Sunday, June 23, 2019

Leaving Charleston

The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye.
                                           Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline.

If I were able to compose a sentence like the one above, I would. My writing is far more pedestrian. I was trained in journalism and was told by the advisor to our college student newspaper to "put the hay down where the mules can reach it". Somehow my simple style  survived the corrupting influence of law school and has served me well. But I am no Pat Conroy.

So here are some thoughts about Charleston. We have spent just over three weeks here. The boat has been at the Charleston Maritime Center, which has proved to be the best possible location for walking the city. All of the other Charleston marinas are not within easy walking distance of the main parts of town. We are a mere block from the grocery and an easy walk to shopping and dining. We are on a busy part of the harbor, just north of where the Carnival Sunshine comes and goes on Bahamas cruises every four days, and just south of the main cargo port facilities. Sightseeing boats come and go from the Maritime Center, and we are at a main stop for the water taxi. Our only minor complaint is the occasional rough water. But we do get rocked to sleep at night.

Our dogs have done well staying on the boat, and tending to their needs has led us to dog-friendly beaches and parks that we would have never discovered without them. They are time-consuming and sometimes sleep-disrupting, but we would not have wanted to be without them for this length of time.

Charleston has been not only a feast for the eyes, but also simply a feast. The spectacular food available here is nothing short of magical for a city this size. We have eaten our way through the city, and if anyone wants a list of recommended restaurants, I will be glad to furnish it.

More important than the sights, shopping, food, and drink have been memorable good times with friends old and new. From The Ford Plantation, Dwight and Jennifer Davies joined us overnight on the boat our second night here to celebrate my birthday at "Chez Nous". They got a quick taste of living on a boat, and we hope they will join us again soon for a longer visit. We got in a lunch and visit with Thomas George, son of Rebecca George Ogden from Ford. We toured the old building he is renovating into a bar and wine club. From Birmingham, our old and dear friends Bob and Ashley Spotswood were in town for four days, and joined us for sightseeing and dining experiences at several of the best restaurants here. Finally, also from Ford, our good friends Austin and Marti Sullivan were in town for just one evening a week ago. We met up with them where they were staying in a friend's charming old home on Meeting Street, proceeded to the private rooftop garden of another friend of theirs for cocktails, where we were joined by another couple, and then our party of eight had an amazing Italian dinner at "Coda del Pesce" on Isle of Palms.

While here, we met up one day for lunch with Brantlee De Brux, my daughter's best friend from college, who is a successful real estate agent in Mt. Pleasant. Her dear parents Sumter and Clydie invited us to join them, their extended family, and several friends and neighbors for a fish fry on Sullivan's Island last night. It was truly a fabulous evening full of charming and interesting people. We haven't laughed as much in a while. A great evening amongst a family full of love.

So now the trip is coming to an end. The lovely Laura Lee leaves tomorrow with our dogs and car. I move the boat Wednesday to a boatyard to have it hauled out for bottom paint, stabilizer service, and a few other needed maintenance items. It should be completed by the end of July.

Charleston is a "feast for the human eye", a mere two-hour drive from home. We shall be back.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Time for Remembrance

Mother Emanuel AME Church
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church sits just two blocks from where we are staying in Charleston. It was founded in 1816, while Charleston was still a center of the slave trade, and is the oldest AME church in the south, often referred to as "Mother Emanuel". In 1822, one of the church's founders was suspected of planning a slave rebellion. He and 34 others were publicly hanged, and the church itself was burned to the ground. The rebuilt church and the churches of all other black congregations were closed by the city in 1834, and members met in secret until after the end of the Civil War. 

Four years ago yesterday, on the anniversary of the 1822 hanging, Mother Emanuel was the site of another unspeakable crime when a white supremacist named Dylan Roof opened fire during a prayer service, murdering nine innocent people and wounding four others. His actions were motivated by nothing but hatred, and he was convicted of 33 federal charges including murder and hate crimes. In January of 2017 he was sentenced to death.

Tomorrow evening, we will attend a candlelight vigil in the Gaillard Center Memorial Gardens across the street from the church, in remembrance of the lives and legacies of the Emanuel 9 and the four survivors of the shooting. It is sponsored by the Church, the City of Charleston, and other collaborative partners. 

Unfortunately, we live in an era when there are far too many senseless acts of violence. Some are simply insane and aimed at random strangers while others, like this one, are directed at particular groups or individuals. Being close to the site of such tragedy drives it home to us, and we join in the sorrow and grieving of this community.  Amidst such pain, it is right and appropriate to honor those whose lives were lost, and we feel privileged to be able to participate.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


For two weeks now we have been docked at the Charleston Maritime Center. This is a fabulous location for exploring the city. Both shopping and restaurants are just a short walk away. The only issue is that the marina is sometimes very rough and rolly caused by wind, current, and occasionally by gigantic wakes from ships and inconsiderate boaters. But despite the motion, we have been enjoying things immensely.

At last report I said that the dogs were doing well. They are quite adaptable, with the puppy Belle immediately taking to the artificial turf bathroom put out on the bow for them. We have taken them for lots of walks, and one morning to run free on the beach at Sullivan's Island across the river from us. 

There have been a couple of minor dog issues. Rhett fell into the water once while trying to get from the boat to the dock. Luckily, we were both here. The Lovely Laura Lee jumped into the water and pushed him up, while I lifted him by his harness. All ended well with just a wet wife and dog. The other issue has been caused by the fact that we let Rhett sleep with us at home, where we have a king size bed. It hasn't worked as well with the smaller bed on the boat. We tried for one night to make him sleep on a dog bed outside of our room, but it was a long night of a loving dog letting us know of the injustice. I think it will mean some adjustments to where everyone sleeps. We can't blame anyone but ourselves for the dilemma. 

At the moment though, we are getting a break from the dogs who are at their favorite vacation spot Camp Green Dog. We have guests in town and wanted to be free to hang out with them rather than be concerned with the pets. 
The Samfords and the Spotswoods
Our guests are dear friends Bob and Ashley Spotswood. They are not staying on the boat, but have done so in the past when they visited us in the Exumas and stayed on our previous boat Steel Magnolia. Following the habit of using nicknames for friends on the blog, they were referred to then as "Dahling Ashley" and "Bonefish Bob". We are glad to be able to spend a few days with them exploring Charleston. They are two of the people we dearly miss since we moved away from Birmingham.

One of the more interesting things about our location here is the steady parade of container and other cargo ships that pass us by. We are adjacent to the port facility used by what are called "RORO carriers", which means roll on/roll off car carriers. These massive ships come and go daily at all hours, both delivering foreign-built cars to the U.S. and picking up U.S.-made cars for delivery all over the world. Interestingly, we tend to think of foreign cars being imported to the U.S. But with Volvo, Mercedes, and BMW, among others, all having plants in SC, it is not unusual for these ships to be fully loaded both coming and going from the port of Charleston. Watching them pass close by keeps the size of our boat in perspective.
Division Belle at bottom left

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Dogs and Boats, and a Distant Relative

I've always thought that dogs and boats don't mix well. This was reinforced back in the 1990's when I moved my boat up the west coast of Florida accompanied only by our young Lab "Moose". My trip plans constantly revolved around getting the dog out for his walks. It seemed annoying, much as I loved the dog. Then one evening I went out for dinner and left him alone on the boat for an hour or two. He found two large bags of potato chips on the counter and ripped them open, eating what he wanted. When I returned to the boat, it looked like it had snowed potato chips in the saloon. And of course the dog got ill later that night, causing other unspeakable problems. The next night when I went to dinner, Moose bit into a plastic gallon jug of bilge cleaner, a very strong soap that poured out and ruined the saloon rug.

But I am older and softer now, and I really can't love my dogs and my boat as much as I do, and somehow try to make them mutually exclusive. So we boarded the dogs while we got the boat from Beaufort to Charleston last Friday and Saturday and while we had friends Dwight and Jennifer Davies staying aboard Sunday night to celebrate my birthday. Then yesterday, the lovely Laura Lee picked them up. Last night was our first night with two dogs living with us on board.

I must say that it requires some planning, and consumes a lot of each day. But the dogs are remarkably adaptable. So far so good. The puppy, "Belle Watling", is actually somewhat easier to manage on the boat than at home because she can't wander out of sight around a big house getting into trouble, and she can't leave the property. The older dog, "Rhett Butler", is pretty cool most anywhere as long as he gets walks, water, and food. We are all adjusting. If they can handle living aboard in a marina, we will move to the next step to trying to travel with them on some trip where we have short hops. Just in case, we have a strip of astroturf available on the bow for times when we can't get the dogs ashore.

While walking the dogs this morning, we started chatting with the owner of the boat next to us in the marina. At some point I introduced myself, and he said "Wait, your name is John Samford?" I said yes and he replied "The friend on my boat helping me move it is also John Samford". As it turns out, it is a distant cousin from Albany, GA that I first met at Auburn in 1968 when we were assigned to ROTC platoons by alphabetical order. The two of us were standing next to one another and both answered the roll call when our name was called. The instructor thought the roll he had been given contained a mistake, and John and I briefly considered taking turns attending drill. I ran into John on occasion while at Auburn, and I understand he lived in Birmingham for some period in the 70's, but I don't think I was aware of that at the time. It was good to catch up. There aren't many of us in the world.

John Samford and John Samford

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Church Creek

 Last night was our first opportunity to spend a night anchored out 
on Division Belle. We are about 20 miles south of Charleston in a beautiful anchorage called "Church Creek". The Waterway Guide says that the name derived from the practice of going to church on the flood tide and returning home on the ebb. The tidal currents here are certainly strong enough to require travel to be carefully timed.

The area we traversed yesterday and our anchorage are stunningly beautiful, and match every description of the marshes ever written. It is hard to capture in a photograph, but the vast grasses are greening for summer close to the water and still a delightful straw color behind. The currents and many shallow areas of the Intracoastal Waterway made some of the going very tough yesterday. We departed Beaufort at slack tide around 
7:30 am, and had the current with us much of the day. But at one point approaching low tide we were literally touching bottom in the middle of the channel, meaning depths at low tide were right at six feet.

We stopped here at 1:45 pm yesterday. We could have made it to Charleston, but our slip is reserved for the month of June begining today, and we also wanted to be able to arrive at the Charleston Maritime Center at slack tide this afternoon, to make docking easiest. 

A cold front passed through yesterday, bringing late afternoon severe storms that passed north of us and caused some damage in Charleston, and late evening huge storms that fortunately passed to our south. The storms and strong current led to a fitful night of sleep, checking the holding power of a new anchor and watching the location of strong storms.

We enjoyed a fine dinner on the aft deck prepared by the Lovely Laura Lee. We will take our time this morning departing to arrive in Charleston just after lunch time. This is pretty much what it is all about.

Update: We departed Church Creek at 10 am and arrived safely at The Charleston Maritime Center at 1:45 pm. While the marina here is exposed to wind and wakes, we are tucked into the best spot it has, and the only one that will accommodate our boat. We will get our sea legs quickly and be prepared to rock and roll for most of a month.