinas, including the cozy Lightkeepers Village in Coquina Harbor up Little River Inlet (marker 346), and exciting nightlife, dining and shopping, like that at Barefoot Landing marina, anchored by the Alabama Theater and House of Blues.

From Myrtle Beach, it's a day's run up to Southport, NC, and the resort of Bald Head Island. Southport has the feel of an old New England fishing village, but with the climate of the subtropics. The town was once a secure harbor for Confederate blockade runners and a refuge for pirates. Bald Head Island has been tastefully transformed from a remote sand spit into a first-class island resort. The "village" includes a marina, golf course, restaurants and boutiques.

Half a day's sail from Bald Head Island will put you in Wrightsville Beach, considered the "Malibu of the South" by many. In recent years, Wrightsville Beach has enjoyed new wealth and energy. Beaufort, NC, has long been hailed as the "Gateway to the Caribbean." Because of its proximity to the Gulf Stream, Beaufort is a port of departure for many crews sailing to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands. The town was developed during colonial times as a deep-water port to receive European wares and spices from the islands.
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Center for Carolina Living If you come to Ocracoke, you come by boat. There are no stoplights or bridges to the mainland. Center for Carolina Living
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Today, most of Beaufort's historic homes, gardens and commercial buildings have been restored. Still, the public park and anchorage along the waterfront remain its primary attraction along with the lure of treasure from the recently uncovered remains of Blackbeard's ship.

Just north of Beaufort, there is a dramatic shift in the style and type of sailing. The shifting shoals of Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout help preserve the beaches and sand bars of the Outer Banks, forming the inland bays of Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The towns and villages here exude a flavor of exotic isolation.

Oriental is a village of nostalgia, untainted by coastal congestion found in other tourist towns. New Bern, just around the river from Oriental, was the home of North Carolina's first colonial capital. Bath and Washington sit on a stretch of the Pamlico River north of Oriental, overlooking the same narrow creeks that Blackbeard used to moor his fleet when contemplating his retirement from pirating.

Ocracoke Island sits in the middle of the Outer Banks and is about as close as you'll get to Caribbean cruising this side of the Bahamas. A stubby white lighthouse overlooks a small, circular anchorage and a web of narrow lanes paved with crushed sea shells leads down to the beach.

If you come to Ocracoke, you come by boat. There are no stoplights or bridges to the mainland, and the most pressing form of civil discourse is a debate on whether the island should secede from Hyde County. Allowing for the attitude and latitude of those involved in this cultural revolution, it seems to be a resistance movement short on resolve and long on relaxation.

But here on the Carolina coast, that's just another sign of the times and tides.
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Written by Eddie Jones Center for Carolina Living
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