30/05/2008/12:13 pm, Charleston, SC
That's the way my dinner tasted the other night, and that's how this area felt to me.
Jim and I took the water taxi over to Charleston on Thursday afternoon, (leaves the marina on the hour - costs $5 one-way or $8 round trip per person), wandered around the streets to enjoy the sights and sounds, and devoured several of those heavenly southern concoctions of pecans, butter and sugar - pralines. They have to be one of my all-time favourite sweet treats - especially warm and fresh out of the pot.
We took the trolley back (free for Marina or Resort guests - leaves resort on even hours - like 2,4,6 - and returns about 15 minutes later from the Ben and Jerry's store on Market Street at Meeting St). Even though I complained that this marina is not as convenient as the City one, as long as one is willing to work around the trolly/taxi schedule, getting to historic downtown Charleston is not difficult.
We discovered that the Mount Pleasant side - where the Harbour Marina is located - has a different - and quite juicy feel! We got a real sense of the tides as we strolled along the wharf beside mud banks littered with oyster shells. Brown pelicans flew by us, perched on posts air-drying their wings much like the cormorants we have further north, and dove for fish. The water smelled salty - that smell that I can't even begin to describe - not unpleasant, not strong - just a bit of a tang - a juicy smell. Green grasses grew up luxuriantly along the mud banks, and more birds sang loudly from the midst of them. Laughing gulls with black heads and white bodies swooped around, and the occasional snowy white egret stalked along the edge of the water. For all the life above the water, we knew there was as much and more under it: fish, oysters and shrimp and crabs, dolphins and any number of plants and insects. The air was filled with the richness of all of them too. The word "succulent" came to mind and when I looked it up to see if it fit, the definition "full of vigour and richness; not dull" seemed just right.
Jim and I both remarked that we're not sure we could go back to fresh water. We love the possibility of spotting marine mammals, the buoyancy of salt water and the smell. We love the tides - that continuing reminder of the ebb and flow that is part of our own lives and of life on a larger scale. We love the way the currents help us get places, and the way the depth changes - giving us new vistas to see. (Well ... we don't always like the depth changes!) It is easier to see the channels at low tide, and there is more room for error at high tide. I kind of like the way the tide forces us to conform to a rhythm greater than our own - even when it means we have to get up early or stay out late to make a passage.
Dinner on Thursday night was succulent too. Gail left a message on the website that we should explore Shem Creek. Dixon, the trolley driver, told us one of his favourites was the Shem Creek Bar and Grill and drove us over there. On the porch, we met Mark, who volunteered that the food was the best there is and who walked us right inside. With all that, how could we go wrong?
Just before that though, we lingered on the bridge over the creek to watch the evening action. Shrimp boats lined both sides of the creek - with their long netted arms all neatly folded up. Pleasure boats were tied up wherever they could find a spot. Fishermen hosed off boat decks and diners lounged on restaurant decks. In the middle of it all, dolphins surfaced and dove as they fished the creek; pelicans floated between the boats, flew up and swooped down to fill their pouched beaks with dinner. The place was fully alive with both people and creatures.
Once inside the Shem Creek Bar and Grill, the choices were almost over-whelming - everything looked delicious. We finally settled on a couple of dishes and proceeded to eat one of the best meals we've had. Jim's big bowl of shrimp and scallops in a creamy sauce over white grits was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was my platter of assorted seafood, all lightly sautéed in butter and garlic that blew us both away. There was a chunk of mahi-mahi, a stuffed crab shell - that was mostly crab and not filler, juicy pink shrimp, and creamy white scallops that were soft and sweet and tender. The veggies - slices of yellow and green summer squash and carrots and long, thin beans were all crunchy-tender, and the grains of red rice were chewy. Oh - it was a feast and we ate and aahed and ate and aahed!
Juicy, tender, succulent, rich; we were filled in more ways than one when we got back to the boat that night.
28/05/2008/8:23 pm, Charleston, SC
Here we are in Charleston again (Well - in the pretty picture above - we are still in Fernandina Beach!) Seems like yesterday and seems like forever ago that we had dinner at the BBQ place with Mary and Blair (Strathspey), and roamed the streets with Terry and Sue (Jim's cousin).
We departed from Fernandina Beach at 0800 hours on Tuesday when it looked like we'd have a smooth passage up the coast. Yes - it was smooth. A few rolls but nothing to complain about, and some wind but not enough to allow us to turn off the engine completely. We covered 157 nautical miles and dropped the anchor in the Ashley River about 1030 hours today. It is amazing to realize that in two jumps up the coast, we covered miles that took us two weeks on the way down. We had to skip Georgia this trip north so we'll return to visit Savannah and Cumberland Island in more depth next time.
After a rest, some lunch and some discussion, we moved over to the Charleston Harbour Resort Marina. I'm flying back to Nova Scotia on Friday for a few days and Jim decided he'd feel more comfortable on a dock for that time period. It makes it easier for him to come and go. He can do more boat jobs - washing, scrubbing, waxing! And if a big wind blows through, he'll be in a better position to manage it.
Last fall we stayed at the Charleston City Marina and were very pleased with it. We thought we'd try the Charleston Harbour Marina this time for a change; we'll see how it works out. So far, we can tell that the staff is not as well trained as those we met at the City Marina last year - in handling lines, in providing information, and it seems to me that it isn't as convenient - we can't just walk to the downtown.
I've just read a couple of good books: The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy's story of the year he spent teaching on Yamacraw Island, a tiny island a whole world and just a sliver of water away from South Carolina, - a very good read; a totally different one but entertaining and informative, (and it kept me awake on my watches last night) was Shark River by Randy Wayne White - a Florida writer. Jim is reading Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile and finds it enlightening and baffling at the same time. After we've both read it, we'll rent the movie.
That's it for now - an astoundingly short posting for me!
25/05/2008/9:56 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
Our wind generator has been whirling all day! Yeah! We are so excited to see that our batteries are maintaining a good charge - a better charge than we've seen in months - despite the engine being off and the fridge being on.
The wind picked up last evening and has been blowing ever since. Those three long blades whirled around, making very little noise - less than the flapping of our flag, the water against the hull, or the wind through the rigging. So far, we are absolutely delighted with our purchase.
I did laundry at the marina while Jim puttered about on the boat and by two o'clock we were hustling ashore to join Dick and Tina on a home tour of the "Coastal Cottage Trio". This is a group of houses built by Greg Lane in Amelia Park, and the tour was a benefit for Barnabas Center. Jodie Koford, manager of Ocean Breeze Farm where Tina and I picked up those organic veggies, owns one of the cottage type houses, and it was a treat to visit her beautiful home that was bursting with colour. Jim and I were delighted with the design of the homes and came away with lots of ideas for our next land base. We loved the long, wide porches, the screened three-season rooms tucked into corners, high ceilings and transom windows. The kitchens were gorgeous with wooden cabinets and countertops, and drawer style microwave ovens. All the floors were poured concrete, scored and washed to look like stone tiles - really attractive and easy to care for.
From there, the four of us headed back to the beach to lounge around and absorb a few rays, feeling the heat from the sand and breathing in the salt air as our conversation ranged far and wide. The surf was up and many families were playing in and out of the water all along this great long beach. We were content to sit and talk and watch it all. The day ended with a stop for fish and chips and a stroll back down Centre Street to the Marina where our trusty little dinghy awaited us. We bade fond farewells to Dick and Tina with promises to exchange reading lists and to keep in touch. Our "people time" in Fernandina Beach has been outstanding and it all started with meeting Steve and Sandi in Baddeck, NS last summer. Pretty sweet!
The town is teaming with people here for the long weekend. More marina slips are filled than we have ever seen, the moorings are all occupied, and boats of all descriptions travel back and forth along the waterfront. A whole group of power boaters had their chairs and tables lined up along one of the docks and a party was in full swing as we went by. Out on our mooring, it was a quieter evening - just the water and wind and a couple of pooped and happy visitors.