Stephanie and Luke are getting married in Boston and Ireland, and so we’re heading home to prepare for the festivities. As I write, we’re tucking Red Pearl in at Murrell’s Inlet, SC, nearly 500 miles short of our original goal for leaving her for 7 weeks while we’re away. According to our insurance company, we are still inside the “hurricane belt,” and they are adamant in requiring that we be north of North Carolina by June 15. Some of you may remember our angst LAST spring, as we strained against this mandate, complicated by the passing of my mom and Steve’s mouth full of sores. The inability to reconcile their requirement with our reality has forced us to research new insurers, layering on additional anxiety as we assess new policies and walk away from the boat without having a decision nailed down. But, one does what one must.
I’ve said many times along this journey: Sometimes you’re lucky (…other times, not so much). I know it’s not a particularly grammatically brilliant phrase, but it just seems appropriate in so many instances. The short version of the conclusion of our stay in Savannah—and, believe me, you DO want the short version!—is that the work order kept extending. The engine work had concluded, the raw water pump finally was installed, albeit with an unnecessarily tortuous string of tradespeople. But as hull work dragged on, it was discovered that one part had not been ordered and 5 days later for some reason it still was not. Further, the fiberglass man who went to Orlando for the week end to watch his daughter’s 2-minute cheer routine in competition didn’t show on Monday as promised. And having just fixed the raw water pump, the fresh water pump suddenly stopped and had to be replaced. And so we sat in Savannah for an unwelcome two additional weeks, Steve reworking the tide tables time and again, hoping to shove off “any day,” and I embarking on a musical project—something non-boat-y to preserve my waning sanity. We became friends with Loopers Sue and Bud Hanson on Odyssey who had been towed in with both engines ailing, and we cheered one another as we helplessly waited. All said, however, if one HAS to marooned somewhere, Savannah is a beautiful city, and we continued to bike downtown and enjoy the sights and meet other Loopers.
Finally, on Thursday, May 2 at 2:00pm, we departed Savannah and did not look back! We anchored out the next two nights, passing by beautiful coastal towns which we had so looked forward to exploring. Threatening weather forecasts became benign as we cruised, and our moods lifted with wind on our faces and as we gazed down at scenery from the flybridge at beautiful homes, rustic homes, and wild coastlines. The company of dolphins on the water once again conjured up joy for the spontaneous moment.
On Saturday, May 4 we caught up with Mike and Brenda, our friends on Velsignet, who had already seen a number of sights in Charleston. With Steve and my having no sightseeing agenda in Charleston, it was just fun to be together again. We had docktails and chatted right through what might have been dinner. On Sunday we attended services at a little Lutheran Church and then went for brunch at Husk, a restaurant which had been recommended to Mike and Brenda by their neighbor in MN whose nephew is the chef. Touted by Bon Appetit as the No. 1 New Restaurant in the US when it opened in 2011, Husk features locally sourced southern cooking; on Sundays, brunchy appetizers and mains are offered, a lovely departure from the gorging-inspired buffet brunch which has become an American fixture. We savored discreet portions of biscuits with chicken gravy, baked cheesy stone-ground grits, an omelette with oyster mushrooms and aromatics, and challah French Toast with macerated berries and whipped ricotta. Mike and Brenda had exotic preparations of quail and corn waffle, and brisket topped with poached eggs. We departed the restaurant, all senses sated. What else to do in historic Charleston on the only afternoon in town? “Shopping!” you say? The guys solved the world’s problems while Brenda and I browsed inviting boutiques. That evening they joined us aboard for a lentil soup and salad supper, and we made plans to meet in Georgetown.
The 63-mile cruise to Georgetown was idyllic—the weather was sunny, windy, and temperate, and the wild grasslands invoked memories of the South Carolina coastal scenes in Pat Conroy’s novels of which I am an adoring fan. We traversed one river after another, some narrow and shallow during lower tides, others roaring to life with impressive current. We watched the wildlife in the water (dolphins are nearly constant companions) and flying above, all in seeming constant search of food, and we pondered the extensive ecosystem in which grassy fen sifts and cleanses the waters, and how easily one could become disoriented without GPS keeping constant vigil as to one’s exact location. Lulled into a semi-meditative state, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to see and experience this very particular sliver of life.
Arriving in Georgetown in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a soup supper on Mike and Brenda’s boat. A refresher course on Pinochle was so absorbing that we didn’t think of the time until 12:15. Given that we were seeing the sights of a small town the next day, there was no particular need to stick to the Loopers’ normal schedule (“Looper midnight” being 9:30), so we finished the game and dinghied back to our boat at 1:00am.
The following morning Steve and I toured the Kiminsky House, full of colorful history. Built by a father for his spinster daughter at the ripe old age of 20, the 3-story house required expansion after she married the town sheriff and assumed custody of her 3 nieces and nephew after the death of their parents. 200 years later in the 1940s it became the home for Harold and Julia Kaminski, both from prominent families and the subject of scandal, he being 20-some years her senior and Jewish, she being Protestant. The couple eloped and then embarked on extensive world travels, collecting beautiful furnishings for their home. The community must have accepted them at some point, for Harold was elected mayor, and the couple entertained in style, easily seating 24 at their dining room table. Having no heirs, Julia left the entire estate to the town of Georgetown, including a stunning 13-diamond brooch which was her signature piece of jewelry.
After lunch with Mike and Brenda, we all toured the Rice Museum. Production of rice and indigo yielded the amassing of enormous wealth in this county in the 18th-19th centuries. The many swamps and low-lying areas along with a West African labor force made the cultivation of rice highly profitable. Enslaved laborers cleared the cypress swamps and and flooded the rice fields from the rivers by digging canals, ditches or floodgates, a process which required knowledge, engineering and technical skills, which, ironically, were provided by the enslaved West Africans, who were experienced rice farmers. By 1840 Georgetown produced nearly half of the total rice crop of the US, exported more rice than any port in the world, and “Carolina Gold” was in demand worldwide. Enslaved rice plantation workers provided their owners the highest per capita income in the American colonies and they continued to earn huge profits up to the Civil War. That the cultivation of this labor-intensive crop became unaffordable with paid labor after the Civil War was predictable, and the final demise occurred as rice production was mechanized and the soft South Carolina soil would not support the heavy machinery. The area finally found economic stability again in the early 20th century through the production of clear yellow pine, and the sweet town continues to bob and weave through market trends. Docktails were on our boat, and our third game of pinochle failed to determine whether Steve and Brenda or Mike and I were the better team. 😉 We called it a day on Looper schedule, as we were all cruising the following day. Good-byes were sad, as we won’t be able to catch them on the remainder of their Loop after this break from cruising, but we have tentative plans to reconnect next winter in Florida!
We left Georgetown Harborwalk Marina for our final cruise for a good while, a delightful 20-miles. Here, too, at Murrell’s Inlet, we are meeting with service folk— a diver to check our propellers, because we hit something on the Wacamaw River on Monday, resulting in a slight vibration; and a canvas craftsmen to quote snap-on exterior Sunbrella window covers. The window covers that came with the boat are worn and mismatched, and a good set will provide privacy, allowing us to get rid of the 3 beige curtains-on-a-bungee, which fail miserably in the aesthetics department.
I have kicked myself for my indecision about things that needed freshening up on 13-year-old Red Pearl, as our current mode of renovating along the journey is stressful and inefficient. And then I remind myself that the path of discovery is not always straight. Every Looper reads the books by Captain John Wright, who has 7 loops under his belt, proudly claims to have never paid more than $30,000 for a boat, and recommends that Loopers think of their boat as transportation, rather than a home. Steve thought this made sense; I had my doubts but, noting that I feel no need to decorate my car, agreed to give the concept a “go.” “Go” having been given, I’ve discovered that the boat is NOT just transportation; we invite friends aboard, host docktails and simple suppers, and we have spent a LOT of time at port. As we anticipate another 1 1/2 years to complete the Loop, we have decided to embark on a few additional improvements, and 7 weeks should be enough for window covers without causing further delays….right? 🥺
So now we’re off to Indiana, Boston, Ireland, and Minneapolis! The Looping adventure will resume July 1.