Sunday, May 12, 2013
Hilton Head, S.C.
At Hilton Head Island we took some time out to visit with the Nagle girls. Daragh's sisters Mary and Caroline, and niece Jennifer, flew in from Ireland, and New York City, for a brief interlude of relaxation, and to share 'the craic' as they say in the old country. Hilton Head is one of those new style planned communities where everything is cookie-cutter perfect. The harbour was lovely complete with lighthouse and meandering bike trails, draped with deep green foliage.
We made a side trip to Savannah, as the weather went from bad to worse. We still had a good time and joked that our new theme song was ' Rainy Night in Georgia'. As Chantey V docked at Beaufort, our final day together, the gloom finally lifted and rays of sun appeared for a brief few hours before the girls were whisked away at sunset by Phil the taxi driver homeward bound.
Charleston, South Carolina
We arrived at Charleston, where the Civil War began on April 12th, 1861. After months of sabre-rattling and threats of secession from the Union, Confederate soldiers opened fire on federal forces at Fort Sumter. Four years later, after the Siege of Charleston, Union forces marched in to take the city. Like Montreal and St. Augustine, remnants of the old walled city are still visible. Over 150 years later, stately neo-classical homes surround Shady Oak and Palmetto trees. Sumptuous restaurants line the narrow cobbled streets, and the Civil War is a distant memory.
Many statues and mementos of those tumultuous days line the parks and walkways. We read of one remarkable fellow named Robert Smalls, an enslaved pilot on the steamer 'Planter' in 1862.
The courageous Smalls conceived a plan to take control of the ship when the officers were ashore, with a small band of slaves and their families. They sailed it to Fort Sumter where the Unionists were staked out. When they arrived they joined the Union army and they eventually took Charleston, and became freed men. Later Smalls would become an activist in the Equal Rights Movement and a U.S. Senator. This brave and strategic deed was instrumental in Lincolns decision to allow slaves join the Union army as regular soldiers.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The word 'Daytona' conjures up visions of hot rods on the beach and babes in bikinis. The babes are still there but the hot rods are gone, relocated to the Speedway several miles inland. You can still pay a small fee to drive down one small stretch of endless sand, but the exhilaration has fizzled out.
The morning dawned and we were off to a more enchanting port of call, St. Augustine, Florida. First settled by Spain in 1565, it has the distinction of being the oldest permanent European settlement in America. A majestic fort, Fort Castillo de San Marcos, guards the city. You can almost feel the conquistadors strolling the battlements. This is a walking city, with narrow winding lanes and cafes spewing music and entertainment galore. From the harbour we savoured the view of the Spanish Renaissance architecture, including the grand Flagler Hotel, built by railway baron Henry Flagler. We new we were nearing the heart of the old south when we spied the dashing Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara peering out from a local pub. Rhett's smirk seemed to say…. "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Our time here passed quickly, but we reluctantly passed on to Georgia and the Old South. Our journey took us through Fernandina, Jekyl Island and St.Simons Island. Jekyl Island and St. Simons proved to be very interesting stops. Both were former plantations owned by French and British Entrepreneurs fleeing war in Europe. We learned of the sad story of The Wanderer, the last slave ship to arrive in America in the mid 1800's, years after slavery had supposedly been abolished. 480 souls left Africa but only 403 survived the horrid conditions crossing the Atlantic to arrive at Jekyl Island 42 days later. The ancestors of these immigrants populate the island to this day, thankfully, under much happier circumstances.
After going aground in the ever-shifting shallows on route to Fernandina, we decided to leave the I.C.W. (Intra-Coastal Waterway), and go through the St. Simon cut out to sea on an overnighter to Savannah. A kindly fellow in a small power boat offered to pull us off the sand to our great relief. It took a few attempts but eventually we pulled free and waited several hours for the tide to rise before pushing onward. It was a rough ride on the outside with winds on the nose and choppy seas. We arrived at last in the Savannah River and tied up to the pier with the whole vista of old town Savannah before our eyes!
The history here in the Deep South is astounding, and sometimes bleak. From privateers to slave traders, Civil War heroes to freedom fighters, they have all made their mark here at one time or another. The city parks are lined with statues and monuments commemorating many of the people who shaped this diverse country. Strolling through the cobblestone streets and gazing up at the brownstone and red brick buildings on the strand, time seems to stand still.
Today, the old riverboat paddle steamers unload their cargo of tourists with cameras and brochures in hand, and the shops bustle with the sale of t-shirts and gelatos. Everyone appears content to let the ghosts of the past rest in peace. As Forest Gump would say,( part of the movie was set in Savannah)……."Life is like a box of chocolates,
you never know what you're gonna get".
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
We have now entered the Intra-coastal Waterway, also known as 'The Ditch', heading for Titusville. This large waterway runs from Maine all the way to the Gulf Coast of Florida, over 3,000 miles in length. Along the 1,000 mile Atlantic section there are over 100 bridges, some of which, (the Bascules and Swings), must be hailed to open for sailboats to pass through. One passes a myriad of scenic sights including old plantations and manor houses, bleak swamps and bayous, jungles, historic towns and modern skyscrapers. The Waterway it seems is a veritable minefield of shoals, shallows and obstacles with constantly shifting sands, so we creep along with eyes peeled for imminent dangers. One must watch out for the lounging bulk of large Manatees, sea lion-like creatures that bathe in the warm waters of the channel.
|Manatee drinking fresh water drops|
In Titusville we tied up in the marina, rented a car and drove 350 miles south to Key West. The last 100 miles is a vast span of bridges joining the islands, one of which is 7 miles long! An incredible feat. Only in America! Key West, which must have been an idyllic spot at onetime, is now home to the inevitable cruise ships, and t arted up for the tourists. However, it still exudes that "Jimmy Buffet' small town charm with funky bars, crisp white colonial cottages with picket fences, and a very hip arts community.
|Cigar Factory Folkart|
We will spend a couple of days at Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, absorbing the fascinating story of the American and Russian astronauts and the Space Program, and then blast off ourselves into the blue. Next stop Daytona Beach, and life in the fast lane!
|Lounging at Key West|
|Kennedy Space Center|
|One small step for mankind|