In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore new territory acquired by the United States, the Louisiana Territory. He wrote to them of their mission for their travels:
"The object of your mission," he wrote, "is to explore... the soil and face of the country; its flora, fauna, and minerals; its climate; and its Indian inhabitants, including their numbers, their relations with other tribes, their languages and traditions, diseases and remedies, laws and customs and articles of commerce they may need or furnish. It will be useful to acquire what knowledge you can of the state of morality, religion, and information among them..."
I carry this spirit and this discipline with me.
As I sit here, both hands around my coffee mug, resting in a sun beam that streaks across this breakfast nook, I relish everything I'm feeling now. I know in two hours, I'll be back out on the open ocean, in 40-degree temperatures, rocking with the wind and waves.
But before I go, I'd like to address you, Charleston, South Carolina, in an effort to never forget our experiences here.
We pulled into Charleston Harbor on Monday, December 4, 2017, as the sun started to slip from the sky. Anchored, we rested. We awoke on Tuesday to your exuberance, and with a plan, we started to lower the dinghy. We had supplies that needed purchasing, electronics that needed charging, and e-mails that needed wifi for sending.
We find a beach close to a coffee shop to beach and lock up the dinghy. Charleston passersby offered to help us pull the dinghy up further the sand.
We tucked into the artisan bakery, Bar Normandy, for a day full of one latté, a yogurt parfait and reliable internet. I downloaded 6 movies on Netflix and sent 50 e-mails, all while overhearing 22-year-old women chatter about how their boyfriends "clearly have raging alcohol problems, but they're nice all of the other times, so..."
After finishing all of our wifi connected-dependent work, we headed back to Seas Life where we prepared for dinner with Ryan's college friend and his family. A beautiful night, we were able to shed our layers and enjoy the breeze.
The next day, we fuel up. And this is where, standing on the dock, connected to 120-volt power, I upload I very first YouTube video.
And that's when the cold front rolled in.
Thursday, we woke up to a 45-degree boat. The temperatures in Charleston had dropped, unexpectedly, 30 degrees. We purchase a propane heater and gorge on Chinese food for warmth.
We decide to continue heading south, so we make our way under the Wappoo Bridge 30 minutes before the workers were to head home and find ourselves in the middle of the harsh weather on the ICW.
Cold and tired, a friend saves the day. He calls to say, "I live on the ICW and I have a boat dock!" The best words we could have heard.
Pulling into the dock around 7:00pm, we spend the next 3 days and nights with this incredible couple. The wife, Nickie Stone, is an editorial photographer using techniques dating back to the Civil War, so we sat statuesquely still as the camera soaked in our image.
We had breakfast with a dear family friend of mine who said the kindest thing about my grandfather. "He is my best friend. He has always been my best friend since the first day I met him," he said, almost with tears in his eyes (definitely tears in mine).
We attended an artists market where Ryan purchased me my birthday gifts: a beautiful, hand-crafted ring, bracelet, candle, clothing by a Charleston designer, plant hanger for Seas Life, and a hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. We danced the night away by fires in barrels.
As the sun crept into our bedroom the next day, we knew it was time to carry on. But here's what I'm taking with me:
Charleston, you are a sight to be seen, a state not to be ignored. Everything is an occasion that requires the best of dress, attitudes, and manners. But deep underneath, you are raw with high expectations and steeped in successful ventures. You get what you want, and you enjoy it. From your muddy backroads to your paved streets, you feel southern. From your strictly conservative churches, your whispers, your threats, your welcomes, you can feel the history here today - still breathing, still squirming, still very much present and alive.
Your earth is muddy and clings to your feet. Your oysters burrow. Your coffees have a hint of sour, and your sugar cane is rich. Your people are kind - always offering to help but also ready to cut your throat, should the proper reason arise (but nobody wants that, now do we?)
Your trees command attention, but even if they didn't command my attention would receive it anyway. They're stunning in their goodly size, their unpredictable twists and turns; clearly, they follow no rules. And then your Spanish moss that drapes your branches. Even your tress dress for formal occasions.
We met so many wonderful people will full hearts. The 91-year-old man who told us three blonde jokes only after approaching me to tell me he hopes to not offend. Memorizing jokes is how he stays young, he tells us. His 88-year-old wife (a brunette, if you're wondering) sipped her coffee and smiled, watching her flirt of a husband do his thing. As I twisted my red hair in my hand, he lightly touched it and said, "Look at that..." as if in awe.
The chef at Bar Normandy who tossed mushrooms in garlic and spoke of his dreams to be a sailboat chef one day.
The waitress who kindly asks, "How you doing, peanut?" to every customer. And she'll explain to you that they don't have a liquor license but she can put some sake in your Bloody Mary to make a Bloody Ninja.
The woman who passed me the quartz crystal and told me to take it home along with a nugget of wisdom that it takes quartz millions of years to become a thing.
The old ladies of Charleston who dress up in full-on button-down dresses and heels, dripping with gold jewelry around their necks and wrists.
Your buildings dating back to the 1700-1800s still stand tall though struggling with termite problems.
Your arts are noticeable and feel-able; they're a part of your city's main vein.
You are a place of beauty, irony, hypocrisy, intelligence, money, and nourishment. You sit, loving your people in a dark but welcoming way. There is something very macabre about you, South Carolina, but that doesn't stop your beauty.
Thank you for having us, feeding us, resting us, re-fueling and re-provisioning us. We won't forget you anytime soon.