After a dreary, rainy day from Thunderbolt to Bull Creek, where we anchored near a dolphin hole, we made good time despite headwinds and rain, and anchored in Beaufort, South Carolina, at 13:50. Indeed, this Beau-fort is pronounced like beau-tiful, as opposed to Beaufort NORTH Carolina which is pronounced bo-fort.
The anchorage was fairly crowded with permanently moored boats but we were able to anchor between other transient anchored boats between the moored boats and the ICW, close to the public dock. After a bite of lunch, we lowered the dinghy and went into Beaufort to explore. The sky cleared as we arrived at the dock and an hour later we were baking under blue skies and sunshine.
The great thing about small towns is that they are walkable. From the public dock we walked along the main street, with a short diversion along the waterfront park. All along the walkway were swinging park benches, supported by ivy-covered posts, with flowerbeds and greenery in between. We were not the only ones to enjoy this – families, seniors, young couples and dog-walkers were making good use of the park and swinging benches.
A monument was ringed by chronological plaques summarizing the war-torn history of Beaufort which was first settled by the Spanish in 1514, followed by the French, the British and then Union forces. Indigo, rice and then cotton enabled wealthy plantation owners to build spacious mansions along the river. The plaques provided a great overview for our self-guided walking tour.
We crossed the main street through town to the Visitors Centre in an old fort, one end of which is converted into a synagogue. Armed with a good map and ‘don’t miss’ tips we walked through a well-treed neighborhood of pre-revolutionary and antebellum homes – as enchanting as Savannah just on a much smaller scale. The majestic live oak trees hung so low over the road in places that they carried restricted height signs for vehicles. They were all getting ready for their spring home and garden tour, an annual event, so the gardens were lush with topiary and azaleas.
We stopped at a cute little chocolate shop and indulged in a few pieces of dark-chocolate-covered pecans to take back to the boat for dessert, and then walked through the graveyard of the pretty 1724 St. Helena’s Episcopal Church. The tombstones apparently served as operating tables for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. The churchyard walls were built with bricks arriving from England as ships’ ballast.
Back near the marina we decided to stop for an early evening beer at “Plums” on the waterfront. We were seated on the front porch overlooking the park and river, and served ice-cold “peach” beer from a local micro-brewery. To top that, they were also serving free oysters – delicious! After a plateful of fresh oysters, and a look at their enticing and reasonably-priced menu of “low-country” and Gullah favourites, we stayed for dinner so Skipper Steve could get his fill of peel-and-eat shrimp. Lowcountry cooking is based on the African traditions of slaves and their descendents – a combination of fresh local seafood with plantation vegetables such as okra, peanuts, benne (sesame seeds), rice, tomatoes, hot pepper and watermelon. Sadly we did not leave room for their home-made ice-cream. We have been trying (surprisingly in vain) to sample our way through the recommended “Ice Cream Stops on the ICW” article that Paul had clipped for Steve from a sailing magazine. Beaufort was one of the ones that got away!
The next morning we went into town again in the morning, and were served stone-ground grits and biscuits with our bacon and egg breakfast! We enjoyed browsing the Lowcountry Urban Market, and sauntering through town again before heading back to the boat.
We raised anchor at 2 pm, and passed through the Ladies Island Swing Bridge over the Beaufort River after waiting for a large barge to slowly (carefully) make its way through….it was a tight squeeze.
Despite bucking a strong flood current, we made good time under blue skies, and dropped the hook just South and East of Fenwick Cut in the lee of some stately tall trees which provided protection from the 17 knot strong west wind.
I would be remiss not to mention the damper on the day – the worsening rattle (sometimes thumping) from our prop shaft. Luckily we are just one day’s drive away from Ross Marine, where we have an appointment on Monday to haul and hopefully repair (this time) the cutlass bearing. To cheer us up, dolphins came by to greet us in our peaceful anchorage (no other boats in sight) as the sun set over the marshes.
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