Sunday, November 22, 2015

Captivated by Charleston again

Dawn in Charleston Harbor
     This blog backtracks a few ports since we have already arrived safely in Vero Beach, Florida, but our stay in Charleston was as always interesting and noteworthy. I thought you might enjoy reading this latest entry.

     Have you experienced a city that seems to emanate a radiance while whispering a certain je ne sais quoi? Charleston has this effect upon me. Warm balmy evenings, rustling leaves with miniature snapping live oak acorns under foot, historic architecture and the mannerly ways of the locals. Charleston exudes a fusion of these and other warm attributes that seem to flourish effortlessly.
Historic Charleston


Bluegrass musicians entertaining at the farmers market
The Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church



     While enjoying one of our leisurely meanders through town on a warm, brilliant Saturday afternoon we enjoyed the weekly farmers market in Marion Square. Numerous vendors selling everything from farm fresh vegetables to unusual ceramic ware enjoyed brisk business as townspeople stocked up on provisions. On our return to the Simple Life armed with fresh local tomatoes we passed by the sobering site of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where on June 17, 2015 nine worshippers were shot dead during services. It was difficult to fathom that on a calm, balmy evening during weekly bible study such a horrendous terror attack overtook this beautiful city only a few month ago.  The residents of Charleston are resilient. They want to move on. The church is a constant reminder to the rest of humanity the reality of the world in which we now share.

Happy hour at Pearlz Oyster Bar
 On a lighter note our recent layover in Charleston did not disappoint. World class restaurants, lovely southern architecture, a fantastic Saturday farmers market, perfect Autumn weather with a couple of rainy days for working on boat projects and of course most importantly, great local music. Charleston is a small peninsula city ideal for walking. Its perimeter can be easily covered within a couple of hours. A stroll toward the center meanders through lovely restored historic neighborhoods ripe for exploration.
Oysters by the dozen at Pearlz

Chef Blair preparing Shrimp & Grits
     Since we were in a city famed for fabulous southern cuisine I decided to register for a cooking demonstration at Charleston Cooks a well known store on East Bay Street specializing in gadgets and cookware along with everything and anything a cook might desire in the kitchen. The store also offers cooking classes and demonstrations each day in the well appointed classroom kitchen.

Michele, Dan & Daria

     Anyone who follows my blog knows that I am partial to local southern cuisine especially shrimp and grits. I have sampled numerous versions of this southern dish at several restaurants throughout the city. I even own a cookbook exclusively featuring shrimp and grits. Oh, no...I'm starting to sound a bit like Forrest Gump. Getting back to shrimp and grits. Charleston Cooks offered a demonstration class with Chef Blair preparing shrimp and grits with bourbon pecan pie for dessert. I registered immediately. Later that evening we met up with with friends Dan and Daria from MV Gypsea at my absolute favorite restaurant in Charleston Amen Street Raw Bar & Restaurant. Knowing that Daria is a great cook I mentioned that I'd registered for a cooking demonstration. On Friday we met at Charleston Cooks at 2:00 PM and procured front row seats. The perfect setting to watch Chef Blair work his magic while first preparing the bourbon pecan pie then walking us through the shrimp and grits recipe. During the demonstration overhead video cameras positioned directly over the stove offered us a birds eye view into the pots. The best part of this event came at the end when Chef Blair prepared eight dinners of shrimp and grits for the participating guests along with a glass of wine and bourbon pecan pie.

Elaine & Lawrence with a new friend at the
Natural History Museum
Yikes! Check out those teeth
      A surprise treat this season evolved when our friends Elaine and Lawrence arrived in Charleston aboard Elle & I. Elaine introduced us to her childhood friend Gail and Gail's husband Dr. Jim Carew who invited us to a private informative tour of the Mace Brown Natural History Museum at the College of Charleston where Jim is the museum director and curator. One of the most fascinating exhibits featured the Evolution of Whales. The exhibit spans a 50 million year time period with several evolutionary whale skulls on display. Several specimens in the exhibits were collected in and around the Charleston area. Gail who is an informative guide in her own rite is clearly as enthusiastic as Jim when discussing the exhibits.
Joe and Dr. Jim Carew check out an exhibit

A fossilized shrimp specimen

Joe managed to catch a couple of dozen live shrimp with a
cast net off the Charleston docks during our stay in town.
    Charleston never disappoints and once again has succeeded in captivating my heart. After our wonderful visit we looked forward to heading offshore with Vero Beach in our sites to celebrate this special Thanksgiving with our family of friends in our close knit sailing community.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Offshore Passages Along the Eastern Seaboard

Sunrise on Charleston Harbor
Photo by Joe Boulay
     This season has been surprisingly favorable for offshore passages along the eastern seaboard. Lately it seems that northerly winds have predominated the autumn months which is not unusual, but they have also been relatively benign with only a few minor squalls and fewer strong weather fronts. This has enabled more cruising sailboats to venture offshore relying less on the Intracoastal Waterway route.


An early morning hike at Cape Lookout, NC
Photo by Joe Boulay

     Simple Life has taken advantage of this offshore travel season. We've been able to hop off from Beaufort at Cape Lookout, North Carolina to Wrightsville Beach, NC by leaving Cape Lookout at 3:00 AM with an arrival in Wrightsville before sunset. This passage enabled us to travel one day instead of two which would be the norm along the ICW. The following day we motored along the ICW from Wrightsville Beach to Southport, NC taking a dock for the evening in preparation for an offshore departure the next morning which would encompass an all day and overnight passage to Charleston, South Carolina.

     Charleston has always been such a great spot to layover, rest and enjoy the town. We booked a week in port this fall. When our stay had come to an end a couple of days ago the weather once again cooperated and we hopped offshore for a 29 hour passage from Charleston, SC to Fernandina Beach, Florida!

Joe passed out after a long haul offshore.
Photo by Michele Boulay
 Offshore travel can be exhausting and usually is when the passage lasts just over 24 hours. There isn't enough time for the crew (Joe & me) to settle down and get into a rhythm of watches. Night watches usually work well when the crew is out for a couple of days. Cat naps are one thing, but they don't allow enough time for much needed rest and recovery. For this reason arrivals in port are so welcomed and we often pass out after grabbing a quick coffee and hearty breakfast. Joe actually checked my breathing when I succumbed after this latest passage. Although, I think he caught on within a short time when a period of sonorous snoring began. All video of this particular event has and will forever be deleted from YouTube. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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