Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

06 December 2022
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01 December 2021

The Water is Wide

01 December 2021
Russ Whitford
Pat Conroy wrote this book about his experience as a new teacher in the remote and backward Daufuskie Island, SC. He was hired, a white teacher to go to this all black school as an initiative to desegregate schools. The book is fascinating. On day one he learned the students didn't even know they lived in the United States.

I visited Hilton Head Island a few times in the late 70's. Daufuskie Island is only a mile or so from Hilton Head. The contrast from one of the wealthiest places in the US to Daufuskie Island is the premise about that stretch of water being a great divide. We would watch a small john boat from Daufuskie visit Harbor Town every day to get the mail. My brother, Bob and I would call the Daufuskie Island General Store just to hear the Gullah accent.

Today, I saw the stretch of water between Daufuskie Island and Hilton Head from the other side. It has been a place I have always wanted to visit. I wasn't disappointed.

From Uproar's anchorage off the Savannah River, it was a ten mile dinghy ride to Daufuskie. This was along the ICW and clearly marked. I was lucky to have the current with me. Still, it was quite a long dinghy ride but fun on this calm day. I arrived at the Freeport Marina and was able to leave the dinghy and assemble my bike on the dock. At the General Store, I obtained a map of the island and a recommendation to start at the museum.

I was greeted outside the museum by Chris and her Cockapoo, Sophie. She explained the museum was three buildings and she would return after Sophie's potty run. “Just look around and help yourself.”

The first building was a modern shed with a beautifully restored horse-drawn buggy. I'm amazed at the fine work and design that went into these spindly craft. Chris met me in the museum and became a font of information about her island. The Gullah, freed black slaves who populated the island until 1980's are almost gone. There are only 14 people, three families left. Instead, Daufuskie Island is populated with second homes. Chris and about 50 other people live there year around. There are about 450 other part-time residents.

Chris led me through exhibits showing the First Nation people about 7,000 years ago, Civil War relics and Gullah artifacts. She explained there were four major developments on the island with mixed results. Two are still gated communities but one has fallen into complete ruin, the other still has nice homes but the golf course and club house has been acquired by an individual who won't let the homeowners join. She said, “It takes a certain type of person to live in a remote island where grocery shopping involves a ferry ride. You couldn't drag me off this island.”

The museum itself was the first white Baptist church on the island. The carriage was owned by the island's midwife. She delivered 135 babies, all alive during her practice. The other building was a small school with one wall of windows, before electricity. The windows faced away from the road to reduce distractions.

With map in hand, I rode my bike down Haig Point Road to the other end of the island. This led me to Melrose Development. The Avenue of the Oaks, boulevard leading to the hotel ruin, is the scene of the old South with Spanish Moss dripping from the gnarled trees. The golf course, club house and hotel are all in ruin but cottages along the beach are mostly in use as is the pool and adjoining restaurant. The Hilton Head, Harbor Town Lighthouse was in sight across the sound.

Further along the road, I turned onto School road. School road is all sand, a tough ride on a bike! But it led to the beautiful First Union African Baptist Church. I was able to sit quietly inside and reflect. Out back was a replica of a Praise House. This is a place where slaves would meet to worship their African ways mixed with Christianity. A plaque stated, “The slaves had a hard time accepting Jesus as a loving, human deity. They had not witnessed kindness from man.”

Next down the road was the Mary Fields School where Pat Conroy taught. Part of the school is now Daufuskie Blue, a studio featuring Indigo dyed fabric and clothing. Indigo grows wild on Daufuskie and was an important cash crop when agriculture was more prevalent. It was explained Indigo is the only natural source for deep blue color. I was in no hurry and enjoyed conversations with everyone I met. People would even stop their golf carts when they saw me looking at my map.

Next stop, Daufuskie Rum Distillery. Yes, the rum tour continues. There was no tasting but I sure bought a bottle of their aged rum. The lady said it was her husband's most proud product. They also produced whiskey and flavored vodka, their best seller. I enjoyed a soda while talking with the staff. I should have opened my bottle of rum to juice it up.

Lots more bike riding and just taking in the sights. This is not a prosperous place and there were old, abandoned buildings. But the new construction is carefully secluded away and prices are soaring.

I went back to the museum to buy a book. Chris said I shouldn't add weight to my backpack for the riding. She was talking excitedly on the phone, a tourist in a rented golf cart had smashed the fence and run over a large Rosemary bush. Yes, I could grab some Rosemary to take back to Uproar along with my book.

At the marina complex, I had a late lunch at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company, bought dinghy gas and paid another visit to the General Store. It is mostly a gift shop but one could easily imagine it being an important source for everything needed for island life, years ago before ferries to the island.

Back in the dinghy with the gas can and bike, I headed back to Uproar. Fortunately, I was on Daufuskie long enough for the current to switch, again the current was with me on the way back. Uproar was patiently waiting in the quiet pond where we anchored yesterday.

My visit to Daufuskie did not disappoint. I wish there were still some Gullah people there to meet but the current residents were gracious and proud of their remote home. There is a real feel and sense of timelessness on Daufuskie Island, something I will take with me. And I have a new, excellent rum to enjoy while writing.
Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Pearl, our Toy Fox Terrier
Tumultuous Uproar's Photos - Main
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Uproar FULL ON in the North Channel! Picture by Rick Pask.
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