Saturday, June 27, 2015

Charleston, SC

The new window a/c unit over a hatch

I love Charleston.  I've visited here several times for work and never tired of wandering this historical town, exploring old cemeteries, sitting down on a bench in the park, visiting favorite restaurants and trying new ones, and taking tours.  However, this visit was a little bit of a let down.  I've sat on it a few days and I'm going to publish this blog largely unedited.  Better luck next time:

Sunset in McClellanville

McClellanville to Charleston:  The shrimp boats start heading out about 5:00 am with their bright spotlights shining on deck.  I hear the line from the movie Forrest Gump "shrimp creole, shrimp po boys, shrimp gumbo."  I'm up early but I let the Captain sleep too late.  He's moving slow and for the first time, I'm disconnecting shore power and doubling back lines while he wanders off the talk to our dock neighbors (?!)  It's just above low tide and they're drawing straws to see who's going to leave first.  The singlehander on the Leopard 38 "Southern Cross" drawing 3'9" shoves off first (yep, there may be one of these in our future), followed by us and the trawler "Traveller" from Sarasota last (also heading to Charleston!).

We have a quiet stretch of water today.  A few dolphins are spotted and every once in awhile you get a whiff of the ocean.  We have 10 kts of wind on the nose so the cockpit is very comfortable.  Our new snack is trail mix (almonds, raisins/dried cherries, and M&M's.  (Add gf pretzels to the grocery list) to go with our cold-brew coffee.  For the first time, we are hearing chatter from Jacksonville?

Finally got some crab legs at Hyman's

We arrive in Charleston harbor and pass by Ft Moultrie and Ft Sumter on the way in.  We dock at City Marina and quickly run for the nearest air conditioning.  (Which was catching the marina shuttle downtown to eat at Hyman's).

Is this going to take long?  That's where I take a nap!

Charleston Day 2:  We rented a car to do errands.  The Captain caved first.  OK, I was thinking it but he said it first.  "Let's go to Lowe's and get a window air conditioner."  He's not sleeping well and every one is getting a little grumpy.  We went to Lowes, Whole Foods (lunch at the salad bar, larabars, ginger beer), Trader Joes (nuts & dried fruit) and Harris Teeter's for a big grocery run.  Captain was too pooped to walk next door to Starbuck's when we were done.  The time it took me to unload groceries, he had the air conditioning running.  (If you want to know where the coolest spot is, ask the cat).  Our first shipment from Amazon shows up with new cushions for the helm seat.  I whip up a new batch of yogurt (without making the boat even more miserable).

"Gonna need a bigger boat."

Little Loose from Mooresville, NC?

Day 3 Sat:  We take the shuttle into town for the Charleston Museum and a tour of the Heyward-Washington house.  Lunch at Black Bean.  Retire to the boat to sit in the air conditioning.  Another Amazon box shows up with a second new helm seat to match the first.  The Captain makes a local shrimp & mixed vegetable stir fry.  Went down to the marina bar for dessert and watched part of the US Open.
Charleston Museum

Heyward-Washington house

Day 4 Sun:  Father's Day.  The Dad scrubbed  down the exterior while I disassembled a few of the settee cushions so I could throw them in the washing machine.  We took the shuttle downtown for the Dungeon tour, but it was closed so we walked along the waterfront before heading over to Fleet Landing for lunch (recommended by the shuttle driver instead of the pub off of Urbanspoon.  Score!)  We walked around some more hoping to get some more errands done, but head back to the air-conditioned boat empty handed.  (Neither kid called.  Bummer.)

Day 5 Mon:  We stayed an extra day to wait for our mail that didn't get shipped so it's errand day.  Laundry, groceries, West Marine, (Starbucks!)

Some art for the boat...

Our trip to Charleston was anti-climatic.  It's my second favorite city behind San Fransisco and Captain had never been here.  I knew he would love the history and of course, the food.  However, we had a couple things against us.  #1 there aren't any great marinas in Charleston.  They are all exposed to the current of the river, so tricky docking and possibly uncomfortable rolling.  (Another boater stayed at the maritime marina on the other side and said it was so bad, they left after 30 minutes!)  Also, all the docks were expensive, at least $2/foot.  I was willing to pay that to stay 4 days, so I picked the nicest looking marina with the best reviews (with the MegaDock for MegaYachts.  Another mistake.  We are the smallest boat here.  No really.  Even the tenders for the yachts are 30+ ft!).  I wasn't happy with my choice.  While heading across the bay, I contacted them on the radio, hoping to get our docking instructions so I could start prepping lines & fenders.  She said to call when you get closer (we had an aerial pic, and ended up on the far, outer face dock which could have been relayed).  After the second call, of "call when you get closer,"  I handed the mic over to the Captain and did my usual (all 4 lines and all 4 fenders out--in case when need to make a last minute change.  A fellow boater tells us he had the same problem).  A very nice dock hand met us and grabbed a forward bow line (the current runs parallel to the dock and can take you right past, even at slack water) but when I turned around we had just missed a 60 ft yacht's BBQ grill on the stern railing.  The Captain's fast throttle/wheel work cleared him by a foot.  A visit to the office concreted the fact that the young customer service lady and I were not going to be friends.  "Closest restaurant with air conditioning?"  "You'd have to take the shuttle and it doesn't leave for 40 minutes."  I should have verified because I later discovered there were several restaurants within walking distance and it was a safe neighborhood.  I left the Captain to handle things. 

It's a large marina and I'm sure keeping bathrooms clean is difficult, but the showers were unsatisfactory.  The first was dirty (I can rinse out a shower and been known to carry a bottle of bleach cleaner with me.  No problem.  The water pressure in the afternoon was useable but weak.)  The next (attempted morning) shower had absolutely no water pressure--you could barely wash your hands.  The afternoon shower was better water pressure but all hot water (water tank on the roof, maybe?), moldy curtain and the usual--curtains too short and narrow so water all over the floor.  After that, I showered on the boat.  Again, disappointing.  We've had cleaner and nicer showers at free marinas, so all I could see was $$$.  The laundry room was adequate.  Three washers and 2 large commercial dryers (not sure on the math there?)

Oh, and even the Captain complained about the slow to unusable wifi that made paying $2/ft all the more annoying.

The marina did have a free shuttle into town and the dockhands were all very nice, dropping us off and picking us up wherever we wanted since they weren't too busy.  I love the architecture here and house tours are a must to learn about why the many houses sit "sideways" on the lots (taxes were paid by square footage on the street) with porches on the side (no a/c in the summer), the front rooms were used for business and you weren't supposed to pass through the archway into the back of the house without an invite from a family member.  The houses are situated to catch the breeze and windows strategically placed to pull the breeze through.  Even beds were designed to be pulled away from the wall to catch the river breeze coming in the windows.  Walking through the old church cemeteries and peeking through fences at the private gardens are great strolling opportunities.  Again, too hot.  The Captain said Charleston reminded him of New Orleans.  Yep, I couldn't place the smell.

Perhaps our expectations were too high.  Or we've come to prefer the small towns that surprise us with hospitality, home-cooked food and everything we need within 2 miles of the downtown waterfront.  If you live on your boat, Edenton, Oriental, and Georgetown are the gems.


  1. Sorry you did not have a good stay in Charleston. from your description, we can surely understand. I would agree with you, though, that heading south into the heat of summer has got to be taking its toll on you. We have the opposite problem now in Canada with one of the coldest and wettest starts to summer they can remember.

  2. Hi Duane, we've been following your blog. We're melting and you have the heat on! (I do remember the days on the Chesapeake when we were wearing every layer we packed and were still cold!) The last few days have been cooler with a nice breeze. We even got in a walk this morning (no errands or meals involved!) The Captain was just reading through your Hilton Head area posts since that's where we're headed next.

  3. The Cooper River Marina on the East side of the peninsula is the best kept secret. Great facilities, super easy on off the dock and ver accommodating to cats. The only problem is that it's far from town. Requires a taxi. It's a great place to meet people coming to see you in a car though and it's very inexpensive.

    SV Kintala