Thursday, May 21, 2015

Living on Dirt for the Summer

Mara Beel is sitting out the summer in North Carolina while we are loving life on the River in Iowa.

It's always sad to see her pulled out, but the River and our family beckon enticingly.

We miss our sweet boat, but Life on the Mississippi is wonderful. We will be back on board in the Fall to head south for the winter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Journey's End- For Now

Days: 182-183
Miles: 45/25
Total miles: 3,655

Yesterday we started early and cruised 45 miles from Myrtle Beach, SC to Southport, NC. We made it through the infamous "Rock Pile" without incident. It was very windy, but the scenery was great!

Docks need to be extremely long here!

We were welcomed to the Southport City dock, and North Carolina, by Harbor Host extraordinaire Robert Creech, who helped us tie up. A bit later we enjoyed porch time at the Robert and Kay's home just across the street. It turned into a Looper reunion, with Patsy, Mark and Jane, and Roger and Mary. A couple of neighbors joined us, too. It was Southern hospitality at its finest!

Porch time!
Later we walked over to the Yacht Basin Provision Company for dinner- fresh fish, of course. Along the way we picked up Michael, another visitor in town. After dinner we went back to Mara Beel, along with Roger and Mary, Mark and Jane, and a new Looper acquaintance, Tanya. Tanya is well-known among Loopers for single-handedly doing the Loop last year in her 25-foot Ranger Tug- a brave woman!

New friend Michael

Today, Friday, was another 0600 start for us to take advantage of the tide. We needed to travel 20-plus miles up the Cape Fear River, so an outgoing tide would really slow us town. We traveled on the rising tide and tied up at Bennett Brothers in Wilmington at slack tide- perfect! The scenery was entirely different today. We saw military installations, huge tankers and container ships, several tugs, small crab boats, and plenty of pelicans.

Off to an early start

Cape Fear lighthouse

Takeoff is slow for pelicans

The bird on the left has a band on his right leg.

Pelicans just love crabbers!
Notice the orange lifeboat on the stern of this tanker.

Unloading containers
Tug boats

They must love pelicans around here!

Wilmington and lift bridge

USS North Carolina

BIG guns!

Mara Beel will be spending the next few months tucked away in this "hurricane hole" marina while we head home. We will miss our Looper friends a lot, but we are so excited to be with family and friends at our river house.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bye Bye Ana

Days 179 and 180
Miles: 67         Total Miles: 3,536

Now that tropical storm Ana has moved on, so have we. Sunday was our last day in beautiful Charleston. We went to church with friends and then had a potluck on Mara Beel with 9 of us. After dinner, the men cleaned up and the ladies went shopping at Steinmart- all great things to do on Mothers' Day.

Monday found us waiting on the tide again. We pulled out of the Maritime Center Marina around 10:30 AM and were soon joined by friends on Fruitcakes. The 3 of us boats - Serenity included- traveled to McClellanville where we tied up to a shrimping dock. We ladies immediately borrowed a dockhand's SUV to buy shrimp at the local shrimp market. We could have easily walked, but it was about to rain. The vehicle was definitely a mess, filled with miscellaneous dirty socks, crushed Coke cans, stray tools, unidentifiable mechanical parts, papers, food wrappers, etc. A fairly typical marina loaner- no problem. We gingerly moved things aside and took off.  Before buying shrimp, we toured this small village (maybe 8 streets total) looking for its famous Deer Head Oak tree, reputed to be impressively huge. It wasn't. We drove past it 3 times before noticing a small sign next to the tree. Having just seen the Angel Oak the other day, the Deer Head tree was a disappointment.  Oh well.

During the drive I noticed an unfamiliar object on the dash in front of me. Directly in front of me. Realization hit me like a lightning bolt- this "thing" recently resided on the back end of a rattlesnake! A large rattlesnake. EEEW! I was suddenly feeling queasy knowing that this snake could silently sneak up on me if it wasn't dead. (Almost certainly dead). My third snake encounter in the Low Country.

Sickest thing ever!

We calmed down, finally found the shrimp market and subsequently enjoyed crab dip and a shrimp boil on Mara Beel. 

Today we cruised to Georgetown, SC, a pretty little town filled with restaurants and shops. Our travel time together is drawing to an end, since Fruitcakes will finish their Loop at Little River in a few days. Serenity will head north to Vermont. Mark and I will be putting our boat on the hard in Wilmington, NC, while we go home for a few months. We are anxious to reunite with our family, but hate to part company with our friends. Going home is bittersweet, as every Looper discovers.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Making Lemonade

Another Tropical Storm Ana delay today. But hey- if we have to be stuck somewhere, Charleston is ideal. There is so much to see and do, and we have friends here. Today Glenn and Brenda picked up us as well as Kathy and John on Serenity and Roger and Mary on Ta Ta.  They took us on a city tour. We saw the Battery, various neighborhoods, and the Citadel, the military college. The campus buildings are designed to resemble castles- very impressive! As luck would have it, they were holding commencement ceremonies today, so the campus was unusually crowded.

Next stop was California Dreamin’ , a restaurant on the Ashley River. We had a delicious lunch there- can you say She-Crab Soup??

Then it was on to the Angel Oak tree- one of the largest Live Oaks in the country. This giant is 25.5 feet in circumference and 300-400 years old. Its largest limb is 89 feet long and over 11 feet in circumference! The name Angel comes from the people who owned this property in the 1600-1700’s. It is an amazing tree!

From there we moved on to the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, the only tea plantation in North America. The area’s high humidity and frequent 100 degree summer temperatures are ideal for growing tea. The tea is marketed as American Classic, owned by Bigelow Tea. We saw the tea cutting machine and the processing plant. Tea bushes are evergreens, and in a good year, they get up to 5 cuttings of tender new leaves from them.

Kathy and Prince Charming- before the Kiss.

The tea cutting machine

A skink

We heard about a vodka distillery nearby, so we headed in that direction. It was an interesting place- it looked like a moonshine operation recently gone legal. We did not stay long since there was a long line to get into the tasting room.

Truck at the Firefly Distillery

Our next destination was Glenn and Brenda’s home where we relaxed on their screened in porch and shared docktails.

Sailing into the sunset

Friday, May 8, 2015

Charleston's Proud Old Homes (and more)

We are still here, waiting on Tropical Storm Ana. We can't head north, because when she decides to move, she will move in that direction. Meanwhile we are taking advantage of this beautiful city. Today we rode the free trolley and walked around the Battery district South of Broad. The houses here are crazy with elaborate details and ornate iron work. They obviously cost a small fortune just to maintain- worse than even a boat!!

Mara Beel is safely tucked in for the duration.

Graveyard at St. Michaels Church

John Rutledge, buried here, was the 2nd Chief Justice of the U.S. He died in 1800.

These stones are actually up against the building.

The chandelier came from London in 1803.

The pulpit is original. George Washington and Robert E. Lee both worshipped here.

St. Michaels Anglican (Episcopal) Church was opened in 1761. It is the oldest church edifice in Charleston.

Look at the detail along the roof line!

Such ornate wrought iron!

Many porches have light blue ceilings to keep bugs away.

Small gardens are everywhere.

Notice the reflection in the windows.

Battery houses

More wrought iron

More gingerbread

Rainbow Row- named for its colorful buildings.

A cobblestone street. The stones arrived as ballast on sailing ships.