Sunday, December 16, 2012

testing 1 2 3

we are heading overseas soon - by air not water - and i am hoping to blog about our travels using my droid. This is a test...And this is a picture of our traveling companions...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stuart for the Winter (sort of)

After arriving last month, we only had a few days to "put the boat away" before leaving Stuart and heading back to Wayne for a whirlwind Thanksgiving celebration. Soon after, we headed south on 95 covering by car in 2 days what took 2 weeks by boat on the ICW.

Upon our return to Stuart two weeks ago we quickly settled into the live-aboard life -- getting to know our neighbors, morning walks over the Rte. 1 bridge (the only "hill" on the Treasure Coast), and daily boat chores. The Cap'n maintains a running to-do list to keep Freedom ship shape, and that list keeps him busy.

We have also been focused on repairs and refurbishings around the boat: replacing the dinghy pontoons, new cushions for the Calypso Deck, new bimini and canvas covers for the dinghy, coolers, cap rails, and possibly, re-doing the cap rail varnish.  We picked out a snappy red stripe for the cushions -- lending our own touch to the boat upholstery. 

It's not all work though,. We have been able to enjoy walking through downtown Stuart, the Sunday Green Market,  the Stuart Christmas Parade (a 2 hour long event with 80 lighted floats and a cast of thousands), reconnecting with fellow CCA members at the local December luncheon, visiting with friends from "up north" who happen to be in town for the winter or just a few days.  

We'll be here for another week before heading north again, but for now we are going to enjoy wearing our flip flops.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On the ICW Again

With good memories and a bit of sadness, we threw off the bow lines last Saturday and said farewell to Charleston. We had a great month there, and can't wait to do it again next year, but it was time to move on.  Just before 7 we waved goodbye to our new friends Ellen and Jeff aboard the Selene 53 Trinity and slipped onto the ICW.

We settled quickly into our ICW routine: up before the sun, coffee on, the Admiral at the wheel and the Cap'n raising the anchor. Once we get moving, I get set up for the day:

Coffee, check, Cell Phone, check, Waterway Guide, check, Water, check, Scribbled Schedule for the Week*, check, iPad for reading the newspapers, email, electronic charts checking in on Facebook, playing Sramble, Googling names of passing boats, etc. check.

* I will admit this is a picture from the trip from the Chesapeake to Charleston.

See how dark it is in the background??  Leaving at 0 dark 30 causes that......

Anyway, this week has been much like others on the ICW. Up early, long hours, ever changing landscape, bridge openings to wait for, shallow spots to negotiate, anchoring mid-to-late afternoon (more late than mid this trip) early dinner, reading or tv, then off to bed, sometimes by 9 -- because the alarm goes off about 5:30AM to do it all again.

It is really not as bad as it may sound -- dolphins swim beside us on a regular basis some offering spectacular shows of agility**, the pelicans entertain us with their awkward dives, about mid-day Tuesday just before we crossed the Georgia Florida line, we noted an increase in Palm trees along with the temperature, and today the water has turned to turquoise.

We have not seen as many boats along the waterway this year -- we are not sure if  we are early or late for the migration, or maybe it's the Sandy effect. We expect a lot of boats who may have planned to head south were delayed by the storm, or may have decided not to make the trip at all.   Everyday, though, we seem to fall into a rhythm with a few other boats, leading or following and exchanging radio messages along the way.

We should be at our winter slip in Stuart, Florida by late this winter afternoon: another  Snow Bird winter begins.

**Dolphins swimming alongside on the Indian River, south of Melbourne, FL:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gated Charleston

Gated Charleston

While walking the streets of Charleston, it doesn't take long to realize that gates are popular there. Originally designed to keep out unwanted guests (human and livestock), today I like to think they are more decorative than declarative.

One day I took a Gate Safari and this is what I saw:

Some are quite simple:

Some are imposing

Most are made of iron.....

But some are made of wood....

Many are quite ornate....

Some offer an intriguing peek at what lies beyond......

Many feature a rosette design.....

And some are historic.....

But they are all beautiful.........

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preserved vs. Restored

The Cap'n and I have continued our house touring over the past few weeks. There seems to be a bit of history at every corner, and fortunately for us, what wasn't burned in the war is still available for us to enjoy.

There is great emphasis placed on the difference between Preserved homes and Restored homes. For example last weekend we visited two planation homes along the Ashley River: Drayton hall and Magnolia Plantation. Drayton Hall is the only plantation home along the Ashley that was not burned or somehow destroyed in the War of Northern Aggression. After the war, the Drayton family continued to own and occupy the residence until 1974 when it became a  property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Drayton Hall has been Preserved, meaning no changes have been made to the structure by the National Trust. In fact, even the family did not add any modern conveniences, such as bathrooms, to the house.

Here is Drayton Hall, a prime example of Georgian Revival Architecture, focusing on the 3 B's: Big, Bold and Balanced:

A view to the river  from the second floor

The rooms of Drayton Hall are empty of furniture, but as our tour guide promised, she filled them with stories of planation life, family life and the history of our country.  The walls and ceilings themselves have stories to tell, offering glimpses of the original paint colors and intricate carvings:

A family growth chart dating back to the 1800's:

In this photo below, notice the brown area in the center. From chemical studies of the wall, it has been suggested that the discoloration was caused by the oils in human skin. Perhaps this is where an enslaved worker stood, hands behind his back,  awaiting his master's orders:

Here is the lower level hearth where meals were prepared (with sleeping quarters to the right). In summer months the family would sometimes take their meals here where it was cooler, requiring the enslaved workers to rearrange the furniture. The last owner of the house, Miss Charlotta, would often "camp out" on this level, running an extension cord from the caretaker's cottage to operate her fridge.:

I really enjoyed this Preserved home. A few online reviews said it was boring because there was nothing too look at. Instead, it allowed us to use our imaginations and see the layer of years.

In contrast, built in 1808 the Nathaniel Russell Museum in is a Restored  Federal townhouse near Charleston's Battery. According to the Historic Charleston Foundation's website "Set amid spacious formal gardens, the Nathaniel Russell House is a National Historic Landmark and is widely recognized as one of America's most important neoclassical dwellings."

It has been Restored to reflect life in the early to mid-1800's, using replica wallpaper and some period furniture although very few pieces are from the Russell family collection. The most significant detail of the house is the 3 story free-flying Honduran mahogany staircase. Once current renovations to the house are complete visitors will not be invited to climb the stairs - we were lucky to be among the last to do so. Our guide explained that the staircase is getting 'tired.' She led the way up the steps, admonishing us to hold on to the right hand rail!

Hanging above the staircase is a 1786 George Romney portrait of Mary Rutledge Smith, a prominent Charlestonian, with her son Edward.  We were not allowed to take any photos indoors, so this is all I can share. It is a beautiful home, used primarily as a private residence over the years by the Russell family, but also employed as a Catholic girls boarding school for as time.

Preserved or Restored?  There is a need for both -- but for now, I vote for Preserved!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


We did not venture far from Freedom yesterday as Sandy stirred up some high winds and heavy rains, so I was happy we spent the preceding days getting out  and immersing ourselves in the history of  Charleston. Tuesday morning we took our new folding bikes for their inaugural spin along the waterfront and through the Battery to White Point Gardens. It was a great way to get used to our bikes, enjoy some exercise and explore a charming neighborhood.

On Wednesday morning we took the ferry to Ft. Sumter -- a short 30 minute ride across the harbor. Before boarding the ferry we spent some time exploring the garden at Liberty Square and the terrific indoor display about Charleston's political, business and social environments before the war, and the role of Ft.Sumter and Ft. Moultrie in the war.

The garden was dotted with reflections on freedom such as these:

If you recall, the Capn's family has deep roots here in the low country, and we found at lease one ancestor at Liberty Place:

Then it was on to the Fort -- where the first shot of the War of Northern Aggression exploded on April 12, 1861
This cannon had a direct line of site to Charleston.

At the time of the war these walls were 50 ft. high. Now they are only 25 ft. The fort was built on a sandbar, but has withstood war, shifting currents, and the test of time

On Thursday evening we participated in the Preservation Society of Charleston's tour of  Church Street homes, one of the original streets in the Grand Modell, the earliest plan of the city made in 1672. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful streets in America.  And once again,we found some family ties:

This Georgian style home was the most beautiful stop on the tour , filled with antique furnishings, wallpaper hand painted in Taiwan, and a 13th century tapestry. Ninety percent of its original woodwork remains -- allowing us to climb the same mahogany staircase that the Capn's family (this time the Elliott's) climbed over two centuries ago. 

The tour also featured the home of Frank Abignale, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can. It has been beautifully restored into a comfortable family home mixing old finishes with modern conveniences -- but we loved seeing the movie screen play casually displayed on the coffee table, he celebrity photos and the large framed Pan Am poster.

Friday evening found us at the Historic Charleston Foundation's Tour de Graves, in Magnolia Cemetery, resting place of many notable Charlestonians and you guessed it, more ancestors. We saw a few of their graves, but that was not the focus of our visit. Instead, the docents stationed throughout the former park directed our attention to: 

The Soldier's Ground:

Little Annie's Memorial:

The graves to her left were those of her siblings. We saw another family plot where 5 of 7 children were buried, with one memorial featuring the death mask of the deceased infant.

A Monument Designed by Louis C. Tiffany:

Several Mausoleums - some ornate, some simple - but all, like this one, containing only dust..... (I know because I borrowed the Capn's flashlight, entered the first gate and took a look through the second)

And an 1100 year old Live Oak:

As the sun set over Magnolia Cemetery, we headed out to dinner. All in all it was a busy and interesting week. In light of the impending storm we canceled our weekend plans to visit a few nearby plantations, but there is always next week.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012


If you are worried about how we are faring in the face of Sandy, don't. We are safe, dry, and snug here at the Charleston City Marina dock. So far (2:30 pm Saturday 10/27/12) Sandy is mostly a non-event. Yes it is raining, and a bit windy -- but we have seen far worse on a previous visits to the Holy City and at anchor along the ICW. Things may pipe up as the day goes by, but the heart of the storm is well to the east and we will ride it out easily. It looks like all y'all up north might be in for a much bumpier ride. Hang on!!!

PS -- weekly update later today or tomorrow

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Southern Ground Music and Food Festival

In our box on Sunday waiting for dinner and the show!!!

We left the Chesapeake Bay nearly three weeks earlier this year than last. We had a deadline to meet and we were not going to miss it: the second annual Southern Ground Music and Food Festival. The brain child of Zac Brown, leader of the Zac Brown Band, the festival is designed to bring together his two loves: music and food. And he brought it for us, that's for sure.

Set at Blackbaud Stadium, just outside of Charleston, and with the (Carolina) "blue sky breeze blowing wind through our hair" we feasted on two days of endless music and an array of local food offerings.  With friends Diana and Tom,who flew up from Florida, we had a blast.

Who did we hear?

Charlie Daniels Band -- as good as ever -- man can he play the fiddle.......
The Avett Brothers -- a little bit of blue grass, a little bit of rock, a lot of energy and musical talent -- the first time we had seen them and the first time we had ever seen anyone dance around a stage with their bass fiddle.
Levi Lowery -- Big beard, great voice, a southern soul
Michael Franti and Spearhead-- daughter Monica told me I would love him -- she was right. Tall, dreadlocked and barefoot, he got the crowd jumping (literally jumping and fist pumping)for his entire 40 minute set. And his guitar player only added to the frenzy. Franti reminded us to vote, told us about his good fortune to be adopted, brought fans young and old on stage to dance with him, and added at least 4 more members to his fan club. Check him out!!
John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range -- Hopkins is the free form handle-bar mustache member of ZBB
The Jerry Douglas Band -- Multi-Grammy winner. Bluegrass at its best.
The Wailers -- Looking at the crowd I saw a lot of conservatively dressed middle-aged white women gettin' their groove on and singing along to the Wailers.

Darius Rucker -- Former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, this Charlestonian only stopped by for one song -- it felt like he just came by after dinner for a visit - but one song is better than none. What a unique voice he has.
Gregg Allman -- the legend
John Mayer --

 Not singing these days, but who cares, he is a guitar god. His solos with ZBB were among the best musical performances I have ever experienced. Second only to each of the four times in the past 10 months that I have seen......

Zac Brown Band -- a full concert set two nights in a row. On Sunday night we were lucky enough to be in Stage Box Seats -- yep  right on one of the piers radiating from the main stage affording us an up close and personal view of the performers. How close? Here's a photo of Jimmy DiMartini, of ZBB, right in front of us on the stage:

See Zac all the way down on the left? (No not the Jack Daniels statue, the guy playing guitar) On his way back he high-fived me!!

When we were not listening to the music we......

Hung out in the VIP tent -- comfy couches, football in the 3 tv's,  conversation with other fans, snacks and complimentary* beverages (*complimentary = included in the price of an upgraded ticket)

The in and out of the VIP tent

Watched the Southern Ground artists pose for their Christmas photo.

Just after snapping this photo the security guard said I had to stop. Eventually about three rows were filled with all the artists, including Zac, wearing a variety of holiday themed hats

Walked through the vendor tents

Ate some fabulous Pickled Shrimp Tacos from the Cork food truck

Shared Sunday Breakfast with the Zamily (ZBB fan club), making new friends from all over the country,  landing some swag and learning more about Camp Southern Ground, set to open in 2014, where "children with both typical and special needs will come together to learn life skills and teamwork in a positive, healthy and organic environment."

Had Sunday dinner in our Box on the Stage, cooked by a quintet of chefs including ZBB's own Rusty Hamlin.

Me, Diana and Rusty

Random thoughts --

SGMFF was one of my best weekends ever. 

Southern women have impeccable hygiene, and dress up for an outdoor concert on a soccer field much more than mid-atlantic women do -- dresses, bedazzled jeans, beautiful accessories, cute shoes.

Southerners can rock the denim -- nary a pair of khaki pants were seen either day.

Southerners know and love their Jack Daniels.

The sound at Blackbaud Stadium is Awesome -- much better than at most "music" venues

Check out the YouTube videos of Neon/Isn't She Lovely

You are never too old to be a groupie.

ZBB and Southern Ground Artists are good people and a class act -- they put on a great two days - terrific music,; helpful, friendly staffing; great food;  good prices (eg no food options were over $10, most were $8 or less for a full meal, offering everything from bbq to souvlaki to falafel; beers were $5 not the typical $8-10 venue pricing) and a real focus on thanking their fans and their Zamily, and giving back (eg Camp Southern Ground)

I can't wait for next year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scene on the Waterway

Although we are settled in at the Charleston City Marina, and enjoying life with a city view, we have many good memories of our trip along the ICW so far.  

A Grand Welcome to Mile 0 of the ICW

Traffic Jam at the Great Bridge Bridge, VA

Calm Waters

The only Giraffe we have seen so far.

Southern Bell's of Beaufort, NC

A Boat for my Father (and brother)

A Good Day on the Waterway
A Bad Day on the Waterway

Family Ties in Beaufort, NC