WPSU

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Burning Love

Ruddy ternstones wear red EVERY day!
From Dafuskie Island, it was a short cruise to Hilton Head, identifiable from the water by its famous peppermint candy-striped lighthouse. On the way we passed one marina with its very own lock, to protect boats from tide surge."Someday," mused the Cap'n, "I'll have MY own lock, too."  Once you have a canal boat, you start wanting the gear to go with it.

"Our restaurant is open," the dockmaster told us, "but you'll need reservations--it's Valentine's Day." We walked to the restaurant--just to check it out, mind you.  Cap had been working on the engine all day; I'd biked around in the Dufskie pineywoods all day. We were sweaty, greasy, uncombed, with diesel-mechanic fingernails and bike helmet-hair.

But before we could say, "Could we just peek at a menu?," we were hustled into seats.  White linens . . .  fine wines  . . . sweeping sunset view over the marshes . . . local society matrons in silk and jewels.  Luckily the crew was wearing a Valentine-red durafleece sweatshirt.



Back at the boat we found a matched pair of black-crowned night herons had each claimed a corner of the dock. Each contemplated the black surface of the water with glowing red eyes.  Night herons hunt at night (just like the name says!) and they're the essence of calm and slowness . . . until you step one millimeter too close, at which point they spread their wings and launch into the dark, defecating explosively while shouting GROK! GROK!

The well-fed crew made several trips up the dock, back and forth, back and forth--taking a shower, moving laundry along--and each time, the "heron alarm" would sound, alerting Cap (who was on the boat) to her approach. Cap has now decided to tame a night heron and keep it on board permanently.  Besides alerting us to intruders when we stay at remote anchorages, it could be trained to fly out and poop on powerboats that throw up too large a wake when they pass us.

Spring has sprung around the antique foundation
of an antebellum mansion
Tuesday we threaded our way up creeks and across connecting 'cut-offs' and down creeks and across the wide waters of Port Royal Sound (big waves, very bouncy! The crew took comfort in the sight of a Coast Guard cruiser anchored nearby.) Finally we arrived in Beaufort (say BEW-firt): antebellum mansions, carriage rides, trees dripping with Spanish moss. Every bit as charming and romantic as the tour guides assert.  As we walked to the boat at dusk, another sign of spring: bats flitting beneath the trees.

Wednesday morning, and romance was still in the air, or rather a loud, creaky sound that jolted us awake.  Out on the dock, a boat-tailed grackle was perched on the tin roof of the fuel-dock office (the highest point around), belting out his harsh love song.  Below him, female grackles perched one per wooden dock pier in an admiring circle, gazing up like groupies at a rock star.

Below THAT palpable layer of bird testosterone there was more activity: a little flock of ruddy ternstones that had clearly lost their way and, instead of foraging on a nice sandy beach, were industriously working over the wooden planks of the dock. Their red legs twinkled as they ran, mouselike, to probe piles of pelican poop and peck at dried-out barnacles and pick up tiny bits of gravel, only to toss them away in disgust.
More signs of spring . . . 

All day long, as we wound our way up and down MORE saltgrass-edged creeks, we saw ugly purple-and-yellow plumes of smoke, like bruises on the horizon.  Love comes with lots of smokin' hot, feverish imagery, but this was the real thing:  It's wildfire season in South Carolina.  There were 59 wildfires reported to the state forestry commission on Monday, and 37 more on Tuesday.

Last night, anchor-down in a tidal creek where the water glinted like a crumpled foil candy wrapper, we sat on the stern and watched sunset wash the clouds pale pink.  On the opposite horizon, the moon, nearly full, rose effortlessly as a silver balloon.

(More photos on SlowBoatCruise Facebook)


2 comments:

  1. Would a night heron help you with gongoozlers (sp)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. C'mon geese! We're ready for some Spring too.

    ReplyDelete