Monday, June 29, 2009

Georgia in the Rearview Mirror

We left Stephanie and Bob's dock in Midway, Georgia on Friday but not before one last dinner Thursday night on Gypsies with the hungry and temporarily boatless ones (September Song was getting its bottom painted at the Hinckley Yacht Yard in Thunderbolt, GA). We were only too glad to welcome them aboard, especially when we saw their sign - how could anyone resist?? (it also said thirsty down below and THAT we could relate to!!!)
How could we say no to those faces?
The next morning bright and early we set off for Thunderbolt - they were going to splash September Song at high tide around noon. We had a full compliment of crew on board - namely the whole September Song gang including Cassie and Godiva, and a bunch of grasshoppers we hadn't been able to get rid of yet! The boat kitties were a little put out that we had allowed DOGS on board - I mean can you imagine the indignity! At first they just looked out at poor Cassie and Godiva with kitty contempt since the dogs had to stay outside but eventually they decided they didn't even want to see them so went downstairs and slept on our bed the rest of the trip.
"You brought DOGS onto MY boat?"
"I'll just ignore them!"
Meanwhile all the dogs really wanted was to make new friends - they would sit outside the back or pilothouse doors staring at the boat kitties and occasionally barking a hello - the boat kitties were having none of it!! So the dogs had to be content chasing the odd grasshopper or barking at the gorgeous osprey in their nests atop the channel markers or playing with the dolphins who frolicked in our bow wake! I think they were very glad to finally get home when September Song was once again in the water - sorry our girls didn't make you feel more welcome Godiva and Cassie!!!

Watching them put September Song back in the water was quite something - she just barely fit into their big 50 ton lift - there were but inches to spare!! But with oversight and direction from the captain, they got her back into the water with amazing speed and ease and soon enough she was tied up to the dock looking pretty as you please!
"Be careful with my baby!"
"Good job fellows"
After settling in and turning on the air conditioning for the boat kitties (we don't use it often - only when we are at a dock with free electricity - but it has been brutally hot down here and it's a treat for them especially when we are off the boat and have to close doors!), the human crew all descended on Tubby's Tank House for some refreshments - several cold draft beers, bacon cheeseburgers and mahi sandwiches had us feeling half human again!
Bob, Stephanie and Doug at Tubby's
Watching the weather forecast on the TV at the bar which was calling for a major thunder and lightning storm with up to 50 knot winds, made us do a major beeline back to the boat (we are back to hoofing it everywhere so there's no escaping the elements). We managed to dodge the lightning show although it was quite impressive and really too close for comfort and boarded our boats just as the first quarter sized raindrops began to fall!! The storm wasn't nearly as bad as predicted but we were all happy to be safe and snug aboard and tied up to a dock rather than on anchor.

Click here to see a Google map of our location at Hinckley Services in Thunderbolt, GA

The next morning we headed up the ICW for Beaufort, SC (pronounced Bew'-fort, never to be confused with Boe'-fort as in Beaufort, NC). We had a great run through northern Georgia with its ever present marshes and abundant wildlife - the dolphins surrounded us while white and blue herons and ibis lined the water's muddy edge.

After playing "frogger" across the Savannah River with a fast moving tug and a huge container ship, we entered into South Carolina - it was a Saturday and a beautiful day so all the little go fast boats were out racing around us as if we were standing still! No worries mon.... We passed through Hilton Head and out around Dolphin Head into the Port Royal Sound and finally up the Beaufort River past Paris Island where the marines have their enormous training facility. Just as I came on watch (of course), I viewed an entire armada of sailboats - they looked like fleas on the water - oh goody, a regatta!!
Now just how do we get through there?
Talk about frogger! We made our way through that one relatively easily as the race markers were laid outside of the channel so we had some room to maneuver but we were not to be so lucky next time!! As we approached Beaufort, another regatta was in process only this time the race was across the channel and back!!! There must have been a hundred lasers careening back and forth and sideways in front of us - the race marshall told us to come on through slowly and the racers would get out of our way - NOT!!!! I felt like we were playing twister maneuvering Gypsies through the maze of largely clueless (or so it appeared to us especially when one of the little boats stopped - yes stopped in front of us and looked up at me as if to say, what do I do now? - hello, getting out of the way of a 66,000 pound boat would be a pretty good start!!!!) After I went around another kid, he turned back into us so I yelled down to him that he really needed to watch where he was going - his response was to tell me that he was still racing....face it kid, if I run over you in this boat, you won't win the race anyways!!! We finally made it through the kiddie regatta and got ourselves tied up to the city docks - definitely time for a coldie or two!!!
September Song and Gypsies in the Palace invade Beaufort

Click here to see a Google map of our location at the Downtown Marina in Beaufort, SC

That evening started with app's and a few drinks on September Song and moved on to Hemingways for happy hour where we enjoyed not only 2-for-1 drinks but several different flavored jello shots!!
Tammy, Doug and Stephanie enjoy drinks at Hemingways
"I think I'll try one of those."
Bob even joined me for a round while Doug and Stephanie just shook their heads at us "kids"!!! You can grow up but stay immature indefinitely - heh, someone's got to do it!! Next it was on to Luther's for dinner and to hear the band - but before we got there, we passed a huge wedding in progress down at the pavilion on the water. We watched the enormous wedding party from our ringside seats and offered the new bride and groom our best wishes from afar - the kids in the wedding party seemed to be having a ball!
I Do!
Luther's was a great spot for an outside dinner and then we watched the band play for a little while - the long day finally overcame us so we headed back to Gypsies (without stopping for more jello shots I might add - although one of us who shall remain nameless was sorely tempted)!

Yesterday we had a wonderful steam up to Tom's Point Creek where we are now anchored in peaceful splendor - just the two of us and the millions of herons, cranes, laughing gulls, turtles and schools of fish - this place is a veritable wild kingdom!! Along the way yesterday we were entertained by not only pods of dolphin but the laughing gulls that trailed our boat, swooping down into our wake to scoop up the little silver fish that we stirred up - a whole gang of them followed us for miles feasting the whole way!!!
"Hey, Gypsies, can we tag along?"
Feasting on the ICW
We think we are finally grasshopper-less - we sent the last one that was clinging to our flagstick swimming yesterday and we haven't noticed any others (but they are tricky little guys so we'll stay vigilant).

Last night we had an anchor dance watch (as we call it) since we are in a narrow creek where the current runs strong and every 6 hours flips our boat around bringing our boat perilously close to the muddy shore (OK maybe it just looks that close!) - somehow at 3:00 am, the shore looks even closer!! But our anchor is holding like a champ and we plan to drop the dink today (after a beautiful sunrise) and go explore this amazing river system - we even saw a tiny beach on the way, on which, if sun pig has anything to say about it, we may find ourselves in a little while with a coldie...
Sunrise in Tom's Point Creek

Tomorrow we head on to Charleston, one of my favorite places on our trip down!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location in Tom's Point Creek

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dockside in GA

For the past week or so we have been tied up to September Song's "home dock" in Midway, GA while we tried to get lots of re-provisioning (we were close to out of beer and had dipped into our "trade beer" - nasty low-end beer we had bought in anticipation of trading beer for fresh fish with the islanders!!) and boat projects done. Yes, Luke, we can now admit we've even drunk Nattie Light - the horror!!! Bob and Stephanie have been wonderful in loaning us one of their cars for trips into Savannah and around town! At first it was pretty weird to be driving a car let alone going that fast - Gypsies only goes about 7-8 knots!!

Several days ago September Song steamed up to the Hinckley Boat Yard in Thunderbolt, GA to get some work done - bottom paint and some polishing. The 50 ton lift barely got them out of the water - you should check out their blog - the pictures made my heart catch in my throat so I can only imagine how they felt watching it!! We picked them up in their other car (pretty much the very least we could do) and they have been staying at their house for the past several days - that has got to feel weird!!! We had them over to dinner the other night on Gypsies, watched an amazing sunset and had lots of fun with the brownies I had made for desert!!
Brownies Anyone?
Sunset in Georgia
Sunset in Georgia

Being here at the dock has been great to get some projects done on Gypsies - Doug has installed a new VHF radio on the flybridge, we've been polishing the outside of Gypsies which is a monumental task (she's a big boat and we're about halfway done!!) and we got her brown ICW mustache off the front of her (that was never an issue in the Bahamas where the water was so clear and beautiful - take me back!!!) Yesterday Bob and Doug installed the new alternator so our engines should be healthy, aligned and good to go (we haven't replaced the other shaft saver yet as it just came in today but hopefully we can do that when we have some more free time)!! Today was last minute provisioning and polishing - September Song is going to be ready to splash tomorrow so the game plan is for us all (Bob, Stephanie, Godiva and Cassie as well as the Gypsies crew - should be interesting to see how the boat kitties deal with two frisky dogs on board, even if they do stay outside!!) to ride Gypsies up to Thunderbolt to pick up September Song. The next day we will head north for Beaufort, SC and then on too Charleston!!!
"Sometimes it's just too hot to even standup!""Please turn the air conditioning on, Dad!"

We have had a great time here in GA but that ole wanderlust is kicking in and we are ready to be on the move again. Sun pig is in desperate need of a beach - here in GA there's just lots of marsh and mud unless you go for a cross state drive it seems like!!! And with the marsh comes spiders, fiddler crabs and grasshoppers - now for those of you that know me, you can just imagine how much I love that (I hate bugs of all kinds - snakes I'm OK with but bugs - YUCK!) And I'm not just talking a stray grasshopper here and there - that I could deal with - but I am talking hundreds of them all over the boat (OK maybe it's not that bad, but they fly, they hop, they swim and they seem to lay in wait for me on the cockpit ceiling knowing I have to leave the boat at some point....and that's when they pounce!!!!)
Two grasshoppers under the sun shade on the front windows

Even Doug is starting to get that feeling in the middle of the night that something's creeping and crawling......Bob told me they weren't so bad - if I caught one in my hand, it would spit out stuff like tobacco juice.....and this is supposed to help me???? Bring back the 'cudas and the sharks from the Bahamas - those I can deal with!

For tonight we defrosted some of the mahi we caught in the Bahamas and we'll have one more dinner with Bob and Stephanie on Gypsies before we head out in the am - meanwhile Doug is out on the bow of the boat fighting the valiant fight with the hose against those nasty grasshoppers - seriously you have to see them!!! and no its not true, they don't taste like chicken - how do I know you might ask??? Don't ask....I'm trying to block it from my memory!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location at September Song's home dock.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Savannah - Elegant Belle of the South

We took the day off from boat projects the other day to go explore Savannah - on our trip down the coast back in November, we had stayed in Hilton Head and driven into Savannah for part of a day but it was pouring rain so we didn't have an opportunity to really get a good feel for the place (to really get to know a place, you have to wander its back streets and mingle with the locals!) Based on such a short visit though, we knew that we wanted to come back and spend some time here. Two days ago we got that opportunity!! Savannah combines the wonderful charm of a southern belle with amazing history (during the Civil War Savannah was the prize at the end of the Union's "march to the sea", spared from destruction by General Sherman and instead given to President Lincoln as a Christmas present in December 1864) and unprecedented architecture that is seen throughout the historic district in its varied genteel homes and gardens. Nowhere else have we found such widespread diversity in the types (and colors!!) of homes - as we walked around the historic district, we constantly marveled at how certain sections reminded us of the Back Bay in Boston, or Adams Morgan in DC or Charleston - Victorian, Greek Revival, and Gothic style homes and churches vied with lots of other types that I'm sure have a name (but we don't know them!!) Throughout the city, many of the homes have distinctive iron work - whether fences surrounding the house, or creating a balcony (which we learned were often built even if too small to be used to defeat the tax that was placed on windows historically!), or a stately stairway to the home's entrance (a distinctive feature of many homes in Savannah are dual mirror stairways leading to the main door, one side which was for females and the other for males), or just for pure decoration. The more ornate the ironwork, the wealthier and more "important" the owner of the house. The decoration even extends to gutter spouts which we often saw in the shape of dolphins and other animals!
Ornate Ironwork Balconies and Stairs
Ornate Ironwork Balconies and Fences

Not only are the houses ornate, colorful and often decorated with exquisite ironwork or carvings, but wrought iron fences also often hide spectacular gardens and fountains where you can just picture ladies of the era partaking in late afternoon tea parties. These gardens are often partly hidden from the streets but if you tried hard enough, you could look through the fencing and peak into a private world of wealth and gentility that brings back a bygone era.
Hidden Garden
The ornate fountains often formed the central focus to the garden with flowering plants and trees flowing out in intricate patterns - nowhere have I seen such magnificent magnolia trees or more varied flowering plants and trees! Up north we have rhododendrons and lilacs and that's about it - here it would take me months to learn all the different flowering flora!!! Each garden was also often shaded by the humongous oak trees dripping in spanish moss that abound in Savannah giving the gardens an almost ethereal feel. Such oak trees also lined many of the streets in the district giving them an otherworldly feel!
Tree Lined Streets

Savannah is unique in that the historic district is laid out around 21 squares,

each distinctive in its layout, history and gardens. From Forsyth Park in the south (the largest square) containing the spectacular Forsyth Fountain
Forsyth Fountain
to Oglethorpe Square (named after Savannah's founder James Oglethorpe) to Johnson Square (named after Doug...just kidding) in the north,
Johnson Square
each square is surrounded by genteel homes, stately churches and sometimes an intriguing pub (like the Six Pence Pub that we happened to wet our whistle in along the way - come on it was 96 degrees out!!!) or little shops. The squares also have memorials to those like Pulawski who fought in the Seige of Savannah,
Pulawski Monument
Tomo-chi-chi who was the Creek indian that befriended Oglethorpe and helped him to establish Savannah by brokering treaties with the surrounding indian tribes and familiarizing the early settlers with southern farming techniques or Johnny Mercer, the Savannah born songwriter who wrote Moon River among other famous songs.
Bench Dedicated to Johnny Mercer
Famous houses like the Owens Thomas House (where the Marquis de Lafayette stayed and gave a famous speech from its balcony)
Owen-Thomas House
or the Green-Meldrim House (which was where General Sherman made his headquarters during the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as it is referred to here in the South!!)
Green Meldrim House
or the Juliette Gordon Low House (where the founder of the Girl Scouts was born - the First National Girl Scout Headquarters is also located in Savannah and is a huge rallying place for girl scouts even today - you often see scores of them walking around the historic district).
Juliette Gordon Low House
National Girl Scout Headquarters
Some of the prominent homes have been turned into galleries or house museums such as the Telfair House which now houses the Telfair Museum of Art, the oldest art museum in the south, with its five statues outside of Rubens, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael and one I'm just spacing on at the moment
Telfair Art Museum
and the famous Bird Girl statue which graces the cover of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which is based in Savannah!! ! But the art doesn't stop there - there is sidewalk art aplenty mixing hip hop with the historic!
Sidewalk Art

No discussion of Savannah would be complete without commenting on the amazing array of churches - they also fall into the varied architectural styles and each is magnificent in its own right. By far the grandest is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with its twin spires and gothic features - it is truly spellbinding!! (Yes for all of you that know me, I actually went into a church!) The stain glass windows
Stained Glass Windows at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
and grandeur of the high vaulted and carved ceilings made you crane your neck in wonder - the sheer opulence of the place was amazing to behold! The massive golden pipe organ alone was reason to drop your jaw in awe.
Pipe Organ at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

But also the sheer size of the church and the intricate design was stunning - no matter how far back I stood, it was hard to get pictures that captured the church's magnificence or even size!!!
Exterior of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
There is also much history in the churches that reside in Savannah - Temple Mickve Israel is the only gothic synagaogue in the US, Methodism was founded in the US in Savannah by John Wesley
John Wesley Statue
and the Greek Revival Christ Episcopal Church houses a rare Revere Bell.

However, no visit to Savannah is complete without a stroll along River Street which runs along the Savannah River and houses many funky bars and restaurants as well as, at the eastern end, the 1996 Olympic Memorial (the yachting events were held on the Savannah River)
1996 Olympic Memorial
and the Waving Girl Monument.
Tammy with the Waving Girl Memorial
Savannah is a full working port and thus the Savannah River is full of commercial tankers and cargo ships, tugs, pleasure boats and even a few antique looking paddle boats!!
River Boat
Along the way we stopped by city hall,
City Hall
the customs building and the cotton exchange (Savannah used to be a bustling cotton port)!!
Cotton Exchange
By the time we got to River Street we were hungry and parched - walking all day in 96 degree heat takes a toll!!! So we headed immediately for one of our favorite bars (OK one of the few we knew but we had really liked it the last time we were here) - One Eyed Lizzy's!! It didn't disappoint - a couple cold beers and the most amazing hot crab dip appetizer we've ever eaten had us rejuvenated and ready for more (especially because the bartender alerted us to the wonderful Savannah tradition of plastic to go cups!) We walked across the street to an open air craft market and eventually found ourselves at Bernie's oyster bar for happy hour - how do you go wrong with $3.00 for a dozen raw oysters and $1.50 drafts??? OK I'm not really into the oyster thing but Doug loves them and I was happy with my draft and the place really did have a different kind of charm!!
Bernies Oyster House
Faced with a daunting walk back to where we had parked the car, it was only appropriate that we stop half way at the city market for one more coldie and another appetizer (after all this was dinner - by now it was about 6:00 pm!) so we hit Wild Wings for some wonderful - you guessed it - chicken wings (but not just your ordinary buffalo wings - we had 1/2 spicy general tso's and 1/2 spicy honey BBQ wings!!!!)

Back to the car for the drive back to Gypsies - we had a sundowner cocktail with Bob and Stephanie on September Song as we reminisced about yet another wonderful day!!! Not only did we visit a truly spectacular and beautiful place, but everyone we met welcomed us with what I have come to appreciate is that special southern charm! Savannah is truly one of the elegant Southern belles that I look forward to spending more time in - I definitely see at least another play day in Savannah in our future before we head north again for the Chesapeake!!!

Click here to see a satelite view of Savannah. Notice all the squares..