“All life connects. Nothing that happens is meaningless,” wrote
southern writer Pat Conroy in his sprawling novel Beach Music.
This wonderful story takes the reader on an emotional journey of self-discovery
with South Carolinian Jack McCall, using the rich tapestry of the low
country as its backdrop. And while there are many beautiful spots along
the ICW to savor Southern hospitality and charm, nowhere is it more abundant
than in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Beaufort—pronounced BEW-fort and never to be confused with North
Carolina’s BO-fort—was first explored by Europeans around 1521.
It was home to several indigenous peoples, including the Yemasee and Tuscarora
tribes, and later to those of Spanish, French, English, and Scottish descent.
It took almost 200 years for the squabbling between these divergent groups
to end before the town was settled in 1711. By the turn of the 19th century,
Sea Island cotton took root as the cash crop, and Beaufort entered its
Golden Age, while pirates plied the coast and the new republic struggled
Beaufort today embraces its heritage with a beautiful waterfront that
is a blend of restored antebellum architecture and rolling green hills
surrounded by serene marshlands. Equally important is the city’s
rich African-American past, which has not only been saved, but also nourished
as an integral part of Beaufort’s identity.
As many times as I’ve been up and down the ICW, I always make sure
that Beaufort is one of the places I stop to visit. For not doing so would
make any waterway trip incomplete.
HOW TO GET THERE
Located on the ICW, Beaufort is easily accessible to both north- and southbound
traffic. However, since much of this portion of the waterway is prone
to tidal ranges as high as nine feet, especially during a high spring
tide or a northeasterly blow, the threat of grounding is prevalent. Call
ahead to one of the local marinas in the area for updates.
The following NOAA charts are needed: 11522, 11521, 11519, 11518-SC, 11517,
11516, 11513, 11512.
While there are anchorages close by, given busy ICW traffic, strong tidal
current swings, and southerly winds, grab a slip.
• Located one mile north of Beaufort, the Marsh Harbour Boatyard
(843) 521-1500 can accommodate vessels up to 65 feet, has a 50-ton TraveLift,
and a complete repair shop.
• Lady’s Island Marina (843) 522-0430 can take vessels
up to 60 feet and has a restaurant on the premises.
• Situated some 300 yards from Beaufort’s historic business
district, The Downtown Marina (843) 524-4422 can handle vessels
longer than 100 feet. If necessary, the dockmaster can arrange engine
repairs, hull and shaft work, and any other marine services.
• The Port
Royal Landing Marina (800) 326-7678 also has slip space for vessels
in excess of 100 feet. Amenities include courtesy transportation to Beaufort,
historic district tours, and golf packages.
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