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Cruising the Cooper River

by Lt Chuck Clark, 2016 Boating Activities Chairman

It was a last-minute add on to the 2016 Lake Murray Power Squadron Cruise Schedule, but our Cooper River Cruise may turn out to be the biggest off-lake event of the season! While we were one boat short of the number making the trip to Lake Greenwood, we sported five more participants. All told, nine boats and 30 members and their guests enjoyed this beautiful fall cruise Saturday 24 September 2016.

We rendezvoused at the last I-26 rest area before I-95, and then travelled down as a group via U.S. Highway 301 to Canal Lakes Fish Camp on the Diversion Canal. The tow wasn’t without incident; just a mile from the landing, R/C David Allen had a flat tire. But fortunately, he was in his truck towing another member’s Sea Pro, and had all the necessary equipment to change the tire with assistance and advice. Eventually the onlookers opted to proceed ahead and get their rigs launched and ready to depart, with David, Debra and Bill arriving before everyone had gotten in the water.

We were on the way to the Pinopolis Lock just after 1030. The Pinopolis Lock at Santee Cooper's Jefferies Hydroelectric Station was the highest single-lift lock in the world at the time of its construction. Motorized boats between 10 and 150 feet can use the lock to be raised or lowered the 75-foot difference between Lake Moultrie and the Cooper River.

The breeze was cool and the scenery was breathtaking as we cruised across Lake Moultrie. We had to wait about 30 minutes for the lock to complete its cycle and let our boats enter. Once we were all rafted inside, Yankee Pankee supplied tasty beverages to cool everyone off as we watched the waterfall created by water leaking from the lake bed through the doors of the lock as we were slowly lowered to the Tailrace Canal.

In a record amount of time, the doors opened and LMPS was cruising down the Cooper River to Gilligan’s Restaurant. We received a warm welcome at Gilligan’s, where they set up the center of the restaurant so that we could eat as a group. The service was the best, drink orders were taken and delivered in a timely manner, and food orders were delivered to everyone at the same time. The food was very good and the prices were reasonable; we’ll remember Gilligan’s on our next trip down the Cooper River.

After lunch and an almost group photo (it is amazing how we could never seem to get everyone at the same spot at the same time), we journeyed on down the river past Mepkin Abbey to the Strawberry Bluff trestle bridge where we rafted up to socialize and just enjoy the scenery. A couple members actually went swimming, while the rest of us watched the alligators eyeing dinner.  But the alligators kept their distance and after a while we began the journey back to the lock since we had been warned to return before they closed for the evening. On the way back up river, we got to see a wedding being performed in the riverside garden at Mepkin Abbey.

The doors were opening as we arrived at the lock and we were able to go right in for the ride to the top and back into Lake Moultrie. Once out of the lock, the group ran a little faster back to the landing at Canal Lakes Fish Camp, but that seems to be the norm when we know the journey has come to an end. At Canal Lakes, boats were loaded and everyone went their own way home. I’m sure the conversations on the return trips were reminiscent of the fun day everyone had and wishing it could have lasted longer.

I personally want to thank everyone that participated in this short-notice cruise. I enjoyed meeting members who I did not know well, as well as perspective new LMPS members. Those who could not be with us for whatever reason missed a great day. But don’t worry; we definitely will do this again.

Click on the first thumbnail below to open a slide show of our trip through the Pinopolis Lock to the Cooper River!

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Updated 22 March 2017
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