Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, without a doubt, is our favorite city to visit.  We learn a little more of it’s history with every visit.  This time we toured the 1771 Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon.  Originally built as a Custom House & as a testament to the city’s growing trade, the Exchange in 1788 hosted South Carolina leaders as they debated and approved the U. S. Constitution. Today, the Old Exchange Building is one of only four structures remaining where the nation’s founding document was originally ratified.  In 1791, city leaders wined, dined & entertained President George Washington.  Back during the American Revolution, British forces converted the bottom floor of the Exchange into a military prison known as the Provost or “dungeon.” American prisoners of war, British soldiers, private citizens, and enslaved people all endured its harsh confines.

Enough history – we came to eat!  Lori enjoyed her oyster pie at a new restaurant named Hooked.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary with brunch at High Cotton.  Fantastic fried oysters & shrimp cocktail.  You (we) have to love any restaurant which serves donut holes as an appetizer!  Really, really, tasty with a bacon, cinnamon glaze.

 

 

 

One of Charleston’s newest restaurant’s is also one of the smallest.  167 Raw is very small – only 2 tables plus some seats at the bar.  Lori’s gourmet salmon salad & my oyster Po’ Boy  were outstanding!  Preceded by a sample platter of oysters, clams & shrimp, it was well worth the wait!  Even on a late Monday morning, there was a bit of a wait outside the restaurant.  At times, there is a several hour wait.

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Georgia

Enjoying nice weather & low winds, we decided to push on thru Georgia.  Having higher tides while transiting certain areas is critical.  Many areas need serious dredging (to transit at low tide), but with 7′ tides, there is plenty of water if you time your trip correctly. Cumberland Island is one of our favorite stops.  Most boats anchor near the southern end of the island at Dungeness, but this time we anchored near the northern end in the Brickhill River.  While we arrived too late to spend time ashore, we were treated to quite the show right next to our boat.  These 2 feral horses decided to sample the tender shoots growing on the muddy bank.  We were getting a bit nervous as this one explored further into the muck & kept sinking deeper & deeper.  We couldn’t do much – would the Park Service respond if we called?  These are wild horses – would they just let nature take it’s course?  After a while, no worries, he just plodded out as if it was no big deal.

Lori spotted a log in the water – then the “log” made a blood curdling cry – not a log.

Next the birds arrived – Dozens of large birds gathering to roost for the night.  This photo can’t capture them all, as many blended right into the trees.  The bird to the right is a wood stork.

Earlier, we spotted a family of feral boars checking out the water’s edge, but were scared away by our approach before we could get out our camera.

It is a bit funny that during our first trip to Cumberland Island 9 years ago, we didn’t see a single creature, even though we walked across & about for several hours.  Since then, we’ve been rewarded with hundreds of sightings of the horses, armadillos, etc. – sometimes so numerous that they’re blocking our way as we walk down a path.

Cumberland Island is a fascinating place to visit with an amazing documented history going back to the 16th century, although possibly occupied as early as 2000 BC by aboriginal people for it’s diverse & delectable food sources including oysters, crabs, fish, deer & bear.  In the 1800’s, it was a getaway for rich Industrialist families including the Carnegies.  Now it part of the National Park system.  Wikipedia has a great summary of the island & especially of it’s fascinating history https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumberland_Island

 

Heading North thru Florida

Not every day you come across the Nina & Pinta cruising down the ICW.  These replicas had been visiting Vero Beach, Florida & were now heading around to the Florida Panhandle, then up the Mississippi & eventually to Iowa.  Our AIS screen (to the right) showed them on approach (in case there was any doubt!).  A few years ago we had a similar sighting of the Charles W. Morgan in Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts – kinda crazy.

Where was the Santa Maria you ask?  We found the Santa Maria on the waterfront in St. Augustine.  This replica was recently built in Spain (by a completely unrelated organization) & sailed across the Atlantic for it’s 525th anniversary.  As our dinghy was tied up on the same dock, we went aboard for a tour.  Here is a view from the poop deck.  Like all replicas, they are built with modern safety equipment, navigation electronics & engines, but was still a shock to see how small it was (even though it was the larger of the 3 ships).

Back in the Good Ole USA

By the time our (2nd) Bahamian courtesy flag becomes tattered, it’s time to return back to the USA.

There is an app for that.  Clearing into the U.S. is now done via the ROAM app.  You set it all up advance, then clear in on-line.  Being the upstanding citizen I am, I promptly received my confirmation, however, some shadier characters may have to endure a video interview with customs officials.

We had a great weather window to cross the gulf stream & shot right into the Fort Pierce Inlet.  After anchoring for the night we headed into the Fort Pierce City Marina for a week of stocking up – yeah! – real grocery stores!  We had also carefully planned out months in advance our dentist & doctors appointments, as we are now Florida residents with Florida health insurance.  Fortunately, we are healthy.  Unfortunately, so many people are moving south that there are simply not enough doctors.  Especially as new patients, there was a very long wait for our initial appointments.

While Fort Pierce is know as the “Sunrise City”, we usually sleep through it, so we enjoy the sunsets instead.

Although one of the nights, quite the storm blew thru.

Of course, could we return to the U.S. without …. donuts???

Certainly it was worth a $30.00 car rental to visit Love Bug Bakery in Melbourne!  At least we made it completely worth our while to also stop at a bead shop (for Lori) & the Melbourne Beach Market for the best sausages ever!

Time to start heading north!

 

 

Abaco in Photos

Our Hope Town stay began a little rainy

And a little breezy

Followed by an interesting sun halo

Out & about

A first – Weevils in our pasta!

Hard to read the sign “Sugar Apple Snore Box”. The best we could learn is that a “snore box” is commonly a one-room sleeping cottage (without kitchen, bath, etc.). So this is the “snore box” of the Sugar Apple cottage?  Also used by fisherman near docks so they could depart before dawn.

A panoramic photo of the Top-10 Treasure Cay Beach.

Nice photo of us leaving Hope Town – Thanks Tim!

Our new friend visited us while anchored off Green Turtle Cay

The LAST Barefoot Man concert at Nippers

The Barefoot Man – Crazy, but fun beach music

This is the “scary” Whale Cay Passage. In the ’80’s, Disney bought part of neighboring Guana Cay and built a cruise ship “resort”. Believe it or not, this passage was often so rough that their huge cruise ships couldn’t safety transverse it and was therefore abandoned.  With strong northeast winds, there can be 8′ – 12′ swells coming in.

This is a piece of a Falcon 9 Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral which landed near Elbow Cay & washed onto Tahiti Beach. Apparently Elbow Cay is in the trajectory of the launches & there have been many test flights the last few years by SpaceX and the others. At first, NASA would send crews to recover the pieces – now, not so much.

Our last meal before leaving the Abacos. Da Valley – a very local kind of place in Fox Town

Hands down, the BEST cracked conch and lobster ANYWHERE in the Bahamas!

Our time in the Bahamas has come to a close for this year.  We’ll be staging to cross back to Florida in the next few days.

 

Expensive in the Islands!

Paradise doesn’t come cheap.  90% of everything is imported into the Bahamas, mostly from the U.S.  Food, building materials, fuel, you name it.  While there is some farming, the soil doesn’t really lend itself to high output.  There is fishing of course, but boats are expensive, fuel is over $5.00/gallon & some species are in decline (especially their famous conch).

Importing & delivery to the smaller islands is even more expensive as the larger ships from Florida can’t arrive directly – everything has to be off-loaded to Nassau or elsewhere, then re-loaded onto smaller boats/ships which can enter & dock into a smaller harbor & taken off with booms into small trucks, pickups or golf carts.

Delivery day in Hope Town, Abaco. This freight boat makes about 3 trips a week from nearby Marsh Harbour, while much of the northern Exumas, for example, receives their freight by old “mailboats” only 3 times a month, coming all of the way from Nassau.

This fuel came a long way – starting in the U.S. (or Central America?) via a large tanker, then a smaller tanker to Abaco, then onto a tanker truck driven onto a work barge piloted by tug into this marina. No wonder diesel is over $5.00/gallon.

How expensive?  Double is a good rule of thumb, but triple or more is not unusual.  Why so much?  Tacked onto the cost of goods from Florida is obviously the cost of transport by ship from Florida, freight & custom brokers, plus an average 30% Bahamian government import tariff.  The smaller “family” islands have the additional cost of intermediate boats/ships to get to their island along with the increased cost of smaller volume.

Probably our smallest grocery store receipt all winter.

As if that isn’t enough, in 2014 the Bahama government instituted a 7 1/2% VAT on everything (even food).  Last year the VAT was increased to 12%!  Remember – this is 12% on the inflated Bahamas pricing, so effectively over 20% based on U.S. prices.  While they’re calling it a “value added tax”, it seems similar to a sales tax on everything at the retail level – many services too.  Fortunately, they have lowered or eliminated the import tariffs on some items, but most items still have tariffs from 5% to 50%+.  The only food concession they made is making about a dozen foods VAT exempt – not food groups – a dozen basic foods.

Of course, I can’t really complain – we only spend a few months here & have more resources than 95% of Bahamians.  But how does the average Bahamian cope?  It’s particularly concerning as their economy relies primarily on tourism.  Currently the U.S. economy is robust & tourism to the Bahamas is up, but what will happen when the next major U.S./Canadian recession hits?

Abaco – Little Harbour

We had an uneventful 56 mile trip from Royal Island to Little Harbour, Abaco in very calm conditions.  The wind forecast of 4 knots, gusting to 5 knots was right on the money.  Perfect for our little power boat, but the other dozen boats were “brave” sailboats, most with their sails up flopping uselessly.  It was funny listening to them on the VHF radio talking as if the forecast had been way off…

R.I.P.

I’m glad I caught those Mahi on the way south, as I’m only hooking & losing on the way north. Again, I hooked something big, this time losing my old, faithful cedar plug when the line snapped.  Cedar plugs are sold as unpainted cedar wood with a weight built into the lead end – very simple.  Not having any paint aboard, I painted it with Lori’s “mint candy apple” nail polish with some red highlights.  Surprising, it’s caught quite a few fish – unfortunately barracudas especially liked it, hence the large tooth scrapes.

A few miles out of Little Harbour I spotted this strange contraption being towed a few miles out.  Even with binoculars I couldn’t tell a thing.  An hour later, surprise, surprise it was only 100′ away coming right by us! 

Later on we were able to dinghy right up to it.

It took a Google search to figure out what the heck it was.  It’s the new Titan Submersible “the only privately-owned 5-person submersible capable of reaching depths as great as 4,000 meters”.  That’s over 13,000 feet!  It is used for site survey & inspection, research & data collection, film & media production as well as deep sea testing.  While it may look as though the sub is being transported on a mini barge, it’s actually a launch & recovery platform – the whole thing is lowered down 30′ below the waves, then the sub detaches, continuing the remaining 12,970′ on it’s own.  One aim is to allow the use of a smaller support ship – no large crane is needed.  The 13,000′ depth is important as … that’s the depth of the Titanic.  Later this year it’s headed there to further explore the Titanic, first with their own personnel, then with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientists … then … you can go (for only $100,000!).  Not sure what it is doing here, but likely continued testing as the water is over 14,000′ just 12 miles out of Little Harbour.  Lots of interesting info, photos, news stories & video on their website http://oceangate.com

Brush fires miles away created an eerie sunset.

Little Harbour is unfortunately being changed forever by developers from nearby high-end properties who thought it would be neat to offer a waterside clubhouse with boat slips.  While locals fought it for several years with a “Save Little Harbour” campaign, money usually wins out both here & in the U.S.

This is just one of 4 sets of new docks – not sure if all the same developer.

The primary reason we always stop in Little Harbour is Pete’s Pub.  Lori has featured it with photos many times & it recently won 4th place in (yet another) contest of Best Beach Bars in the Caribbean (even though the Bahamas is not).  In addition to being a fun place with good drinks, the food (especially fresh fish) is always really good.  There weren’t many cruisers this time, but it was mobbed with crazy spring breakers – we only stayed one night.