We left the dock at the sumptuous Tybee Island Marina at about 6:45. This was the same time that many of the commercial vessels along Lazaretto Creek were also leaving. So we had to hang on the dock for a few minutes waiting for the creek to be clear. I was up on the flybridge waiting to take us out, and in the short time I was up there all the gnats and stinging insects decided to pay me a visit. I left Tybee Island with a lovely display of bug bites on my neck and arms.
Once away from the dock the breeze kept the bugs off as we headed along the creek and out into the channel. The large commercial traffic was underway in the channel. A large cargo ship passed us just as we were heading into the channel. Off to ourright we could see a large wave that was breaking over a shoal area. We intended to stay clear of this area in any event, but when we saw the wave double in size when the cargo ship’s wake hit it we were decided that we would cut behind the ship and across its wake and avoid the wave and the worst part of the wake. We bounced a bit but were fine.
As we proceeded down the channel, we could see that the Savannah pilot boats were busy guiding the commercial traffic in. Another large cargo vessel was about to enter the channel, and we estimated that we would meet that ship just as we began our turn north for Charleston. We could have run on the outside of the north side of the channel but the water was shallow there and we didn’t want to contend with any large waves in that area. The south side was much deeper, so we eased out of the channel and headed east until the cargo ship passed us. We cut across its wake and then turned onto our course for Charleston.
We could not have had a more perfect cruising day. The winds were between 1 and 2kts. The water was glassy. Once we made our turn to the north we left most of the boat traffic behind. We had the ocean to ourselves along with several dolphins, two of which played in our wake for a little bit, some sea turtles, myriad sea birds, and even a flying fish that flew by our port side before diving back into the water!
All was not perfect, however. About 9am we ran into some fog, light at first but then dense for about 40 minutes. During that time we picked up only one target on the radar, either an anchored fishing boat or a sea buoy. We kept our course and eventually cruised out of it. Other than the fog, our trip was completely free of “issues.” That is, until we reached Charleston.
This past week has been Charleston Race week. Yesterday when we approached the channel leading into Charleston we could see several sailboats on the south side. Jim had read about Race Week and knew that part of Charleston Harbor was closed for the races, but the sea channel and the South Channel, which leads to the Charleston City Marina, were open. As we got closer we could see that it wasn’t just a few sailboats but about 20 or 30 of them tacking this way and that across the south side of the sea channel. To get into the channel we would have to go through them.
These were large sailboats with about 7 or 8 crew on board. They were intent on their race and didn’t give a damn about us or any of the other powerboats that were trying get into the channel. Nor should they since they had the right of way. By this time Jim was driving, and he weaved this way and that through the tacking ships and got us into the channel.
Once there, we thought we would be done with the sailboats. But that would have been too easy. The boat races were being held in the channel too! We could now see that this regatta did not involve just 30 or 40 boats, but hundreds of them all down the sea channel and into the north end of the harbor. So we continued dodging the sailboats. Every time we went to starboard to avoid one sailboat, 2 or 3 others would be coming at us requiring us to speed up, slow down or turn to port. It was like being a ball inside a pinball machine.
To add to the fun, in the middle of all this we received a digital distress signal on our VHF radio. The Coast Guard hailed all vessels and asked all the boats who received the signal to contact the Coast Guard with the time they received the signal and their position. Immediately the VHF channel was filled with boats hailing the Coast Guard with the requested information. We don’t know what happened, whether the Coast Guard was able to locate the vessel in distress, but we hope so.
We continued making our way down the channel and finally reached the spot where it splits north and south. The north side was a sea of small sailboats. The south side had your garden variety traffic and that’s where we were headed. Once out of all the chaos we hailed the Charleston City Marina. They were not quite ready for us, so we hung outside the dock for about 10 minutes. Finally, they had a dock hand to help us with the lines. We entered the marina and were safely docked in a matter of minutes. We were very glad to be tied up and out of the sailboat madness.
We got in shortly before 4pm. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with boat chores. Curiosity got a thorough wash down after a day in the ocean. I chamoised her off, while Jim headed off to the laundry, not for any of our clothes but for one of our lines. When Jim started to untie us at the lovely Tybee Island Marina, he discovered that one of the shore birds had left a large smelly present on the bow line. He washed it off as best he could but it still reeked. Repeated washings on the Charleston Megadock did nothing to improve the aroma, so we decided to throw it in one of the marina’s washers. That helped a lot, but there was still the essence of bird poop. We decided to use it as an extra line in the hope that the sun, air and rain would get it as clean as a line can be.
With the boat chores done we showered for dinner and hope in the marina van for a trip to downtown Charleston for dinner at the Low Country Bistro. We had had dinner here the last time we were in Charleston and really enjoyed the food. The name says everything about the style of cooking. Jim had something called Frogmore Stew, which had had the last time and had loved it. It’s a shrimp stew with corn, sausage, onions and potatoes in a savory broth. This time, however, the broth was bland and the sausage was nonexistent. He was disappointed. My dinner of shrimp and grits was much better. The grits were more like polenta with a tomato relish, bacon gravy and, of course, large, local shrimp. Yum.
It was a mild evening when we finished dinner, so we decided to walk back to the marina. It was about a mile and half walk. The walk gave us a chance to see some Charleston neighborhoods and the many old Southern homes.
So ended our first day in Charleston. Our plan was to spend Sunday in Charleston as well. Neither of us had been to Fort Sumter, and a tour boat cruise over to the Fort seemed like a good activity for a Sunday. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Rain was predicted for the entire day. The thought of cruising over to the Fort and then trying to tour it in the pouring down rain just didn’t appeal. Instead, we took it easy in the morning and then hiked into Charleston to do a grocery store run. The rain held off for our walk, but started to come down when we were finished. We were able to call the marina van and get a lift back to the marina.
When we were back on board we grabbed lunch, tidied up, did some cleaning chores, and went over the rest of our route to Annapolis. We had dinner reservations at the Charleston Grill, which we had never been to. Our dinner there was outstanding. We split an appetizer of seared foie gras with a small apple pie, an apple brandy sauce and a dollop of mascarpone. This may sound like a strange dish, but it was so full of flavor. Everything worked perfectly together. For the main course Jim had a duck leg confit, seared duck breast and black lentils. I had striped bass (rockfish for all the Marylanders out there) on a bed of fregola sarda and wild mushrooms. Both dishes were excellent. They were perfectly cooked and seasoned and beyond delicious. We finished the meal off by splitting a strawberry rhubarb pie with strawberry ice cream. This was not quite at the same level of the rest of the meal. The pie could have used more filling and a little more sweetness for Jim’s taste buds. But overall a really superb meal.
We returned to Curiosity after another storm passed through. As I write this entry, the rain has stopped and the skies have started to clear. It will be an early evening for us. We’re taking a short break from our cruise north. Tomorrow we return to Maryland on the first flight out of Charleston. Jim has a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Board meeting in Boston at the end of the week and I wanted some more painting time in my studio. We will return to Charleston in a week, get back aboard Curiosity and finish the rest of our trip to Annapolis.