Sweet Tea and Spirits

Since we had a weekend of pleasure, Tuesday was a day of work. It was a day spent primarily filling out forms, scanning and copying, calling and emailing. This was all in preparation for my locums work which will likely commence in July. Also, in the morning, I met Peter and George from the North Sails loft here in Charleston. They removed my mainsail for repair and measured for a new stack pack (the canvas bag that encloses the lowered mainsail). I also arranged for Luther Marine to come onto Beatitude early next week for the mechanical and electrical repairs and other projects. Additionally, we did a couple of loads of laundry at the marina.

Laundry time!  It's a long, long walk from Beatitude to the Marina office, which is where the laundry is located.

Laundry time! It’s a long, long walk from Beatitude to the Marina office, which is where the laundry is located.

Sail repair

Sail repair

A blue heron on the dock in front of Beatitude

A blue heron on the dock in front of Beatitude

Wednesday, Cindy and I had our own private driver and guide for some sightseeing. Our guide was none other than our friend, the inimitable Shera. She picked us up around 10:30 and drove us to Wadmalaw Island, a 25-minute drive southwest of Charleston. Our previous anchorage in Toogoodoo Creek was actually very close-by.

Our first stop (after some fast-food for lunch) was the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea planation in the United States. It exists at the site of a former tea research station run by Lipton for 25 years. Bill Hall purchased the land in 1987 and established the Charleston Tea Plantation, creating the American Classic Tea Brand (the official tea of the White House). Bill is a 3rd-generation tea taster from England. Several years ago the plantation was purchased by Bigelow, but it is still run by Bill.

Shera with Bill, the man behind the Tea Plantation

Shera with Bill, the man behind the Tea Plantation

The tour trolley.

The tour trolley.

We had no idea how tea was made, so it was a fun trip. It turns out that tea is made from a plant called Camellia sinensis, a bush that is planted and manicured in straight rows. The tea itself is made only from the new growth which occurs on top of the bushes. In other countries (with cheap labor) these leaves are hand-picked, but at the Charleston Tea Plantation they invented the “Green Giant,” a cross between a cotton-picker and a tabacco harvester, which is used to harvest the leaves. The leaves go through a series of drying processes, are ground up, undergo varying degrees of oxidation (That is what makes black tea different than green tea. Who knew?), and baked to remove moisture. Excess sticks and fibers are removed and… you have tea! The harvest season is from May to October. The “first flush” festival was just held in celebration the first harvest. Sheryl Crow was the featured entertainment. Our visit was quite educational and enjoyable. We took a 45-minute trolley tour of the property and watched a 15-minute video on the production process. One of the best things was, that you could drink all the tea (iced or hot) that you wanted while at the plantation. My favorite was the mint sweet tea. It was good!

Rows of tea bushes

Rows of tea bushes

Cindy at the greenhouse, where new plants are nourished for planting in the fields.  It takes about 5 years for a tea plant to reach maturity.  At that time, they are quite hardy.  But, until then, they need lots of TLC.

Cindy at the greenhouse, where new plants are nourished for planting in the fields. It takes about 5 years for a tea plant to reach maturity. At that time, they are quite hardy. But, until then, they need lots of TLC.

Carl in the field, pulling out the weeds by hand so that the "Green Giant" can harvest the leaves.

Carl in the field, pulling out the weeds by hand so that the “Green Giant” can harvest the leaves.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Green Giant!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Green Giant!

The leaves are dumped onto this conveyor where they are spread and start drying.

The leaves are dumped onto this conveyor where they are spread and start drying.

Ground up tea leaves undergoing oxidation.

Ground up tea leaves undergoing oxidation.

From there, we drove a bit further on Wadmalaw island to the Irvin House Vineyards, Charleston’s only winery. Like the San Sebastian winery in St. Augustine that we visited, the wine here is made from Muscadine grapes, which are native to Florida and the southeastern U.S. Jim and Ann Irvin planted 2700 vines in March of 2001, establishing the business. I’m not a great fan of muscadine wines, but the trip was fun and the wine-tasting was better. My favorite of the five wines that Irvin House produces was the Mullet Hall Red, a dry, red table wine.

Vines.   No grapes were visible yet.

Vines. No grapes were visible yet.

IMG_0054

Can't pass these up!

Can’t pass these up!

In addition to the Vineyard, Jim Irvin teamed with Scott Hewitt, establishing Firefly distillery on the property. This makes it one of the few places to have both a winery and distillery. This micro-distillery produces a number of spirits right on the island. Their specialty is sweet tea vodka. Now what could be more southern than that! They use the sweet tea produced right up the road by the Charleston Tea Plantation. There are several variations on the sweet tea vodka, including original, skinny, raspberry, and peach. There is also straight vodka and moonshine. They even make a couple of liquors and rums using Louisiana sugar cane. And the best part was… there was also a spirits testing room. I must say that the sweet tea spirits were pretty good – better than the muscadine wine.

Old Ford Pickup

Old Ford Pickup

IMG_0059

On the way back to town we stopped on John’s Island for a brief visit to the Angel Oak Tree, reportedly the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi at approximately 1500 years old. It stands over 65 feet high, its trunk is 28 feet in circumference, and its sprawling branches provide over 17,000 sq. feet of shade. Some of its branches are the size of tree trunks and lay over onto the ground under their own weight. Unfortunately, the little boy in me was suppressed by the prohibitions posted everywhere not to sit on, climb on, or in any other way molest the tree. It was impressive though.

IMG_0066

Look at this branch!

Look at this branch!

We then returned to Beatitude for another fine evening on the water of Charleston Harbor.

My view while relaxing in the cockpit.

My view while relaxing in the cockpit.

Another day is done.

Another day is done.

Memorial Day Weekend in Charleston

As noted previously, we arrived in Charleston just after noon on Saturday, May 23. We chose to put Beatitude in the Charleston Harbor Marina, which is actually in Mt. Pleasant, just across the harbor from the downtown area. It was there or the City Marina. We decided on this one because it is a little bit less expensive and comes with the amenities of a resort, including pool, jacuzzi, a free trolley back and forth from the historic district every two hours and water taxi availability.

We relaxed for the afternoon before taking the 6 o’clock trolley into town. On this holiday weekend, both the harbor and the city were crazy crowded. People were everywhere. We ambled along Market Street and then made a right on King Street, covering the 3 1/2 blocks from our drop off point to our evening destination. Whenever we enter a new place, I immediately research what’s available in town: restaurants, music, arts, etc. Charleston is my kind of town! I believe I could settle here one day and be very happy. I discovered that there were two jazz clubs in town, so we set out for one of them on our first night here, The Mezz, which is located on the upper floor of a restaurant on King Street called Sermet’s. The food was scrumptious and the atmosphere elegant, yet relaxed. Live jazz takes place here five nights a week. This night featured the swing band of Joe Clark. The music was great. Cindy and I had a great time! Thoroughly tired, we took the 10:15 trolley back to the marina when it was all over.

Some Excellent Zin at The Mezz

Some Excellent Zin at The Mezz

The Joe Clark Swing Band

The Joe Clark Swing Band

The Band, Joe Clark on Piano

The Band, Joe Clark on Piano

Hopefully, she said yes.

Hopefully, she said yes.

Residing in this charming, southern coastal city are our dear friends, Justin and Shera Argabright. Their daughter Megan also lives here. They were kind enough to come pick us up on Sunday morning to take us to church – not to their church, but to St. Andrews Parish Church, the oldest church in South Carolina. We would not have been able to attend this particular church if not for them, because we’d need a car to get there. The church building dates to 1706 and has been recently renovated and restored by the present congregation, an Anglican church which separated from the Episcopal Church a year or two ago. In fact, the congregation had a mortgage burning just prior to service celebrating the fact that they are now debt free and have paid for all of the restoration. Besides the blessing of being in this historic building which has been a place of worship for over two centuries, I thought the service itself was wonderful.

St. Andrew's Parish Church, 1706

St. Andrew’s Parish Church, 1706

DSCN8421

The Bishop participating in the mortgage burning ceremony

The Bishop participating in the mortgage burning ceremony

Inside St. Andrew's

Inside St. Andrew’s

The altar and the apse

The altar and the apse

After worship

After worship

After church, we met their daughter, Megan, and Justin’s mother at Jim and Nick’s Barbecue for a tasty lunch. Then, we went to their home for the rest of the afternoon where we enjoyed each other’s company, sitting outside in the screen room for most of the day. We ordered Pizza for dinner before heading back to the marina. They were also kind enough to let us drive their vehicle home, since we planned to get together at their home the next day for some memorial day fun.

Good BBQ!

Good BBQ!

Sunday Sunset over Charleston

Sunday Sunset over Charleston

Memorial Day, 2015

Memorial Day, 2015

This time going over a bridge, the Arther Ravenel Jr. cable-stayed bridge.  Thankful for a loaner vehicle for the morning.

This time going over a bridge, the Arther Ravenel Jr. cable-stayed bridge. Thankful for a loaner vehicle for the morning.

On Monday morning, we left the marina around 9:30, taking advantage of the fact that we had a vehicle to do some provisioning. We made stops at Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Home Depot, securing needed items. When we arrived around 1 p.m., a feast was in the works. Shera had prepared a delicious meal of grilled ribeye steaks, baked beans, deviled eggs, and baked potatoes. Mmm! And, there was strawberry shortcake for dessert. The girls played scrabble, while Justin and I enjoyed good conversation and a little theologizing. At the end of our partying, they were kind enough to take us by Publix before dropping us at the marina for the night. What a great beginning to our time in Charleston.

Friends for over 30 years:  The Argabrights and The Careys

Friends for over 30 years: The Argabrights and The Careys

Jane, Megan, Shera, Cindy

Jane, Megan, Shera, Cindy

Justin, Barry

Justin, Barry

Cindy and Felix the Cat

Cindy and Felix the Cat

Felix begging for a treat

Felix begging for a treat

We plan to be here for a month. I need to get work done on the boat. I have sails and reefing lines to repair, we hope to replace the stack pack for the mainsail. I need work done on the generator and water maker. I’m installing a new head. And, there are a number of other jobs I hope to accomplish while here. Besides this, I have quite a stack of things I need to do in preparation for my part-time locums work, which will be upon me before I know it. We also plan to take a week’s vacation from Beatitude to meet some of our family on the North Carolina Outer Banks. We’ll be renting a car and driving to meet up with them. Cindy will also likely visit her family in Ohio for a week while Beatitude remains in Charleston. It’ll be a busy month, and then we’ll continue northward.

Our day's provisioning

Our day’s provisioning

From Savannah to Charleston in Three Days

Day One:

We could’ve made the passage more quickly, but I needed a few days of easy travel. So, we decided to divide the hundred miles or so from one city to the other into three days. We meant to leave a little earlier than we did on Thursday, May 21, but I was waiting on some mail to arrive at the Westin from our mail-forwarding service. It never did. The Westin Savannah Harbor has some weird mail policies. So, they’ll have to forward it on to us in Charleston. On a positive note, we did eat an unexpected, very good, brunch at the hotel before leaving.

From breakfast, looking out onto Beatitude on the Westin dock

From breakfast, looking out onto Beatitude on the Westin dock

Breakfast at the Westin

Breakfast at the Westin

We pushed away from the dock at 11:20 and began heading back down the Savannah River, a.k.a. Horse Fly Ambush. On the way into Savannah the other day, we were swarmed with horse flies. I must have killed two dozen with a fly swatter with many more getting away after sucking our blood. Those things are fast and hyper! On the way back down the river today, they came out in force again, though not as bad as before. I killed a dozen or so, and sustained less bites (probably due to being covered with Deep Woods Off!

Leaving Savannah Behind

Leaving Savannah Behind

The Admiral coiling the lines

The Admiral coiling the lines

As soon as we turned off the Savannah River and headed toward the Calibogue Sound, the horse flies disappeared. Thank goodness! We covered 40 miles on Thursday, making our way past Hilton Head and through the Port Royal Sound. Eventually, we turned up the Beaufort River and anchored in a lovely anchorage just south of Beaufort, S.C. That’s pronounced “B-ew-furt,” not to be confused with a town on the coast of N.C. whose name is spelled exactly the same, but pronounced, “B-oh-furt.” I just figured this out today for myself (and I saved you the trouble).

The Hilton Head Lighthouse

The Hilton Head Lighthouse

Beatitude on the Bay

Beatitude on the Bay

When planning an ICW trip, it’s necessary to consider tides and currents. Ideally, you’d like to be going with the current most of the time (our speed can double when compared to heading into the current). You’d like to go through the shallows and the shoals when the tide is high and through the fixed bridges when the tide is low. When they are directly next to each other that’s a problem (actually you’d like a mid-tide). If you are going to dock somewhere you’d like to arrive at slack tide, so that you don’t have to fight the current to keep from hitting nearby boats and docks. Anyway, now that I’ve offered this primer on navigating the ICW, today’s trip worked out perfectly. We traversed the shoals around Field’s Cut, exiting the Savannah River just before high tide and we passed beneath our two fixed bridges of the day on a falling tide past mid-tide.

We'd like to thank the Goodyear blimp for following us and providing overhead shots of our anchorage (This one passed over us on the Savannah River)

We’d like to thank the Goodyear blimp for following us and providing overhead shots of our anchorage (This one passed over us on the Savannah River)

Cindy crocheting premie hats.

Cindy crocheting premie hats.

We are the only boat in a very large anchorage just off the ICW about a mile south of Beaufort. We arrived just before 6 p.m., giving us just enough daylight to dinghy into town for dinner. Beaufort is another lovely old coastal town. We had the best meal at a place called Breakwater Restaurant and Bar. Cindy had some fried chicken that was smothered with a white gravy and was melt-in-you-mouth delicious! After dinner, we returned to Beatitude for a beautiful quiet night in our secluded anchorage which we had all to ourselves. We sat in our salon watching the crescent moon descend into the western sky, accompanied by the brilliant Venus. There must have been some kind of celestial alignment event since Cindy beat me in two games of the card game, golf. I believe I had won perhaps forty in a row before that.

Dinghying into  Beaufort for dinner.

Dinghying into
Beaufort for dinner.

Beatitude at anchor in South Beaufort anchorage.

Beatitude at anchor in South Beaufort anchorage.

Bay Street in the old town of Beaufort, SC

Bay Street in the old town of Beaufort, SC

This is a pre-Revolutionary War building on Bay Street

This is a pre-Revolutionary War building on Bay Street

Great Restaurant

Great Restaurant

Some of the best food we've had at Breakwater

Some of the best food we’ve had at Breakwater

Sunset -taken while dinghying back to Beatitude on Dalí

Sunset -taken while dinghying back to Beatitude on Dalí

Returning to Beatitude

Returning to Beatitude

Sunset over the starboard stern quarter

Sunset over the starboard stern quarter

Moon and Venus setting

Moon and Venus setting

Day Two:

Blue Heron in our South Beaufort Anchorage

Blue Heron in our South Beaufort Anchorage

After accumulating the tide and current data, we decided to make our departure time just after 10 a.m. The change in the temperature from the time we went to bed to when we awoke was remarkable. We were uncomfortably hot and sweaty in the evening, but awoke to cool, breezy temperatures in the morning. The change was quite refreshing. So, we weighed anchor and started toward the Ladies Island Swing Bridge in Beaufort. My information stated that it opened on the half-hour. Unfortunately, my information was wrong. It opened on the hour. So, we went very slowly in circles for forty-five minutes waiting on the 11 o’clock opening. That was the only glitch in the day’s travels.

The Ladies Swing Bridge (that opens only on the hour!)

The Ladies Swing Bridge (that opens only on the hour!)

A view along the South Carolina ICW

A view along the South Carolina ICW

Pelicans fished alongside all day long.  This Pelican just dive-bombed a fish - Face underwater, wings above

Pelicans fished alongside all day long. This Pelican just dive-bombed a fish – Face underwater, wings above

Pelicans resting from fishing

Pelicans resting from fishing

I did re-engage the armies of the horseflies, once again. There were at least two dozen killed or wounded (mostly killed) on the horsefly side, with no human casualties (although there was some human aggravation). Those things swarmed the boat again just as we neared the mouth of the Coosaw River and stayed with us for most of the trip. I would have gladly agreed to a cessation of all hostilities, but they were belligerent. Oh well… it made time go by quickly. Things worked out well today from a tide and current standpoint. The one fixed bridge we went under had 67’ clearance at mid-tide. We saw no less than 9 feet of water all day in the areas of shoaling. The weather stayed cool, so a sweatshirt was the apparel of choice throughout the day.

Bundled up for cool mornings

Bundled up for cool mornings

The Heat of Battle (that little fellow on the ceiling is in trouble!)

The Heat of Battle (that little fellow on the ceiling is in trouble!)

Miles behind us on the ICW

Miles behind us on the ICW

Miles before us, also.

Miles before us, also.

More views of the ICW with dolphin's dorsal fin

More views of the ICW with dolphin’s dorsal fin

We covered right at forty nautical miles today, dropping anchor in 12 feet of water (at low tide; that’ll be 20 feet an high tide) with 140 feet of chain rode. Our location tonight is about the most secluded, idyllic location you could ask for. There is no civilization anywhere close by. We are located on Toogoodoo Creek in the Toogoodoo Marshes (I just like typing that word). Once again, we are the only vessel in sight. We have this large anchorage all to ourselves. Putting eighty miles behind us on the first two days means that tomorrow’s travel in to Charleston, will be much easier. I figure we’ll have about 27.5 miles to cover in all.

Premie Hats by Cindy

Premie Hats by Cindy

Our anchorage at Toogoodoo Creek

Our anchorage at Toogoodoo Creek

Sunset over the Toogoodoo Marshes

Sunset over the Toogoodoo Marshes

Orange-colored Sky

Orange-colored Sky

Day Three:

Good morning from our Toogoodoo Creek anchorage

Good morning from our Toogoodoo Creek anchorage

In order to arrive at the marina near slack tide and to avoid bridges at high tide, we started earlier today than we had the last two days. The anchor was out of the water by 7:30 a.m., and we were heading the one mile back down Toogoodoo Creek to join up with the ICW. Today was a gorgeous, brightly sunlit, yet cool and breezy day with a high in the 70’s. The trip up the Intercostal Waterway was picturesque. The past few days, I’ve been surprised at the dearth of boating traffic on the ICW. That all changed as we neared Charleston on a Saturday (and on Memorial Day weekend). By the time we approached Charleston Harbor, there were boats of all kinds coming from every direction.

Shrimp boats on the ICW

Shrimp boats on the ICW

View along the South Carolina ICW

View along the South Carolina ICW

The Wappoo Creek Drawbridge

The Wappoo Creek Drawbridge

There were no significant issues during the 27 nautical mile trip from Toogoodoo Creek to Charleston Harbor Marina. Cindy worked on art in the salon while I manned the helm station. We encountered two 65’ bridges today (each cleared with no problem before high tide) and one drawbridge. The only real challenge for the day was entering Elliot Cut which connects the Stono River with Charleston Harbor. Current can be a problem here as the volume of water flowing through a narrow opening can reach a significant velocity (4-5 knots according to reports). We probably encountered a 3-3.5 knot current as our progress was slowed to around 3 knots for a while. But, Elliot Cut was soon past and we were rounding the southern tip of the City of Charleston . As we did so, our marina came into sight just before the 186’ tall Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The dock master was on the dock to help us tie up when we arrived at 12:30 p.m. We’ll rest this afternoon and go to dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we hope to meet up with our dear, long-time friends, Justin and Shera, who live in Charleston.

Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor

A little regatta taking place on the harbour

A little regatta taking place on the harbour

A look over a portion of the Charleston Harbor Marina

A look over a portion of the Charleston Harbor Marina

Beatitude's place of temporary rest in Charleston

Beatitude’s place of temporary rest in Charleston