Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #50 The South MAY Rise Again!

How can anyone come to Charleston without envisioning Scarlett living here with Aunt Pittypat while she suffered through the mourning period following her first husband’s death? Didn’t Rhett sweep her off her feet here? We hope to find our way back to that time when we tour the city tomorrow. We arrived this afternoon after another long motor on the ICW. We left Beaufort yesterday morning and stopped for an overnight anchorage on the South Edisto River when several thunderstorms threatened. Fortunately, we managed to get anchored and tucked safely inside before the skies let loose.

We’re finding the ICW tiresome and slow going. Since our only previous experiences with the ICW were in south Florida, where the waterway is relatively straight, we were unaware of the numerous rivers that comprise the major portion of the waterway this far north. The rivers are generally winding, sometimes shallow, and always have currents. So watching for channel markers is a constant necessity, and so far we’ve gotten very little assistance from the currents. We always seem to be heading in the opposite direction from the tide. It is interesting to note the rivers’ names, however. Most seem to be derived from the language of the native peoples who once populated them—Wadmalaw, Ashepoo, Coosaw, Wapoo, Edisto. The early inhabitants may be gone, but at least they’re not forgotten.

We’ve never been crazy about group tours; we don’t particularly like the feeling of being herded. But Charleston is a good-sized city and we wanted to see as much of it today as possible, so we opted for a bus tour of the city’s highlights combined with a boat tour to Ft. Sumter. We got to see a lot of places, but our usual aversion to such tours was once again justified. We had to take pictures out the bus windows, and the time allowed to see Ft. Sumter was a fraction of what was needed. However, we got a good overview of what the city is like, and we now have a good idea of where we’d like to concentrate some time in the next couple of days.

Charleston’s history goes back to settlement in the 17th century, and the city saw significant action during the American Revolutionary War. During the first half of the 19th century, it was one of the richest cities in America, with 9 out the 10 wealthiest U.S. landowners as its citizens. Charleston will forever be primarily linked, however, with the Civil War. Here the first Order of Secession was signed on December 20, 1860, as South Carolina took the lead in rebelling against federal interference in states’ rights to slavery. Here the first shots of the “War of Northern Aggression” rang out as the newly formed Confederacy fired upon Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861. Here a Federal blockade and artillery shelling laid siege to the city for over 500 days in 1863-64. If the south ever truly does rise again—for the right reasons—surely it will be in Charleston. We hope to learn more about this special place before we leave.

Ft. Sumter
Ft. Sumter

Touring had to be put on hold as we attended to more mundane tasks. The refrigeration compressor needed to be replaced, because one of its attachment points had broken off. The compressor was running fine, but we didn’t want it to break further, especially when we were someplace where getting it fixed would be problematic. We found a Seafrost dealer in Charleston, so it seemed prudent to get the work done here and now. We’re trying not to dwell too much on the “boat unit” cost of a loose bolt. That’s what we think caused the attachment point to break. Live and learn. We also needed the bottom cleaned once again. Our bottom paint is just about gone, so the barnacles and other grungies are having a field day. Hopefully, with a clean bottom we’ll be able to make somewhat better speed for the next few weeks. While Jim was hosting the refrigeration repair people and the divers, I was doing laundry.

I forgot to mention that we’re at the Charleston City Marina—possibly the largest marina we’ve ever stayed in—that’s really quite nice with very helpful employees. The marina’s pride and joy is the Mega Dock where we are tied up. At something like a half-mile long, it’s a fitting name. When the 20-knot winds and the thunderstorms came through late this afternoon, we were happy to be on the inside of the Mega Dock; the boats on the outside were doing a lot of bouncing. The only anchorage in Charleston is directly across the river from the marina. It’s somewhat exposed, but the main reason we opted for the marina is the questionable bottom over there. Old moorings, boat parts, and other detritus are reported to lie about waiting to snag some unsuspecting anchor rode. But other boats seem to anchor with no problem, so we’ll probably join them on our next visit to Charleston.

Chilly and cloudy though the day was, we hopped on the marina’s courtesy van and rode downtown to tour the Charleston Museum and The Market. Charleston is a city of many firsts, and one of those is America’s first public museum established in 1773. They’ve had 232 years to build their collections, and it definitely shows. It was one of the most extensive museums we’ve visited to date. In two hours we made what was for us a quick run-through, concentrating most of our attention on the Civil War exhibit. One of the most interesting pieces was a model of the Confederate ironclad, the Hunley. The following, taken from the Best Read Guide, describes the significance of this vessel:

“On February 17, 1864, the Hunley became the first successful combat submarine in world history when eight men entered an experimental vessel with a mission to sink the USS Housatonic. The Hunley successfully rammed her spar torpedo into the hull of the Housatonic, causing the warship to sink within minutes. After completing this momentous feat, the Hunley crew signaled their success to shore but then never returned home. That night history was made. At the same moment, a mystery was born. The Hunley became the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship. But why had she suddenly disappeared? What caused her to sink? And would she ever be found?”

Well, in fact the Hunley was found in 1995 and was raised in August, 2000. It’s presently kept in a conservation tank in North Charleston. The model we saw adequately demonstrated the incredibly cramped quarters for the crew, and gave some idea of the hardship of serving aboard. Although it is nowhere noted or publicized, the Hunley was in fact discovered by our hero, NUMA’s own Clive Cussler. In addition to being an adventure novelist extraordinaire, Cussler is also a shipwreck explorer. He and his band of amateur cohorts (the real NUMA) are responsible for discovering the locations of more than 70 lost ships of historic significance, including not only the Hunley, but also the Housatonic. In every case, he has claimed neither credit nor remuneration. His goal and gratification come from simply telling the ships’ stories and paying tribute to their place in America’s history.

The Hunley
The Hunley

After a superb seafood lunch at Hyman’s Seafood Restaurant, we strolled through the shopping district at The Market. One of the locally made sweet grass baskets was tempting, but the price tags were a sufficient deterrent to purchase. As we walked along Meeting St., we were delighted to find Circular Congregational Church, a UCC church originally established in 1683. Since we must stay another day or two longer (our repaired refrigeration isn’t working correctly—surprise!), we’ll get to go to church tomorrow.

So the faulty refrigeration repair had a bright side. Getting to church this morning was a real delight. We attended what was essentially a Children’s Day/Sunday School Celebration Day, just like the one held annually at First Congregational. The service was a pleasure, and we felt right at home. It was well conducted entirely by children, youth, and other lay leaders. Interestingly, like FCC, Circular Congregational Church seems to attract many northern transplants to the Charleston area. We had an enjoyable chat at the ice cream social after the service with the lay leader who had given the sermon—a moving message about conservation and the need to live harmoniously with the rest of our natural world. Needless to say, his message soundly resonated with our beliefs. We were thrilled to find a UCC church—in South Carolina, no less—that we hope to be able to revisit on our return south next fall.

Because the day was so lovely, we did some more walking in the downtown area. We covered more of the shopping district at The Market, then made our way through the narrow streets to The Battery, the park that looks out over the harbor where cannons once stood to repel invaders. The antebellum homes have a great deal of charm, even those that are in dire need of restoration. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know something of this grand old city.

On The Battery
On The Battery

Charleston Home
Charleston Home

Remember we mentioned that the refrigeration repair needed repairing? If the compressor installation had been done correctly on Friday, we wouldn’t have had to stay an extra two days until someone could work on it today. True, we would have missed Circular Congregational, but the extra dockage fees weren’t in our plans. Anyway, when our freezer began defrosting on Saturday, we knew we had to stay to get it fixed properly. This morning the refrigeration guy showed up early (Jim’s numerous phone messages got his attention!), and he stayed for more than a couple of hours to get the system working just right. In truth, he didn’t seem to have much experience with our Seafrost system, because Jim had to walk him through just what he was supposed to do. But the bottom line is that both the freezer and refrigerator now seem to be staying appropriately cold, so we went to the grocery store for provisions for the next week or so. Tomorrow we’ll leave Charleston and continue on up the ICW to…well, somewhere—we’re not really sure where. That’s one of the joys of cruising.

The somewhere turned out to be Georgetown. Not the one in Grand Cayman, nor Great Exuma, nor even in Massachusetts, but the Georgetown right here in South Carolina. Georgetown being one more historic small town with a waterfront, we were originally tempted to pass it up—especially when we got confirmation that the holding in the anchorage is frightful. But a mooring was available for a small fee, so we chose to stop and see the place. Stopping also got us out of the blustery winds on the waterway this morning. Last night we anchored at Minim Creek, where the wind and tide once more played havoc with us. We anchored twice, in fact—once when we got there at about 4:00, and again at midnight when we found ourselves almost in the river grass at the creek’s edge. Needless to say, sleep was in short supply last night.

The best thing we found in Georgetown today was the cheap cab ride to a Wal-Mart. We needed a few things that we regularly buy there, but the thing we needed the most they didn’t have—a hair salon. So we’ll just have to keep coping with our unruly locks a while longer. Our guess-timation that Georgetown wouldn’t really offer anything new in historic waterfront towns was accurate. We saw as much as we needed to in a couple of hours this afternoon.

So tomorrow it’s back on the ICW to continue our trek north. Our next planned extended visit is to Wrightsville Beach, NC, with a couple of overnight anchorages on the way. Stay tuned.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

P. S. Don’t forget to look up Alice’s book, Reaching a Far Horizon, at www.lulu.com!

Posted Thursday May 26, 2005

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