Monthly Archives: December 2010

Charleston is my new favorite town!

A few of you have heard how much I loved Charleston, but allow me to write a few words about this lovely town. What a completely charming place! I am declaring it my favorite place we have visited so far on our trip. I felt GOOD there. I was talking with K. about moving to Charleston when we are done traveling within two hours of arriving, I fell so instantly in love with the place. Perhaps I was seduced, even, by the sheer beauty. For starters, there are gorgeous live oaks gracing every corner of the city, with their large sensuous branches curving out in all directions. Then there are the roses flirting with you from behind ornate wrought iron fences, beckoning you to courtyards filled with fountains and fine green plants. And the porches! Two and three story porches that go along the entire length of the houses, with grand columns and entrances and elegant colonial architecture. The whole package of the city is delightful. We walked and walked and walked, taking in the town.
Holiday mansion in CharlestonA a gardener, I was completely enthralled by the huge variety of plants that can grow in this climate zone. Palm trees right next to Japanese maples in blazing fall color, next to rosemary bushes and blooming roses…..and wonderful trees that I’m not familiar enough with to even know their names, such as the one in the photo here, which has beautiful smooth bark. Suffice it to say that I was in plant heaven, and we didn’t even get to visit the plantation gardens.

Our major errands in town were groceries and other supplies, which turned out to be a good distance from our boat. Charleston is a flat town full of pedicabs, which we were happy to see as previous pedicab drivers/bikers ourselves. For the first time, WE were the passengers on the back, after we loaded up with so many bags of groceries we couldn’t bear to carry them all the way across town. Here’s a little video of our pedicab ride:

The people were friendly (I love it when supermarket clerks call me “honey”), the town had a progressive air, it was clean and easy to navigate by foot. Awesome in every way.
It is a strange irony, though, how so much of the world’s most beautiful architecture and cities would not be there if it weren’t for slave labor. This fact was not lost on us as we pondered the great mansions built for what were wealthy slave owners.

Complete Exhaustion, Dolphins, and NOT turning Back!

In Charleston the current in the channel reverses every tide. That means that four times every day the boats swing around to face in the other direction. Our solution for that was to lay one anchor out front and one out back. That way we sat all nice and tidy in one place while all the other boats swung around on their anchors. One even broke free and dragged all through the bay until one good samaritan dinghied out to it and tied it up to another boat on a mooring ball.

When the time came to haul anchor and depart towards Savannah, we had two anchors to pull. We tied a floating buoy to the stern anchor line and dropped it in the water. Then while Wee happy was resting on her bow anchor, we took the dinghy out to recover the stern anchor. We pulled in all of the line and chain, but we couldn’t bust the anchor free with all of our combined muscle and might! So we dropped the line back in the water and left it with the floating buoy.

The thought was that we’d return to Wee Happy and then use her mass and momentum to break the anchor loose. So we did. Back on Wee Happy, we pulled up our 120 feet of bow anchor and chain and headed over to the buoy to pick it up so that we could recover the second anchor.

Now I’d already hauled over 200 feet of anchor line, and I was getting tired. The stern anchor had 120 feet of rope and 50 feet of chain. I hauled it in dutifully from the bow, but by the time I had pulled in all of the rope I realized that I had no more energy reserves left to pull in the 50 feet of chain an anchor. It was the first time in my life that I have reached complete and total exhaustion. My forearms ached and my hands and finger curled inward in tension. My heart was racing and I could barely keep up enough breathing to satisfy the oxygen demand!

We had to just stop where we were: close to a buoy and another boat in a strong current and strong wind. There was nothing I could do but wait for my body to recover a bit. All I could do was sit and rock back and forth like a crazy person! Damn!

Needless to say, after I recovered a bit of my strength, I was able to pull up the remaining 50 feet of chain and anchor, and the mass of the boat broke the anchor free. then we were off and on our way. Time: 8:50 am. The bridge that we needed to pass through opens at 9:00! We only had ten minutes to make it, so we plunged the throttle up to full and raced towards the bridge.

We managed to squeak through at the tail end of the opening, and thanked our good fortune that we didn’t have to wait another hour for the next opening. I collapsed on the floor and went catatonic for a while.

We’d planned to put the miles behind us on our run from Charleston to Savannah. We thought we’d be able to run two 55 mile days and make it to Savannah in two days. The currents here in southern South Carolina are intense, however, and yesterday afternoon when we looked at the speed guage and realized that we were only doing 2.5 knots at full throttle, we decided to call it an early night.

The temperatures here have been far from tropical lately. The weathermen don’t stop predicting record breaking cold nights! We find ourselves regularly in two pairs of long johns with an over layer of good solid pants. An undershirt, top sweater, and down outercoat are required above the waist. Lala laughed at me when I decided to bring my ski mask with us on the voyage, but she sure is jealous now!

Can you figure out who's who?

So, we dropped the “parking hook” in the middle of no man’s land. Lala was seriously bothered by the fact that there was no wind protection. We were in a marsh that went on for miles in all directions. There was a small creek that fed into the ICW, and we anchored as close to the middle of it as possible. Still, the channel was so narrow that we worried that when the current reversed (when the tide changed) we’d be swung onto the muddy shore.

Still, it was uber cold, and the current was so strong that we’d just be wasting fuel like SUV’s do, so we decided to just hunker down and wait out the coming night as best we could while watching the shore and the anchor alarm. Thankfully when the tide changed, the current subsided and we rested as steadily as if we were on land.

We resolved not to repeat that day’s venture into the fierce oncoming current, so we decided to get up at 5:00am to run with the flood tide and hopefully get a boost from the tidal current rather than a big drag from it.

We ended up getting the anchor raised by 6:30am. 5:00 was just too insanely early (and dark!) for us. The current was in our favor, but not as much as we’d hoped. This area is notorious for strange currents and windy marsh narrow passages.

Despite our planning, we found ourselves beating into the wind and serious chop. That’s sailors terminology for an incessant onslaught of waves hitting you right on the nose…bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam…ad nauseum. Imagine spray everywhere every two seconds as the boat lurches up and down every two seconds. Woo hoo…fun! Just add in a near gale force wind also right on the nose and a standing tempurature of about 25 degrees, and you’ve got a great morning for coffee with kahlua!

Around noon the ICW veered out of the nasty river that we were in and hung a left into a fairly wide open channel without the nasty chop, current, and header gale. We were suddenly surrounded by dolphins there! Dolphins on the left and on the right and in front of us made me cut the motor and put her in neutral. I don’t want to run over any dolphins, you know! I got some video footage, but the experience of sharing water with these magical mammals is really beautiful. I think they were hanging out in that in-between channel waiting for the slackwater between tides. They are the smart ones. Why waste precious fuel/energy pounding into a fierce current when you could just hang out and play?!

As soon as we turned out of that blessed calm channel to follow the ICW south in the next river, the dolphins stayed behind and we made peace with another tiring onslought of chop, wind, and current. We had two full tanks of fuel, and our motor is running strong and we still had half of the day left, so we kept on.

An hour or so later, we heard a radio call from another sailboat headed towards us (the “wrong” direction). Turns out that it was our friend Kimbel on his 28 foot coastal cruiser named Kestrel. We’d had Thanksgiving dinner with Kimbel in Wrightsville Beach, and we were surprised to see him here. We’d left him behind there when we left, yet he’d passed us sometime. Maybe it was when we stayed in Charleston for a couple of days.

He radioed to us that he was turning back from the coming entrance to a wide open river and that we should too. He said that when he turned right from the current channel into the wider river up ahead, he experienced nonstop chop and seriously strong wind on the nose. he said the waves were four to five feet in height and every couple of seconds so that forward progress was almost impossible. He called it “dangerous.”

He said that he was headed back a mile or two to anchor in a calm channel and wait it out. Maybe he was headed to where we had met the dolphin pods. We thought about his recommendation to turn back seriously for fifteen minutes. We were tempted to turn back and join him for an anchorage, but we decided that since the river junction was just a mile ahead we’d go check it out for ourselves before making our decision to turn back.

Lala was worried. I thought about it all and told her that we need to make our own decision. It was tempting to just blindly trust Kimbel’s assessment, but each captain is responsible for his/her own vessel. So we headed towards the river junction. We could see the waves in the river from half a mile out. They were like bull heads rising above the commotion of the herd charging Eastward. Scary! Still, cool heads prevailed, and we motored out to the river junction.

I remembered having dinner aboard Kimbel’s boat “Kestrel.” It is a spacious and comfortable 28 footer coastal cruiser. That’s the key term there: “coastal cruiser.” Wee Happy is not a coastal cruiser. Wee Happy is a “blue water boat,” also known as an ocean cruiser. It was built for crossing oceans. The Swedes know how to build boats!!! Sure, she is only 27 feet long, but she is a tank!

When we hit the river, we ventured out past the entrance bouy and turned into the chop that Kimbel had warned us about. The boat rocked and rolled, and Lala and I crouched down in the cockpit to lower our centers of gravity and balance ourselves. Wee Happy was a bit of a bucking bronco, but didn’t feel anything near overwhelmed! Lala, as always, wanted to raise the sails. The idea was that by raising our sails we would steady out and not rock and roll so much. So we rolled out the Genoa about 50% to test out the idea. Instantly the boat steadied and started cutting through the chop like a sharp knife through a ripe tomato. It was so even that we rolled out the rest of the capacious sail and started beating to windward steadily and happily. Weeeeeeeeee!

We had a few stressful tacks to fight our way upwind, as we hadn’t prepared the boat to go to sail. What’s new?! Lala always wants to go to sail so we can shut the motor off, but we never run through a checklist first. 1) stow the knives in the kitchen. 2) close the doors to the cabinets in the kitchen. 3) make sure the laptop and all important electronics like cameras and such are stowed so they won’t fly across the cabin. 4) Take in the fenders so they don’t get caught in the sail lines. 5) Clean up the cockpit so there aren’t random things like water bottles and cushions and anchors and coolers and fog horns and cameras and winch handles flying around the cockpit.

So, covered in four layers of long underwear and down coats, we worked our way to windward, thankful for our dodger/sprayhood. Each tack through the wind was a fight, and we often lost and stalled. We just couldn’t get the boat to get her nose all the way through the wind under the genny alone. We had to start the trusty Honda outboard to give us the little extra umph for each tack until we finally could turn on a starboard tack that would take us five miles up the river to the next turning point. With the motor finally completely off, we relaxed into a beautiful and serenely quiet sail through the “dangerous” chop that forced Kimbel back.

The cats just hunkered-down to wait out the roller coaster that we were riding. Mojo picked a spot in the cabin by the stove under the table–all nice and secure. Slowmo made his way into the v-berth up front and dug in amongst the body pillows and blankets. They are such good cats!

So we pulled into Beaufort, SC around 2:00pm and dropped the parking hook and called it an early night. What a day! Tonight we are closed up in the cabin with the wee propane heater, trying to stay warm, and sending you all our hellos.

Hanging with the Hobos in Charleston

A Boat-Load of Hoboes

Yes, it’s true! It’s finally happened! We have hung out with homeless bums!
They were really quite nice, actually. They were overwhelmingly generous
with the little that they have, and we got to share many wonderful stories
around a warm fire in the forest on an Island outside of Charleston.
It all started with Lala and I going over to the island to check out a dinghy
on the shore that we suspected was abandoned. On our way over, we passed two
sailboats rafted up together at anchor that were in dismal shape. They were
utterly unclean and covered from bow to stern with junk. They had been there
so long that not only was there green slime growing on the hulls, but full on
colonies of oysters! Imagine two sailboats covered with four inches thick of
oysters the entire length of the hulls!

Regardless, when the captain waved us over, we went over to say “hi.” Gus
was his name, and in his dirty ragged well worn clothing, he invited us
aboard, which we accepted with reservation. These boats looked like they
were garbage trucks on their way to the dump. What we found was that Gus was
not the captain, in fact. He had just arrive two weeks earlier by hitch-
hiking across the country from Alaska! When he made it to Charleston, he met
and fell in love instantly with the real captain of the vessels, a warm and
friendly woman by the name of Danita. As it turns out, Danita has been
living on the larger of the two sailboats at that very spot for seven years.
Yes, she dropped the anchor seven years ago, and has not moved the boat
since. She’s just been living there…free of rent…free of a
mortgage…and free of taxes, for seven years!!! The second boat, we were to
find out, was one that she got for free by claiming salvage on it because it
was an abandoned boat. So after she got it, she rafted it up to her primary
vessel to nearly double her living space. They said that they are in the process of getting the smaller boat ready to sail south, and that’s why the boats are covered in stuff. We just can’t imagine how they’ll have that boat ready to leave by Wednesday like they said!

They made us coffee and we sat and talked for a while in the warm Carolina
sunlight. Then this creature climbs out of the cabin–slowly and
methodically. His movements were strange and slow like a sloth. Danita
introduced him to us a her son. Apparently he went blind at birth and wa
born prematurely when Danita was in an accident. So he lives on the boat
with her and just feels his way around. He was sweet, and instantly wound up
cuddling on Lala’s lap.

Gus told us that he and some other people have been starting up a Rainbow
Tribe camp on the island with the dinghy that we were going to inspect.
Rainbow Tribe is an extended network of people who like to live on the land
and live lightly so that they leave no trace. They live outside and camp and
have great gatherings in majestic places like the redwood forests, the Green
Mountains of Vermont, and the Black Hills. I’d been to a couple of northeast
Rainbow gatherings, and they really blew my mind.

Never before had I experienced people living communally out in nature, sharing
their resources, cleaning the lands, and enjoying music, fire, and dance at
night. At the time, it really opened my mind to what is possible outside of
the rat race.

Have you ever had a time when you lived outside in the majesty of nature in a
glorious place, away from cars and electricity and rules, and every day you
would have delightful interactions with friends and meet new ones that
delighted you?

The Rainbow tribe taught me about how a communal camp kitchen is set up in
the wilderness so that large masses of people can live in a place for a while
and eat gloriously well. The Rainbow tribe taught me the concept of “leave
no trace.” Usually when I go to regular public campsite and public parks, I
see litter everywhere, but after a Rainbow gathering the site is actually
left in better condition than it was found before the event!

So after we disembarked from the two floating dumptrucks, we made our way to
the island for the evenings fire. Lala bought her drum, and we made our way
through the marsh to the forest where the fire lay. We were greeted by a
small band of hippies that welcomed us and offered us wine and food. Through
the course of the night we met two dredlocked hobos both named Zack, one
clean cut chubby lad called “Panda Bear,” a fun and inviting man named “Fox”,
a young sweet blond woman Called “Lovey,” and a quiet bearded man with a
Yukon hat called “Sunny.”

These guys are what most people would call “homeless,” but they’ve set up a
sweet camp on this island and had a fun little community going on. For food
they would “dumpster dive” at night behind fast food restaurants and super
markets. For money they would “fly signs” which means that they would
“panhandle” or ask for money on the street with a cardboard sign that read
something like “Hungry Homeless Hippy.”

Even with next to no money in their possession and little to no belongings,
they shared food and tobacco and stories with astounding generosity.
One of the Zacks told us of how he’s rode trains (illegally) with Sunny for
over a year now. Not only have they ridden trains and hitch hiked and hiked
all across the country, but they’ve done it with Zack’s cat, Aguganimzazluzler.
Forgive the spelling, but it’s a really unusual name! Upon inquiry, Zack
told us the pedigree of Aguganimzazluzler, and you’ll have to listen to the
podcast to understand how amazed we were!


He’d trained the cat (pun intended) to sit on his backpack for hours while he hiked or jumped on or off of a train or caught a ride of the road. Other times, the cat would walk along beside him on a leash just like a trained dog!

The next night, I went back to the island without Lala to say goodbye to the
little clan. I came upon only Lovey and her boyfriend “2-nice,” a black
dred-locked young man who wore a cigarette lighter around his neck like an
amulet. We sat around the warm fire and waited for Zack to come back from
his dumpster diving run. While we were waiting, Panda Bear
appeared from one of the tents. He had been napping. He told me about how
last night he had said to everyone that he’d really like to get some single-
serving bottles of wine. It was an off-the-cuff comment quickly forgotten by
everyone. He went to sleep, and his friends went off to dumpster dive.
When he woke up in the morning, he stepped out of his tent to find a case of
single serving wine bottles awaiting him! That night his friends scored the
case in a dumpster! That was the first and only time that they’d found
alcohol in the trash, and it was amazing in light of the fact that it was
exactly what Panda Bear had been wanting. These guy live lightly on the
land, and although many would call them things like “homeless” and “bums” and
even “low lifes,” they are still graced by god and tap into the flow of
mother universe like any blessed man. These simple people have so little,
and they share so much, and God graces them regularly.

A little while later Zack appears at the fire hauling a huge laundry bag on
his back. He drops the heavy bag to the ground by the fire and borrows my
flashlight to illuminate its contents. Like a hippy Santa Clause, he starts
pulling out pints of fresh raspberries, bags of ripe plump grapes, huge
avocados, large cucumbers, onions, green peppers, and even four small basil
plants! The bounty was seemingly endless, and as I sat gazing at the huge
bag of food, I marveled at the magic of this world. He had found all of
this in the trash…a telling sign about the wastefulness of our consumer
culture. I would estimate that it was about four full paper grocery bags of
fresh produce! Food was passed around the small circle to anyone that wanted
any. A grill was placed over the fire, and sweet peppers were put on to
roast over the coals.

So many times over the years I would walk by a bum on the street who held a
sign asking for money and look at them with condescension. So many times I
would also give them the change that I had in my pocket. Regardless of my
decision each time I passed, I’d always feel uncomfortable. Now though, I am
both inspired by these people and reset by them. I don’t have the desire to
live their dirty lives, but I respect their creation of community, their care
for each other, and the abundance that they are graced with by living in the
moment. They have found a way to live outside of the main consumer culture
and yet within it. They travel the world and see exotic places on almost no
money, and they have music and laughter at night while the majority of us
chew on ads for the next ipod or sexual enhancement drug or lowest carb beer.

Zack gave me a basil plant, pint of raspberries, green pepper and cucumber to
take with me. I could have taken four times a much and still left them with
enough produce for a week. I thanked them all for their graciousness and
told them that they inspired me in new and unexpected ways. We all gave
well-wishes for our separating pathways, and I disappeared into the night to
find my dinghy to return to wee happy and lala with God’s gifts under my

Leaving Charleston on the ICW for Savannah

Sunrise on the water here at anchor in Charleston, SC.

Well, we’ve decided not to do an overnight on the ocean to go to Florida today and tomorrow. It’s near record cold here right now, and the winds are pretty strong, even though they are in the right direction.

So, we are travelling further down the ICW with our next goal being Savannah, Gorgia on Tuesday night. It’s 110 miles away, so it will take two full days of travel. It may even take us until Wednesday to get there. The days are short, and we don’t travel at night on the ICW.

So thank you everyone for your comments in response to our last post!!! All of the ideas made perfect sense, but I’ll tell you exactly what we meant by the post title. Our outboard is great and we love it, but we also hate it. It drones on and on all day when we are motoring instead of sailing. After a while you must wear ear plugs if you are in the cockpit, and even then you go a little nuts after a few hours. So it is a powerful engine…it really makes us not want to use it!

It’s the constant noise in part that drives us to want to sail and not travel the ICW. However, the cold has been so strong recently that it has been the deciding factor for us. Even though we hate the engine noise o very very much, we hate the cold even more! So in effect the cold is more powerful (at affecting our decision to sail or motor on the ICW) than the (neverending monotonous droning noise of the) outboard.

Thanks for checking in! We’ll have more to share about our time in Charleston soon!

The cold is more powerful than the outboard motor

After too many hours of planning and discussion of our plan to go out onto the ocean, and off of the Intracoastal Waterway, to get to our next destination (Charleston, SC), we ended up wimping out of a night trip on the ocean in sub 30 degree cold, and took the easy route on the Intracoastal Waterway in South Carolina. We anchored in a snug harbor in a beautiful coastland marsh with our new Vermonter friends, Roark and Sherri. This is what we did this evening, we, the only people around for miles and miles in a wetland area that has dolphins and pelicans in abundance….

We grilled and shucked, and ate with overwhelming, full body reactions, an entire bucket of fresh oysters. I, who was completely grossed out and disgusted by the experience of cutting open my first oyster, surprised myself by subsequently getting REALLY into the challenge of getting them open and ready for everyone in our party. I, a midwesterner who did not grow up with weird looking seafood, have become an oyster convert. Now I understand why people get so excited about them. Sherri, our new friend from Vermont, did not get it, and continued to insist she hated them after we forced her to try two of them.

Here is another random glimpse into our evening…..Captain K and I are getting ready for bed, as it’s nearly 8:00 (!), and this is what we had to clear off of our bed tonight: (I bet no one else can say that had any thing close to this random collection of items even near their bed….you may even find this information too shocking and unsanitary to believe, so be warned before reading further. People who live on boats come to accept very strange things as normal)
A small folding loom
A boat fender
An empty gas can
Tool bag
Bag of laundry (dirty)

This is a lot of weird crap! But in such a small space, even 2 minutes of rearranging can transform a space, and in much less than the time it took me to write this, K. had made our bed to look like a palatial suite.

We woke up this morning with frost covering our boat. That is the first time this has happened on this trip, despite all our previous posts complaining of the cold. This has something to do with the title of this post. See if you can figure out what it means. Responses are welcome. The first person to respond with even a remotely correct answer wins a postcard from us once we finally reach Florida.

In closing, here are a few photos I took today:

Morning sky

Color study

Oysters are our new favorite food

Handwoven scarf for sale

New friends who also have a wee boat