Sunday, November 15, 2009

Charleston, South Carolina

If you live on the east coast of the United States you'll be aware that the recent weather has been, in a word, crappy. On land, generally it means that you've been wearing a sweater and a rain coat. You'll, perhaps, spend some quality time with your honey or watching football or whatever.

If you're at sea (and considering the Intracoastal Waterway that's a very loose interpretation), then it wasn't so much fun.

From Georgetown I went to a little creek, Graham Creek. It was the beginning of the crappy weather. I was in the company of John and Cheryl of Leprechaun - friends of Pat who runs the Pearson 424 web site. As I was a bit ahead of them I checked out what, in good weather, would be a lovely anchorage, Awendaw Creek. It's wide and deep and very open except where there's marsh. On a calm night, it would be spectacular - there are trees that block the light pollution from a couple of houses on the AICW.

But as the weather was deteriorating I thought it was too open for comfort. So we toodled on down to Graham Creek which is surrounded by marsh and has good holding ground and depth. The skies were gray and the wind was fairly steady at 17-25kts. Fortunately, no rain.

Since John's dinghy was rather well tied on, I decided to use my kayak to get over to their boat for cocktail hour (let's face it, that's the reason we travel, right? Cocktails in exotic places?) Anyway, after a couple of very pleasant hours I looked back to Pelican and notices my ladder had washed away! I've never had that happen! I had a few choice words as I returned later and flopped onto the deck in a most ungraceful way.

The next morning as our schedules meant waiting, we decided to hippity hop down the AICW about 10 miles to Whiteside Creek. Whiteside Creek is a really spectacular creek surrounded by marsh. It's wide open to the sky and very well protected from the seas. But the weather was deteriorating quickly.

So as we arrived Tuesday November 10 in the morning about 11:30, I got a chance to kayak around for a while. Then it started to rain. And blow. By the time I got on the boat, it just wasn't worth kayaking over to Leprechaun. In fact, I brought the kayak aboard to avoid it blowing away or banging on the hull all night.

Because of the tidal currents in the creek, the boat would change directions, sort of, every six hours - just enough to make new or different halyards bang. As Tuesday became Wednesday the weather got worse - now in addition to rain and wind it got cold - the daily high was about 50 and that, my friends, is really uncomfortable. So no kayaking that day, either. The same for Thursday.

By the end of Thursday I was ready to shoot myself in the head with my flare gun. I had planned to stay there until Saturday and get a slip in the Charleston Maritime Center for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't take it any more. When the wind dropped below 20 kts, I booked for Charleston, about three hours away.

Interestingly, the AICW exits into Charleston Harbor with a well marked channel. Well marked but not right - it didn't take long to go from 12 feet in depth to 3. When accessing the AICW, make sure you stand off the point and keep R 130 50 yards to starboard. Fortunately, it's all mud.

Anyway, now that I look at the paper chart I see the issue. It wasn't so clear on the chartplotter. That's a lesson for me, I guess.

There's a heck of a current that runs through the Charleston Maritime Center. Most people enter and leave on slack tide. Not me, though. Oh, no, I'm entering at max ebb with the wind gusting to 30 on the nose. Perfect. With a great deal of help from the dock guys I got tied up.

Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SCThe Maritime Center is a really nice marina - small, well tended, and the people are super nice. Those are some of the things that makes a marina worth visiting. They have free washer and dryer, reasonable electricity, weekly, biweekly and monthly rates, honor Boat U.S. cards and are literally three blocks from the old city. There is a big grocery store nearby (2.5 blocks) and in the main part of Charleston, a 15 minute walk, there are a bazillion restaurants.

I don't know if it's easier to get to marinas on the south side of the peninsula, but this one is worth the effort. It's also the least expensive of any of the marinas on Charleston proper. And it's the closest to the old town.

The downside, besides the current, is that it's a little rock-and-rolly. Wakes from everything come in here. I don't really care about that but there are some who do.

The historic portion of Charleston which essentially covers the whole of the peninsula is so history laden that I won't even go into it here. Read about it. Pretty much if anything was happening here in the United States or the Colonies, Charleston had something to do with it. From the Revolution to the unpleasantness between the North and South, Charleston was smack dab in the middle of the fray.

Market, Charleston, SCIn what I consider a great irony, there is on Market Street, several blocks of market booths, called City Market, where you can purchase any manner of jewelry, knick-knacks, geegaws, t-shirts and what-nots housed in long buildings of brick with trestle beamed roofs. The irony is that this set of buildings were, in former times, slave markets. Many of the people hawking aforementioned merchandise no doubt are descendants of those very same slaves.

U. S. Customs House, Charleston, SCJust down the street is one of the most impressive buildings in Charleston - the U.S. Customs House. I'm not sure what goes on there but you have to admit, this is one massive building. On the north side of Charleston are at least two major ports - one, apparently, for the export of BMWs (including Minis) that are built here in South Carolina. Just north of that past the marina is another container port. There's lots of big ship traffic here.

Waterfront Park, Charleston SCCentral Fountain, Waterfront Park, Charleston SCA stroll down East Bay Street brings one past lots of interesting buildings, most of which are either restaurants or boutiques of one type or another. Since I'm really not interested in those sorts of things, I continued down until I could go to the brilliantly named Waterfront Park. I like that as it describes both where and what it is. It's quite beautiful with a gravel path along the waterfront and a long tree lined promenade just a bit inland. There are two fountains both with signs indicating that there is no life guard on duty and that you shouldn't wade alone (along with the no spitting and so forth stuff).

North Fountain, Waterfront Park, Charleston SCI walked down East Bay street to South Battery where there's another lovely park, this one with cannons salvaged from all over the harbor. One even has a plaque that more or less indicates the heroic efforts of saving the gun found on Sullivan's Island where the salvors had no idea why it had been there. Once again, the essential honesty of Charleston shows through. What you see here is what you get.

Lower East Bay Street has some magnificent mansions. Most have regular tours. Each is different from the next and all are very well kept up. It's a very pretty street, I must say. The view over the harbor is spectacular, too.

Finally, I made my way up Meeting Street where there are meeting houses, churches, cemeteries, museums, and homes. It's tree lined and pleasantly shady - even while it was almost 80 yesterday the street was cool. It encourages, like most of Charleston, relaxed strolling. All in all, I'd say Charleston is a town you'd like to slow down in.

Well, I'll be leaving Friday for Dataw Island to see friends and provision for a longer trip to Brunswick, GA.

See you on the water!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

loved your write up about Charleston, but I'd like to clear up one common misconception. "The irony is that this set of buildings were, in former times, slave markets" truth slaves were NEVER sold in these buildings, they were always used for farmers to sell their wares as well as others. The slave mart is on Chalmers Street two blocks away, and it was used specifically for the slave trade.