I’ve been looking forward to Charleston this entire trip! As I’ve said a thousand times I was really sad to leave the Bahamas and island life in general but I have been very excited about all we have to explore going up the east coast. St. Augustine, Savannah and now Charleston complete the trifecta of big stops on the southern section of the east coast. After this we go back to little waterfront towns for a bit. We enjoy those as well and we will have a slower pace for a bit!
We left Beaufort last Thursday and had a long stressful day making our way north to Charleston. After much debate we decided to take the ICW instead of going out into the ocean. It would have been 40 extra miles to go outside and that just didn’t make sense if we could manage the tides and depths. We spent a long time studying every hazard mark and shallow spot along the way and, as we always do, timed our departure with the tides. Thursday that meant that we didn’t leave until 11ish so that we were traveling on a rising tide. We made it through all of the shallow spots without issue and arrived at the Charleston City Marina late in the day and tied up to the Mega Dock. The Charleston City Marina is famous for their 3000 ft. long Mega Dock for transient boaters. We thankfully got a spot on the inside of the dock about halfway up. It was still a very long walk to get off the dock but the girls have taken that in stride and we’ve all enjoyed a big boost in our step count! The Mega dock is home to lots of boats and lots of mega yachts. We’ve enjoyed walking past multiple enormous power boats as well as the 295 ft. long Athena sailboat. We’ve never seen anything like it.
Friday morning we got school done quickly and hopped on the free shuttle provided by the marina into town. We started with a carriage ride to get our bearings and a little of the history of this great town. The girls were thrilled to see more horses and this time we got front row seats! We quickly learned that mules were pulling our carriage, not horses. Maybe most people know this, but….Mules have a horse for a mother and a donkey for a father. The girls were fascinated to learn this as well as other facts about mules that we were told and they have researched. I will let them share in their blog!
The tour took us around town. We learned a lot of history about the area and the houses. After our tour guide referred to Charleston as the “Holy City” a few times I looked up why. There are a few theories out there but the most common is that it earned the nickname because of its support of religious freedom hundreds of years ago. As you look into town from the harbor or any of the highways or bridges you see a lot of low buildings and many tall steeples. We toured past a number of the oldest churches and the girls and I were able to attend mass at the old Catholic cathedral on Sunday. And somehow I didn’t get a singe picture of these incredible churches!
After our carriage ride we walked through the famous City Market and then took a walk down to Waterfront Park and took that all the way past Rainbow Row to Battery Park.
Amazed that Madelyn hadn’t yet balked at all the walking, we decided to push a bit further. We were able to snag an early reservation to SNOB (Slightly North of Broad). Walking in the restaurant a bit sheepish in our sight seeing clothes after having taken a carriage ride and walked many miles we were taken to a lovely table with a view of the kitchen and had the best meal of our stay in Charleston! I have been looking forward to the cuisine here and this meal did not disappoint. I had the best swordfish I’ve ever had. I should have taken a lot of food pictures but only managed to get one the whole trip. A fabulous charcuterie plate (that we had already eaten half of)!
After dinner we wandered around a bit more and then tricked Madelyn into walking all the way back to the marina. We just kept saying we’d walk a little further and call the shuttle. She was completely fine and eventually looked up and said “hey, did we just walk all the way back to the boat?”. Yes we did!
Saturday morning we got up and headed to see the USS Yorktown. My kids are kind of tapped out on Civil War history so it was good to change it up. First of all this was WWII history so that made a world of difference for them. Ha ha. But more importantly it was a museum inside an aircraft carrier! So cool! The USS Yorktown has been permanently docked here in Charleston to serve as a museum. I’ve admitted before that my knowledge of history is embarrassingly bad and I hated history as a kid. So, I’m learning with them and experiential learning is the way to go!
This “museum” consists of the USS Yorktown, the USS Laffey and submarine USS Clamagore. All three are open to self tour. We started with the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier from WWII that was named after the first USS Yorktown lost at the Battle of the Midway. It holds 3500 sailors as well as 90 aircraft. Molly just kept walking around saying “we can’t be on a boat”. I called it a boat in one room and was corrected by a fellow patron telling me it was a “ship”. Not a “boat”. Point taken. The ship was split up into 5 self guided tours. Maddy was thankful for that. She’s not a fan of listening to people drone on about what she’s looking at. The kids were fascinated with the accommodations and comparing and contrasting to our boat. First up was the bunk room. We found a number of bunks with notes written on them by soldiers years ago. So special to read this little piece of history. Then onto the dentist office where both girls took turns in the chair.
Next up was the galley, where Madelyn couldn’t believe how real the pancakes looked. They were particularly interested in the quantity of food prepared each day in these galleys. Enough for 3 meals plus midnight rations for 3500 passengers. That’s a lot of food!
Then we got to the butcher room and the bakery. My favorite was the bakery! There was a recipe and ingredients displayed for a typical batch of 10,000 chocolate chip cookies! The girls’ eyes bugged out. But if you think about it, that’s not even 3 cookies per sailor. I was amazed at 500 eggs and 100 lbs of sugar. Wow! And the mixer. Maddy could stand in the mixer, it was so big.
The doctor’s office and operating room were a bit primitive looking. And then there was the engine room. Whoa. It’s big. Really really big. The girls got to try out “driving” and see the radios used to call up for signals.
Then we headed up towards the flight deck. The girls sat down in the briefing room first and then we went out to the aircraft deck. Molly again was in awe that we were on a ship! With airplanes and helicopters on it!
Last but not least we saw the “brig” – the jail on board. The girls and I were all kind of in awe of that! Yikes! We also got to see the captains’ and officers’ dining room, quarters and snack bar. It was fun to check out the old soda fountain on board for them!
Next we moved onto the USS Laffey which was extremely hot and stuffy and much smaller! An important ship for sure but not nearly as interesting. Onto the submarine. The USS Clamagore. The poor submarine is rusting away sitting in the salt water! Still very cool to climb aboard. We’ve confirmed that I could never ever live on a submarine. So claustrophobic. Still interesting to tour.
After a long, hot, albeit very interesting morning, we headed back to the boat. We spent Saturday afternoon looking at another boat we may be interested in and then headed to dinner at Fuel. It had been recommended by friends and was a fun casual meal.
With rain forecasted to move in Monday we decided to rent a car Sunday morning and head to one of the big plantations. After church we grabbed brunch at 82 Queen. Husk has been one of the most recommended restaurants by friends. We put our name in there and while waiting for our table glanced at the menus at 82 Queen on one side and the place on the other side of Husk. Our table at Husk became available just as 82 Queen opened and said they could seat us on their patio. Their menu looked better to us so we skipped Husk and ate there. It was excellent. Beautiful patio. AMAZING biscuits. The girls had delicious crème brulee French toast. I had a fabulous omelet and Ben had a great tenderloin, egg, arugula sandwich. Another successful meal and off to Boone Hall Plantation we went.
It was again quite sunny and HOT. We took a wagon tour around the grounds and explained to the girls how southern plantations worked. This particular one is still in business. They no longer grow cotton although the old cotton gin is a preserved landmark building. It was turned into a restaurant for a few years and when they went to remodel, a load bearing wall came down so now it is being supported from falling down but obviously the restaurant has closed.
The plantation also no longer makes bricks but they grow many fruits and vegetables. They had just finished harvesting kale, watermelon and a few other things but were currently growing grapes, peaches, more watermelon, strawberries and corn. By fall the corn will be corn maze high and they will have a full crop of squash and pumpkins.
After the wagon tour we stopped by their butterfly conservatory. Who doesn’t love butterflies? Madelyn was of course also enthralled with the horses!
We took a tour of the plantation house but were a bit disappointed. We came to learn that Charleston doesn’t have too many original plantation houses. At Boone Hall this was the 4th house. The previous ones had been burned to the ground, blown away by a hurricane and torn down to build the current more modern house in the 1930s. It is a beautiful house but as Ben pointed out, our house in Chicago was built in the 1880s so a 1930s house wasn’t all that interesting to us. It did have one beautiful room preserved from the old house with the original pine floors and cypress walls.
Boone Hall is famous for its Avenue of the Oaks drive. Many movies have been filmed here and the plantation is now the location for close to 200 weddings a year. Our tour guide told us most of these trees are 250+ years old. They live about 450 years so they are still young.
Back to the history lessons! I largely wanted to visit a plantation for the history. This culture of farming is so different than what the girls know at home. But in addition to the still existing farm, Boone Hall has 8 slave houses still intact that we were able to tour. Each house contained a bit of the timeline of these slaves lives.
We learned on our carriage tour that there is no natural stone to use for building in this area. We’ve moved from coquina in St. Augustine to tabby in Beaufort. In Charleston slaves made bricks. One of the slave houses had a brick mold on display. Ben explained to the girls how they poured the materials in the mold to form them and that the writing in the mold then displayed on the outside of the brick. All of the slave houses were built by the slaves out of these bricks, as well as many of the houses in Charleston.
There were copies of slave lists coming into Charleston as well as advertisements of slaves for sale on display in one house. Molly and I spent time looking at the descriptions of slaves such as good workers, complains, has a baby, full hand, half hand, driver, nurse, etc.
Throughout the various slave houses we were able to listen to a history through the ages. I’m sure the girls didn’t soak in all of the vast amount of history here, but we listened to recordings about Lincoln ending slavery and then how in the south voting rights were lost again for many years for African Americans. The history timeline continued through Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and ended with Barack Obama becoming our first African American president. It is hard for me to grasp the enormity and difficulty of the lives these people lived, so I know it is hard for the girls to grasp. I hope this was at least a bit of glimpse for them into the past and that they grow up to be respectful of the history here.
After that somber note (and a full weekend of home schooling at its finest!) we had some fun in store for all of us! When we came into town I emailed Kim Russo – she is the Director of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA). I knew she had teenagers so I asked if she may have any leads on a babysitter. Her daughter was working all weekend but she emailed to tell me her niece was free. It gets better. Her niece is a high school senior who teaches gymnastics. We planned to have a date night Saturday night but then Paige mentioned that her gym had open gym hours Sunday afternoon. Sold! We dropped the girls off and they had a blast. A full gymnastics studio with sprung mats, trampolines, foam pits, bars, balance beams, you name it. And a personal gymnastics instructor at their disposal! She drove them back to the boat after. We got a couple of errands done and headed to Magnolias for an early dinner. Another highly recommended restaurant and it also did not disappoint! The fried green tomatoes (for me) and fried chicken (for Ben) were two of their signature dishes and were both great. Molly and Madelyn are pretty good about being taken to nice restaurants but it was such a treat for us to have an adult dinner at our own pace with drinks and appetizers and dessert! We took a long stroll back around town and to the marina.
Monday was supposed to be rainy all day so we had a pretty low key schedule. School and then Costco and Trader Joes were on the list. It’s not all glamorous even when we’re in fun places. But Kim Russo came to our boat to visit Monday afternoon! We’ve been emailing her for months and it was fun to put a face with the name. We’re so happy we got to meet her while we were in town.
Last night we went to Obstinate Daughter for dinner. One more restaurant off the list of recommendations. It topped my list for best cocktail. Impossible to make them all so Ben and I will just have to come back. Today we hoped to head north towards Georgetown, SC. The path from here to there is narrow and shallow. We picked out an anchorage 30 miles north of here. Today the tide schedule was not in our favor. Low tide was at 12 PM in Charleston and 1 PM where we were heading. And added bonuses today were thunderstorms starting at 2 pm and low tide being below MLW (mean low water). Friends of ours headed north before us and reported two or three spots that were 5 ft. when they passed 2 hours after low tide so we had to continue to wait. Big storms moved through on schedule at 2 pm. By 3:30 it was looking ok and after checking many weather sites we decided to pull out and give it a try. There are a number of good anchorages along the way and we figured we’d just see how far we got. There were more storms to the west but mostly just rain and a long ways west. We pulled out and were fine. All of a sudden dark clouds moved in. We were barely across the bay here and Ben decided he was turning around. Better safe than sorry. One of the storm cells to the south moved more north than east and was now in our path. We turned around and it started dumping rain on us! I had to jump off the boat and tie lines. I poured an inch of water out of my shoes when I came back in. But we’re back at the City Marina safe and sound. The sky is now clear and the water looks like a mirror. We shall see what morning brings. Charleston has been another fabulous stop on this great adventure!