02-28-10 Beaufort SC and the Presbyterian Church

[Rick] We decided to attend the First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort at the 1100 service. This is a very traditional church and I think I was the only one without a coat and tie. It turns out that they have had an interim minister for the past 15 months and today was his last day. They did not announce it, but I get the feeling that the search committee is about ready to name a permanent pastor. The interim pastor, Dr Louis Lunardini, is a veteran pastor with over 40 years experience. His message was very appropriate and he told a story about one of his classmates in seminary, Fred Rogers. After the service, the church had a wonderful reception for Dr. Lou with a full layout of food and drink.

After church, we retraced our tour from yesterday to take a better look at the historical homes and attractions of Beaufort. This is a very old and historic town. In the 1700’s it was a site of great wealth owing to the production of indigo, cotton, and rice. There are many large mansions and antebellum homes. Slavery was a way of life here before the “War of Northern Aggression” and President Lincoln personally ordered the taking of Beaufort. Many of the mansions were used as hospitals, livery stables, barracks, and officer quarters. The mansions were ordered sold by Lincoln to non-southerners and slaves. Many homes were purchased by slaves who were left behind in the “Great Skedaddle” as the Northern army took over the town in the early part of the war.

One of the traditions in Beaufort is the painting of the underside of the porches. They are painted either light blue (sky), black (night), or green (grass). It is said that these colors will keep the wasps and hornets from building nests on the porch. It sounds crazy, but the painted homes do not have nests and the unpainted ones do have the insects. Go figure…..

The live oak trees in the town are spectacular. Many are over 800 years old. Our guide pointed out the one that was used to hang pirates and Blackbeard was supposed to be hung from this tree. He escaped prior to the event, was captured later and hung in Charleston, SC.

Most of the residential part of town is in a historic district and is very controlled by the historic board. One street, called Rainbow Row, contains homes of bright colors and to make any changes requires a FEDERAL waiver. The green house in this picture was orange until last week. It took federal review and a waiver to change the color. Then again, the homes are over 200 years old.

We passed the grave yard at the Tabernacle Baptist Church and thought this tombstone had a very interesting name and inscription.

Tomorrow, we leave for Isle of Palms SC. We will bypass Charleston as we have been there several times.

02-27-10 Beaufort, SC, Carriage Ride and Visitor

Betsy speaks: This morning we took a horse drawn carriage ride around beautiful Beaufort, SC. We had done this last time we were here in 2003 and I had always looked forward to doing it again. For those that don’t know, in SC the town is pronounced “Bewfort” as in “bewtiful” as opposed to the similarly lovely seaport town in NC that is spelled the same but is pronounced “Bo-fort.”

Our horse was named Old Dock, a beautiful half-Belgian/half-Clydesdale with two blue eyes. According to our driver, he is one of only 10 horses in the country with two blue eyes. He was very gentle and did his job well. Anyone who comes to Beaufort should take this carriage tour. It is slow and relaxing (even though it was cold and we were bundled up in blankets) and extremely informative. There are many, many antebellum homes. Lots of movies were filmed here and of course those homes are pointed out.

One story we both remembered from before, and they are still telling it: Barbra Streisand lived here while filming one film and complained about the noise of the military planes that fly overhead while on maneuvers from nearby Parris Island Marine Boot Camp. The commanding officer ordered the planes to fly even lower and closer and more often by the house she was staying in. He said he wanted to make sure she knew “the sound of freedom.” All the tour guides say she was despised by the locals, treating everyone as if they were inferior.

We just love this Beaufort waterfront. They have spent millions on the wonderful park that has swings, walkways, a covered pavilion, etc. It is a delightful park setting. Most places we have stayed have signs saying dogs must be on a leash, and so even though Beamer is under perfect voice control at all times we do keep her on a leash. Here there are no such signs, so I took the rare opportunity to give her a good run in the park. She loves to play Frisbee, so even though it was too cold for me I gave in and tossed the Frisbee for her this afternoon.

Later in the afternoon we had a real treat when a person formally from Sneads Ferry stopped by for a visit. We are continually surprised by the number of people that read this blog regularly…many of whom we do not know. Every now and then someone will leave a comment on the blog, and a couple of days ago we had a comment from Kim Volek. Kim and her family had gone to the same church we go to in Sneads Ferry, and even though we don’t remember ever actually meeting each other, Kim had been reading our blog daily. They had moved away from Sneads Ferry after we left on the trip and now live in Beaufort, so she had sent us a note asking if she could do anything for us while we were here. How nice! We e-mailed her and told her we would love for her to just drop by and visit so we could put a face with the name. So she came by this afternoon and we had a delightful visit.

Tomorrow we will attend the 1st Presbyterian Church right up the street, and hope it will be warm enough tomorrow afternoon to walk around town and get a better look at some of the homes we rode by on the carriage today.
One final comment…it was COLD again today! Forecast had called for it to warm up some, but then the sun didn’t come out as expected so it was still nearly 20 degrees below normal. Our tour guide told us this was the coldest February they’ve ever had in South Carolina. My response was “Well, Duhhhuh!” Still we did have a beautiful sunset.

02-26-10 Beaufort SC – Right Whales

[Rick] The Beaufort SC marina is located on the front street of the city, making access to restaurants and shops very easy. Keep in mind that there is a built-in tourist economy in Beaufort since there is a graduation of 300 Marines from Parris Island every Saturday. Starting Wednesday of each week, parents and friends of graduates flock to town to see the graduation. Then, next week, it happens all again. So, the city is very friendly to tourists. There are bus, walking, and carriage ride tours of the city. Tomorrow, we will be taking one of the tours. We were here in 2003 and took the tour. We remember Beaufort as an old, well maintained, happening town. One of the nicest things is the huge waterfront park, complete with benches, monuments, and walking opportunities. The park is adjacent to the marina.

One of the interesting things here is the tide difference. All along this stretch of the waterway, the tide has a 5-7 feet difference from high to low. This means that all the docks are floating docks. Here are a couple of pictures to show the tide difference. It is a struggle to get up the ramp at low tide, especially for Beamer.

High Tide

Low Tide

We have overheard some radio chatter from the Coast Guard regarding the Right Whales. The breeding ground for these endangered whales is a stretch about 150 miles in length just out into the ocean from Beaufort south to St Augustine. We have even heard helicopter pilots, hovering over a pod of whales, talking to boats and warning them to stay at least 500 yards away from the whales.

We continue to receive emails and notes from people following us on the trip. (We call these folks virtual crew.) Today, we received an email from the Volek family. They lived in Sneads Ferry when we left and have since moved to Beaufort, SC. They let us know that they are available go give us a ride if we need one. We hope that they will visit us before we leave. We really like to receive notes and we are constantly amazed at the number of people following us on this great adventure. Our website has over 9,000 hits, which is mindboggling to us.

02-25-10 Beaufort, SC

[Rick] As much as we liked Savannah, we had decided to leave Savannah because we were getting beaten up at the face dock. As we left, we measured the current between 4 and 5 miles per hour. The real problem was that every passing boat, of any size, waked us and really rolled us. As we left, the wind was about 20 mph and the temperature was in the low 40’s. But, the sun was shining and we are fully enclosed, so it is not too bad. The trip to Beaufort is only 48 miles.

We passed Hilton Head and the Hilton Head Lighthouse. This is a very affluent island and the size of the houses indicates this fact. The marinas are full of huge yachts. Many loopers stop at Hilton Head, but we decided to bypass it this trip because we’re trying to outrun the awful weather conditions.

After passing Hilton Head, we entered Port Royal Sound. What should have been an easy ride was not comfortable today since by now the wind was gusting up to 30 MPH. Choppy waves were 3 to 4 feet and either right behind us or on our beam, making for a rocky-rolly ride. In other words, Port Royal Sound was Port Royal Pain today.

We finally arrived at the Beaufort Downtown Marina. The wind was fierce and made it hard to dock. With the wind and the 50 degree temperature, the chill factor was about very cold. We pumped out and filled up with gas, charging another $550 to the credit card. The attendant gave us a choice of slips and indicated that if we took one of two near the outside of the dock, we could have cable TV, whereas the ones a little closer to land had no cable. Sounded like a no brainer to us since we’ll be here for several days and Survivor is on tonight. Also, the wifi repeater is about 30 feet away and we have a great signal. As soon as we got tied up, we took the courtesy car to the grocery store. It appears that we will be here for 2-4 days.

We visited Beaufort on our small ship intracoastal cruise back in 2003 and have looked forward to coming back here ever since. Betsy said we will stay until the weather gets warm. We then saw the weather forecast that calls for unusually cold weather for the next 10 days. I think she is re-thinking her time period. At this point, we still plan to be in Topsail Beach on March 12th or 13th, and in Sneads Ferry on Sunday, March 14, 2010 around 1400.

02-24-10 Touring Savannah, the Garden of Good and Evil

Betsy speaks: Although we are happy to be right in the heart of downtown Savannah, the current of this river is terrific, and we are rocking and rolling on the boat. We actually have 3 extra lines to keep us in place. We've also put out every fender we have! This is a very busy port with huge container ships coming by many times a day, and each time we are rocked some more. Last night we were both awakened several times by the turbulence, and we can hear the water rushing by the boat right next to our heads in the cabin.

Today we were very lucky weatherwise. The forecast called for rain all day, but the rain did not start until late this afternoon. Temps were in the mid-50s. We started the day by signing up for another hop on and off “trolley” tour.

About 8 years ago we visited Savannah and did a walking tour where we heard about the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. I’d never heard of the book before, and didn’t understand its significance as the tour guide mentioned it over and over. Later, I read the book and absolutely loved it. Knowing we were coming back to Savannah, I re-read it just a few days ago. It is a true story and involves debutantes, drag queens, murder, homosexuality, and voodoo. It gives a lot of the history of Savannah, especially the preservation of the historic district, as the main character was a very rich socialite preservationist accused of murdering his gay lover, then tried and convicted 3 times before finally being cleared in a fourth trial after many appeals. I was anxious to revisit the historic homes and public squares and the cemetery that are all so important in the book.

So about mid-way through the trolley tour I left Rick on his own and I went off on another tour that concentrated on the book. Jim Williams, the main character, preserved and lived in a house called the Mercer House, now known as the Mercer-Williams House. The songwriter Johnny Mercer, of Moon River fame but also the author of hundreds of other songs, was related to the family that had once lived here, although he himself never lived here. It was in this house that the shooting took place. Although finally being freed after four trials, Jim Williams died not long after that of natural causes. The house is now occupied by his sister and is open for tours, but I did not go in. The rest of “The Book Tour” took me by many of the homes mentioned in the book, as well as the nightclubs, restaurants, etc. that were a part of the story.

Also prominent in the story was a voodoo lady named Minerva, who cast spells on the jurors, etc. Minerva spent lots of time in graveyards. The Bonaventure Cemetery just outside Savannah wasn’t really important in the book, but the photograph on the cover was taken in that cemetery so it was part of our tour. As a person very interested in genealogy, I am a lover of cemeteries, and this is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever been in. There are many beautiful carved monuments, and the Spanish moss hanging on the live oaks is thick and mysterious. Unfortunately, the monument used on the cover became such a tourist attraction that it had to be removed, and is now in the Telfair Museum in town.

One of the most intriguing characters in the books is “The Lady Chablis,” a transvestite who still performs in Savannah a couple of times a month. I know all of this sounds strange, but it really is a great book, and the tour companies all say their business has greatly increased as a result. I think the overall resurgence of interest in historic preservation in combination with the book’s publication have had a huge impact on tourism in Savannah. Of course, the subsequent movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Kevin Spacey helped as well.

Once “the Book” tour was over I stopped in at “The Book” gift shop/museum. I was greeted by the president of “the book” fan club, who is clearly a believer in ghosts! She told me about personally meeting Minerva, the voodoo priestess in the book. She also made it clear to me that her shop is haunted and she herself has seen ghosts in it on several occasions. Her shop has all kinds of book memorabilia including autographed books for sale. Most intriguing, though, was the displays of photos and newspaper articles about the people that had been characters in the book, most specifically Minerva, The Lady Chablis, and Jim Williams himself.

I then picked up the other tour where I had left off. The rain was just beginning as I neared the boat. Rick had finished the original tour and was waiting for me on the boat. I gave him a call, and he told me to be sure to go by the Waving Girl Statue and take a picture. This statue is right on the riverfront near where we are docked, and commemorates Florence Martus, who for 45 years waved at every passing ship. The story is that she found the man she loved, he left on a ship promising to come back, and she was looking for his return. He never returned.

Nearby is also the caldron that held the Olympic Flame in Savannah when the 1996 Olympics were held in Atlanta and the yachting venues were here on the Wilmington River just outside Savannah, and area we passed through yesterday on our way here.

Savannah is a fascinating city with tons of history. We’d love to spend more time here, walking the downtown district, visiting the inviting squares, touring the historic homes. But all of that involves being outdoors, and tomorrow the high is predicted to be in the 40s. So we’ll move on and look forward to coming back here sometime when the weather is warmer.

Another boat just came by, and the Rick ‘n Roll is rollin’ again! No wonder we’re the only pleasure boat docked here on this beautiful waterfront!
Here are some more cemetery scenes, including Johnny Mercer's grave that was seen at the very beginning of the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

02-23-10 Savannah, GA

[Rick] We left Jekyll Island for Savannah. It was a very nice ride as the weather was perfect for a 110 mile trip. Most of this section is deserted. Some people say that this is the least enjoyable part of the loop. The landscape is mostly marsh grass and reeds. There are thousands of creeks, lakes, bays, bayous. There is little wildlife, mostly cormorants.
For those loopers that are behind us and have not travelled this section, here is a warning. Make sure to watch your charts and watch the buoys. There are many turns and small channels to navigate and it is easy to miss the correct channel. Many places have markers in all directions. At marker 198, you actually make a 140 degree turn to port. We were travelling at 90 degrees and when the turn was finished we were travelling 320 degrees. At marker 92, where you make a sharp 90 degree turn to port, the red marker 92 is missing. I guess those that have the waterway line on their chart will have it easier, but we do not have the line and found we had to be on our toes.
As you approach the Isle of Palms Marina, you will enter one of 4 very long No Wake zones. These will pass beside marinas and towns. Be careful, as we saw law enforcement out patrolling. The NO WAKE signs also mention that the aquatic sports of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics took place in this area.
Also, here the scenery picks up with beautiful homes. These homes are large, but surrounded by live oaks, and much prettier than the large homes in Florida we saw near Boca Raton. I much prefer Old Money.
As usual, we saw dolphins all day.
As we passed the junction of the Moon River, Betsy was on the bow, took out her harmonica and played “Moon River”.
Checking ahead we had found that the marinas in Savannah were very expensive. One was $4.00 per foot plus electricity. The other was $3.00 but we have the Marinalife discount bring the cost down to $2.60 per foot. Both seemed high and we found the Thunderbolt Marina, 8 miles from downtown, to be just $1.75. The guide book indicated a bus would take you to downtown. So, we decided to stay at Thunderbolt. Just before turning in, we called them to verify that the bus was still running and a viable ride. They told us that the bus no longer ran and the only way to town was a taxi, $17 one way, plus a tip for a total of about $20. We figured for our boat, $40 per day for taxi was about $1.50 per foot so we would be better off going downtown to the more expensive place, where we would be within easy walking distance of everything. We decided on the Hyatt Hotel, a fine hotel in the center of the old historic district. The other choice was the Westin across the river which would require at water taxi ride every time we wanted to go to town. So, we went the 8 miles past Thunderbolt and 3 miles off the waterway to the Savannah River and docked at the Hyatt. We are the only boat here. Docking here entitles us to use all of the hotel’s facilities…bar, health club, etc and it is really convenient to the old Savannah downtown. One pleasant surprise was that the dock master let us have a rate of $2.00 per foot including electricity. They said they had cable TV, but we could not find a hookup that worked. Maybe that is why the discount. The restrooms and showers are located in the Health Club. The bad news is that there is no FREE internet (they want you to pay 9.95 per day) and since this is a face dock and no breakwater, there is considerable rolling as tugs and large ships pass. However, after dark, it settled down and is not really a problem.

Tomorrow, we tour Savannah.

02-22-10 Jekyll Island Historic District

[Rick] This morning we borrowed the marina courtesy car and went to the “Historic District” of Jekyll Island. This consists of a museum and a large section of town with old homes. However, these are not just homes, but the homes of some of the richest people in American History. People like Goodyear, Rockefeller, Crane, McCormick to name just a few. These people built what they called “cottages” but were more like mini-mansions. Many with 6-10 bedrooms, indoor plumbing (this was 1890), servants quarters.

The central attraction of this area is the Jekyll Island Club. Surrounding the club was an infirmary, post office, chapel, and about 15 of the “cottages”. Historical note: These people were building winter quarters here at the same time that Flagler was developing St. Augustine in Florida. Same principle, just give the rich a place to get out of the northern climate in the winter. The grounds are beautiful.

The museum offers a 90 minute tour on a trolley, if one has time to take it. Sadly for us, it started raining very hard as we toured the district. After getting wet, we had to return to the boat and spend the afternoon on the boat waiting for the rain to stop. It finally stopped about 1700.

We plan to leave tomorrow but we would recommend Jekyll Island to anyone for a stopover, and to see the whole place, 2-3 days will be required.

The grounds of the "Club"

The Jekyll Island Club
The Chapel
One of the "Cottages"

02-21-10 Jekyll Island, GA

[Rick] We left Isle of Palms, FL and crossing the Cumberland Sound we entered Georgia and made our way to Jekyll Island, GA. We have been in Florida since December 3, 2009. It has been a very interesting state, with us seeing the shuttle launch, rescuing a Leatherback Turtle, watched a Manatee rescue, and experienced some of the coldest and windiest weather of the trip.
The marina, Jekyll Harbor Resort, is very nice. We are on a face dock, just off the waterway. They have all amenities including cable TV, WIFI, and a loaner car.
We were impressed that the beach has a recycling barrel right next to the trash can. We do not understand why more recycling is not done on the loop.
Shortly after arrival, we took the car and made a complete circle around the island, stopping at a park to let Betsy put her foot into the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Georgia.
The beach was wide and the dunes were very wide. This is important to us as we are continually fighting in North Carolina to get beach re-nourishment and dune restoration.
As usual, the sunset was spectacular.