Shrimp & Triggerfish
08 November 2007 | Georgetown, SC, Mile 403
Our little trip ashore to Georgetown on Wednesday evening consisted of a walk along the main drag, a catch-up chat with Ken, Colin and Sharon on Sulis and, on their recommendation, a quick trip to Independent Seafoods where we picked up some very fine shrimp ($6.99 lb), trigger fish, and stuffed crab. Jim cooked up the shrimp in his trademark flambéed Sambucca Shrimp dish...mmmmm good.
It was very cold on Thursday morning, so we fired up the fireplace, and in half an hour the cabin temperature was up almost 10 degrees. We went back ashore to have another look around before departing for points south. Some of the streets reminded us of Upper Victoria and Rupert Streets in Amherst - the Victorian houses and trees with branches arching over peaceful avenues. We were fortunate enough to encounter John and Rosalie at the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Bureau and spent a good while chatting with them on a wide range of topics involving Georgetown and South Carolina generally. They are transplanted Yankees and were thus able to give us a great inside/outside picture of the American South. They were interesting folks themselves, having moved here from New Jersey to be nearer their daughter. They volunteer at the Visitor's centre - and John's passion is history so he is a valuable source of information; they are involved with the local theatre company; they ride their bikes out to the beaches; in short, they are filling their re-tirement with all sorts of new pro-tirement activities.
On another trip here, I'd like to visit the Rice museum and the Kaminski House, but in the meantime, we got a good picture of life before and after the Civil War here, and were able to be on the lookout for abandoned rice plantations as we traveled along the next stretch of the ICW. I had always thought of cotton when I thought of Southern plantations, but this area was noted for its rice and indigo - the plant whose fermented leaves produced a blue dye. If I remember correctly, almost 70% of America's rice came from 7 or 8 plantations in this area during the period leading up to the civil war. We learned that those plantations and the wealth and lifestyle enjoyed by the white families were possible only because of slave labour, and that slaves made up almost 75% of the population of this area. The plantation families used to depart every summer for Charleston and other seaside towns to avoid contracting malaria and yellow fever - the mosquito-borne diseases that circulated freely in the hot, wet climate of the rice fields. The slave families were left behind, of course, to do the labour intensive work of taking care of the crops that made that lifestyle possible.
After a stop at the Kudzu Bakery for delicious honey-oat bread and strawberry-rhubarb jam, and a return trip to the seafood store for more shrimp, we hoisted anchor and headed onward.
As John had told us, we found abandoned rice plantations all along the way. We could see the remnants of irrigation ditches and vast fields once given to rice, now returned to the wild. Travelling through the ICW is a wonderful way to see the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Centre Heritage Preserve. He was once the owner of the Boston Red Sox, and willed this land to the state. We saw huge flocks of what I think were bobolinks - called rice birds when the rice was plentiful here. They were as thick and fast as clouds of mosquitoes. There was also a huge raptor-type bird with a white band across its tail, rust colour on underside and perhaps on top - could it have been a Golden Eagle? A couple of groups of black and white, red billed, long legged birds were clustered on oyster middens (piles of oyster shells) - the American Oystercatcher? And... we saw our first alligator at about Mile 424 - at Red 26! He was heading north as we were heading south - just floating along the side of the creek minding his own business. A very cool addition to our list of "sightings".
We spent Thursday night in an anchorage in the Awendaw Creek (Mile 435.7) where I cooked our triggerfish for dinner. (I just sprinkled a little Old Bay seasoning, some pepper and lemon juice over it, and then baked it in the oven) It has a nice meaty texture and good flavour. We wanted to try it because that is what Steven Callahan told of eating in his book "Adrift". Mind you - he ate it raw, and for many of the 76 days he was adrift. Have I told you yet what an amazing book that is?
There was a cold NW wind that kept us garbed in hats and gloves despite the sun as we motored through the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. We have been feeling a wee bit torn about how to traverse this country. It would be lovely to get outside and put the sails up - sails? Seems so long ago! But on the other hand, we would hate to miss all this new geography. Before we started, Jim and I thought we would like to do the whole ICW once to see what it is like, and we are still holding to that plan. I had no idea there would be such a variety of scenery. The ICW is often referred to as "the ditch" and indeed it is dug out of the land like a ditch, joining rivers and creeks to make a passageway south. But it is so much more than that. We travel through wild stretches with nothing but marshes, and wild-ish stretches with marshes and houses and long-long-long wharves stretching out like arms to the open waterway. We pass towns and inlets. We enter and exit little cuts through rock, and make our way around shoaling corners, and see palmetto trees and cedars and pines all jumbled together. We skirt the edges of resorts that date from the early 1900's as well as those of today. We pass islands that used to be frequented by bootleggers and now house golf courses and playgrounds and lots of legal alcohol.
So it is in this spirit of discovery that we continue motoring our way along and make our much-anticipated visit to Charleston!