14 November 2007 | Beaufort, SC, Mile 536.5
Beth - back in shorts
It can be a little tricky to remember whether one is talking about Bo-furt in North Carolina or Bu-furt in South Carolina - both spelled Beaufort. Our tour guide in Bu-furt said "Just remember: Beautiful Beaufort by the Sea". That works for us. We left here with fond memories and if our "memories" were a little better, we would be able to relate some of the dozens of stories and historical facts we learned.
Strathspey and Seabird were anchored here along with us so we all got together on Tuesday evening for a pot-luck dinner aboard Strathspey. Mary and Blair roasted some most delicious jerk pork and squash, Nancy and Bruce (Seabird) brought mashed potatoes and brownies, Jim and I provided a broccoli/cauliflower salad and champagne. Champagne you say? Yes indeed, it was an opportunity for celebration. Our son, Liam, told us that morning that he and his girlfriend, Amy, are engaged to be married! No wedding until after we get back - that was one of the "rules" of this trip, but we will have lots of excitement to look forward to. Liam, Amy and Amy's delightful 2-year old daughter, Olivia, make a lovely family and it is fascinating to watch our Liam evolving into this new role of family man!
On Wednesday morning, Jim and I decided to take a walking tour from The Spirit of Old Beaufort - a most fortuitous decision because we were the lucky beneficiaries of Carolyn Clark's marvelous storytelling abilities. Beaufort is the second oldest town in South Carolina, and the whole downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, having more antebellum homes per block than any other American town. In the familiar pattern of the south, indigo, rice and cotton plantation owners built splendid houses here, and it is referred to in some sources as the "Newport" of the south. In 1861, a Union armada invaded Beaufort, the landowners fled, and Union soldiers occupied the town. Carolyn showed us many houses that had been used as hospitals and offices during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman worked in one of the hospitals for contraband - the name given to people in that state of limbo between slavery and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Next time we come here, I want to explore the Sea Islands - where highly prized Sea Island Cotton was grown, and where many of the freed slaves settled, maintaining their Gullah culture and language. There is a whole other aspect of the Civil War story involving Union promises to the freedmen and women, bitterness between the former owners and former slaves. We saw a few houses that had been bought for taxes owing by men who had once lived there as slaves. Robert Smalls bought one property and then gradually bought other small houses and had them moved onto the property for the use of his fellow freedmen.
There were some great stories about this man, who ended up sitting in the US Congress for at least two terms. While still a slave, he was sent to Charleston to earn money and send it back to his owner. One of his jobs was on a tender servicing the Confederate Naval vessels in Charleston Harbour. On one night when the Confederate officers failed to return to the ship after a party, he seized the opportunity. He spread the word to his fellow blacks to round up their families and join him on the "Planter"- the vessel he commandeered. Smalls dressed in the Captain's working clothes, adopted his manner of walking, and stuck his corn cob pipe in his mouth. Since it was dark, they all appeared as silhouettes, and what little attention they gathered from those ashore was complimentary - "My, that crew is working long hours." They fooled the sentries, escaped in this daring move with the vessel to the southern Union headquarters in Beaufort, where he handed it over.
This town has hosted a fair share of movie stars too, as the Big Chill, The Great Santini, Prince of Tides, and Forrest Gump were all partly filmed here. Many of the houses were used as sets and many others were rented to the stars. Carolyn had a very funny Barbara Streisand story. Barbara wanted a house with a swimming pool - and got it. She was annoyed that the fighter jets from nearby US Marine airbase kept doing exercises over the town, disturbing her peace. She called the commander and demanded that the exercises be stopped. She didn't get that. Instead the intensity picked up. Apparently Carolyn used to just point out the house Streisand had rented until one day, a tour member said, "Don't you know the rest of the story?" He was the commander who took the call and made the decision to increase the flights. Another star story involved Tom Hanks who was in his limo on the way to Lady's Island for a run when he encountered a wedding party. He consented to have his picture taken (in T-shirt and running shorts) with all the wedding party and said if they wished to send him the pictures later, he would autograph and return them. Such a contrast.
We learned that Spanish Moss was the cause of the first recall of automobiles. It was used as the stuffing in the seats of Henry Ford's cars. Somebody missed the fact that the moss is full of chiggers (red bugs) and caused some discomfort among the sitters.
We ate crispy fried shrimp at Nippy's, the Beaufort version of fast food - where the seafood was light and tasty and the beer was cold. We strolled along the lovely wide waterfront walkway and sat on the big swings to watch the ships pass. We met Lou and Jane of Ripple Effect - a boat we had seen several times in anchorages (you'll hear more about them in Savannah) and saw a fellow wearing a Rideau Waterway t-shirt.
We had planned to leave there in the early afternoon, but we were having such a nice time that we stayed another night at anchor and left at crack of dawn on Wednesday for a one day run to Isle of Hope - the marina we had booked into for our visit to Savannah, Georgia.