Monday, March 23, 2020

Carolina on My Mind

Richland Rum distillery in downtown Brunswick

On the last afternoon in Georgia we toured the Richland Rum distillery, ate some Brunswick Stew, and packed up Loretta. The next morning we hit the road for South Carolina.

First stop: Charleston. Such rich maritime history. Like Georgia, the history feels very close to the surface.

The campground we stayed at was a ridiculous $50/night - $25-30 would have been the right number considering the condition of the park. The buildings on the property were all under active construction, which made an annoying din all day, it was basically a bug-infested swamp, but it certainly qualified as remote and the bugs kept us indoors, so it was a good place to be when the Corona Virus landed on the East Coast.

Cypress stumps line the pond at the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Pond at the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Fortunately for us, there were plenty of outdoor dog-friendly activities to do that kept us 6 feet from other humans. First up: the nearby Magnolia Plantation and Gardens property. North and West of Charleston on the waterway, it was here that the Colonists prepared for the anticipated British assault and ultimately failed, surrendering 7000+ troops to Her Majesty's army. In short, Charleston was sacked by the British because of some bad strategic decisions made on this very piece of property in 1780, and the despair of it all nearly crushed the patriots and the young nation.

Pond at the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Next up in virus-avoiding activity... a walk along the fortified waterfront in Charleston. The big guns remain and it isn't hard to imagine the locals of generations past defending their town from pirates (BlackBeard successfully blockaded Charleston for a week in 1718), a collection of iron-clad Union Navy warships, and receiving the first German submariner prisoners from the cutter Icarus.

The guns of Charleston's Battery still pointed at the waterfront

The big gazebo at the heart of Battery Park often hosts music and dancing. Chloe wasn't into "the dip".

Antebellum architecture of the Battery area of Charleston

The next park we stayed at in North Myrtle Beach, SC also was $50 for our one-night stay, but it was a superb park and we felt the price well justified. The RV pads were level concrete, the property was well cared for, and it bordered the ICW and hosted boat slips and a dry dock. Watching the forklifts wrangle the speed boats between water and their storage shelves made for endless entertainment. The park also had a water slide and a roster of park activities, all temporarily silent because of the social distancing requirements of COVID-19.

We met some boaters that were tied in a slip for the night. Full-time RVers and cruising boaters have similar lifestyles, it's easy to make friends. We offered them a ride to the grocery store in our car since they didn't have one, and they offered us a tour of their beautiful boat because they could clearly see us enviously eyeballing it. We spoke for hours about the ICW, sailing, weather and of course boat designers. Everyone has opinions on boat design and this is a subject any boater will tell you to wade into carefully and only with plenty of time on your hands. We happily debated the pros and cons of various boat designs for an hour or so, from 6 feet apart on their boat and dock, and parted ways laughing about the awkwardness brought on by a group of people trying to establish new social norms around virus avoidance with a virtual handshake, or elbow bump, or wave, or... nobody knows what to do so we all just laugh and shrug.

North Myrtle Beach Luxury RV Resort and Dry Dock is one of our favorite campsites

The next morning we settled in to a Thousand Trails park in North Carolina for boat shopping. It's a lovely quiet park with a pond, within easy reach of New Bern, Oriental, and Wilmington. The word here is that the region has "3 boats to every human" so this should be good hunting grounds. Call it a sixth sense or whatever... I feel like she's very close.

Internet Speed Comparison
North Myrtle Beach RV Park & Marina Dry Dock, SC
Sampled 3/18/20 at 2:06 pm

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Georgia, the whole day through

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

We heard that in Georgia boat slips and RV storage were plentiful and affordable. There were a couple of boats there that piqued our curiousity, and we needed to lay low and wait out the weather before heading North to see the boats we are most excited about. All the stars aligned in one place: Brunswick.

It's on the ICW and it's a hurricane hole, there's plenty of support nearby for just about any RV or boat project. There are bicycle paths everywhere, it seems like an affordable bicycle-friendly town. There's just enough history and sight-seeing to give us a weekend breather, but not so much that we are distracted when we should be working. Perfect.

Neither of the boats we toured turned out to be Miss Right, but the marina is just perfect and will likely become the home base for our boat, Loretta and Mr. Toad, at least during the transition period.

The 656-foot long Golden Ray is clearly visible in Brunswick harbor. She caught fire and capsized while leaving port in September 2019, with a cargo of 4000 Hyundai cars and crew of 24. The first 20 folks were easily rescued, the last 4 crew waited to be extricated from the 150-degree engine room by a round-the-clock rescue team with a diamond-tipped cutter. Officials have yet to release their final findings; debating the reasons for the incident and removal solutions for the huge ship and stricken Hyundais has become a local pastime.

History feels very close here in Georgia. On nearby Jekyll Island new sand-colored hotels juxtapose comfortably alongside beautiful rambling ranch-style brick homes from the '50s, ruins from the original British settlements of the 1700s, a large relatively new 4H club complete with a beehive of bus activity, and timeless driftwood beaches. A web of bicycle paths connects them all.

The Horton House was built in 1743, it's all that remains of the once thriving farm and brewery.

This region was the site of several skirmishes between the British, the Spanish, and the local native population. Ultimately Jekyll Island was settled in the 1730s by Major Horton, a British war hero who had done time in a Spanish war prison and was rewarded for his service with a farmable plot of land on the beautiful island; the shell of his home is all that really remains intact to pay homage.

Another great benefit of spending time in Georgia was that we were within reach of our Atlanta friends, and it was good to catch up with them for a day in Savannah.

Looking down on River Street

Savannah's such a beautiful place, the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy.

Here and there the concrete chips away to reveal the original cobblestone of Savannah's streets.

Masthead inside the Boar's Head Grill, the oldest restaurant in Savannah

Inside the Boar's Head Grill, the oldest restaurant in Savannah, this section of the restaurant was built in 1780, the town itself goes back to 1743.

War Memorial on the riverfront in Savannah

The staircases between Bay and River Streets are historically accurate: steep, narrow and treacherous. Our friend tells me the handrails are a rather recent addition, they weren't here when he was an 18-year old army soldier drinking at the waterfront on off-duty leave. How he and his fellow soldiers survived their off-duty time here without falling to their deaths is a mystery.

We are continuing the boat search and following the weather up the East Coast. Next planned stops on the East Coast boat shopping tour: Charleston SC, Oriental NC, and Annapolis MD.

Internet Speed Comparison
Blythe Island Regional Campground, Bruswick GA
Sampled 3/1/20 at 2:30 pm

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi