A LIFETIME OF RESEARCH PAYS OFF

Post #50; A LIFETIME OF RESEARCH PAYS OFF;  Day 357;  April 25, 2015:  On board:  Jake Mycofsky; Elissa Mycofsky; Jim K.

For the first time this entire trip, we cast off the lines in the pouring rain. As much as we enjoyed Kilkenney Plantation, we didn’t want to spend two more days there, and nasty weather expected to last another day or two was predicted to arrive in the afternoon. So dressed in rain gear, off we went. Within an hour the rain had stopped, and by early afternoon we turned off the ICW to head 6 miles up the Savannah River against a current that runs up to 5 knots.  Securing the boat in the falling tide at the Savannah riverfront in 5 knots of current was a challenge, and we doubled all the lines out of respect for the current and in deference to the upcoming storm – a tornado watch had been issued for most of Georgia and South Carolina. And what a storm it was!  No tornadoes, but lightning everywhere, gale force winds, and torrential, horizontal rain.

Despite such a tumultuous welcome to Savannah, the city exemplified the “southern hospitality” for which the region is famous. We spent 2 days in Savannah tied to the docks directly in front of the Hyatt Hotel in the middle of downtown Savannah, and could have stayed much longer.

Here are a couple of pictures from our run to Savannah:

The views of the endless estuaries and salt water marshes in the Low Country are spectacular

The views of the endless estuaries and salt water marshes in the Low Country are spectacular

As we approached the city, we encountered a major dredging operation across most of the channel. The river is being dredged to a depth of 45 feet to conform to the deepening of the Panama Canal which is also underway so that Savannah can accommodate supertankers and other behemouths that will soon be able to go through the Canal. Failing to do so, officials fear, will cost Savannah dearly as the larger ships bypass Savannah and go elsewhere.

As we approached the city, we encountered a major dredging operation across most of the channel. The river is being dredged to a depth of 50 feet to conform to the deepening of the Panama Canal which is also underway so that Savannah can accommodate supertankers and other behemouths that will soon be able to go through the Canal. Failing to do so, officials fear, will cost Savannah dearly as the larger ships bypass Savannah and go elsewhere.

 

The Joint Adventure docked immediately adjacent to the Hyatt Hotel in the center of the downtown Historic District. The 185 foot high iconic cable-stayed bridge in the background was built in the 1990's to replace a 139 foot high bridge in order to allow larger ships to enter the port.

The Joint Adventure docked immediately adjacent to the Hyatt Hotel in the center of the downtown Historic District. The 185 foot high iconic cable-stayed bridge in the background was built in the 1990’s to replace a 139 foot high bridge in order to allow larger ships to enter the port.

Surprisingly, the port of Savannah is the second busiest port on the Atlantic coast, second only to the combined New York/New Jersey port. Enormous ships, most of them carrying up to 2,000 containers, passed by the Joint Adventure on their way up the Savannah River to loading docks just upriver from us.

Surprisingly, the port of Savannah is the second busiest port on the Atlantic coast, second only to the combined New York/New Jersey port. Enormous ships, most of them carrying up to 2,000 containers, passed by the Joint Adventure on their way up the Savannah River to loading docks just upriver from us.

 

Sunset over the Savannah River

Sunset over the Savannah River

Savannah was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733 when he selected the first high bluff that he came to as he sailed up the Savannah River. He started the settlement with 144 “sober, moral, and industrious” colonists  (I guess the standards were higher then…).  Due to its deep, protected harbor, it soon became the leading port in the south, and an important strategic stronghold during wartime. The British occupied Savannah during the American Revolution, so a coalition of American and French soldiers staged a massive assault to try to take back the city in 1779. The battle lasted only 55 minutes, but over 1,000 American & French soldiers were killed by the time the assault failed, making it second only to Bunker Hill as the bloodiest battle of the war. During the Civil War, the Confederates held onto Savannah. However, the port was successfully blockaded by the Union, as were virtually all of the southern ports, choking the south from receiving vitally-needed supplies. Today, Savannah is a thriving port city and a bustling tourist center, capitalizing on its many historic sites, its diverse architecture, and its natural beauty. Here are some images from our visit:

This is the Cotton Exchange Building - cotton was king in Savannah.  From the plantations throughout South Carolina & Georgia , it was shipped to Savannah where it was sorted, priced, and shipped to Europe or the northern states. By 1887, Savannah ranked first on the Atlantic and second in the world as a cotton seaport. World prices for cotton were set in Savannah and London.

This is the Cotton Exchange Building – cotton was king in Savannah. From the plantations throughout South Carolina & Georgia , it was shipped to Savannah where it was sorted, priced, and shipped to Europe or the northern states. By 1887, Savannah ranked first on the Atlantic and second in the world as a cotton seaport. World prices for cotton were set in Savannah and London.

This building served as General Sherman's headquarters in Savannah as he completed his famous "march to the sea" near the end of the war. Sherman did not burn Savannah - knowing the futility of resistance at that point in the war, city officials negotiated a surrender of the city with Sherman, thus preventing it from being destroyed.  Sherman then sent his famous telegram to Lincoln at Christmas in 1864, presenting him Savannah as a Christmas gift.

This building served as General Sherman’s headquarters in Savannah as he completed his famous “march to the sea” near the end of the war. Sherman did not burn Savannah – knowing the futility of resistance at that point in the war, city officials negotiated a surrender of the city with Sherman, thus preventing it from being destroyed. Sherman then sent his famous telegram to Lincoln at Christmas in 1864, presenting him Savannah as a “Christmas gift”.

Interestingly, this placard near the Sherman headquarters provides a softer spin on Sherman's march to the sea than is generally taught.

Interestingly, this placard near the Sherman headquarters provides a softer spin on Sherman’s march to the sea than is generally taught.

This statue of a slave family is displayed prominently on the Savannah waterfront. It's message was so graphic and strong that I decided to recite it in full:  "We were stolen, sold, and bought together from the African continent. We got on the slave ships together. We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ship in each others excrement and urine together. Sometimes died together and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together. Today we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy."

This statue of a slave family is displayed prominently on the Savannah waterfront. It’s message was so graphic and strong that I decided to recite it in full: “We were stolen, sold, and bought together from the African continent. We got on the slave ships together. We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ship in each others excrement and urine together. Sometimes we died together and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together. Today we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy.”   Incidentally, slavery was illegal in Georgia under its first charter. The law was frequently ignored, however, and was repealed in 1750 because plantation owners claimed they could not compete with cotton grown in neighboring states using free slave labor.

The "Waving Girl" statue memorializes the story of the woman who fell in love with a seaman who soon shipped out, promising to return to marry her. To insure she wasn't missed, she met every arriving ship by waving a towel - for the rest of her life.

The “Waving Girl” statue memorializes the story of the woman who fell in love with a seaman who soon shipped out, promising to return to marry her. To insure she wasn’t missed, she met every arriving ship by waving a towel – for the rest of her life.

This sculpture on the waterfront celebrates a series of important ships named after the city of Savannah. One was the steamship SS Savannah which, in 1819, was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic - it was 98 feet long and produced 90 HP. The crossing took 27 days. By contrast, in 1959, the Navy launched a light cruiser of the same name - Savannah - powered by a nuclear reactor. During its entire13 years of service, it used 163 pounds of uranium, which is the equivalent of 29 million gallons of diesel fuel.

This sculpture on the waterfront celebrates a series of important ships named after the city of Savannah. One was the steamship SS Savannah which, in 1819, was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic – it was 98 feet long and produced just 90 HP – think of pushing a 100 foot ship with a 90 HP outboard. The crossing took 27 days, and used sails as well. By contrast, in 1959, the Navy launched a light cruiser of the same name – Savannah – powered by a nuclear reactor. During its entire 13 years of service, it used 163 pounds of uranium, which is the equivalent of 29 million gallons of diesel fuel. In WW II, 87 Liberty ships were built in Savannah – each could carry the contents of 300 railroad cars, 2,840 jeeps, or 440 Sherman tanks!

Some of the streets and some of the retaining walls in Savannah, especially along the waterfront, are made of cobblestones from all over the world - they were brought in sailing ships as ballast to add weight and stability to the ships coming to Savannah to take on cargo. The stones were offloaded to make room for the cargo, and were used for paving streets and building walls.

Some of the streets and some of the retaining walls in Savannah, especially along the waterfront, are made of cobblestones from all over the world – they were brought in sailing ships as ballast to add weight and stability to the ships coming to Savannah to take on cargo. The stones were offloaded to make room for the cargo, and were used for paving streets and building walls.

A historic mercantile building along the River Street on the waterfront, the first floor of which now houses retail stores. The Historic District in Savannah is the largest of any city in the US.

A historic mercantile building along River Street on the waterfront, the first floor of which now houses retail stores. The Historic District in Savannah is the largest of any city in the US.

Historic Savannah City Hall

Historic Savannah City Hall

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in the Historic District

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in the Historic District

The interior is every but as spectacular as the exterior -

The interior is every bit as spectacular as the exterior –

Typical

A typical street in the Historic District

The Historic District terminates in an enormous public park which is as beautiful a park as I've seen. Among other species, it is adorned with huge live oaks covered with Spanish Moss hanging from the branches. Incidentally, Spanish Moss is neither Spanish nor moss. It is an air plant, and is not parasitic to the tree. It acquired the name because it reminded early explorers of the long beards worn by Spanish seamen.

The Historic District terminates in an enormous public park which is as beautiful a park as I’ve seen. Among other species, it is adorned with huge live oaks covered with Spanish Moss hanging from the branches. Incidentally, Spanish Moss is neither Spanish nor moss. It is an air plant, and is not parasitic to the tree. It acquired the name because it reminded early explorers of the long beards worn by Spanish seamen.

This is the birthplace of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low in 1860, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.

This is the birthplace of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, born in 1860, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.

A very smart dog!

A very smart dog!

Movie buffs or Forrest Gump fans will recognize this diner as the place where Jenny worked in the film -

Movie buffs or Forrest Gump fans will recognize this diner as the place where Jenny worked in the film –

After two days exploring Savannah, our next stop was Hilton Head – a totally different ambiance and culture. Here, golf and beaches are king. Here are some images:

Heading back down the Savannah River to re-join the ICW, we encountered several large, ocean-going container ships heading upriver to offload in Savannah - we hadn't encountered ships like this in close quarters since the St. Lawrence Seaway last May

Heading back down the Savannah River to re-join the ICW, we encountered several large, ocean-going container ships heading upriver to offload in Savannah – we hadn’t encountered ships like this in close quarters since the St. Lawrence Seaway last May

A "Captain Phillips" lifeboat on the stern of the ocean-going vessels. How would you like to be in that thing when it was released to drop 20 feet or more into the ocean? If you haven't seen the movie "Captain Phillips", it is a must-see movie that is remarkable accurate.

A “Captain Phillips” lifeboat on the stern of the ocean-going vessels. How would you like to be in that thing when it was released to drop 20 feet or more into the ocean? If you haven’t seen the movie “Captain Phillips”, it is a must-see movie.

Harbour Town, the main harbor on Hilton Head, is identified by the iconic lighthouse at the harbor entrance.  If you watch PGA golf events, you'll recognize the lighthouse from TV coverage of the RBC Heritage on the Harbour Town Gulf Links, South Carolina's only PGA Tour event. The resort surrounding the harbor is quite large, and includes four restaurants, numerous shops, jet ski rentals, condominiums, etc.

Harbour Town, the main harbor on Hilton Head, is identified by the iconic lighthouse at the harbor entrance. If you watch PGA golf events, you’ll recognize the lighthouse from TV coverage of the RBC Heritage on the Harbour Town Gulf Links, South Carolina’s only PGA Tour event. The resort surrounding the harbor is quite large, and includes four restaurants, numerous shops, jet ski rentals, condominiums, etc.

This is a view from the top of the lighthouse of the 18th hole of the PGA Tour course. The green is directly in front of the buildings in the background and the green is behind the grandstand (the white roof) in the foreground of the picture. I'm told that golfers take aim at the lighthouse on their first drive from the tee. TV crews set up their cameras on the lighthouse where I stood to take this picture to film the golfers playing the 18th hole in the PGA Tournament.

This is a view of the 18th hole of the PGA Tour course from the top of the lighthouse. The 18th hole tee is directly in front of the buildings in the background and the green is behind the grandstand (the white roof) in the foreground of the picture. I’m told that golfers take aim at the lighthouse on their first drive from the tee. TV crews set up their cameras on the lighthouse where I stood to take this picture to film the golfers playing the 18th hole in the PGA Tournament.

There are miles and miles of wonderful walking/bike paths throughout Hilton Head Island, many of which wind through pine forests while connecting the various destinations throughout the 41 square mile island.

There are miles and miles of wonderful walking/bike paths throughout Hilton Head Island, many of which wind through pine forests while connecting the various destinations throughout the 41 square mile island.

The walking/bike paths often pass by or though the many golf courses on the island. This is a green on the PGA course, each of which has a grandstand for spectators. You can play this course for a mere $150/round and have your friends watch you from the stands....

The walking/bike paths often pass by or though the many golf courses on the island. This is a green on the PGA course, each of which has a grandstand for spectators. You can play this course for a mere $150/round and have your friends watch you from the stands….

A small harbor elsewhere on the island.  There are tides up to 9 feet at the island - this picture is taken at low tide.

A small harbor elsewhere on the island. There are tides up to 9 feet at the island – this picture is taken at low tide.

Hilton Head is, of course, also known for its beaches, which are extraordinarily wide at low tide, They are truly beautiful, but the sand is brown and a bit silty - not quite the caliber of the beaches of South Florida (what a snob...).

Hilton Head is, of course, also known for its beaches, which are extraordinarily wide at low tide, They are truly beautiful, but the sand is brown and a bit silty – not quite the caliber of the beaches of South Florida (what a snob…).

Jake & Elissa taking in the sights and enjoying the perfect weather the day of our visit.

Jake & Elissa taking in the sights and enjoying the perfect weather the day of our visit.

I couldn't resist a swim, although this may be my last of the trip - the water is getting colder as we continue our journey north!

I couldn’t resist a swim, although this may be my last of the trip – the water is getting colder as we continue our journey north!

No explanation needed -

No explanation needed –

The ICW from Hilton Head to Beaufort, South Carolina, our next stop, was straightforward but included a long exposure to the open Atlantic. The wind was calm, however, so our passage was pleasant. A couple of images:

A shrimper on its way in port -

A shrimper on its way into port –

 

A cabin on the water in the Low Country -

A cabin on the water in the Low Country –

A different type of cabin....

A different type of cabin….

The water is often shallow a long way from shore in the bayous and estuaries of the Low Country, so docks are sometimes quite long to reach water deep enough for a boat.

The water is often shallow a long way from shore in the bayous and estuaries of the Low Country, so docks are sometimes quite long to reach water deep enough for a boat.

Upon reaching Beaufort, I had made arrangements to change the four fuel filters on the boat. While I’m religious about changing the oil and oil filters, I completely neglected the fuel filters then suddenly realized they hadn’t been changed in nearly 6,000 miles!

Beaufort, South Carolina is a beautiful southern city, right out of the movies. An artsy community with several galleries in the small but classic downtown area, it has a wonderful waterfront park area with several restaurants with patios overlooking the park and the water. The homes throughout the downtown area are classic pre-Civil War buildings; Here are some pictures:

Buildings along Main Street in downtown Beaufort -

Buildings along Main Street in downtown Beaufort –

Another image from Main Street

Another image from Main Street

A classic Beaufort home in the downtown area

A classic Beaufort home in the downtown area

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The armory in downtown Beaufort, built in 1798

The armory in downtown Beaufort, built in 1798

Trees are king in Beaufort, and trump motor vehicles. The branch from this live oak provides just 10 foot clearance over the roadway - rather than cut the branch of, vehicles that can't fit must go around.

Trees are king in Beaufort, and trump motor vehicles. The branch from this live oak provides just 10 foot clearance over the roadway – rather than cut the branch off, vehicles that can’t fit must go around.

We next ran nearly 70 miles northward to Charleston, South Carolina. Here are a few pictures from our run:

We are still in the Low Country, winding our way through tidal estuaries, bays, creeks, and occasional man-made cuts through the marshes to connect one waterway to the next.

We are still in the Low Country, winding our way through tidal estuaries, bays, creeks, and occasional man-made cuts through the marshes to connect one waterway to the next.

A sight all boaters hate to see - one mistake of some sort and this cruiser went aground, The red boat to the left of the cruiser is a TowBoat US boat attempting to pull the cruiser off.

A sight all boaters hate to see – one mistake of some sort and this cruiser went aground, The red boat to the left of the cruiser is a TowBoat/US boat attempting to pull the cruiser off.

Charleston is a vibrant, beautiful city. But no review of Charleston would be complete without a discussion of its history, which is tightly intertwined with the fabric of the city. Rice then cotton brought huge riches to an elite group of plantation owners – by the 1770’s, nine of the ten richest men in America lived in South Carolina. However, those riches were the product of huge amounts of slave labor, as both crops were labor intensive. By 1708, there were more slaves in South Carolina than white people. Fearing rebellion, the state legislature passed the South Carolina Slave Code of 1740;   the harshest state law in the country to control slaves, the law declared that slavery was “hereditary and perpetual”;  that it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write;  that a slave could not testify in court;  and that a slave could be executed for plotting to run away.

The dispute regarding slavery was emotional and divisive as early as the writing of the Constitution, threatening to dissolve the union before it got stated. Little consensus could be reached, so the final Constitution essentially avoided the subject altogether – nowhere do the words “slave” or “slavery” appear in the Constitution. However, in order to preserve the union, many compromises were reached (a process that seems missing from today’s political environment). For example, in an ironic twist of positions, southern states wanted slaves counted as people for the purposes of representation, while non-slave states argued that “property” couldn’t be counted for representation – both sides compromised, agreeing to count each slave as 3/5 of a person. Importation of slaves was allowed to continue until 1808, after which it became illegal. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 diffused another crisis by limiting slavery to areas south of the Missouri border. Another crisis erupted when a northern-dominated Congress passed federal tariff laws in 1828 and 1832 that taxed imported manufactured goods – tariffs which cost the South but benefitted the North. South Carolina voted to nullify the tariffs in South Carolina and refused to collect them. President Jackson sent federal troops to enforce the tariffs;  as a result, John C. Calhoun, who was Vice President of the U.S. at the time and an avid defender of slavery and the South, resigned the Vice Presidency in protest, and the first stirrings of secession were uttered. Again the crisis was resolved by compromise when Congress passed a revised tariff law that was accepted by both sides. As the nation continued to expand and the abolitionist movement grew in the North, conflict intensified. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was another compromise – Utah and New Mexico were admitted to the union as slave states, and California as a Free state, but the South got an enormous benefit from the law making it illegal anywhere in the country to aid fugitive slaves. In 1854, violence erupted as a result of the Kansas/Nebraska Act, which allowed new territories to vote whether to be slave or free as each side tried to intimidate voters – the violence peaked in Kansas where Northern Whigs, Free Soilers, and some Democrats who had fought against passage of the Act joined forces and formed the Republican Party. The abolitionist movement suffered a huge setback in 1857 when the Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott decision – Dred Scott was a slave who sued in federal court for his freedom on the grounds that he had previously lived in free territories so could not be enslaved. The Court not only ruled against Scott, but went on to say that he could not sue because blacks had no rights of federal citizenship and had no rights that white men were bound to respect. Finally, compromise failed – enraged over the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, South Carolina seceded from the union, followed soon by six other southern states. The war officially began at 4:30 AM on April 14, 1861 when the South Carolina militia started shelling Fort Sumter at the mouth of Charleston Harbor;  the bombardment lasted for 34 hours until the union defenders surrendered.

Many Civil War and other historical sites have been preserved;  here are some pictures from our visit to Charleston:

The Ryan Slave Mart in downtown Charleston, now an important museum,   was the first of the slave markets to move indoors in 1856 when abolitionists increasingly disrupted outdoor auctions.  While over 40 such indoor markets opened up. Ryans was the largest and most infamous, buying and selling slaves from throughout the South, often splitting families to sell individuals to the highest bidder.

The Ryan Slave Mart in downtown Charleston, now an important museum, was the first of the slave markets to move indoors in 1856 when abolitionists increasingly disrupted outdoor auctions. While over 40 such indoor markets opened up. Ryans was the largest and most infamous, buying and selling tens of thousands of slaves from throughout the South, often splitting families to sell individuals to the highest bidder.

Fort Sumter as seen from the mainland waterfront in downtown Charleston.

Fort Sumter as seen in the distance from the mainland waterfront in downtown Charleston. In one of history’s strange ironies, Lincoln planned but did not attend a celebration at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865 to commemorate the re-unification of the nation exactly 4 years to the day after the American flag was lowered by General Anderson when he surrendered the Fort to the Confederacy in 1861.  Anderson kept the flag in a bank vault during the war. At the celebration, Anderson re-raised the American flag, then toasted President Lincoln, declaring ” I give you the good, the great, the honest man, Abraham Lincoln”. That very night Lincoln was assassinated in Washington.

This surprising quote by Lincoln during one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 shows how Lincoln's objectives and even his thinking evolved over the years of his presidency and the war.

This surprising quote by Lincoln during one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 shows how Lincoln’s objectives and even his thinking evolved over the years of his presidency and the war.

The story of the PLANTER is just one example of the courage and heroism of many blacks before and during the Civil War. The movie GLORY which depicts the heroism of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was the first formal unit to be made up entirely of blacks, takes place when the 54th attempts to capture Fort Wagner on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor.

The story of the PLANTER is just one example of the courage and heroism of many blacks before and during the Civil War (the rest of the story is in the picture below). The movie GLORY which depicts the heroism of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was the first formal unit to be made up entirely of blacks, takes place when the 54th attempts to capture Fort Wagner on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor.

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A memorial to the Confederate soldiers who were killed or wounded during the war. Interestingly, I haven't seen a single Confederate flag in South Carolina. I did see an occasional one in Mississippi and Alabama.

A memorial to the Confederate soldiers who were killed or wounded during the war. Interestingly, I haven’t seen a single Confederate flag in South Carolina. I did see an occasional one in Mississippi and Alabama.

Incidentally, if you want to read a terrific book about the struggle that blacks faced after the Civil War – actually after Reconstruction when the Jim Crow laws in the South really took affect – and the social implications for them and for the country, I highly recommend “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. The Pulitzer Prize winning book chronicles one of the great untold stories in American history – the decades long migration of black citizens who fled the South to northern and western cities in search of a better life, and the growing pains which that migration caused in the cities to which they fled.

Downtown Charleston is a kaleidoscope of wonderful, historic buildings, markets, shops, restaurants, and spectacular old homes. I’ll attempt to convey a sense of it with the pictures below – there are so many wonderful buildings and scenes that I couldn’t stop taking pictures, so these are but a handful to attempt to convey a cross-section:

We took an hour-long narrated carriage ride to get an overview of the city - this is Dan, our one horsepower engine. Our guide was a history professor from Charlestom College who loves horses and history, so she was the perfect guide.

We took an hour-long narrated carriage ride to get an overview of the city – this is Dan, our one horsepower engine. Our guide was a history professor from Charlestom College who loves horses and history, so she was the perfect guide.

The center of activity in the historic district is the series on market buildings where arts, crafts, food, and interesting sundries are sold.

The center of activity in the historic district is the series of market buildings where arts, crafts, food, and interesting sundries are sold.

Hand woven baskets made from local plants can be found throughout the markets. Some take hundreds of hours to make and can cost up to a thousand dollars.

Hand woven baskets made from local plants can be found throughout the markets. Some take hundreds of hours to make and can cost up to a thousand dollars for the more intricate ones.

A typical street downtown Charleston, as are the next few pictures.

A typical street in downtown Charleston, as are the next few pictures.

 

Note the round black plates in the façade of the building on the left. A devastating earthquake hit Charlestown in 1886, destroying many buildings. Some, like this one, were able to be stabilized and saved by inserting crisscrossed steel rods attached to the outside facades of the building.

Note the round black plates in the façade of the building on the left. A devastating earthquake hit Charlestown in 1886, destroying many buildings. Some, like this one, were able to be stabilized and saved by inserting crisscrossed steel rods attached to the outside facades of the building.

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Of the many churches in the city - after all, this is the South - the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most spectacular.

Of the many churches in the city – after all, this is the South – the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most spectacular.

The inside is as spectacular as the outside.

The inside is as spectacular as the outside.

Above and following are some of the spectacular buildings that are throughout downtown Charleston

Above and following are some of the spectacular homes and other buildings that are throughout downtown Charleston

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The U. S Customs House, built in 1853

The U. S Customs House, built in 1853

The Old City Jail, which was operational from 1802 to 1939 and is now home of the American College of Building Arts.  Known for the brutality which occurred here, the jail housed captured pirates in 1822 awaiting hanging, and also housed union prisoners during the Civil War.

The Old City Jail, which was operational from 1802 to 1939 and is now home of the American College of Building Arts. Known for the brutality which occurred here, the jail housed captured pirates in 1822 awaiting hanging, and also housed union prisoners during the Civil War.

The historic Dock Street Theater, America's first theater, was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. The new musical "Catch Me If You Can" - the story of Frank Abagnale depicted in the movie of the same name staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks - was playing Friday night, so Jake, Elissa & I bought tickets and went to the show - a great performance!

The historic Dock Street Theater, America’s first theater, was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. The new musical “Catch Me If You Can” – the story of Frank Abagnale depicted in the movie of the same name staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks – was playing Friday night, so Jake, Elissa & I bought tickets and went to the show – a great performance!

This house is not historic, but has been dubbed the "Barbi house" by the tour guides

This house is not historic, but has been dubbed the “Barbi house” by the tour guides

This gave me a chuckle -

This gave me a chuckle –

So – what’s this about a lifetime of research paying off?  As anyone who has been on this trip with me knows, one of my many vices is ice cream – I’ve therefore taken it upon myself to find the best ice cream in the world.  We found some REALLY good ice cream in Canada last summer (Kawartha – salty caramel). So when I was told there was a world-renowned ice cream parlor in Savannah, we had to check it out. Founded in 1919, we were told that Leopolds ice cream has been named the 5th best ice cream in the world and #2 in the U.S. It was heavenly! So after a lifetime of research, I have declared it the best ice cream I’ve ever had:

It's worth making a trip to Savannah by itself!

It’s worth making a trip to Savannah by itself!

 

Now I have to continue my research and find #1 in the U.S and # 1, 2, 3, & 4 in the world.

Tomorrow we continue to head north!

 

 

 

 

 

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MUDCAT CHARLIE’S

Post #49:  MUDCAT CHARLIE’S;  Day  352;  April 18, 2015;  On Board:  April 5-April 11:  ALONE!!   April 11 – April 18:  Dave Luciano, Jerry Solomon (“Sol”)

The march northward started on Saturday, March 28, the day after we crossed the Gulf Stream from the Bahamas. I still had the wonderful company of Jim Small and Chrissie Bell for the run to Stuart, but they flew back to real life the next day. By design, I was alone for the next week – I wanted to experience traveling and handling the boat single-handed, so the next crew was scheduled to arrive the following Saturday in Daytona. I was fortunate to have good weather, and the boat and I got along well. My solo week included stops in Fort Pierce, Melbourne, Titusville, and Daytona Beach. Here are some images:

The downtoen Stuart waterfront includes a couple of restaurants, the marina, a boardwalk, and a stage for live performances, where this band was playing on Saturday afternoon. The historic downtown is adjacent to the waterfront, with many shops and boutiques. The Sunset Marina has live entertainment on the waterfront every night, and on Saturday night had a Beatles sound-alike band - it was packed and they were remarkably good!

The downtown Stuart waterfront includes a couple of restaurants, the marina, a boardwalk, and a stage for live performances, where this band was playing on Saturday afternoon. The historic downtown is adjacent to the waterfront, with many shops and boutiques. The Sunset Marina has live entertainment on the waterfront every night, and on Saturday night had a Beatles sound-alike band – it was packed and they were remarkably good!

The channel into Fort Pierce was well-marked, which I appreciated, being alone on board. The municipal marina has a fun restaurant/tiki bar on the waterfront and a pleasant downtown a short walk away.

The channel into Fort Pierce was well-marked, which I appreciated, being alone on board. The municipal marina has a fun restaurant/tiki bar on the waterfront and a pleasant downtown a short walk away.

You may recall from an earlier post that a magazine had run an article about the 10 best "dive bars" along the Florida coast. After missing number 9 (Alabama Jacks in Key Largo), I had to have a beer at the 10th - Archie's Seabreeze in Fort Pierce.

You may recall from an earlier post that a magazine had run an article about the 10 best “dive bars” along the Florida coast. After missing number 9 (Alabama Jacks in Key Largo), I had to have a beer at the 10th – Archie’s Seabreeze in Fort Pierce after a half hour bike ride to get there..

In FT. Pierce, I finally met Mark & allyn Callahan on Second Wind.  Mark is a member of the Charles River Yacht Club where we keep the Joint Adventure - we had never met, but Mark & Allyn have been following the blog since the start of our trip - they did the Great Loop a few years ago and are in the process of bringing Second Wind from Florida to the Chesapeake for the summer. We've since seen each other at several ports and  continue to stay in touch.

In Fort Pierce, I finally met Mark & Allyn Callahan on Second Wind.  Mark is a member of the Charles River Yacht Club where we keep the Joint Adventure – we had never met, but Mark & Allyn have been following the blog since the start of our trip – they did the Great Loop a few years ago and are in the process of bringing Second Wind from Florida to the Chesapeake for the summer. We’ve since seen each other at several ports and continue to stay in touch as we both work our way north.

Melbourne has a great beach, and I had a wonderful ocean swim in large, Atlantic Ocean waves.  This place caught my eye, though I passed it up in favor of some seafood.

Melbourne has a great beach, and I had a wonderful ocean swim in large, Atlantic Ocean waves. This sign caught my eye, though I passed it up in favor of some seafood.

Titusville was an unexpected treat in two ways.  This picture illustrates the first -  upon my arrival I was met by Ken from the vessel Carris, whom we had met several times at various stops along the way. He and other organized this "docktails" gathering for Happy Hour, with the crew of 5 boats doing the Great Loop.

Titusville was an unexpected treat in two ways. This picture illustrates the first – upon my arrival I was met by Ken from the vessel Carris, whom we had met several times at various stops along the way. He and others organized this “docktails” gathering for Happy Hour, with the crew of 5 boats doing the Great Loop, sharing stories and lots of laughs.

The second treat in Titusville was its ties to the space program and the statues, plaques, and space museum in Titusville. This is a sculpture honoring the space shuttle program, and there are others honoring the Gemini program.  Cape Canaveral is across the Indian River from Titusville, so the town is closely linked with NASA.

The second treat in Titusville was its ties to the space program, and the statues, plaques, and space museum in Titusville. This is a sculpture honoring the space shuttle program, and there are others honoring the Gemini program. Cape Canaveral is across the Indian River from Titusville, so the town is closely linked with NASA.

The Vehicle Assembly Building on Cape Canaveral, where rockets and space vehicles are built, as seen from the ICW at Titusville.

The Vehicle Assembly Building on Cape Canaveral, where rockets and space vehicles are built, as seen from the ICW at Titusville.

There are numerous beautiful sandbars and uninhabited islands along this section of the ICW, and many wonderful anchorages to spend the night.

There are numerous beautiful sandbars and uninhabited islands along this section of the ICW, and many wonderful anchorages to spend the night.

Channel markers are a favorite nesting place for Osprey.  We often see chicks in the nest as we pass by.

Channel markers are a favorite nesting place for Osprey. Notice the mother Osprey in the nest. We often see chicks in the nest as we pass by.

Many beautiful homes along the ICW as well -

Many beautiful homes along the ICW as well –

My last solo run was to Daytona Beach, where two of my roommates from college, which were my fraternity brothers and are still two of my best friends – Dave Luciano and Jerry Solomon (“Sol”) – joined me for the next week. I arrived Friday, and since they didn’t arrive until Saturday, I rode my bike to the beach Friday afternoon.  No one will ever believe that this was a coincidence and that I didn’t plan it this way, but when I arrived at the beach I discovered that the NCAA National Collegiate Cheerleading Championship was underway. Of course, I couldn’t resist watching the competition and taking a few pictures…..

Who knew.....?

Who knew…..?

No explanation needed...

No explanation needed…

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The acrobatics of these kids is truly amazing - they literally throw these girls 15 feet in the air then collectively catch them.

The acrobatics of these kids is truly amazing – they literally throw these girls 15 feet in the air then collectively catch them (hopefully)….

AAAADay-cheer4

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Afterwards, many of the teams went onto the beach to celebtrate

Afterwards, many of the teams went onto the beach to celebrate and do what they do…

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Dave & Sol arrived Saturday, so we rode our bikes back to Daytona Beach:

The world-famous Daytona Beach, where cars are still allowed to drive and park on the beach.

The world-famous Daytona Beach, where cars are still allowed to drive and park on the beach.

Riding on the sand, enjoying the sights -

Riding on the sand, enjoying the sights –

There is an amusement park overlooking a portion of the beach, and this is one of the "rides" - the small dot above the two towers is several people in a seat, which it flung from the ground into the air, after which it bounces up and down for awhile from the two bungee-like cords that hold it, while the seat rotates wildly, rolling over, upside down, back and fort several times. I would not survive.

There is an amusement park overlooking a portion of the beach, and this is one of the “rides” – the small dot above the two towers is several people in a seat, which it flung from the ground into the air, after which it bounces up and down for awhile from the two bungee-like cords that hold it, while the seat rotates wildly, rolling over, upside down, back and fort several times. I would not survive.

A cool cloud overhanging the beach -

A cool cloud overhanging the beach –

Our next stop was St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the continental United States. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore the East coast of Florida, and is thought to have ventured as far as north as present day Saint Augustine in 1513 – he named the land “La Florida”  because of all the beautiful flowers, and claimed it for Spain.  Shortly after the founding of St. Augustine, the French built a fort and tried to establish a settlement at the mouth of the St. John’s River (near current day Jacksonville), but were driven out by the Spanish. In 1566, a local Native Chief burned St. Augustine, after which the settlement was moved to its present location. In 1586, St. Augustine was again burned, this time by Sir Francis Drake, driving the settlers into the wilderness. However, the British lacked settlers to establish a foothold, so they left the area and the Spanish retained control. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain via the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years War (also known as the French & Indian War), in exchange for turning over Havana to Spain. Rather than live under British rule, most of the Spanish fled St. Augustine for Cuba. However, in 1783, when Britain signed the peace treaty which ended the American Revolution and granted independence, Britain also signed a separate agreements with Spain in which Britain again ceded Florida back to Spain. During this second period of Spanish control, from 1784 to 1821, no new settlements were established and Spain exercised little control over the territory. Finally, in 1821, Spain peaceably transferred ownership of Florida and St. Augustine to the United States under the Adams-Onis Treaty, negotiated by John Quincy Adams. Florida later gained statehood in 1845.

St. Augustine today prominently displays its Spanish heritage through its many historic buildings from the two Spanish periods, its many museums, its shops with a Spanish bent, and its many Spanish restaurants.

We stayed for two days in St. Augustine, which was not enough time to see and experience all that the City has to offer.  Here are some images:

Castillo de San Marcos is the Spanish fort in St. Augustine, which protected St. Augustine during the early Spanish periods.

Castillo de San Marcos is the Spanish fort in St. Augustine, which protected St. Augustine during the early Spanish periods.

This is the oldest surviving wooden schoolhouse in the US.

This is the oldest surviving wooden schoolhouse in the US.

St. Georges Street is one of the main historic areas in the city, with scores of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and pubs in the many historic buildings.

St. Georges Street is one of the main historic areas in the city, with scores of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and pubs in the many historic buildings.

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A statue of Florida "discoverer" Ponce de Leon in the main square

A statue of Florida “discoverer” Ponce de Leon in the main square in St. Augustine.

The Ponce de Leon Hotel was the first of the luxury hotels built in St. Augustine by Henry Flagler in 1888, costing $2.5 million. He hired an inventer named Thomas Edison to bring electricity into the hotel.

The Ponce de Leon Hotel was the first of the luxury hotels built in St. Augustine by Henry Flagler in 1888, costing $2.5 million. He hired an inventer named Thomas Edison to bring electricity into the hotel.

Now the Lightner Museum, this was Flagler's second hotel. In 1948, it was purchased by Otto Lightner and now houses his extensive collections and is open to the public.

Now the Lightner Museum, this was Flagler’s second hotel. In 1948, it was purchased by Otto Lightner and now houses his extensive collections and is open to the public.

Now the home of Ripley's Believe It or Not, Castle Warden was built by William Warden as his home, then purchased by Ripley's in 1949.

Now the home of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Castle Warden was built by William Warden as his home, then purchased by Ripley’s in 1949.

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was build by Henry Flagler in 1889 as a memorial to his daughter and granddaughter, both of whom died during childbirth. He wanted it to be complete by the first anniversary of their death, so he hired 1,000 men, half of worked during the day and the other half all night. It was completed in 361 days. Flagler, his first wife, his daughter, and granddaughter are all entombed in the west wing of the church.

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was build by Henry Flagler in 1889 as a memorial to his daughter and granddaughter, both of whom died during childbirth. He wanted it to be complete by the first anniversary of their death, so he hired 1,000 men, half of worked during the day and the other half all night. It was completed in 361 days. Flagler, his first wife, his daughter, and his granddaughter are all entombed in the west wing of the church.

The inside of Flagler's church.

The inside of Flagler’s church.

This full-sized replica of a Spanish Galion was built in Spain in 2009 and was docked near us in the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. It regularly makes the voyage to Spain and back.

This full-sized replica of a Spanish Galion was built in Spain in 2009 and was docked near us in the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. It regularly makes the voyage to Spain and back.

This massive steel cross was erected in 1965 marking the 400th anniversary of the first Catholic mass held in the New World on this spot. It weighs 70 tons and was constructed out of 200 steel panels.

This massive steel cross was erected in 1965 marking the 400th anniversary of the first Catholic mass held in the New World on this spot. It weighs 70 tons and was constructed out of 200 steel panels.

Two famous lions mark the entrance to the iconic Bridge of Lions, which crosses the ICW at St. Augustine. From the look on its face, I think it just ate a tourist....

Two famous lions mark the entrance to the iconic Bridge of Lions, which crosses the ICW at St. Augustine. From the look on its face, I think it just ate a tourist and got caught….

My cousin Steve Dempsey and his girlfriend Lisa live in St. Augustine and came to the boat to share a Happy Hour drink with us. We had a great time exchanging stories, and they both imparted their local knowledge regarding sights to see.

My cousin Steve Dempsey and his girlfriend Lisa live in St. Augustine and came to the boat to share a Happy Hour drink with us. We had a great time exchanging stories, and they both imparted their local knowledge regarding sights to see.

From St. Augustine, we went to Jacksonville Beach where we again rode our bikes to the beach. We reached a major milestone with Sol at Jacksonville Beach – he grew up in the Bronx accustomed to concrete and pools, and hates the four “S’s” – sand, salt, sun, and surf. But he’s a good sport, as this picture will attest:

Sol walking on the sand, in the salt & surf, and also in the sun! Dave is walking behind him, watching for sharks (another "s" that he doesn't like...).

Sol walking on the sand, in the salt & surf, and also in the sun! Dave is walking behind him, watching for sharks (another “s” that he doesn’t like…).

On our way the next day on the ICW, we came upon a stranded boater who had run the battery down on his battery-powered engine and flagged us down to help him get back home:

We tied a bow line and a stern line from his boat to the Joint Adventure and took him along for the ride -

We tied a bow line and a stern line from his boat to the Joint Adventure and took him along for the ride –

Our next stop was Amelia Island, our last stop in Florida. It is the only piece of land in the entire US to have had eight different flags of domination: Spanish, French, Patriots, McGregor’s, Green Cross, British, Mexican, Confederate, and United States. Amelia Island was named by Money magazine as one of the 25 best places in the world to vacation, due to its beautiful beaches, natural environment, recreation, and historic sites. the Historic District in the town of Fernandina Beach is 50 blocks in area and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It rained in the afternoon when we arrived so we didn’t make it to the beach, but the historic town of Fernandina Beach is a real gem. Shops, historic buildings, and restored historic homes abound:

Reportedly the oldest bar in Florida is in Fernandina Beach -

Reportedly the oldest bar in Florida is in Fernandina Beach –

A restored building in the historic downtown area

A restored building in the historic downtown area

Everything changed when we entered the “low country” of Georgia. The ICW becomes a series of tidal estuaries, creeks, inlets, and “cuts” through the marshes, all stitched together to make a continuous, though ever-winding waterway through the marshlands.  It is stunningly beautiful. It also requires focus to follow the winding, ever-changing channel with plenty of shallow spots to pick through. We elected to bypass the larger towns and marinas, but opted instead to explore “rural Georgia”. We found it at the Two Way Fish Camp & Marina.  We decided to ignore some of the scarier reviews that Sol read in the guide books, such as: “a visit to the set for Deliverance”;  “loaded with mosquitos, the Georgia state bird”. We found a mixed bag:  the docks were adequate, and the other facilities marginal. However, some of the boats at the marina were downright comical – here’s an example:

Dave's next wooden boat project....This boat is sitting in the water - and apparently has been sitting there for some time. There is a strong tidal current here, which switches direction every three hours. It brings debris with it - sticks, leaves, etc. - which builds up over time. This boat has been there so long that the debris has sprouted plants, which are now growing all around the boat, between the boat and the dock. There were actually a dozen or more others like it in the marina, but this one won the prize...

Dave’s next wooden boat project….This boat is sitting in the water – and apparently has been sitting there for some time. There is a strong tidal current here, which switches direction every six hours. It brings debris with it – sticks, leaves, etc. – which builds up over time. This boat has been there so long that the debris has sprouted plants, which are now growing all around the boat, between the boat and the dock. There were actually a dozen or more others like it in the marina, but this one won the prize…The boat needs a bit of work as well –

Two Way Fish Marina - in rural Georgia - is a training center for federal law enforcement agents of various types thet are water-based. All of the inflatables and all of the center-consoles (unmarked) are federal training boats. Go figure....

Two Way Fish Marina – in rural Georgia – is a training center for federal law enforcement agents of various types thet are water-based. All of the inflatables and all of the center-consoles (unmarked) are federal training boats. Go figure….

MUDCAT CHARLIE'S - in rural Georgia parlance, a "mudcat" is a bottom fish that lives in the mud - I thought it was limited a catfish, but I've been assured that it refers to any of many types of fish that thrive in the swamps and bayous of the low country. Surprisingly, Two Way Fish Camp has a restaurant on site - it's named, fittingly, "MUDCAT CHARLIE'S. Not surprisingly, the food was fresh and excellent. So I titled this entry MUDCAT CHARLIE's because it epitomizes the rural Georgia environment of this part of the Atlantic ICW

MUDCAT CHARLIE’S – in rural Georgia parlance, a “mudcat” is a bottom fish that lives in the mud – I thought it was limited a catfish, but I’ve been assured that it refers to any of many types of fish that thrive in the swamps and bayous of the low country, living in the mud. Surprisingly, Two Way Fish Camp has a restaurant on site – it’s named, fittingly, “MUDCAT CHARLIE’S. Not surprisingly, the food was fresh and excellent. So I titled this entry MUDCAT CHARLIE’s because it epitomizes the rural Georgia environment of this part of the Atlantic ICW

This is the remnants of my dinner at MUDCAT CHARLIE's - three grilled catfish, served whole and cooked perfectly.

This is the remnants of my dinner at MUDCAT CHARLIE’s – three grilled catfish, served whole and cooked perfectly.

We opted the next day to continue our exploration of rural Georgia, turning up the Kilkenny River to Kilkenny Plantation and Marina – talk about a diamond in the rough! The marina is old and rustic, but truly authentic. There are live shrimp bait wells right on the docks, which are replenished daily. The facilities are tired but adequate. The marina is small, with room for only 4 or 5 boats. The current is fierce. The marina sits on the edge of the Kilkenny River overlooking miles of salt water estuaries and marshes, about a mile and a half off the ICW.

The original 662 acre Kilkenny Plantation was established around 1778, prior to the Revolutionary War. Cotton was raised on the plantation, and the plantation home which still exists was built around 1845. There were several slaves quarters on the plantation – those have been demolished, but other old outbuildings remain. During the Civil War, a Union gunboat shelled the property, and shattered beams from the shelling are still visible in the house. Henry Ford purchased and restored the property, including the former slave quarters. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, though the main plantation house is vacant and in need of some repair, as are some of the outbuildings on the site.

In addition to the plantation and the bayou scenery, there is an excellent local restaurant adjacent to the marina that serves fresh, local fish, superbly prepared.

Here are some images:

The marina dock - tides run up to 9 feet. The superstructure holds an overhead crane used to pick fishing boats off their trailers and lower them into the water- and raise them back up upon return.

The marina dock – tides run up to 9 feet. The superstructure holds an overhead crane used to pick fishing boats off their trailers and lower them into the water- and raise them back up upon return.

A fishing boat being lowered into the water from the crane -

A fishing boat being lowered into the water from the crane –

A shrimp boat at the Kilkenny dock.

A shrimp boat at the Kilkenny dock.

The Joint Adventure at the single dock at Kilkenny Marina

The Joint Adventure at the single dock at Kilkenny Marina

The single marina building, with a deck overlooking the bayou.

The marina building, with a deck overlooking the bayou. Not exactly a resort, but it has its own charm –

 

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None 0f these small aquatic animals were around when we arrived in the afternoon, but by the following morning there were millions of these critters in the waters of the bayou. We were told that they are wood worms which appear for a day or two once a year, then disappear – apparently, we hit the lottery. By the afternoon, they were all gone.

The view of the bayous and the salt water marsh from the marina docks -

The view of the bayous and the salt water marsh from the marina docks –

The 1845 main house on the Kilkenny Plantation

The 1845 main house on the Kilkenny Plantation

An outbuilding on the plantation

An outbuilding on the plantation – notice the enormous Live Oak in the foreground.

The plantation grounds surrounding the marina are adorned by scores of enormous Live Oaks, estimated to be 250 - 300 years old. ry as I did, pictures just canno capture the majesty and magnificence of these enormous trees, shrouded in hanging Spanish moss.

The plantation grounds surrounding the marina are adorned by scores of enormous Live Oaks, estimated to be 250 – 300 years old. Try as I might, pictures just cannot capture the majesty and magnificence of these enormous trees, shrouded in hanging Spanish moss.

Look at these trees -

Look at these trees –

A bald eagle reins over the bayou -

A bald eagle reins over the bayou –

All this scenery just plain tuckered Dave out....

All this scenery just plain tuckered Dave out….

A unique Looper - this is our first encounter with Bob, who started in Minneapolis and is doing the Loop solo in a 26 foot houseboat on a shoestring budget - he has a small chart plotter but no paper charts on board, and two dogs to keep him company.  YIKES!

A unique Looper – this is our first encounter with Bob, who started in Minneapolis and is doing the Loop solo in a 26 foot houseboat on a shoestring budget – yes, a houseboat. He has a small chart plotter but no paper charts on board, and two dogs to keep him company. YIKES!

We had a crew change - sadly, Dave & Sol left after a fantastic week of laughs and reminiscences. Happily, Jake & Elissa Mycofsky came aboard. From left to right:  Jim K, Sol (Jerry Solomon), Dave Luciano, Jake Mycofsky,  Elissa Mycofsky

We had a crew change – sadly, Dave & Sol left after a fantastic week of laughs and reminiscences. We even made contact with Don Goddard, our close friend and fraternity brother with whom we had lost contact for 25 years. Happily, Jake & Elissa Mycofsky came aboard. From left to right: Jim K, Sol (Jerry Solomon), Dave Luciano, Jake Mycofsky, Elissa Mycofsky

Tomorrow we continue to head north, as we hear that the earth is thawing and the weather is warming. More to come.

 

 

 

 

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THE BAHAMAS (PART 2)

Post #48:  THE BAHAMAS (Part 2):  Day 338;  April 4, 2015.  On board:  Barb Stabile, Louise Bombardieri, Trish K, Jim K.    Partial:  Jenny K, Chris Hart

We were fortunate enough to have Barb Stabile and Louise Bombardieri fly into Marsh Harbor to meet us on Friday (March 20). Jenny & Chris weren’t flying out until Sunday, so we took the opportunity to go to Man of War Cay after the girls landed. On the way, Chris put out a fishing line and soon we had Friday night dinner:

Another fresh fish dinner!

A fine catch!

Chris not only catches and cleans the fish, but he and Jenny cook the gourmet meal as well!  From left to right, Chris, Jenny, Barb, Louise, Trish

Chris not only catches and cleans the fish, but he and Jenny cook the gourmet meal as well! From left to right, Chris, Jenny, Barb, Louise, Trish

We left Man of War Cay on Saturday and spent the day anchored in the Sea of Abaco. From the first anchorage, Jenny & Chris took the dinghy fishing while Barb, Louise, Trish & I hung out on the boat.  It was hot, so after awhile the girls wanted to swim off the boat. However, the tide was running hard and the current was strong, going out to sea. So for safety, we tied a rope to the stern of the boat and they had to hold onto the rope anytime they were in the water:

If I pulled up the anchor, maybe they could water ski....

If I pulled up the anchor, maybe they could water ski….

Hang onto that rope!!

Hang onto that rope!!

Jenny & Chris, returning to the Mother Ship...

Jenny & Chris, returning to the Mother Ship…

....fishing all the way -

….fishing all the way –

Although his birthday was still a of couple weeks away, but we celebrated Chris’s 30th in Marsh Harbor that evening:

Oh, to be thirty again....

Oh, to be thirty again….

While in Marsh Harbor, I had to take this picture - "Land Ho, Matey!!!

While in Marsh Harbor, I had to take this picture – “Land Ho, Matey!!!

Our next stop was Turtle Cay – purported to be one on the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Crescent shaped and miles long, it is truly stunning – the sand is fine and white, and the water is an incredible shade of light teal:

Swimming in the clear, beautiful waters of the beach at Treasure Cay

Swimming in the clear, beautiful waters of the beach at Treasure Cay

Enjoying the beach at Turtle Cay -

My crew and buddies for the week – I am truly a lucky guy!

From Turtle Cay, we ran the next day back to Man of War Cay.  We had met Harvey and Mary Helen on the vessel Lollygagger six months earlier when we arrived at a marina in the dark after getting stuck for 5 hours waiting to be put through a lock on the Tennessee River – Harvey guided us into the dock with a flashlight then invited us onto Lollygagger for a badly-needed drink! They were docked for a few weeks at Man of War Cay, so we had the good fortune to spend some time with them:

Harvey & Mary Helen

Harvey & Mary Helen invited us onto Lollygagger for drinks, after which we went to dinner in the restaurant adjacent to the marina.  Harvey & Mary Helen are a most enjoyable and interesting couple, regaling us with stories of the 32 years that Harvey was in the Virginia legislature and Mary Helen worked alongside him there. From left to right: Louise, Trish, Jim K, Harvey, Mary Helen, Barb

The following morning, Harvey took us on a walking tour of Man of War Cay. Having spent extended periods of time on Man of War Cay over several years, Harvey seems to know everyone and everything about the Cay.

The following morning, Harvey took us on a walking tour of Man of War Cay. Having spent extended periods of time on Man of War Cay over several years, Harvey seems to know everyone and everything about the Cay.

Harvey showed us the boat-building operation of the Albury Brothers - the business is now run by several of the eight brothers who inherited it from their father many years ago. they build durable, high quality wood boats in the 20 30 foot range, all by hand. In this picture are pieces of roots from Maderia trees, with strong, hard wood that grow on the islands of the Bahamas. They harvest pieces that grow in various shapes that can be milled without bending into the structural ribs of their boats. They soak each piece in the ocean water for four months prior to use to kill any organisms that might live in the wood.

Harvey showed us the boat-building operation of the Albury Brothers – the business is now run by several of the eight brothers who inherited it from their father many years ago. They build durable, high quality wood boats in the 20 to 30 foot range, all by hand. In this picture are pieces of roots from Maderia trees, with strong, hard wood that grow on the islands of the Bahamas. They harvest roots that grow in various shapes that can be milled without bending into the structural ribs of their boats. Harvey explained that they soak each piece in the ocean water, as shown in the picture, for four months prior to use to kill any organisms that might live in the wood.

Our next stop was a re-visit to Hopetown, this time with Barb & Louise aboard. Here are some pictures:

Louise at the helm on our way to Hopetown -

Louise at the helm on our way to Hopetown –

Enjoying a Happy Hour drink at the pool/tiki bar...

Enjoying a Happy Hour drink at the pool/tiki bar…

Now this place understands the importance of the afternoon ice cream stop...

Now this place understands the importance of the afternoon ice cream stop…

I'm just the reporter here....

I’m just the reporter here….

OK, I know I'm getting close to the edge here....

OK, I know I’m getting close to the edge here….

In a previous blog update, I posted a picture of the iconic Hopetown lighthouse. In our second visit, I learned that you could climb the lighthouse at dusk and watch the lighthouse keeper light the ancient kerosene lamp. So up I went, and indeed, with just 2 or 3 other people, was able to participate in the half hour procedure of lighting the light. This picture is taken from inside the lens compartment of the light after the kerosene light was coaxed into burning. It is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world, and burns kerosene with a wick and mantle - much like your Coleman camping lantern. Although it can be seen for 17 miles out to sea, the actual light is no bigger than a Coke bottle - the Fresnel lens concentrates the beam so effectively.  The lens and burner mechanism weighs 8,000 pounds but floats on a bed of liquid mercury - it can thus be rotated by the push of a finger (which I did). However, the keeper must climb the lighthouse every two hours all night, every night, to re-wind the hand-cranked mechanism that keeps the light beam rotating.

In the last blog update, I posted a picture of the iconic Hopetown lighthouse. In our second visit, I learned that you could climb the lighthouse at dusk and watch the lighthouse keeper light the ancient kerosene lamp. So up I went, and indeed, with just 2 or 3 other people, I was able to participate in the half hour procedure of lighting the light. This picture is taken from inside the lens compartment of the light after the kerosene light was coaxed into staying lit. It is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world, and burns kerosene with a wick and mantle – much like your Coleman camping lantern. Although it can be seen for 17 miles out to sea, the actual light is no bigger than a Coke bottle – the Fresnel lens concentrates the beam so effectively. The lens and burner mechanism weighs 8,000 pounds but floats on a bed of liquid mercury – it can thus be rotated by the push of a finger (which I did). However, the keeper must climb the lighthouse every two hours all night, every night, to re-wind the hand-cranked mechanism that keeps the light beam rotating.

My week with the girls ended when we ran back to Marsh Harbor – they flew home while the next crew – Jim Small and Chrissie Bell – flew in. It was then time to start working our way back to the West End to look for a favorable weather window to cross the Gulf Stream back to the States. Although conditions were not ideal to navigate Whale Cay Passage, wide open to the Atlantic, we picked our way through 5 foot seas to get to Green Turtle Cay. Green Turtle has two separate harbors, one near each end of the island. White Sound is the “resort” type harbor where most cruisers go, while Black Sound is the “local” harbor. We, of course, opted for Black Sound, and rode our bikes a short distance to the town of New Plymouth.  It is a small, charming, unspoiled settlement where Bahamians make their living mostly from the sea. We ate at a small, local restaurant where the owner was the baker, cook, waitress, and everything else that was needed.

Here are some pictures from Green Turtle Cay:

New Plymouth is a lovely, seaside settlement at Black Harbor on Green Turtle Cay

New Plymouth is a lovely, seaside settlement at Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay

The local "hangout" in New Plymouth -

The Sunset Lounge – the local “hangout” in New Plymouth –

The settlement focuses its attention on the sea -

The settlement focuses its attention on the sea –

As in the more remote, outer cays, the streets are narrow concrete, and golf carts are the mode of transportation.

As in the more remote, outer cays, the streets are narrow concrete, and golf carts are the mode of transportation.

Chrissie Bell & Jim Small - we rode our bikes the length of the island, from Black Harbor to White Harbor. We stopped at the ocean-side beach along the way, where this picture was taken -

Chrissie Bell & Jim Small – we rode our bikes the length of the island, from Black Sound to White Sound. We stopped at the ocean-side beach along the way, where this picture was taken –

I expected the resorts at White Harbor to be very expensive and glitzy, but was pleasantly surprised. Both were built several decades ago and were very pleasant and comfortable, not overstated, and seemed to have grown in place. We stopped and had an afternoon drink at the Green Turtle Club - the pub, adorned with signed dollar bills pinned to the walls over the decade, is shown here.

I expected the two resorts at White Sound to be very expensive and glitzy, but was pleasantly surprised. Both were built several decades ago and were very pleasant and comfortable, not overstated, and seemed to have grown in place. We stopped and had an afternoon drink at the Green Turtle Club – the pub, adorned with signed dollar bills pinned to the walls over the decades, is shown here.

We continued to retrace our steps as we moved towards the West End, cruising about 60 miles to Grand Cay. We left Grand Cay the following morning and anchored at Double Breasted/Sandy Cay, which we had visited a few weeks earlier by dinghy with Jenny & Chris. We stayed the entire day and intended to stay the night at anchor, but a 20 knot wind was predicted to kick up overnight from the one direction from which we were totally exposed. So we decided to cook dinner on board, then leave at dusk and tie to the dock at Grand Cay.  Here are some pictures:

We spent the day exploring the expansive flats, walking in water between 1 and 5 feet deep in various locations as the tide came in. We saw schools of barracuda, including a 3 foot long one that cruised 10 feet from me in a foot of water looking for a meal in the flats. The Joint Adventure is anchored in the background.

We spent the day exploring the expansive flats, walking in water between 1 and 5 feet deep in various locations as the tide came in. We saw schools of barracuda, including a 3 foot long specimen that cruised 10 feet from me in a foot of water looking for a meal in the flats. We also snorkeled in the deeper water on the other side of the rock and coral islands in the foreground. You can see the Joint Adventure anchored in the background.

Anchoring a catamaran is a little different from anchoring a monohull. In order to ride properly at anchor, the anchor line is attached to a bridle, which is attached to the bow of each pontoon, as shown in the picture. The anchor line above the bridle is secured with slack so that the bridle takes up the force.

Anchoring a catamaran is a little different from anchoring a monohull. In order to ride properly at anchor, the anchor line is attached to a bridle, which is attached to the bow of each pontoon, as shown in the picture. The anchor line above the bridle is secured with slack so that the bridle takes up the force.

In the Bahamas, we always used a trip line with a float on the anchor so we could pull it up if it got snagged on a rock or coral or other obstruction on the seabed. Here Jim is pulling up the float on the trip line while the anchor is being raised.

In the Bahamas, we always used a trip line with a float on the anchor so we could pull it up if it got snagged on a rock or coral or other obstruction on the seabed. Here Jim is pulling up the float on the trip line while the anchor is being raised.

Jim & Chrissie on Sandy Cay -

Jim & Chrissie on Sandy Cay –

Due to the predicted winds, we pulled up the anchor after dinner at dusk and headed for the harbor in Grand Cay. On the way, we saw this amazing sunset as the sun seemingly disappeared into the sea.

Due to the predicted winds, we pulled up the anchor after dinner at dusk and headed for the harbor in Grand Cay. On the way, we saw this amazing sunset as the sun seemingly disappeared into the sea.

We left early the next morning on a somewhat rough, 65 mile run to the West End to look for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. While spending a day exploring  and riding our bikes around the West End Village, we came upon my new friend with the beard that I had met a month earlier. We couldn’t resist taking a picture of the two of us together:

He told me his name several times, but I couldn't pronounce it and I could never spell it, so I'll just call him my West End Friend

He told me his name several times, but I couldn’t pronounce it and I could never spell it, so I’ll just call him my West End Friend

After a month in the Bahamas, we left Grand Bahama Island early on Friday, April 3 and headed due west across the Gulf Stream for Palm Beach. We had a 10 knot wind on our port stern quarter, so the passage was a bit rolly – not quite the smooth, calm water of our trip east, but quite tolerable. Culture shock hit us upon our arrival – the inlet at Palm Beach was crowded with boats and the narrow channel at low tide near Sailfish Marina was jammed with boats of every size and description heading every which way. Much different from the laid-back outer cays of the Bahamas!

One last anecdote regarding out visit to the Bahamas. My daughter Jenny loves to bake, and has a “baking blog” entitled “Sugar Mason”. She is a talented writer (brag, brag) with a unique way of looking at the world and at her surroundings, and a unique way of expressing what she sees and feels. After she and Chris had spent ten days with us in the Bahamas, Jenny posted the following excerpt on her blog. I thought I would share it with you:

“we spent ten days on the sea.    floating along.    intermittently pulled through the mouth of a harbor by the sounds of people cracking conch.   we turned off our phones that can sometimes be too smart.    and felt a headache dissolve that we didn’t know we had.    on the first day we yelled about politics.    by day two we found ourselves wanting to talk of nothing but fish.    when the fish stopped biting, we mixed ginger beer with coconut rum.    we gaped, breathless, at the water.    and stared long and hard, hoping our eyes would absorb the translucent color, the greatest of all souvenirs.    we put fins on our feet and escaped to a world where the grass grows blue & orange & purple.    we hunted fish with spears in our hands.    humbled by the fish with spears for teeth, hungry like us.    we cannonballed into waves.    and read words from paper.    we spent an evening mesmerized by a lone beam of light, merry-go-rounding it’s way through the dark.    we imagined the lives of sailors it spared.    and dreamt about the lives it did not.    we ended each day around a table.    looking at maps for tomorrow’s journey.    already nostalgic for yesterday’s magic.    an internal mantra echoed through my head.    louder with each passing sunset.    i am grateful for the sea.    i am grateful for the fish.    i am grateful for the rum   . but mostly, i am grateful for the company.”

If you’re interested in baking and great recipes, or just interested in some unique writing and great photographs, the link to her blog is:   sugarmason.com/

We now start our journey north along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway toward Boston and the completion of our voyage. We have about 1500 miles to go, so there are still plenty of adventures and challenges ahead. On we go…

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BAHAMAS!

Post #47 – THE BAHAMAS!  March 21, 2015.  On Board:  Jenny K, Chris Hart, Trish K, Jim K.

According to an official count made in 1864 for Governor Rawson, the Bahamas consist of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks. It’s unknown if anyone has attempted a re-count the rocks since then. By the way, by definition, an island has its own source of fresh water, while a cay has no fresh water. (Incidentally, after being corrected several times, I learned that “cay” is pronounced “key”). I don’t know the definition of a “rock” used to make the count.

The first humans are thought to have arrived in the Bahamas in the first millennium AD, migrating in dugout canoes from the Cuba, Hispaniola (now Haiti/Dominican Republic), and the islands of the Caribbean. Just prior to European contact, the population of what is now the Bahamas rose to about 40,000 people.  Everything changed on October 12, 1492, however, when Columbus landed on one of the islands in the Bahamas, though historians disagree on which island it was.  Over the next 30 years, nearly the entire population was transported by the Spaniards to other islands to work as slaves – when the Spaniards decided to move any remaining people to Hispaniola, they could find only eleven. The islands remained uninhabited for the next 130 years – since they had no gold, Spain had no real interest in them.  Europeans then began to form small settlements in various locations in the mid 1600’s. Life was hard – the sparse population supported itself by living off the sea, farming, and increasingly by wrecking – the practice of salvaging goods from ships which wrecked on the many reefs and shoals surrounding the islands. However, the future of the islands changed dramatically once again when Britain lost the Revolutionary War. Thousands of Loyalists – loyal to Britain – fled the new American nation and settled in the Bahamas, tripling the population within just a few years. The Loyalists brought slaves with them; in addition, thousands of captive Africans who were liberated from foreign slave ships by the British after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 were resettled in the Bahamas as free men. As a result, today, 85% of the population of the Bahamas are descendants of slaves. Many of the others are descendants of the Loyalists from the 1700’s.

So the next leg of our trip started when Trish, our daughter Jenny, and her boyfriend Chris flew to Freeport and arrived in the West End.  Our plan was to work our way to Marsh Harbor in the Abacos by the end of the week, where Jenny & Chris would fly out and our next crew would fly in. First, we spent a day in the West End, where we hired one of the local fisherman to take us out on his skiff to do some spear fishing, some hand-line fishing, and some diving for conch. He goes by the nickname “Magic”, and is a real character. His old outboard motor would only start by hand, so he had to take the cover off every time he needed to start the motor.  Here are some pictures:

Magic promising we're going to catch some fish and some conch...

Magic promising we’re going to catch some fish and some conch…his personality comes across in this picture.

Magic showing us how to hand-line, the old fashion way

Magic showing us how to hand-line, the old fashion way

Magic with a lion fish, which he speared.  Lion fish are an invasive species in the Bahamas, and impart a very painful sting with the barbs on their back.  They are small but, very tasty.

Magic with a lion fish, which he speared. Lion fish are an invasive species in the Bahamas, and impart a very painful sting with the barbs on their back. They are small but, very tasty.

Chris bringing up a Lion Fish which he speared.

Chris bringing up a Lion Fish which he speared.

Our day with Magic yielded a cooler full of fish and about a dozen conch Chris and Jenny cooked up for dinner the next couple of nights.

Our day with Magic yielded a cooler full of fish and about a dozen conch which Chris and Jenny cooked up for dinner the next couple of nights.

What a feast!!!

What a feast!!!

 

Our first stop after the West End was Grand Cay, one of the more remote outer cays in the northern Abacos.  Here are some pictures from the 65 mile run to Grand Cay:

Before we headed to Grand Cay, I hired two divers to clean the marine growth off the bottom of the boat. It grows rapidly in the warm waters of south Florida and the Bahamas, and will significantly reduce fuel economy and slow the boat if left unchecked.  It was last done in January in Fort Myers Beach.

Before we headed to Grand Cay, I hired two divers to clean the marine growth off the bottom of the boat. It grows rapidly in the warm waters of south Florida and the Bahamas, and will significantly reduce fuel economy and slow the boat if left unchecked. It was last done in January in Fort Myers Beach.

Chris put out a fishing line as we cruised at about 8 knots toward Grand Cay.  After catching a small tuna, we hooked onto a couple a barracuda, both of which we brought to the boat then released. Here is one of them as it was being brought to the boat.

Chris put out a fishing line as we cruised at about 8 knots toward Grand Cay. After catching a small tuna, we hooked onto a couple a barracuda, both of which we brought to the boat then released. Here is one of them as it was being brought to the boat.

Jenny trying to reel it in...

Jenny trying to reel it in…

Chris trying to figure out how to get the hook out of the barracuda - I'm glad it was his job...

Chris trying to figure out how to get the hook out of the barracuda – I’m glad it was his job…

Notwithstanding the barracudas which are obviously present, a swim to cool off was too tempting for Chris

Notwithstanding the presence of the barracudas, a swim to cool off was too tempting for Chris….

...and Jenny.

…and Jenny.

Grand Cay is “off the beaten path” – it’s a small, rather remote cay with a population of about 600 Bahamians.  It is a small fishing settlement, and ninety percent of the people make their living by fishing or diving for conch and spiney lobsters. Scores of small skiffs go out every morning with two or three men to a boat. Divers wear wet suits for protection more than warmth, and spend the day mostly under water. There are no tanks – a small compressor in the boat continuously pumps air to the diver through a hose while the diver scours the bottom for conch and lobster in 10-15 feet of water.  At the end of the day, the skiffs start returning in the late afternoon and into the evening, and the catch is cleaned and frozen for shipment to Marsh Harbor or Freeport. It is hard work and a sparse living, but the people take pride in what they do and most that I spoke with wouldn’t want any other lifestyle.  It seems that anyone who wants to fish and dive can do so and have an outlet for their catch, so there seems to be less poverty and less joblessness than in the West End, where the fishing is primarily subsistence fishing.

We docked at Rosie’s Place (Rosie is an older gentleman – Roosevelt is his name), which is the only marina on the island and one of the two operations which collect and ship the catch to Marsh Harbor & Freeport. The dock where we tied up is right in the middle of the fishing operation and is quite rustic – no resort here.

Here are some images:

Rosie's Place in the harbor on Grand Cay, where the skiffs depart in the morning and return with their catch in the evening.

Rosie’s Place in the harbor on Grand Cay, where the skiffs depart in the morning and return with their catch in the evening.

A skiff coming in to Rosie's Place at dusk

A skiff coming in to Rosie’s Place at dusk

The dock where fishermen bring their catch to the other operation on the island that ships it out - Doug, did you build this?

The dock where fishermen bring their catch to the other operation on the island that ships the catch to market – Doug, did you build this?

The settlement consists of small houses, some well kept and others in disrepair. A few "commercial" establishments provide services to the local people - baking bread, small stores, and the like.

The settlement consists of small houses, some well kept and others in disrepair. A few “commercial” establishments provide services to the local people – baking bread, small stores, and the like.

All the streets are of concrete and are narrow - there are no cars on the island, only golf carts.

All the streets are of concrete and are narrow – there are no cars on the island, only golf carts.

 

Many of the colors are quite vibrant

Many of the colors are quite vibrant

From Grand Cay, we took the dinghy about 3 miles to Double Breasted and Sandy Cays, which are small, remote, uninhabited cays with incredible beauty – acre upon acre of sandy beach which is exposed at low tide and a foot under water at high tide, and rock/coral islands which are teeming with fish and aquatic plants. Here are some pictures from our visit:

Acres of white sand, a foot under water at high tide

Acres of white sand, a foot under water at high tide

Sandy Cay, with some rock/coral islands in the background

Sandy Cay, with some rock/coral islands in the background

Jenny on one of the rock/coral islands at Double Breasted Cay

Jenny on one of the rock/coral islands at Double Breasted Cay

Jenny & Chris getting ready to spear fish at Double Breasted Cay

Jenny & Chris getting ready to spear fish at Double Breasted Cay

On the hunt....

On the hunt….

Even Trish got into the swing of things - but from the boat....

Even Trish got into the swing of things – but from the boat….

Coming back in the dingy from Sandy & Double Breasted Cays

Coming back in the dingy from Sandy & Double Breasted Cays

Our next stop was Spanish Cay, 65 miles southeast of Grand Cay. Spanish Cay is privately owned, and most of the development was built by a former owner of the Dallas Cowboys. There is an enormous marina, a large, quaint restaurant/pub, and no people.  When we arrived, we were the ONLY boat in the marina, which has perhaps a hundred slips. The couple who manages the island and runs the restaurant and a staff of about 5 were the only people on the island until two sportfishing boats arrived late in the day. Here are some pictures:

One of three sets of empty docks at Spanish Cay...

One of three sets of empty docks at Spanish Cay…

The restaurant at Spanish Cay, with the Joint Adventure docked in front

The restaurant at Spanish Cay, with the Joint Adventure docked in front

A huge assortment of fish swam in the clear water at the docks, including half a dozen sharks - including this one. When one of the men on the sportfisher cleaned a mahi-mahi they had caught and threw the guts & carcuss in the water, the sharks put on a feeding-frenzy show.

A huge assortment of fish swam in the clear water at the docks, including half a dozen sharks, like this one. When one of the men on the sportfisher cleaned a mahi-mahi they had caught and threw the guts & carcuss into the water, the sharks put on a feeding-frenzy show.

We biked throughout the island, and came upon this enormous airstrip - the past & present owner of the island and a handful of private homeowners  apparently fly in occasionally

We biked throughout the island, and came upon this enormous airstrip – the past & present owner of the island and a handful of private homeowners apparently fly in occasionally.  However, no one was there during our visit.

Despite the lack of people, the managers of the island cooked up a great meal for us in the restaurant.  Before dinner, we had a drink at the bar. We've been married for 35 years, and I can't remember Trish having a shot of anything during that period. However, she got into the spirit of the Bahamas that evening...

Despite the lack of people, the managers of the island cooked up a great meal for us in the restaurant. Before dinner, we had a drink at the bar. Trish and I have been married for 35 years, and I can’t remember Trish having a shot of anything during that period. However, she got into the spirit of the Bahamas that evening…

Our next stop was Great Guana Cay – in addition to a spectacular beach, it is home to Nippers:

The famous bar high on the dunes overlooking the reefs and the ocean is named Nippers - the local name for bugs that we call "no-see=ums".  The view is spectacular, as is the beach below

The famous bar high on the dunes overlooking the reefs and the ocean is named Nippers – the local name for bugs that we call “no-see-ums”. The view is spectacular, as is the beach below

After another stop at Man Of War Cay (more on that later, as we made a return trip), we went on to Hopetown, perhaps the most iconic tourist magnet in the Abacos:

Hopetown is best known for its iconic lighthouse which dominates the harbor.  More on the lighthouse later...

Hopetown is best known for its iconic lighthouse which dominates the harbor. More on the lighthouse later…

The lighthouse is open to the public to climb and enjoy the view, such as this one -

The lighthouse is open to the public to climb and enjoy the view, such as this one from the top of the lighthouse

Hopetown is pretty and quaint, with well-kept homes, many small shops, and several quaint restaurants

Hopetown is pretty and quaint, with well-kept homes, many small shops, and several quaint restaurants

A typical home in Hopetown

A typical home in Hopetown

While docked in Hopetown, we heard a live band after dinner from across the water, so we piled into the dingy, crossed the harbor, and went dancing - Jenny & Chris, putting on a show (Janet & Doug, you would have been proud of us, though we did not close the place like we did when you were on board...)

While docked in Hopetown, we heard a live band after dinner from across the water, so we piled into the dingy, crossed the harbor, and went dancing – Jenny & Chris, putting on a show (Janet & Doug, you would have been proud of us, though we did not close the place like we did when you were on board…)

From Hopetown, we went to Marsh Harbor where we picked up our crew for the next week – more on that in the next installment.

 

 

 

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CROSSING THE GULF STREAM

Post #46 – CROSSING THE GULF STREAM;  March  13, 2015.  On Board:  Paul, Jim K.

The Gulf Stream!  Harrowing stories abound, from early merchant ships to today’s yachtsmen, about monster waves, turbulence, and disappearing ships. A brisk wind from the north, running against the current from the South, can quickly build steep, breaking waves to 10 or 15 feet and higher.  Crossing at the wrong time can and often is a harrowing, sometimes tragic experience.

None of those things happened to us.

The Gulf Stream was discovered as far back as 1512 by Ponce de Leon, who summarized a ship’s voyage by describing “A great current such that, although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward, and it seems that they were proceeding well;  at the end it was known that the current was more powerful than the wind.”  Benjamin Franklin studied the Gulf Stream after he learned of a curious complaint from the Colonial Board of Customs while in London:  Why did it take British packets several weeks longer than it took American merchant ships to reach ports on the US East coast? Franklin worked with several experienced American ships’ captains who learned to identify the current by whale behavior, changes in water temperature, changes in water color, and the speed of bubbles on the surface. The captains then avoided sailing directly into the current, but instead crossed it perpendicular. Franklin developed and published a map of the Gulf Stream in 1770, but the British mostly ignored it for years.  When they did finally accept Franklin’s advice, they reduced their sailing time by two weeks.

There are several conflicting theories about the cause of the Gulf Stream, but conventional wisdom suggests that the primary cause is thermal ocean currents caused by the warm water in the Gulf of Mexico migrating north along the surface while cold water from northern climates migrates south along the ocean floor, creating a massive ocean circulation. The Gulf Stream thereby transports 30 MILLION cubic meters of water per SECOND through the Florida Straight. It is typically about 60 miles wide and a half mile deep, and runs as fast as 2.5 to 3 knots.

So what did all this mean to us? It meant that, in order to cross the Gulf Stream, we needed a day with light winds from a southerly direction – any wind at all from a northerly direction, running contrary to the current, will kick up steep waves. So we became VERY focused on weather forecasts, and signed on with a local weather guru named Chris Parker who is used for detailed marine forecasts by many full time cruisers around the Bahamas/Turks & Caicos/offshore South Florida areas, including our friends Bruce & Gayleen Donadt on the Pearl. We also took seriously safety preparations for us and the boat:

Paul is checking the expiration date on our on-board flares to make sure they are still current.  The yellow box on the seat contains an EPIRB, which I rented from BoatUS for the duration of our trip to and from the Bahamas.  When activated in the case of an accident, either manually or automatically if it becomes submerged in seawater, it automatically transmits an emergency call to the Coast Guard, including the details of the vessel and the exact location at the time of activation.  I do not expect to need either of these, but we took these safety precautions just in case.

Paul is checking the expiration date on our on-board flares to make sure they are still current. The yellow box on the seat contains an EPIRB, which I rented from BoatUS for the duration of our trip to and from the Bahamas. When activated in the case of an accident, either manually or automatically if it becomes submerged in seawater, it will transmit an emergency call to the Coast Guard, including the details of the vessel and the exact location at the time of activation. I do not expect to need either of these devises, but we took these safety precautions just in case.

The afternoon

The afternoon before we left, I notices a piece of rope beneath the boat near the starboard propeller.  Pulling on it failed to free it up, so I had to dive under the boat – sure enough, it was wound around the propeller and I had to cut it off with a knife.

Our wait started on Monday (March 2), and we were fortunate to get a short but favorable window on the following Friday, March 6 (people sometimes wait for weeks to get across during the winter months). The wind was forecast to be favorable early in the morning, but shift to the northeast by noon. So we set our alarms for 5:15 AM and cast off before 6:00 in the dark. We set a course due East for the West End of Grand Bahama Island, 65 miles away. Our planning and patience paid off – the wind was non-existent and the sea was calm for us, once we got a bit past the turbulence of the inlet from the ICW to the open ocean. By 11:30 AM we were tied up at the West End:

The Gulf Stream!  The take-away from this photo is how unremarkable the sea looks - reflecting our good fortune to get a very calm, windless day to cross the Stream.

The Gulf Stream! The take-away from this photo is how unremarkable the sea looks – reflecting our good fortune to get a very calm, windless day to cross the Stream.

So – our crossing makes for a boring story, which is exactly the way we wanted it!

When entering the port of entry in the Bahamas, a vessel must fly a yellow “quarantine” flag until it has cleared customs.  It is also customary, but not required, to fly a “courtesy flag” of the country which is being entered (you may recall that I embarrassed myself by inadvertently hanging the Canadian courtesy flag upside down when we entered Canada last Spring). We did better this time:

The yellow quarantine flag and the Bahamas courtesy flag on the Joint Adventure as we entered the West End

The yellow quarantine flag and the Bahamas courtesy flag on the Joint Adventure as we entered the West End

In the picture below, the large yellow form in the upper right corner is the southeastern part of the Florida peninsula. The large yellow and orange form at the bottom is Cuba.  All of the rest of the yellow forms and dots form the Bahamas – some 1500 miles long. The whitish-blue are the Bahama banks – shallow water ranging from a few feet to seldom more than 15 feet deep. The Bahama banks are surrounded by water thousands of feet deep – in fact, upon approaching Grand Bahama Island, the water depth went from over a thousand feet deep to 15 feet in less than a mile!  The abrupt change in depth is why the Bahamas is world renowned for big game sport fishing.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

Back to the map – Grand Bahama Island is the northwestern-most island, and the West End is at the western tip of that island – just 65 miles from the inlet at West Palm Beach. That’s where we crossed.

The West End consists of two different parts. Old Bahama Bay Marina is part of a resort at the tip of the island, which includes the amenities that you would expect of a resort – rental units, a sand beach, a fine restaurant, a tiki bar, small sailboats to rent, etc.   A mile away is the West End Village where the local Bahamians live.  Unfortunately, it is rural and poor – a lack of jobs and the devastating hurricane in 2004 has made it a difficult place to live.  The people are resilient and friendly, however, and I met many of them during my frequent visits to the Village during the several days that I rode my bike into the Village to meet the people and explore. Here are some images from the West End of Grand Bahama Island:

The rental units at the resort, overlooking the harbor basin

The rental units at the resort, overlooking the harbor basin

The Wet End Village runs along the water, which is the focus of subsistence fishing by the residents. The primary focus is on the harvesting of conch, which is done by diving in shallow water up to about 12 feet and picking them off the sandy ocean floor. No diving equipment is used - just masks, and they hold their breath to dive.

The West End Village runs along the water, which is the focus of subsistence fishing by the residents. The primary focus is the harvesting of conch, which is done by diving in shallow water up to about 12 feet and picking them off the sandy ocean floor. No diving equipment is used – just masks while they hold their breath and dive.

I stopped to talk to this guy while he was removing the conch that he brought in that day from the shells.  He showed me in detail how it is done and how the meat is then separated from the organs.

I stopped to talk to this gentleman while he was removing the conch from the shells that he brought in that day. He showed me in detail how it is done and how the meat is then separated from the organs.

Along the shore of the West End Village are numerous piles of empty conch shells from which the conch have been harvested and the shells discarded.

Along the shore of the West End Village are numerous piles like this one of empty conch shells from which the conch have been harvested and the shells discarded.

This swimmer near the shore is looking for conch or spiney lobster or anything else of value that he can find and catch on the ocean floor. He is pulling the tub behind him as he goes - any thing he gets is stored in the tub while he continues to hunt until he swims back to shore.

This swimmer near the shore is looking for conch or spiney lobster or anything else of value that he can find and catch on the ocean floor. He is pulling the tub behind him as he goes – anything he gets is stored in the tub while he continues to hunt until he swims back to shore.

A subsistence fisherman cleaning his catch.

A subsistence fisherman cleaning his catch.

Located in the West End Village, this is the oldest hotel in the Bahamas.  Today only the bar is open, and that seems to be only occasionally.

Located in the West End Village, this is the oldest hotel in the Bahamas. Today only the bar is open, and that seems to be only occasionally. I was told that the buildings behind the hotel contain tunnels running from building to building where bootleg liquor was hid and stored during Prohibition pending distribution to the US by bootleggers, which purportedly included an operation run by Joseph Kennedy.

This is probably my favorite picture from the entire trip.  In many of the rural villages in the Bahamas, there is a woman who bakes and sells fresh bread. I went looking for her and asked this guy if he knew where she lived.  After he gave me directions, we exchanged  compliments on each other's beards and chatted for about 20 minutes. Although I could only understand about every other word due to his thick Creole accent, his smile reflects his totally joyful personality.  We saw each other several times during our visit, and we always stopped to chat.

This is probably my favorite picture from the entire trip. In many of the rural villages in the Bahamas, there is a woman who bakes and sells fresh bread. I went looking for her and asked this guy if he knew where she lived. After he gave me directions, we exchanged compliments on each other’s beard and chatted for about 20 minutes. Although I could only understand about every other word due to his thick Creole accent, his smile reflects his totally joyful personality. We saw each other several times during our visit, and we always stopped to chat.

This is Effie's house - I knocked on her door and bought a loaf of fresh coconut bread and a coconut/pineapple pastry, somewhat like a pie.  Yummy!

This is Effie’s house – I knocked on her door and bought a loaf of fresh coconut bread and a coconut/pineapple pastry, somewhat like a pie. Yummy!

I asked if there was someplace in the Village where I could get ice cream - I was sent to this home where a woman named Lori lives.  She goes to Freeport every two weeks or so and brings back a few tubs of ice cream which she sells from her house for $1 for two large scoops. I visited every day. She also sews beautiful hand-made dresses which she sells from her home as well.

I asked if there was someplace in the Village where I could get ice cream – I was sent to this home where a woman named Lori lives. She goes to Freeport every two weeks or so and brings back a few tubs of ice cream which she sells from her house for $1 for two large scoops. I visited every day. She also sews beautiful hand-made dresses which she sells from her home as well.

We went to Freeport and to Port Lucaya for a couple of days. There is virtually nothing to see in Freeport. About 10 years ago, the large hotel/casino closed, and cruise ships arriving in Freeport Harbor are now bussed directly to Port Lucaya, which has a pleasant beach, some resort hotels, and a marketplace somewhat analogous to the Fanueil Hall marketplace in Boston (without the historic character). This photo is of the virtually abandoned "international marketplace" in Freeport, which withered away when the hotel/casino closed and tourists were bussed to Port Lucaya.

We also went to Freeport and to Port Lucaya for a couple of days. There is virtually nothing to see in Freeport. About 10 years ago, the large hotel/casino closed, and the tourists on cruise ships arriving in Freeport Harbor are now bussed directly to Port Lucaya, which has a pleasant beach, some resort hotels, and a marketplace somewhat analogous to the Fanueil Hall marketplace in Boston (without the historic character). This photo is of the virtually abandoned “international marketplace” in Freeport, which withered away when the hotel/casino closed and tourists were bussed to Port Lucaya.

Paul left at the end of our stay in the West End, and Trish, my daughter Jenny, and her boyfriend Chris flew into Freeport to start our journey into the Abacos and the outer cays. More to come!

 

 

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