We arrived in Thunderbolt Marina a small town just outside of Savannah. We found this Marina by asking the awesome Facebook group “ICW Cruising Guide by Bob423”. These types of Facebook groups have helped while we have been cruising different and unfamiliar areas. We were glad to get at this nice marina rather than the public docks right in Savannah downtown. When we saw the docks, we were really happy with the decision we made and the recommendations from the group! Special call out to those that helped us! If you are traveling to areas unknown, join some of these Facebook groups and ask questions or read what others ask/answer. This is good for all types of travel, air, sea, foreign or domestic, it is such a wealth of knowledge from folks that live or have been to that location and know the area well.
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
With all the history we have been absorbing in these towns, I thought this quote was perfect for our lives and the history of our country….. The good and the bad, it’s history!
We again booked the same open air trolley tour company we did when we were in St Augustine Old Town Trolley Tours which is an On-off trolley ride through town. It is a perfect way to see the town and hear the history at the same time. As I mentioned in my last blog Cruising from Satellite Beach Florida to Savannah Georgia. Savannah was made more popular by the Author John Berendt book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. He wrote about the city and a group of folks which he met along the way. He called out all the uniqueness’s of these people & how they were living and stories they told him. This is a Non-Fiction book, I might add. The tour guide said those citizens that were mentioned in the book were not too keen when it was published. I think the town now values the tourism that it brings to their fine city. We strolled past the house made famous in the book, the “Mercer-Williams House,” where the murder and shenanigans happened. It was a blast to see the city, with its planned out city streets and park blocks every so often on a regular squared map.
This was done at first for safety having military posted at each park square, which allowed them to see across the whole town and protect the city. Today they are each a quaint parks with stone/brick pathways through them, seating and or monuments. You can see a few pictures of the parks in the slideshow below.
As one of the most hot and humid cities we visited, we saw first hand how the buildup of moisture and afternoon rains hit the city, which we happen to get stuck in while traveling around. But we found some cover and waited it out.
Because of the heat in Savannah, we were glad to be moving north again. We went straight from Savannah to Charleston SC, landing at Charleston City marina. We took another tour bus around the town; this method gives you such a good base for the city. We learned about the 4 corners of law, which consist of the Federal Courthouse, Charleston City Hall, Charleston County Courthouse & St. Michael’s Episcopal Church which are all in the same intersection together. Near this intersection is where we found Ruth and other artisans making their Sweet-grass baskets. They make them right in front of you on the street corner. I, of course, couldn’t leave without one and a picture of her with her beautiful work.
If you love old architecture like me…. you will love all the many southern houses in Charleston. They have beautiful grand porches facing a courtyard on the sides of the house. They all point windward as planned, to get the evening wind to cool the house down. (Can you imagine, no AC) They all have window and porches that they could keep open to reduce the daytime heat. The houses have an odd door leading to the side of the porch. This was for blocking the street dust and horse poop smell from their living areas. It also was for hospitality and greeting neighbors and friends with sweet tea and a visit on the porch. Today they are more for security purpose, but it is the entrance into the courtyard/porch and front door area.
We were able to see the open-air market area that goes on for blocks and blocks, with no vendors due to Covid, but it must be a hustling area when open. Close by we found a local place for lunch. We enjoyed our walk around the city. We also saw a “replica” of the H.L. Hunley submarine. The CSS Hunley was the first combat submarine to sink a warship (USS Housatonic) in 1864. After her successful attack she along with her crew were lost at sea. She was 39.5 ft in length and 3.83 feet in beam. Her propulsion was a hand-cranked duct propeller which could make 4.6 miles per hour. There were 2 officers and 6 enlisted men who performed the propulsion. In 1995 she was finally located in the depths of the sea and raised in 2000 and is on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center.
The next day we took a tour to Fort Sumter which is a National Historic Park. The construction of the fort started in 1829 but was not completed until 1861 when the civil war began. The fort was built with a high stone and heavy masonry walls circling the boundaries. The fort was turned over when South Carolina seceded from the Union. In 1863 there was a failed attempt by the Union to retake the fort and it was reduced to rubble. It remained in Confederate hands until 1865. The U.S. Army worked to restore it as a useful military installation. In 1898 during the American Spanish war, a new massive concrete blockhouse-style installation was built inside the original walls. It was never used during the war, but the mashup of the two different decades is very evident.
Up until Savannah we were traveling in and out of the ocean and into the ICW to anchor or visit marinas. But when we left Charleston the weather was rough in the ocean and we decided to stay in ICW, even if it is a bit more difficult to travel this way. I am sure glad we did because the sights and views that we were able to see have just been amazing. The ICW was a bit more open and navigable in North & South Carolina and Virginia than in Florida and Georgia.
We saw so many sights along the way; Sunken boats, swing bridges, party islands, beautiful homes/docks, lighthouses, birds nesting, swamp lands, fisherman, swimming deer, dredge boats, hunting towers… You name it was saw it.
One of the funniest things we saw along the way, was this Flagpole with a US flag, a fake palm tree and a parking meter on a very small strip of sand. Legend has it, that it arrived in early 2000 and no one knows exactly who is responsible, but that it was meant to be a humorous stab at the climbing parking rates for visitors to the coastal town. Townspeople claim it is maintained by a “secret society of locals” who surreptitiously show up when the treetop needs replacing. Boaters often anchor there on either side of the low tide to temporarily inhabit the island, which slowly disappears as the water begins rising toward high tide.
As we headed to New Bern, we had few more stops. We did one-night anchor out at South Santee River & another at Enterprise Oxbow. Only one notable event, in South Santee River happened. During our anchoring that night, we quickly noticed that it was really soft mud and our anchor didn’t hold. Dan had the great idea to drop our second anchor to hold us. It worked great until we decided to pull the anchor up the next morning. They were all twisted around each other, which we didn’t know until we pulled one of them up. The first anchor rode got caught on the second anchor fluke. It was a nightmare situation. Dan and I worked for 30-40 mins with boat hooks and such to get it untangled. We finally got a separate line through the anchor chain that was hanging off the fluke of the other anchor and tied it off. Then dropped the anchor a bit in the water which changed the direction and it came loose. We won’t do that again!!!
We did a quick stop at Southport Harbor Village Marina where Dan got to meet up with his Navy buddy, Pete from the Flying Fish Submarine time. They hung out and told tons of stories and got caught up from over 40+ years of not seeing each other.
We did one more night at anchor at Swanboro NC before making our way to New Bern to meet up with Debi on Mad Hatteras. We met Debi on the Hatteras Owners Facebook page. We stayed in the Bridgeton Harbor Marina which was just across the Neuse River from New Bern. We had the BEST welcome we have ever had, as we arrived in Bridgeton. Debi had gone all out for us with a Hawaiian welcome, (as she lived on Oahu for a while) and still has a business she operates there. We were welcomed with many helping hands to catch our lines for easy docking, champagne, snacks and Hawaiian Leis. Everyone was so nice and helpful. We spent 5 nights and enjoyed dinner on each other’s boat and an awesome dinner out in town. Got to meet people in the marina and had a great time. If you head this way, it is a really nice marina at which to stay.
We did a couple more nights at anchor along the way to Norfolk, our final destination for the summer. This puts us out of the hurricane risk area. We anchored at Sanders Point in Bay river for 1 night. Then we headed into an interesting little marina for 2 nights in Belhaven NC at River Forest Marina. We enjoyed our stay in Belhaven. It is a very quaint little town with a beautiful manor they do events in. Of course, with Covid, it isn’t active at the moment. I wish I could have gone inside!
We did one more night at anchor on the North River off Abermarle Sound (AKA Crab pot city). Then off to Norfolk. But not before we had two amazing events. We had these birds follow us for hours behind our boat. I think they thought we were fishing and would toss out our fish remains as we cleaned the fish, so they were tailing us pretty close. It was amazing watching them.
And the big finale was a deer crossing right in front of our boat. Dan saw him first and yelled back to me that he saw a deer in the river. I came quickly, but Dan was going so fast that he would have hit him. The deer was swimming faster than he had thought. So, he backed down which gave me a good view of the deer and ability to film her.
We are in Norfolk until November when we plan to go south again. Dan has a reunion with his Flying Fish Submarine buddies in August and we have a wedding of our daughter Kylie. So, we will stay really busy getting everything ready.
I do have a couple special blogs planned for this time away from our adventures… so stay tuned to see what is coming next!