Monday, January 11, 2010

Charleston, SC

(photo: the ultra-modern Ravenal Bridge)

Even before the steering concern, I’d been looking forward to Charleston, to spending a few days going to sleep in the same location as I woke up instead of being under way every day, to being a tourist in a new city. The weather was pleasant and the scenery interesting as we motored along. James has been keeping a file of photos of over-the-top houses and I’m sure he was able to add to the collection as we passed Isle of Palms; some we HUGE and (*ahem* how do I say this gracefully?) architecturally distinct. Soon we were hailing the City Marina, where a chance to stretch our legs beckoned. Note to self: no matter how eager you are for a break, do not try to dock during maximum flood current ever again. Wait for slack tide – you can make it look so much more controlled and elegant if the water isn’t pushing you sideways. You use less adrenaline that way, too.

Some suggestions from Dave Coker at the marina, and some quality time with a couple of wrenches, a tube of lube grease, and the Edson manual got our steering issues resolved. We attended to laundry and fresh groceries and then we were off to see the sights and stimulate the local economy.

We did lots of walking through the historic section of town, admiring the buildings. We saw lovely examples of Charleston’s unique home style, very narrow street fronts that went a long way back with a patio/balcony along the side. These old houses were oriented, we learned, not to minimize taxable street frontage, but to take advantage of relatively cool north and west breezes in the centuries before air conditioning. We were enchanted by the complex ironwork gates and railings that we learned were another city trademark.
(photo: iron work on a historic house on Society Street)

Rather than plantations and gardens, we took an African-American history tour of the city and surrounding sea islands. It’s easy to tell the history of the wealthy and powerful, their works are visible and lasting. We were interested in the stories of the weak and ordinary, some of the slaves who literally did not have names or know for sure who their parents were. We saw beautiful monuments and historic buildings, but this was also the first tour I’d ever been on that took us to some of the slummy sections of town. At the end of our 3 days in Charleston, I still don’t know to what extent and how the city has reconciled its history. But the statue of (pro-slavery) John Calhoun at the square downtown is placed on a very high pedestal. There are those who say it is placed high as a mark of honor, and those who say if the statue was placed lower, within reach, it would have been vandalized by those who disagreed with those pro-slavery views.

Time and tide wait for no girl, and at exactly 6:45 AM, both slack tide and sunrise, we slipped away from the dock and continued downriver. Several other boats had the same idea, and James (who was in the lead) took this photo of the line of boats in the morning mist.
(photo: leaving Charleston, by James Forsyth)
(originally published 12 November 2009)

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