Yesterday afternoon Alan and Gerri had bicycled over from the marina in which Civil Twilight was berthed farther down the Ashley River in Charleston. With significant enthusiasm they related some of what they had seen during the day with friends of theirs who live on a boat much of the year right in Charleston and are native by several generations. Gerri's suggestion for today was to bicycle through the historic downtown district (Gerri had discovered a slick little app earlier for the Iphone/Ipad that provided an aural walking tour of the historic district complete with pictures.)
So with Ipad, backpack and bicycle we were off, excepting Nancy, who remembers a childhood incident that destroyed both her bicycle and her interest and now insists walking is more seemly. (And she does walk with alacrity - sometimes I bicycle and she walks and she arrives at the same time I do.)
Charleston is a city made for bicycles; at least bicycles owned by those whose confidence and energy level like mine that is somewhat diminished . Charleston is dead flat and often offers broad sidewalks with little pedestrian traffic. The street pattern is generally gridlike, that allows for a measure of intuitive navigation. And today the weather was perfect.
Starting with the Marketplace, a flea market that goes back to the origins of the city itself, we toured several public buildings and churches. But what charmed the soul and captivated the eye are the magnificently maintained historic homes, mostly dating back 200 years or more. Many of the homes have small alleyways which were developed to allow better air circulation during the debilitatingly hot and humid summer months in the decades before air conditioning became available. Some of the homes have lavishly landscaped courtyards. Most have a wrought iron gate of some time and many have iron fencing as well.
Most of the streets have palmettos and other trees for shade and many homes have one or two-story covered verandas, known locally as piazzas that usually face a small alleyway. The homes range in size from large (such as the ones above on the Charleston waterfront) to more modestly sized townhouses. Overall the effect was visually stunning. Everywhere one walked the gentle potpourri of colors of the homes, the textures, the vibrant greens of plantings everywhere suffused the soul with an emotional warmth that by comparison simply outshines the historic areas of other cities we have walked or lived in.
Saturday late morning finds Puffin arriving in Charleston. She will take a slip there for the month while Nancy and I do some sightseeing and later visit family in New England for the Thanksgiving holidays.
I had thought our blog would take a hiatus for these holidays beginning with our arrival in Charleston. But I find myself so entranced by this incredible city; the people, the places, the history as well as the odd and serendipitous happenstance that I am compelled to continue it a little longer.
After docking at a marina on the Ashley River in downtown Charleston, a few boat chores and washdown for Puffin were completed as we settled down to thoughtfully develop a sightseeing plan for the city - the thoughtful part was required as we would be on foot or bicycle and wanted to see as much as possible.
Afterwards a local walkabout for some exercise and orientation brought the day to an very pleasant end.
All of a sudden fins appeared ahead as we continued south through the backwaters of South Carolina's low country. We could hardly believe we were seeing dolphins, as many as seven or eight, in a shallow canal. While the herons and egrets, now plentiful and stalking prey suggested that fish were present, it was still a revelation to see dolphins here in these narrow estuarine bays and creeks. Dolphins, some 7-9 feet in length seem too large to swim in water that is only 10-15 deep in the very center and quickly morphs to mud at the edges. Moreover the water is muddy and opaque with apparent visibility of only a few inches. But there they were.
The humdrum of the last several hours on an easily navigable waterway was quickly eclipsed by the excitement of seeing this particular dolphin who chose to swim along with Puffin for a few hundred feet. While people throughout boating history have enjoyed and described this phenomenon, it is nonetheless a singular experience to enjoy it firsthand, particularly since it was my first documented sighting of a bottlenose dolphin since Flipper so many years ago.
Next morning at anchor in a tidal creek a few miles from Charleston, we again saw intermittant splashes along the shoreline as more dolphins chased their hapless prey.
Puffin departed Cricket Cove Marina on a calm, grey morning that promised showers and hinted at fog this morning. South Carolina? Fog? Nonetheless I turned on the radar early but on a narrow waterway there is so much return from land that it's nearly useless. In time, with the fog developing, we were requesting another of the bridge openings so common this trip and the bridge operator had to ask each boat arriving their approximate location so that she could determine the optimum bridge opening time for our little cluster of boats. She couldn't see any of us from her bridge station.
However the fog soon cleared back to the simple grey and showery day that had been forecast. So it was still an excellent day for Puffin to later traverse the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. This recent addition (1997) to the National Wildlife Refuge system is a stunning and vibrant 55,000 acres of wetlands, markedly different than anything we saw in North Carolina. The refuge was established for it's incredible "wetland diversity that sets it apart from most others along the east coast(1)". This brief description fails to describe what it feels like to slip through the narrow blackwater Waccamaw River that bisects what seems like a floating woodland. This is a forest habitat unlike the mixed marsh and forest wetlands of North Carolina and seems even more lush. Because of the overall flat geography of the South Carolina low country here, the river spawns an endless web of creeks throughout the wetlands, many well hidden by the verdant forest growth. Fortunately for us, boats are really the only way to see this incredible preserve.
Tonight we are anchored by a small island in the middle of the Waccamaw River, with little wind but a strong current of perhaps two knots which is tugging at Puffin and turning her propeller at anchor.
(1) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Puffin has arrived in South Carolina. A cloudy day with some mild showers brought us to Calabash were we attempted to anchor without much success due to other boats, and an unexpected current against which the wind was blowing. Puffin said she'd rather stay at the Marina just down the waterway so that's what we did. She earned a quick washdown there while we caught up with some laundry and other things. Civil Twilight managed to anchor successfully which earned Gerri and Alan peeled shrimp and beer ashore we heard.
Note: I've finally been able to link a gallery of pictures to the blog. (Note the link to the right of the current post.) The gallery is organized into albums by interest. Most of the pictures have captions and we'll continue to add some. We always welcome comments or ideas.
We left mile Hammock Bay near Camp Lejeune before sunrise and resumed our trip on the ICW, once we sorted out the markers. Navigator Nancy will do more prep work ahead of time (and Bob will listen carefully) to get the course straight. Today the waterway traffic was even more congested. We had to go through three opening bridges that were on different schedules, causing bunching up in a fast following current that didn't allow for great maneuverability. It's a wonder there weren't any collisions; just some short tempers, from listening to the VHF radio. Somewhat like highway congestion.
Bob continues his fascination with, and had many chances to take pictures of, his favorite pelicans - we saw dozens. Nancy is amazed at the number of waterfront homes complete with private or communal boat docks. The newer ones are built on stilts in anticipation of huge storm surges. We are so close to the ocean here that we get a peak at it while passing some of the inlets.
Seems there are three other Kadey Krogen boats traveling just ahead of us that we occasionally hear on the VHF, but we are unable to reach the ones we have met, Tom and Charlene on Forever 39. Our Krogen has drawn some compliments during this trip, people like the looks of it. And we are happy with the way it handles. And we enjoy ogling other boats and wondering what make they are.
We pulled into Carolina Beach Basin just as the wind picked up and had no trouble anchoring here. Despite the increasing winds and overcast sky, we are well protected. Bob ventured out on the dinghy to check out the local stores, but the rest of us remained snug in out boats.