July 1, 2021
From St. Simons Island we cruised toward Savannah, with a lovely and uneventful night on the hook at Wahoo River. The next morning, however, the race was on for reaching Savannah ahead of Tropical Storm Darius, headed straight for the Georgia coast.
A return visit to Thunderbolt, where we spent 3 weeks for repairs in 2019, felt like coming home, with a knock on our cabin from Rick, the past chief engineer of the now-defunct maker of our boat, Mainship, which stopped making boats in 2008. Rick is employed in the Thunderbolt boatyard now, and we had enjoyed chatting with him two years ago, he being eager to see how each of his “progeny” is weathering. It was sweet to be remembered, and having a red hull always helps. Light rain turned to an hour-long torrential downpour, accented with more thunder and lightening than we have ever experienced, it being our first brush with tropical storms. It passed in time for us to enjoy a walk along the water’s edge among some of Savannah’s beautiful Live Oaks and past Tubby’s, a Thunderbolt mainstay and watering hole.
The morning following the storm greeted us with beautiful blue skies strewn with white fluff, and we cruised without a care to Beaufort (pronounced Bew’ fort, not to be confused with Bo’ fort, NC). Beaufort had just regained their electricity after their more direct hit by Darius by the time we arrived, and we were assigned a slip between two boats on an inside wall. The skipper and I had time for only brief discussion as to whether there was sufficient length, and he felt up for the challenge. As we were passing the boat that would be behind us, the current began pushing us into it. Hats off to the facile dockhand, who leaped onto that boat to fend off even before I could get there. At our subsequent debriefing, we agreed to be more discerning and less adventuresome in future docking. It was also during this debriefing that we realized that, as we hyper- focused on docking, we forgot our dire need for a pump out of the black water holding tank before going to the slip. This would require our using the shore facilities for the next two days—not the end of the world, but an definite inconvenience, particularly in the middle of the night.
Beaufort is a charming town, holding a proud spot in southern history in both the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. We wandered the main drag and, upon recommendation from a store clerk, snagged an early reservation at Old Bull Tavern. On a hot day, the watermelon salad jumped out at me and did not disappoint. The following day we rode our bikes down the “rails to trails” Spanish Moss Trail to Port Royal. We scoped out a tiny wetlands there, very popular with kids’ day camps, and at the end of the loop, ducked into a tiny cupcake shop to cool off. Brenda Finkenbinder, I thought of you as I savored my “Pluff Mud” cupcake, chocolate with bitter coffee filling and buttercream. (Pluff mud is the very sticky stuff specific to this area which yielded the precious “Carolina Gold” in the 19th c before the emancipation, making the Carolina states the world’s rice-producing capital, which, not incidentally, was only made possible with the brains and on the backs of enslaved people.) Our bike ride wound up back in Beaufort, as we enjoyed the antebellum homes on the water’s edge and stumbled upon the one which served as backdrop for the Meechams’ home in the movie “The Great Santini.” Pat Conroy, author of the book by the same name, was homegrown in Beaufort, and his eloquent descriptions of the South Carolina marshlands and the plots which he wove through them in his novels have had me hankering to experience them firsthand for years.
The following morning, an attentive dock hand assisted us in springing off the dock, a special technique using lines to hold in the bow and kick out the stern, in order to leave that tight docking space. He also cheerfully assisted us with our much-needed pump out. Aaaaahhhhh.