Monday, May 27, 2013

Norfolk, Virginia

USS Wisconsin

Norfolk, Virginia
  At last count we have gone aground three times on the shifting sandbars of the Intra-coastal Waterway. The section we just passed, known affectionately as 'The Dismal Swamp', led us to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Here we arrived at the formidable port and military base of Norfolk, Virginia, where we rendezvoused with cruiser friends Ronald and Sandra on SV Sandra Louise. Norfolk is the biggest naval base in the entire world, and is ringed with dozens of very imposing, and rather sinister looking, battleships and aircraft carriers, of immense proportions. 

   We tied up at the 'free' dock on the Portsmouth side of the harbour and took a paddle-wheeler over to Norfolk to tour the great battleship, U.S. Wisconsin (also known as The Wisky). At 887 feet long, it can hold over 3000 sailors, and crossed the Panama Canal with only one foot clearance on either side! With her combat days gratefully behind her, The Wisky now sits peacefully in Norfolk Harbour, ogled by inquisitive tourists. Afterwards we investigated the historic old town, including MacArthur Park, with its' tribute to General MacArthur, and Waterfront Park.

SV Sandra Louise and Chantey V at rest

Georgie please note!
     Back on Chantey V we were enjoying the view from the cockpit and admiring an adorable puppy on the boat behind us, when the frisky fellow decided to leap overboard! Being a great lover of our furry friends, what else could I do but plunge in fully clothed and attempt to rescue the poor creature? We hauled the soggy mutt to safety, but I somehow managed a trip to emergency with scraped-up toes from oyster shells on the dock! Doctor Daragh quickly went to work with the first aid kit patching me up, and ready for the next adventure. A windstorm was brewing so we decided to depart for Deltaville and on to Solomons Island. We sailed across the border into Maryland with following seas just in time to feel the winds freshen and snug up to the dock.
Blows hard but fast here
Wing on wing Chesapeake Bay

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Savannah to Charleston

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. 
Forrest Gump's Park Bench

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.


Plantation owners' daughter and her servant

                                    In my mind I'm gone to Carolina,
                                                                                Can't you see the sunshine, can't you just feel the moonshine?
                                                                       Ain't it just like a friend of mine, to hit me from behind,
                                            Yes, I'm going to Carolina in my mind.

                               Dark and silent, late last night,
                                                          I think I might have heard the highway calling,
                                    Geese in flight, and dogs that bite,
                                                      And signs that might be omens say I'm going,
                                          Yes, I'm gone to Carolina in my mind.

                                    James Taylor