Thursday, July 16 - Tuesday, August 4, 2009
We've arrived in Beaufort, SC! Beaufort is only 20 miles from Hilton Head, and we reach our anchorage west of the downtown marina by lunchtime. Stacy has been really excited to stay here, having read all about the town's historic district and cruiser-friendly reputation. Once again, the anchorage is fairly deep and we expect 8' tidal changes. We've put out a Bahamian moor (2 anchors at a 180-degree angle), and let out some extra slack for high tide.
By now, dear family and friends, you've probably figured out that we don't have the best luck anchoring. Why should Beaufort be any different?? Soon after dinner, we start to feel like we're leaning. Could it be from a boat wake? Strong winds on the beam? No, there's nothing like that going on. Suddenly the light bulb goes on...oh, crap! Rene runs topside to test the wheel. He can tell that our rudder is already partly in the mud, but we try starting the engine to see if we can move. It's nearly dark, but hopefully we can move the boat away from shore. No luck...we're stuck here, and it's still 90 minutes until low tide. Yes, it's just going to get worse...a LOT worse! One thing we've learned in Georgia and South Carolina: with their 7-8' tides, the water rushes out (and fortunately back in) incredibly fast. Before all is said and done, the boat is heeling over 30-40 degrees. We're both holding on for dear life, and the cats are sliding along the wood floors as they try to find a comfy spot in the cabin. Periodically something will fall. If we're lucky, it's inside the cabin and we can identify the source pretty quickly. Once in awhile, it's something in the cockpit, which makes us wonder what will be lost in the water by midnight (boat hook? winches? cockpit cushions?). This is horrible! Thank goodness the water finally begins to come back in around 12:30am, and the boat rights itself enough for us to sleep. High tide is at 4:30am, so we set the alarm clock for 6:30am to re-anchor as soon as the sun comes up. Today's 11am low tide is a foot more shallow than last night's, so we can't afford to be stuck through another tidal change. We put out another "V" configuration (two anchors), and this time it holds. Let the fun in Beaufort begin!
As we've mentioned, Beaufort, SC has a reputation for being a cruiser-friendly town. There's a large anchorage area just west of the downtown marina, plus two others a short dinghy-ride away. You can dinghy to Beaufort's free day dock adjacent to the marina, and can take advantage of the marina's laundry facilities and showers ($1 person). If you stay longer than 72 hours, the city just asks that you register with the downtown marina's dockmaster. This helps them keep track of who's in the anchorage (more importantly, they know the boats are insured), but it is by no means an annoying length-of-stay restriction like those being enforced in many parts of Florida. Best of all, the marina and day dock are steps away from Beaufort's historic downtown area. Shops and restaurants are just down the street, and horse-drawn carriage rides depart right next to the day dock. Beaufort's "Old Point" area (aka "the Point") is filled with antebellum homes and is less than a mile walk from the marina. After enjoying a lazy Friday morning, we walk to the Point to wander around and take a few pictures of the gorgeous old homes. Some are even familiar - "The Big Chill" and "The Great Santini" were both filmed at the same Beaufort plantation home, and "Forest Gump" and "The Prince of Tides" shot scenes around town. All of the historic houses are privately owned, so while people are welcome to take photos from a respectable distance, the residents really don't appreciate tourists climbing the steps to look in the windows! After a VERY hot walk around the Point, we go in search of a cold beverage on our way back to the marina. We spot a little place off Bay Street (Beaufort's main downtown street) called Hemingway's, whose entrance faces the river and Waterfront Park. What a find! At first it's just us and the bartender, Sherry, who makes us feel like locals from the moment we step into the bar. She and her husband, Sparky, lived in Marathon, FL, for five years, where he performed in local clubs and she worked at Sombrero Resort. They still spend about a week a month in the Keys for parts of the year, when Sparky gets hired on for a show. We spend the next couple of hours visiting with Sherry and meeting a few regulars, and we leave knowing that we've just adopted our first neighborhood bar since leaving Texas. On the dinghy ride back to Pipe, we pass a motor cruiser with a guy getting ready to row his dinghy to the day dock. The current is going in the wrong direction and storm clouds are rolling in, and he asks if we'd be willing to tow him to the dock. Rene drops Stacy off at the boat to close the windows before the storm hits, and then goes back to tow our neighbor to the dock. By some crazy coincidence, he turns out to be Sherry's husband, Sparky. Now we really know we'll be going back to Hemingway's!
Despite our rocky start, we're thrilled to be here. We've arrived in time to enjoy the last weekend of Beaufort's Water Festival, a 10-day event held each July. The festival includes concerts, a parade down Bay Street, sailing regattas, a golf tournament, bed races, shrimp boat tours, a US Coast Guard helicopter rescue simulation, an F-18 flyover, a skydiving demonstration, an acrobatic plane demonstration, and a boat parade. We missed the golf tourney and the sailing regatta since they were held during the first weekend of the festival, but are around to see pretty much everything else. In fact, our boat is practically part of one show: the aerial acrobatic show runs right over the city anchorage, so everyone has to be off of their boats Saturday afternoon. We're under the flight path (crash zone?), and they aren't taking any chances! We spend Saturday ashore watching the parade that runs down Bay Street, followed by a prime viewing spot along the waterfront to watch the acrobatic plane and skydiving team. There are also a bunch of tents set up in Waterfront Park where vendors can sell jewelry, t-shirts, pottery, leather goods, and just about anything else you can imagine. It's tempting, but boat rule is still in effect! After showers and a change of clothes, we head out to dinner. We'd found an ad for a Greek place a few miles away, but were told that it's more of a lunch place and is only open during the week. One of the locals at Hemingway's recommends Emily's, which has both a tapas menu as well as a full steak/seafood/pasta menu. It's supposed to be a fabulous spot, so we're on our way. One thing we don't even consider - it's Saturday, and it's Water Festival. Did we think about reservations? Of course not! Fortunately Emily's serves dinner at the bar, and we were seated at a secondary bar that is only used by the waitstaff to enter orders in the computer. It was much quieter than the actual bar area, and worked perfectly for us. We were soon joined by another couple without reservations, and had a great time talking to them over some fantastic tapas. Garlic beef, lobster ravioli, foie gras pate, and boar sausage...the garlic beef was so good that we ordered another plate! As for our bar-mates, it turns out that Tom and Nancy live in Charleston, and offered to show us around town when we arrive. We really enjoyed talking to them, and will definitely look them up when we get to Charleston!
Sunday, we get to stay on the boat to watch the boat parade and the F-18 flyover. The Department of Natural Resources (Beaufort's "water police") has laid out buoys parallel to the shoreline, and anyone anchored on the shore side of the buoys can stay aboard, while boats anchored on the far side must be vacated. We assume it's for the same reason as the acrobatic demo - if anything happens during the F-18 flyover, they need a safety zone. We aren't sure if getting to stay on the boat is a good thing - we end up practically on top of a buoy when we swing with the tidal change. Will the F-18s REALLY be able to discern between a boat outside of the zone vs. one inside of it? Doubtful! Our neighbor, who's anchored about 50' away from us, is in the vacate zone; rather than go into shore, he dinghies over to our boat with his guitar. The boat parade is fairly small, but it's fun to see the boats that are decorated, along with the band that plays on the pilot house of a shrimp boat. Just after 2pm, we hear a distant roar of jet engines. Looking behind the boat towards town, we see three F-18s come screaming towards us. They fly right over the boat! Rene tries to take pictures but has to cover his ears in the midst of it. We all feel like our eardrums are about to burst, and the cats run for cover (they don't come out from under the couch for 3 hours). Next thing we know, the fighters are lined up for another pass...again, RIGHT over us! This time Rene sacrifices his ears for his art, and gets some great shots of the jets. It's a (literally) painful - but incredible - spectacle. The show ends by 2:15pm, but our neighbor has been told to stay off his boat until 3pm. We soon find out that Robert does one-man shows when the urge strikes him, and we get an impromptu concert. Fortunately, his guitar is much easier on the ears than the F-18s.
Once the festival is over, Beaufort becomes a much quieter place. There are still tourists walking around, but the huge crowds are gone. The locals we talk to all seem to enjoy the festival, but after 10 long days of nonstop events, they're just as happy to see it draw to a close! Case in point: our "neighborhood bar". Hemingway's offers jello shots for $1 (we never tried one, but we can't imagine they're as good as the ones from the Rowdy crew!). They probably sell 50-100 on a typical Saturday night, but they sell over 800 on the last Saturday night of the Water Festival. The marina and downtown shops have similar stories, and everyone is ready for a breather by the end of the festival. For us, we feel like we have a chance to see the "real" Beaufort. Yes, we're still tourists, but people have more time to chat when they're not trying to take care of thousands of extra folks besides us! The warmth of this place truly seems genuine. It has a small-town feel, where people smile at each other on the sidewalk and cars actually stop to let you cross the street. (Maybe some of you are used to this, but we didn't see it in Houston!) There's a definite sense of history, and the city takes pride in its preservation efforts. We get a closer look at those preservation efforts thanks to a horse-drawn carriage ride on Tuesday morning. Our guide is a gentleman named Bud, and the muscle is provided by Butch, a 13-year-old Belgian draft horse raised in the Amish country. Butch has been working in Beaufort for the past 6 years, and can pull 12,000lbs of rolling weight. Fortunately it's very flat in the low country, and Beaufort's highest point is only 23' above sea level. Over the 2+ weeks that we eventually spend in Beaufort, we walk past the carriage horses almost daily. We can tell you that the horses are extremely well cared for, and are very affectionate with their handlers. The horses probably know the tour route through the historic district even better than the guides, but Bud is a great storyteller and points out several interesting places and facts. We learn that the second island towards the Atlantic from Beaufort is Parris Island, which was actually the first settlement in the US. It was founded by the Spanish in 1520, who left in 1548 due to Indian attacks, heat, hurricanes, etc. Having established another settlement in St. Augustine, the Spaniards left Parris Island to go back down the coast. French Huguenots escaping persecution soon followed, landing in Parris Island in 1562. They set up the Charles Fort, but left in 1574 for the same reasons as the Spaniards. Beaufort saw development in the 1700s and 1800s, first by British merchants, and later by cotton farmers. Antebellum homes are surrounded by Live Oak trees, some of which are 600-800 years old. Even the newest homes in the historic district look as if they're hundreds of years old; thanks to the city's preservation efforts which began in 1973, all remodels and newly built homes must look like their elder neighbors. A few notables on the tour include:
--the First Anglican church, built in 1861: headstones were raised from the graveyard and brought into church, where they were laid along the pews and used as surgical tables for amputations during the Civil War (many headstones still bear the marks from surgical instruments).
--Cuthbert House Inn: Gen. Sherman stayed here on the way to his march to Columbia, SC.
--Secession House: the original articles of South Carolina's exit from the Union were drafted here. The state became the Republic of South Carolina (its own country) for 3 weeks. At that time, Mississippi seceded from the Union and SC joined the newly-formed Confederate States of America.
--Like in Savannah, some houses are painted "hainte blue" to keep spirits out
--The Rhett House, built in 1851 in Greek Revival style: the house was used as hospital #3 during the Civil War, and is now a B&B.
--First Baptist Church: built in 1824 by wealthy cotton farmers for $10,000 (over $3 million in today's dollars)
--The First African church was built as a slave church in 1863. It still contains hand-painted mosaic glass windows, and was the setting for the "Forrest Gump" gospel choir scene
--Many homes are built in the Georgian style, with a "welcoming arms" staircase
--"The Castle" built in 1852: the Italian Renaissance home has 6 doric columns and French windows; its 8118 sq ft includes 29 rooms and 8 fireplaces. It was used as hospital #6 during the Civil War, and was recently purchased for $2.65 million and completely renovated.
--17 people were hanged from Beaufort's 200-year-old "hanging tree"
--While many Beaufort homes have been used as movie sets, others have been rented from the owners for use by movie stars. Our tour points out the home used by Sally Field during the filming of "Forrest Gump", and those used by Nick Nolte and Barbara Streisand during the filming of "Prince of Tides" (apparently the rent on the latter covered 4 years of college tuition for the owners' children)
--"The Great Santini" and "The Big Chill" were both filmed at Tidalholm, a 7,000-square-foot Victorian-Italianate structure built in 1852 on the Beaufort River; the home can best be seen from the ICW.
--The Mary Hext House, aka Riverview, is the second oldest house in Beaufort (c. 1720)
--Novelist Pat Conroy grew up in Beaufort, and now lives on nearby Fripp Island
Over the next couple of weeks, we explore more of Beaufort on our bikes, try a few different restaurants, and visit our new friends at Hemingway's. We dinghy over to Lady's Island and walk to Publix our first week in town, but soon decide it's easier to bike to the stores in Beaufort (about 1.5 miles from the marina). While we took a few pictures during our carriage ride, we bike back over to the historic homes to take more pics for the blog. Besides...it gives us a chance to go to The Chocolate Tree, a shop specializing in - what else - chocolate. White, milk, dark, fudge, bark, truffles, you name it. Rumor has it Tom Hanks is a major chocoholic and used to buy chocolates here while filming "Forrest Gump". True or not, we really love this place! Favorite restaurants include:
--Emily's: after our first trip for tapas, we go back to enjoy the rest of their menu. Rene has a fantastic shrimp and mussel curry, and Stacy has halibut with peach salsa. Incredible!
--Panini's Cafe: brick oven pizzas, homemade pasta, and more classic entrees. Right next to Hemingway's in an old bank building.
--Luther's Raw & Well Done: a great burger place in the heart of downtown
What's that old saying about no good deed going unpunished? Maybe this doesn't qualify as a "good deed", but we've decided that instead of leaving on Tuesday (nearly 2 weeks after our arrival), we'll leave after Hemingway's pool party scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 2nd. What happens within days of making that decision? We get struck by lightning! We've faced afternoon thunderstorms for weeks now (welcome to Summer in the South), many of which are severe. We have another storm system come through on Wednesday afternoon (July 29), and go through our usual routine of turning everything off at the circuit board and unplugging the power cords from our laptops (just in case). Suddenly there's a flash of lightning and a massive, immediate BOOM, and we just look at each other. Rene turns on a cabin light, and it's still working. We shut it off until after the storm, and then do a full check of the systems. Everything in the cabin seems okay, other than the stereo needing to be reset. Unfortunately, when we turn on the chartplotter/GPS/autopilot in the cockpit, we get no GPS information. Rene spends Thursday making calls to Raymarine and testing various connections; in the end, the technician at Raymarina tells him that it's most likely the navigation system's course computer (the "brain" of the system). There's nothing we can do other than to ship the unit off to Raymarine for repair and/or replacement. Lovely...the unit retails for $2,745. We have coverage for a lightning strike, but have been told that any insurance claim could lead to an increase in premiums and no other company insuring us for up to 3 years. In any case, it's storm season - meaning it'll take at least 2 weeks for Raymarine to get back to us once they receive the unit. It looks like we'll be traveling to Charleston using nothing but charts and our depth gauge...just like "real" sailors!
After a frustrating Thursday, we get a pleasant surprise on Friday: Chris & Robin, our neighbors from the 42' catamaran anchored behind us, have seen "Kemah, TX" on our stern, and stop by to introduce themselves. It turns out that they used to live in Watergate (our old marina), and left to go cruising about six months before we bought Pipe and moved into the marina. Chris & Robin even lived in the same livaboard section as us, and know all of our old friends & neighbors: Deana & Troy, Colleen & Steve, Kat & Trey, Jim & Kitty, Frank & Julie, Mike & Gloria, Chuck & Connie, and many others. They invite us over to their boat, "Toucan Dream", Friday night after dinner, and we have such a great time visiting with them that we don't realize it's 1am until we get back to our boat. Saturday night we have them over to Pipe Muh Bligh, and are thrilled that they decide to stay for an extra day to join the fun at Hemingway's pool party on Sunday. We've had a great time getting to know them, and it seems like we've known them a lot longer considering how many friends we have in common! We hope they're having a fantastic time on their trip north, and we'll definitely see them again on future travels!
Sunday afternoon we head to Hemingway's for their "Pool Party". They actually put a bunch of inflatable swimming pools of various sizes in the parking lot between the patio and the riverwalk, complete with beach chairs, rubber ducks, beach balls, and a sprinkler. Their regulars bring in tons of food, and the bar does 2-for-1 drinks all day. The bar staff even got their distributors to provide giveaways, so we have raffles and relays to win t-shirts, flip-flops, and gadgets. We have a great time sitting in and around the pools for the first couple of hours, and move inside when the thunderstorms hit mid-afternoon. Everyone has been busy cooking, and there's London broil, ribs, shredded pork, meatballs, hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread casserole. Someone has made peach and blueberry cobbler for dessert, along with a bundt cake and "Norwegian" chocolate chip cookies. We're absolutely stuffed by the end of the day, but it's been well worth it! Between the bar staff and the locals at Hemingway's, we've really felt like part of a community for the past 2 weeks. A huge thank you to Sherri, Liz, Mo, and Laura for making Hemingway's such a warm, friendly place for us!
Monday is spent doing laundry and a few last-minute boat preparations, and we'll be leaving Beaufort on Tuesday morning. We'll go up the ICW about 30-40 miles, anchor overnight, and should finish the 70-mile trip to Charleston the following day. We'll be doing this without GPS or autopilot...wish us luck.
Pictures for this Blog chapter:
2 years ago