Weather Delay

We are here in Charleston still enjoying being tourists while we wait for the next serious weather to pass. A strong cold front approaches and is due to pass through the area this afternoon with strong winds, rain, thunderstorms, and such. It looks like we’ll be headed out of here on Monday.

New Neighbors

The Swedish tall ship Gunilla is here for a week.

In addition to the Gunilla, The Spanish tall ship JC Elcano, the third largest in the world, is anchored out in the harbor doing as we are and waiting for weather to pass before continuing North.

Charleston Garden Tour Review

The local historical society runs a huge number of tours of this city. We were looking forward to the tour of the downtown gardens. It was expensive, but it seemed like a great way to spend a beautiful day. Our suggestion is to skip the garden tours, and just have a nice walk and admire the architecture.

It is organized as a walking tour in the historical district of eight private gardens. It is well run, and very organized with lots of helpful volunteers who can answer architectural, gardening, and historical questions. Unfortunately, the gardens are really not worth the trouble.

Each of the gardens is beautifully maintained, to be sure. They are just amazingly, boringly, the same. Karen and I can be kind of horticultural snobs, so we might have had higher expectations than many. Many of the gardens on the tour were small spaces, so the design options were limited, but a tour of 8 of the best gardens in the city really should show more creativity than we saw. Especially in a small space, carefully chosen and creatively used plants can standout. Unfortunately, each garden used the same very limited palette of plant varieties. In this climate there is no excuse for this. Almost ANYTHING will grow here.

My take-away was that none of the homeowners were actually gardeners. They hired a “garden designer” who gave them something that was pretty to look at, but dull and unimaginative to anyone who actually loved plants.

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Charleston Walk-about

We strolled around Charleston’s delightful downtown yesterday. Beautiful architecture, beautiful gardens. Busy, like a city should be, but not insanely so. A nice place to visit. Now, in mid-April, the weather is absolutely delightful. A visit in the heat and humidity of August might not be as amenable to an extended walking tour!

Here are some photos from around town…

Because of some odd quirk in the original layout of property lines in the city, almost none of the 19th century homes face the street, but rather have the front door on a courtyard and the gable end of the building is streetside. The red door doesn’t actual enter the house, but is a privacy door between street traffic and the “front” porch.
A series of devastating fires in the early and mid 19th century meant that brick became the go-to building material.
The long, narrow courtyards define the residential, and many of the business areas, of the city.
Many areas of the city could be used as a architecture school exam, “Identify the style of this building.” Karen tells me this beautiful corner bakery is housed in a Gothic Revival structure.
One of the largest buildings downtown is the symmetrical, Classical, facade of the Customs House.
A number of old churches and their grounds dot the urban area.
The original City Market has been re-made into a tourist mecca. No longer selling meats, vegetables, and other necessities, it now caters to the tourist crowd. Just a short walk from the cruise ship terminal.
The famous “Pineapple Fountain” is the centerpiece of the waterfront park. Unlike most urban fountains, wading in the lower pool is encouraged, probably because in the heat of the summer it would be impossible to stop people from a quick dip to cool off!
Hands-down the most amazing planting of fragrant jasmine Karen or I have ever seen. Perfectly espaliered three stories high, it perfumed the whole block.
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Welcome to Charleston!

We came into Charleston Harbor yesterday afternoon when it looked like the weather would make a stay offshore less comfortable than we desired. Since our slip was still occupied, we anchored just north of James Island for the night. Very shortly after we arrived, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm and TORNADO watch for Charleston Harbor and surrounding counties. Really? Well, not much to do but sit tight and see what develops.

Turns out the answer was: Not much. The cold front did pass by, but with no rain here, and winds that peaked at less than 30 knots. We sat comfortably and without worry. A good, big, anchor in a good spot make all the difference.

It might not be the Golden Gate, but Charleston has its own iconic bridge.

At noon time we came up to the marina, and have been really happy with what we have found so far. A short walk around downtown shows a beautiful town. The tallest buildings are still church steeples, and there is a delightful mix of business, residential, and tourist areas with an excellent balance between them. We are really looking forward to exploring further.

For anyone coming to Charleston by boat, we can definitely recommend the Charleston Maritime Center as a base of operations while here. It is walking distance from downtown, and is close to services. There are only two marinas on the city peninsula that take transient boats. The other one is the Charleston Municipal Marina on the west side. It is bigger, fancier, more expensive, but further from anyplace on shore you would actually want to visit.

Here are some pictures from the three day passage from Florida up to South Carolina.

How often do you get to see a full horizon to horizon rainbow???
This is the smallest dolphinfish ever landed on Harmonie. It is SO small, it might actually be be a Pompano dolphin, a separate species from the usual Mahi-mahi.
A 12lb blackfin tuna. About average size for this species. An always welcome dinner guest. Brought up from near the bottom jigging in 400 feet of water. While they can be found near the surface during the day, normally they are very deep. The huge eyeball gives a clue that these are animals well adapted to living and hunting in the dark.
The final resting place for the blackfin tuna. Pepper crusted, seared tuna on a bed of spinach and white beans. Beyond delicious. Not only good, but good for you!
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Killing time…

Since our reserved slip in Charleston won’t be ready for us for another 36 hours, we spent today offshore South Carolina with our favorite time killing pastime: fishing.

I was anxious to experiment with new gear and techniques, and we stopped at an artificial reef about 60 miles offshore where we marked a large number of fish on our sonar. I rigged up one of my new jigs, with the matching rod for its first real test.

The technique of “slow pitch jigging” was one that I experimented with using improvised equipment and had good success. It is one of a series of jigging techniques to come out of Japan over the last few years. We attended a seminar while we were in Fort Lauderdale to pick up the finer points of technique and equipment. A shopping trip or two, and we were ready.

As we drifted over the reef 150 feet below us, the sonar showed us large, densely packed schools of big fish. In our past experience, these kinds of marks indicated large jacks. I was hoping the we could find a tasty grouper lurking nearer the bottom.

As I dropped the jig for the first time, the first bit came before it even got to the bottom. I wasn’t ready for that, and missed him. Not to worry, less than a minute later, before I could bring the lure half way up I was hard into a nice sized Almaco jack. The gear is light, and the fish was strong, it took a while to tire him out and get him to the side of the boat. I lost him just before landing which wasn’t terrible since Karen isn’t especially fond of the taste of jacks. But they are fun to catch!

The action continues in that vein. In fact on the next drop of the lure I land TWO more Almaco jacks! You’ll have to wait for the video to see how that happened! Every drop resulted in a fish hook up. I lost a couple jigs to sharp-toothed King Mackerel, and we decided to move to deeper water.

Dropping to the bottom at the edge of the continental shelf in 400 feet of water quickly hooked us up with a 12 pound Blackfin Tuna. Now THAT is a fish worth the effort to get on the table!

Further experimenting with deep fishing for tilefish didn’t get anything further into our freezer.

We are going to hangout off shore in delightful weather overnight, and target an arrival in Charleston harbor on Monday.

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Much faster

Time 12APR2019, 12:15 local
Latitude N 29° 16.7’
Longitude W 80° 01.7’
Weather: SE, 16, gusting 18. Scattered clouds
Course: 004°M
Speed: 10.1 knots
Water temperature: 81.5°F
Nautical miles from Port Everglades: 190nm
Nautical miles to Charleston Seabuoy: 203nm

After 24 hours we find ourselves halfway along a trip that was supposed the take 3 1/2 days. How so?

It has been our experience that the models always and consistently underestimate the speed of the Gulf Stream. The forecast was for a favorable current of 3.0 knots. Instead it has been steady at 4.1 knots and frequently surging for extended times as fast as 4.5. Combine that with a wind that has run 6 to 8 knots stronger than forecast for the last 10 to 12 hours, and we find we are making excellent time. To keep to our schedule I am running the boat as slow as comfortable in the steep confused seas that are normal in the Gulf Stream, but still we are way ahead of expectations.

Ordinarily that would be a good thing, after all when sailing “fast is fun.” Unfortunately, Charleston is not a city blessed with a large number of good anchorages, and what few marina slips they do have are full for “Charleston Race Week.”

Our plans had been to grab a dock downtown to make exploring easy. Right now it looks like we might arrive two days before our slip will be available! A bit of improvising will be in order.

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Time 11APR2019, 19:00 local
Latitude N 26° 43.8’
Longitude W 79° 50.3’
Weather: SE, 8, gusting 10. Clear
Course: 004°M
Speed: 6.4 knots
Water temperature: 81.2°F
Nautical miles from Port Everglades: 41nm
Nautical miles to Charleston Seabuoy: 352nm

We left greater Fort Lauderdale about noon today after filling our diesel tank. Since then it has been a slow, steady ride with light, but steady, winds and the fast flowing Gulf Stream moving us along.

We haven’t stopped to fish yet, but we have been trolling when the sargassum weed allows. So far our catch has been limited to the tiniest little dolphin fish I have ever seen.

We’ll be in the Gulf Stream for almost the whole way to Charleston, which will add a steady 2 to 3 knots or more to our speed. The weather forecast is for several days of slow easy sailing. It doesn’t get much nicer than this right now!

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Back Where We Belong

We left the Lauderdale Marine Center docks this morning, and made our way down the New River, which is always a fairly short, and complex journey through a narrow and congested waterway.

Approaching the 3rd Ave Bridge outbound on Fort Lauderdale’s New River.

We are now anchored in South Lake, Hollywood, Florida. Harmonie, and both of us, just seem more comfortable at anchor than when we are tied to the dock. We got everything we needed done, and are now off again to travel as the wind takes us.

There certainly things that are easier when we are “docked.” You don’t have to worry about how much water or electricity you use. If you want to go for a walk, you just step off and go. Usually, we’ll have a rented car so grocery shopping and other such things require little or no planning. On the the other hand, the convenience comes with a price. A price in dollars of course, but also in comfort.

At anchor, the boat always points into the wind, and the boat is well ventilated and comfortable. At the dock we find we frequently find ourselves running the air conditioning to stay comfortable. At anchor, the world is quieter and generally more “natural” than in a marina. It is true the boat moves more, but the motion is what we expect and are adapted to. If the boat moves in a marina the cause is usually some jerk diving through the “No Wake Zone” at a speed that is not synonymous with “no wake.”

Finally, when you are anchored, you are responsible for your own fate. If things go wrong, it is your own fault. For us, that sense of self reliance is priceless.

Tomorrow, we are having dinner with some friends, and then Thursday we hope to be back in the ocean, making our way north. Our first planned stop is Charleston, South Carolina, a city neither of us have explored before. The weather forecast looks great, and we hope to catch some fish, and enjoy the blue water. If anyone has any suggestions of things to do and places to see in Charleston, feel free to drop a note in the comments!

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