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South of the Border

Posted by Tall Ships America on June 4, 2007

It is hard to believe it has already been a year since my first TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE®. Truth be told, as soon as we left
Chicago last year, I was already looking forward to this summer. So far, it has lived up to my expectations with a fantastic event in
Charleston, South Carolina put on by the South Carolina Maritime Foundation.                          

After a 16 hour road trip, complete with a mandatory stop at SOUTH OF THE BORDER (there is a 22 story sombrero! You can’t not stop!), the freshly bonded Race Team arrived in Charleston on Monday, May 14th. We had a few extra days to kill while we waited for the ships to arrive on May 17th, so we used this opportunity to relax a bit and view the sites of this lovely and charming city. 

First stop, Wild Wings, home of the best, and a most impressive selection of, buffalo wings. Jonathan, Matt, Tim, Heather and I gorged ourselves and impressed each other with our repertoire of useless knowledge during trivia night. The next morning, Jonathan and I headed over to the port and scoped out our office and tent space, as well as the location of the vessels along the docks.  That afternoon, Heather, Matt, Tim and I took a ferry out to see Fort Sumter. We eschewed the guided tour and pounced around the island taking pictures. From this vantage point at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, we could see the other tall ships sailing out on the ocean, just beyond the Charleston Harbor entrance. The ferry ride back took us by the Colombian Naval ship Gloria, anchored out in the harbor, taunting the citizens of Charleston. It is a gorgeous vessel, white hulled with a green stripe and you can see the brass glinting in the sun. Everything looked quiet on deck as the ferry passengers dangled from the sides trying to capture the entire vessel in one shot.

The next day, Wednesday, dawned hazy, smoky and hot. Smoke from wildfires in Georgia blocked out the sun and stung the eyes. We persevered however and were rewarded with dramatic entrances of the ships as they emerged from the smoke to sail by, during an unofficial parade in. The most dramatic entrance was by the Gloria. The spectators heard cannon fire and singing and gradually the ship came into view. And what a view it was! Every cadet, wearing shirts to represent the colors of the Colombian flag, was up on the yards. There was even a person on the very top of the mast!  With the massive Colombian flag waving in the breeze, the officers on deck saluted and the crowd went wild.

Friday was the official start of the Charleston Maritime Festival and the weather was sunny and breezy, perfect for a day outside. Riding on the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there were pirate’s galore. The pirates entertained the crowd with sword fighting, cannon firing and general misbehavior.  It was a long but fun day of answering questions, pointing people in the right direction and making sure Matt was taking pictures of everything (see the results of his efforts to the right).  That night, the Race Team got spiffed up for a reception at the impressive Hibernian Hall (http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/charleston/hib.htm).  As the crowd milled about, there was suddenly drumming and cheerings and a troupe of Bermudan dancers danced their way to the front of the room. Dressed in brightly colored costumes and masks that were three feet tall (and white Converse kicks), the seven dancers leapt and danced for twenty minutes. It was exhausting even to watch, but they were so great that Heather, Matt, Tim and I felt the need to do a bit of dancing of our own to the live band that took the stage.

The rest of the festival weekend was filled with more pirates, boat races (Tarangini v. Gloria), soccer matches and wooden boat building.  At the end of the weekend, the families that participated in the boat building got to launch their boats to the applause of the crowd.  The weather stayed breezy and sunny, and the crowds stayed happy. One night, Jonathan and I were invited to a reception on board the Gloria (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/558917956efxLBz )Finally! I got to see the vessel up close and it was lovely. From the carefully coiled rope on deck to the sparkling white uniforms of the crew, everything about the ship was perfect.  Soon, there was music playing and people started dancing while the Coast Guard boats patrolled the water around the military vessels.  I also was invited to a reception on board the Tarangini, the Indian naval ship. The food was great and the crew were so nice http://indiannavy.nic.in/tarangini_home.htm

All too soon, it was time to leave Charleston. The interns were fortunate enough to be invited to join the crew of the Picton Castle and they are under sail at this very moment on their way to Norfolk. Heather is an old salt, having crewed aboard the Providence last summer, and is hopefully showing the boys a trick or two. They have the video camera, eight hours of blank tape and a yen for blogging. I cannot wait to hear about their adventures when I see them next week in
Norfolk, Virginia.



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