17 July 2013 | Charleston, SC
July 15, 2013 - Charleston
We stayed in Downtown Charleston for almost a month. The marina, Charleston Maritime Center, is right in the middle of everything. The Maritime Center houses the Fort Sumter Museum and the Aquarium. To the right and left of the marina are freight docks that handle the huge car-carrier ships as well as cruise liners and other cargo ships. In addition, leaving from our harbor, were all the tour boats, water taxi and tall ship cruises. It all makes it a very busy and interesting marina to stay in for a full month. It is also 2 blocks from the grocery and hardware stores. The best part of staying there though was that we were within bike riding distance of all of Charleston. We took some wonderful evening (and some daytime, but it's hot) rides through all the quaint neighborhoods of Charleston. It's a lovely, historic town with almost every house displaying a placard designating it an "Historical Building." Being from California, it's hard to imagine that most of these buildings have been standing since the 1700's. I can only imagine how much work has gone into keeping them erect. I guess that's why the town seems to be populated by attorneys and doctors and most of the For Sale signs belong to Sothebys.
We have put ourselves on a budget (thanks to the Heatherington's idea) of spending no more than $20 per day eating out. There are so many wonderful eating places in Charleston that it not only affects our budget, but our waistlines suffer as well, so this budget idea is a good one. Our daily challenge is to find the best "Happy Hour" and try to keep it all under $20 for both of us. And it's a fun challenge as well. One of the places we found was The Roof Top Bar. From there, one can see all of Charleston from the air. It's a wonderful view. As I made my circle looking out over the rooftops, I counted 12 church steeples , with most dating back to the 1700 & 1800's. There are even a few from the 1600's as well. I'm not sure how many churches there are in this town, but they don't call it "The Holy City" for nothing.
As usual, we have had what Charlestonians call "the worst weather". We do seem to bring it with us wherever we go. It is very hot, extremely humid and the only relief is when the rain comes down in buckets and drops the temperature about 4 degrees. Our latest experience was a storm that brought a southeasterly wind of 20+ knots. The marina is open to exactly that direction and the swells coming into the harbor were monstrous. The picture I have included here shows the "Miss Grace" bouncing while tied up to the dock. We were doing the same, but I couldn't get off the boat to take a picture. As a result the wind and waves did break one of the stern cleats right off taking some teak trim with it. Bummer!
We did meet some wonderful people in this marina who we count as new friends well met and hope to meet up with them again as we all go south for the winter. One couple that we met, Carla & Rick, from Montana, have been cruising for 6 years and were heading home for a brief stay. Rick's hand and wrist started to swell and he lost the use of it. So, off to the doc he went, MRI, then exploratory surgery to find the problem. Even the doc was shocked to find a purple 2 inch-long spine from a sea urchin buried in the center of his wrist. Needless to say, Rick has no idea where that even came from. Go figure.
Over the 4th of July weekend, we rented a car so that we could go see the outlying areas as well as check out a recommended "Hurricane Hole" up the Cooper River. We particularly wanted to go and see what sort of surfing beaches they have off the barrier islands nearby. We went to Isle of Palms, north of Charleston on the ICW. It was a great day, a great little beach town (a bit on the posh side) and pretty good surf (mostly wind waves, but rideable). We went bodysurfing for about half an hour after which we were totally thrashed and came home for naps. They say cruising gets you out of shape quickly. The next day, we went south of Charleston to Folly Beach. This beach faces directly East and the waves are quite a bit better. Again, about half an hour was all we could manage and had to take the 3rd day off for a rest. We enjoyed it so much, we decided that when our month of rent was up, we would go and anchor in the Folly River. It's a short dinghy ride and a 5 block bike ride to the beach. Getting to the Folly River from Charleston turned out to be quite adventurous. When we reached the junction of the Stono River and the Folly River, it was medium tide. When I called the Dockmaster at one of the marinas nearby, he said, "Don't even attempt to enter the river except at high tide." So, we anchored out in the Stono River for the night and waited for high tide the next day. Well, the next day brought 20+ knot winds. We went anyway, saw waves breaking over the Stono Inlet (out to the sea), made our turn into the Folly River which was less than 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep and tried not to let the wind carry us sideways out of the narrow channel. When we got inside safely, we followed the red markers into the estuary until they just ran out. The map said that we would be in 5 feet of water (way too shallow for comfort) if we continued on, but we saw a whole marina full of sailboats and figured that they must have gotten in somehow. Another call to the Dockmaster, who told us that dredging had cleared out the channel and to ignore the charts (a scary thought). He was right and we made it to our current location, in the middle of the Folly River about 300 yards from the dinghy dock and our beloved surfing. Whoo hoo!
I forgot to mention that the reason we can now perch in the middle of a river during high summer heat and humidity is because we "bit the bullet" and purchased 2 portable generators (one wasn't enough) to start the air conditioner. It was quite an extravagance and I'm hoping to make sure we don't go into any marinas for 3 months to make up for the cost of the darn things. But, I must say, I'm sure glad we did it because it is 91 degrees today with 73% humidity (feels like 100 degrees). I think we'd be spending way more money on airline tickets to San Diego to cool down if we hadn't bought them. As it is, we are cozy in the bowels of Mariah with a cool temperature of 85 degrees, but no humidity.
We plan to stay here for a week or two and then mosey our way along the ICW to find more surf. We have decided not to go to the Chesapeake at this point as it is also very hot and quite a long distance. We have a very good "Hurricane Hole" picked out and are just enjoying this beautiful area for the time being.