19/11/2007/12:48 pm, Isle of Hope, GA, Mile 590
We pulled into Isle of Hope Marina late on Friday afternoon after a very windy trip from Beaufort. The wind blew 15-20 all day long with frequent gusts to 30. I was longing to put up even a bit of sail but the ICW twists and turns so much, and is so narrow in places that it just wasn't worth it. Besides if a gust caught us and pulled us sideways in one of the narrow bits, we'd be aground in a flash.
Just as we were coming out of Fields Cut into the Savannah River, we saw a huge container ship go plowing by. I wish I'd had the camera handy - it would have been a good picture to see the ship completely covering the channel. We slowed a bit to let him clear and then proceeded out. The city of Savannah is upriver from the ICW route so we decided not to go up to the city itself with the boat, but to find a marina where we could safely leave the boat while we went exploring. We didn't end up doing quite as much exploration of Savannah as we had planned, but it was a magical stay nonetheless.
The Isle of Hope Marina was a very pleasant place - in a sweet bend in the river - and mercifully, well protected from the wind so docking was easy. Along with bicycles, there are also cars to borrow for 2 hour time periods. Mary signed one out for 6-8 and Jim took the 8-10 block (the last one of the evening) so we were able to drive to the Driftaway Restaurant for dinner and then go into Savannah in search of music. Our meals were excellent - I had shrimp and grits again - this time with crispy onion rings as part of the presentation. Jim's grouper was delicious too.
Enroute to Savannah, the oil light came on in this well-used Lexus we were driving so we made a quick stop to dump in a quart of oil and continued on our way. Mary's excellent navigation took us right down to River Street where we took an evening stroll to the Irish Pub. A good musician/good raiser of toasts/not-so-good-joke teller was entertaining there and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours. It was interesting that he played a couple of Eric Bogle songs (we have loved Bogle's music ever since we first heard him at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 20 years ago), and even one of Terry Kelly's (a musician from Halifax, NS!)
On Friday morning, Jim spent a profitable few hours hooking up a cable from GPS to the NMEA-Out terminals in the Raymarine Seatalk box. Translation: that enables the GPS to transmit latitude and longitude of the vessel in the event of a Mayday, and to send position reports to other boats who know the MMSI number assigned to Madcap. Further translation: in the event of an emergency, all we have to do is press one button which will broadcast a Mayday with our exact location. Friends can also locate us more easily.
I borrowed the marina's van and went shopping, returning with a full load of groceries and some fresh Georgia shrimp.
There were infrequent buses into Savannah, but we caught a midafternoon one - a whole hour-long experience in itself. I had a thoroughly good time listening in on all the conversations around me, trying to hear the differences in dialect, and enjoying the interaction of people; there was none of this silent, mind-your-own-business stuff that is often found on northern buses. It must have been a regular crowd because many of the folks knew each other, but it wasn't just that. At one stop, a woman was sleeping, and a voice called from a few seats back - "Wake her up! This is her stop!" The man sitting beside her complied, and off she went. A young woman and her boyfriend were on the way to the Greyhound station. She said Savannah was just too small for her. There was lots of conversation with the woman across the aisle who patted her arm and wished her well as she got off. I didn't manage to catch where she was going. A fellow got on board and discovered that the boyfriend was a fellow cook. High fives followed and an animated discussion followed on burns and expectations of managers and stories of meals returned because of allergies or diabetic diets that the diners had not mentioned before ordering. A young fellow with dreadlocks and piercings and a hood over his head accidentally stepped on my backpack, and surprised me by flashing a big smile with his "Sorry" and wished us Happy Thanksgiving!
We found a T-Mobile store on Bay Street where we bought some more minutes for our cell phone, took pictures of the Cotton Exchange building - built over an existing street - and then wandered along the waterfront to see if any of the boats tied up there were familiar ones. To our delight, we spied Ripple Effect from Nyak, NY, and this is where the synchronicity part of this tale begins.
We had last seen Jane and Lou in Beaufort and had wanted to talk more with them, so we called down a Hello! They promptly invited us and the other couple standing along the wall near us, down for drinks. The "other couple" - friends neither of us had met before - turned out to be Phil and Margaret on Sunshine (a PDQ) from Indiana. We had a very fine time sharing stories there, but this story gets even better. Phil and Marg were planning to meet their friend Dan at a sushi restaurant and generously invited the rest of us to join them. More animated conversation, and some very good sushi followed. Phil and Marg had offered to drive us back to Isle of Hope (about a 20 minute drive from Savannah - unless you are on a bus) as they went off to McAllisters Point, but Marjorie, Dan's friend, turned out to live right in Isle of Hope and so offered us a ride. How wonderful is that?
As we walked down the street with Marjorie, we met friends of hers. One 25ish young man has a brother in Toronto, is a surfer and has Nova Scotia on his list for future destinations. This young man is just back in college, focused and determined, while at 20 he was still exploring options and discovering himself and his place in the world. This was reassuring news for parents of a 20 year old who is doing the same thing!
We kept marveling for days about all the connections and similarities we found among this little microcosm of the cruising community. This is what it is like! How absolutely beautiful to encounter, and all it takes is a willingness to say, "Yes" when opportunity presents itself.
14/11/2007/12:33 pm, Beaufort, SC, Mile 536.5
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.
12/11/2007/5:27 pm, Charleston, SC, ICW MIle 469.2
We emerged from the ICW land cut past Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island into wide-open Charleston Harbour. It took us a minute to get our bearings and we must have looked a bit confused as we throttled down to take a good look at the charts and coordinate what we saw on paper and electronic screen with the markers we spotted through binoculars. The Cooper River goes off one way, the Ashley River goes another, and the route to the outside goes off a third way. Fortunately there is space and time to do the figuring out. We used to have waypoints all plotted out beforehand but the plotting has been so simple since we entered the ICW that we haven't done it lately.
We had booked dock space at the Charleston City Marina for two nights and then we added a third one - at $2.00 per foot it was splurging, but turned out to be definitely worth it. This was a beautiful marina - with a gigantic floating MegaDock - so gigantic that it was 500 paces from our allotted space of 1310 to the floating bath house (restrooms, showers, laundry) and another 100 or so to dry land. We could get our exercise without ever stepping foot onshore! There were sailboats large and small, along with enormous yachts here. Boats could all be fuelled, watered and pumped out right at their berths. Speaking of fuel...Jim was having a good time inspecting the prices that had been rung up on the various diesel pumps along the dock. He spotted one at $2793.71, then $3180.23, and then the largest one he saw was a whopping $4697.33!! Fuel here was $3.439 per gallon. I just had to find someone who could give us some more figures to play with, so I asked a fellow on a regular sized trawler type boat about consumption. He uses about 4 gallons per hour at or below hull speed (8 - 10 knots) but 50 gallons per hour when he pushes his speed up to 20 knots. And I'll tell you - most of those mega yachts are making at least 20 knots per hour. That is a whole lot of dollars being spent on moving forward. In contrast, we use just under 1 US gallon per hour at our average cruising speed of 6 knots per hour. Plus we have sails!
I went off to get my hair cut at the Stuart Lawrence Salon on King Street recommended by one of the receptionists at the Marina (those folks have all kinds of information available for the asking). Kelly even made the appointment for me - and Rob waited in the shuttle van for me to hustle all the way to the parking lot - remember those 500 paces? With a great haircut and awful red eyebrows that were only partly fixed after my complaints (who would have thought the aesthetician would use red instead of brown?) I went off to meet Mary and Blair (Strathspey) and Jim at Sticky Fingers - our BBQ joint of choice for the evening.
I entered through the side door and told the hostess that I was meeting friends. She said, "Oh yes - it is probably that couple who just went out the front door to wait for you." We walked to the front door for a look see, and I discovered that the heads I could see were not the right ones. Just as I turned away from the door, I spotted Mary and Blair in a booth to my left, and much to the surprise of the hostess, I announced, "I like the look of these people so I'll sit here!" Jim soon came along and as we devoured some finger lickin' ribs, we enjoyed a chatty reunion (they did an overnight passage from Cape Fear to Charleston, and were staying over at the Charleston Harbour Marina on the Cooper River). Jim and I walked all the way down Meeting Street to the water, and then up South Battery, past the US Coast Guard Station to the city marina. It was a walk to remember. We caught glimpses through uncurtained windows of intricately carved woodwork, high ceilings, glittering chandeliers, and walls displaying beautiful art. Rockers and swings invited us to climb steps and linger on piazzas (we didn't). Narrow lanes and cobbled streets were tucked between massive houses and tiny, charming gardens. We could only imagine the days when wealthy families spent summers here as they called on each other and held balls and teas and partook of all the cultural delights that they missed during their winters in the country.
On Saturday morning, Jim's Cousin Sue and her husband, Terry, arrived from Lancaster SC to join us in exploring this city. They have been here many times and were wonderful guides as well as great company for the weekend. The weather was sunny and warm as we headed off on foot to wander the streets, past the two and three storied antebellum houses with their airy piazzas. We visited the Market where all sorts of wares are for sale today, and where we looked at chilling newspaper ads from the days when people were bought and sold - not there according to one book I read but in other markets nearby.
We toured the Calhoun Mansion - ornately constructed and filled chock-a-block with the current owner's collections. He was described by the guide as a litigation lawyer who bought the house for $8 million and then filled it with millions more in possessions - furniture and paintings and chandeliers and vases and animal heads. It was interesting to see - particularly the woodwork, the sliding doors that rolled so easily into the walls, and the windows that went all the way to the floor. They slid up to make doorways but in the days when houses were assessed according to the number of doors they had, were still considered windows so the taxes were less! It all smacked of conspicuous consumption, but perhaps we could consider that the owner enjoys letting the fee-paying public share in his enjoyment! Jim of course kept thinking of his clients and how he earned the money to pay for all this.
That leads me to reflect that as much as we enjoyed exploring all this, and admired the construction and design and beauty, there always hovered in the backs of our minds the shadow of what made it possible - the ownership of black people who were forced to work at labour the white men would never ever consider doing themselves - the belief of the time that these black people were less than human and so it was acceptable to treat them that way. I have had a hard time trying to find a way to understand how so many intelligent, educated and otherwise compassionate people could accept this view. (Of course there were some who didn't - I don't mean to paint all whites with the same brush.) I'm reading a book called Mary's Life by Richard Cote. It gives me information, but still does not answer that fundamental question.
We stopped to take pictures of the family home in that book - the Miles Brewton House on King Street where Mary's family, the William Bull Pringles lived. They lived there in luxury, lost it, reclaimed it, lived there in poverty.
We strolled along Rainbow Row - center of market life in the 1700's, saved from destruction in the 1930's and painted in Caribbean colours that would probably not pass the restoration rules now, and we took each others pictures at the pineapple fountain as we watched families at play. We savoured fresh-out-of-the-kettle pecan pralines, licking their warm fudginess off our fingers, devoured shrimp po boys and fishwiches and drank sweet tea at BubbaGumps - and didn't do badly on the Forrest Gump quiz either. (A person just has to eat there once.) We visited a camera store and purchased a new 55-200mm lens for my camera - oh yeah - and a new lens cap to replace the one I dropped in the water, and a leash so I don't have to get any more lens caps. We strolled up and down streets, taking pictures and examining little nooks and corners.
These are quite amazing houses - two and three stories tall, mostly white, columned, with wide airy piazzas. I'm still trying to work out the differences between verandahs, porches and piazzas - I think verandahs go all the way around a house, and porches are smaller - and these are piazzas because of their placement on the east and west sides to catch the breezes and because they are on all stories of the house. They must double the floor space and I can see that they would be lovely places to idle away a hot afternoon. They do not necessarily face the street but often line the side of a house along a garden or facing the house next door.
After a sunset walk back to the boat for some putting up of the feet and a sip or two of wine, we caught the last shuttle bus of the day to Hyman's Seafood for a feast. We shared plates of fried green tomatoes, followed by amberjack done Cajun style for me, crispy flounder for Jim and Sue, and scallops for Terry - all fresh, simply prepared and delicious. Then we were on the streets again for another evening walk back to the boat.
We made up the spare bed for our guests and all bedded down for a good rest in preparation for another full day on Sunday.
After coffee and biscuits (delayed a bit because we had to change the propane tank - why does it unfailingly give out when I am baking something for company???) we drove out to visit the Boon Hall plantation in Mount Pleasant. It was the scene of a Civil War encampment and re-enactment of the Battle of Seccessionville this Veterans' Day weekend so we had a double opportunity for exploration. This is a newer house built on an old and still working plantation. The crops now are mixed but it retained the feel of the old days. The long drive was lined with live oak trees that spread their enormous branches overhead and Spanish moss hung from the limbs. Small and bare brick buildings that had once housed slaves stood off to the side of the yard.
We chatted with several of the re-enactors - children dressed in period costume and playing period games, men who switch from Union to Confederate uniforms depending on the need for the action of the day, women who filled the traditional support roles. Many of them were interested in talking about their enjoyment of such weekends. For one - it is his family. (He remarked to Sue, the Yankee, that he had once had a Yankee wife but she didn't work out well out so he found himself a nice Southern wife. (Oh - I wish I could write in that gravelly drawl!! - You'll have to just drop your voice down into your boots and slow waaay down when you repeat that line.)
One wonderful conversation was with Liz, a sweetgrass basket maker. These baskets are true works of art, and are becoming collectors' items as the sweetgrass, becomes scarcer, and skilled weavers become fewer.. They range from flat baskets similar to the original ones that were used to fan chaff from rice, to decorative ones - tall or flat, covered or open. Liz told me that it used to be men who made them for fanning the rice, and then women started weaving more decorative ones. I asked how long she had been making them and she told me that when her mother died and they cleaned out her house, she found a small basket with a note that said, "Liz, 19__" the year she was six. She laughed as she said it was an ugly basket - her work now is certainly not ugly! The natural colours of the grass and the tightly woven strands in curls and coils are immensely pleasing. She told us how she makes some traditional designs, as well as some of her own. She had donated one basket to a charity auction and it brought in over $1500. I loved the glow on her face as she related that experience and told us how delighted she was to make that kind of contribution.
We lunched on pulled pork sandwiches and benne wafers, sweet and salty popcorn and chocolate cookies.
We followed the path to the polo field where the battle was to be re-enacted, and joined the crowds to hear Veteran's Day speeches. I have to say that they were a little underwhelming. There was a lot of emphasis on soldiers -today's soldiers in today's wars - fighting to ensure freedom for American children. One man (a state politician in full Confederate dress) spoke at length on the efforts to preserve and raise the Hunley - the first submarine ever to sink an enemy vessel - talking of the grand victory in sinking an enemy ship. He portrayed the war in which the Hunley fought as a war being fought for freedom from oppression. Jim - the historian in this family - kept reminding me that that war - the Civil War - was one in which families were divided, brothers fought brothers, Americans fought Americans even though they called themselves Confederates and Unionists. Over 600,000 people were killed in that war. Lest I sound too terribly cynical - if one could just forget the background of it all, and enjoy the spectacle, it was quite entertaining - for a while. For military history buffs, I expect the whole thing is a fine experience as they examine muskets and uniforms and battle strategy. As for me - I just liked talking with the people!
Thanks to Terry's willingness to chauffeur us around, we were able to fill the larder again, as well as get the propane tank filled. Terry and Sue departed for home; we put our feet up again and fell asleep not long afterward.
On our way out of Charleston the next morning we saw an enormous yacht coming in -Kismet - one that Blair identified as having been on the cover of a magazine listing the top 100 big new boats. It was 223 feet long with a beam(width) of 43 feet and draft (depth) of10feet. Hmmm - that is 5 times the length of Madcap if you count bowsprit and dinghy. I wonder how much fuel that guy sucks up. But I guess its one of those situations where "If you have to ask, you can't afford it!"