Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Beach

I'm not sure if this has ever happened before: I've been to both coasts and seen both oceans in the space of thirty days, and neither trip was for work. Well, not paid work, anyway, and that's a vital distinction.  In an equal but somewhat offset time period, I went from having two airplanes to none. 

I'm not nearly as thrilled about that.

But back to the story at hand: back when we were still embroiled in the building of the 12, co-builder Pete found and purchased a beach front condo down in South Carolina to be used in the short term as a rental property and in the long term as a possible new domicile. The condo was showing its age, so a complete renovation was performed. Once offered on the rental market it has seldom seen an unoccupied day, so when a five day window opened in the schedule, Pete was thrilled to have the chance to go down there and make some small repairs and replenish some of the types of items that tend to disappear after awhile. Bath towels, for example: they go to the beach, but don't always return. In any event, he asked if I would like to go along, and, well, who's going to say no to that??  Trick question: the co-owner declined, but not for lack of desire. The eleven hour drive didn't appeal to her (to me either, if I'm honest) and arranging for the care and feeding of pets and mansion take time. A rain check was issued.

We departed early in the morning and drove straight through, albeit with a brief stop at Prince William's Parish Church (aka Sheldon Church). I don't know much about it, and I am seemingly not alone in that. Consider this sparse Wiki entry:
The Old Sheldon Church Ruins is a historic site located in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina, approximately 17 miles (30 km) north of Beaufort in the Sheldon area. Known also as the Sheldon Church or Old Sheldon Church, the pre-existing building was originally known as Prince William's Parish Church. The church was built in the Greek Revival style between 1745 and 1753. Prince William's was burned by the British in 1779 during the Revolutionary War. In 1826 it was rebuilt and not burnt by William Tecumseh Sherman, in 1865, as told by signs at the site based on a letter written by a Yankee.
Whatevs. It's an interesting relic in its own right.

Towards the end of the drive, I was pretty tired and just wanted to relax. So, first order of business was to grab some breeze on the condo's patio:

Once refreshed by the sea breeze, I could take a look around:

This painting (and a great deal of the interior design) was done by the lovely and talented Mrs. Stock:

Pete kindly relinquished the room with the amazing view to me:

It didn't take long for me to get to the beach!

We were blessed with amazingly good weather for our three days stay. I'm an early riser by nature (well, perhaps more specifically "by habit") and greatly enjoyed the sunrises:

This shell looked to be a perfect souvenir to take home for my little personal museum:

But the current resident would need to be evicted first, which ultimately took a number of days:

The beach is fairly secluded and seldom had more than a dozen or so people on it. Even so, it was nice to have the dunes as a type of buffer:

Being on the coast and being in the south, one of the primary industries is shrimping. We stopped by at one of the shrimping outfits because I like boats. More specifically, I like working boats:

The first place we wanted to try for breakfast was closed. In fact, just about all of the small family-owned restaurants are closed on Mondays. Instead, we tried a Huddle House, which seems to be a large chain down south.
Huddle House was founded in 1964 by John Sparks. Having already opened a few restaurants under various names, he needed a great name for his restaurant chain. One evening in Decatur, Georgia, he saw a boy meeting friends after football practice holding his helmet in one hand and a football in the other. It looked as if the group were "huddled up" talking and laughing together. It was at that moment he decided that Huddle House was the perfect name for the restaurant chain and it would be the place where folks would gather, or "huddle up," for great food and good times after Friday night football games. So, with its new name, was born.
Sparks continued to successfully build the HUDDLE HOUSE brand for many years by adhering to his core values of providing great service and serving quality food cooked-to-order so it's always fresh, hot and delicious. When Sparks passed away in 1978, his wife, Pauline, took the helm until Huddle House was sold to a private firm in 1994.
Although Sparks' passion to serve quality food in a warm, friendly environment that brings folks together remains intact, much has changed since the first Huddle House opened its doors. New restaurants feature a look that's bright, colorful and reminiscent of America’s classic neighborhood diners. The menu has grown to include a variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees that take their place beside the "House" classic favorites.
Huddle House is proud to have served guests "Any Meal. Any Time." for over 45 years and looks forward to serving you for many years to come.
Unlike its kissing cousin, Waffle House, Huddle has yet to make its way up north in large numbers (there is only one in Ohio, and its out in the middle of nowhere). I hope that someday it does - I loved it! I suppose I could build one of my own if I really, really wanted to.

Here is our breakfast being made, right before our (hungry) eyes:

Yummmm... country ham! I love it for the salt and the texture:

After breakfast we drove into Beaufort to take a look at the magnificent old houses:

If Spanish Moss didn't exist, they would have had to invent it:

By the time we got back to the beach, the tide had come in. The beach in this area is very shallow, so the difference between high and low tide is stark. At low tide, the beach is very wide, while at high tide there is very little beach to be found. There are still sand bars, though, so the birds have a place to rest.

The second morning, I found that not all sunsets are created equal. This would prove to be the most spectacular:

We did a little more shopping for condo supplies and foodstuffs, which afforded me the chance to pick up some local goods to take back. The hushpuppy mix was an impulse buy at the small market where Pete bought some fresh-off-the-boat shrimp with which to make some amazingly good ceviche.
Ceviche (“seh-BEE-chay”) is a hugely popular dish in South America. The basic ingredient is raw fish, cut into bite-size pieces and marinated in the juice of an acidic fruit (usually lime), salt, and seasonings (usually chile peppers). The citric acid in the juice changes the texture of the fish, without changing its “raw” taste. Ceviche is an old tradition in South America, dating back to the earliest inhabitants. The Incas preserved their fish with fruit juice, salt and chile peppers, and later the Spanish conquerors introduced the now essential limes.

After lunch, I thought I would take a little walk around the condo complex. It didn't take long to be reminded that I was no longer in Ohio! This guy had to be 7' long, and there he was, just sitting right by the side of the driveway:

Probably the most touristy thing I did while we were there was to visit the Hunting Island lighthouse:

Wiki, as can be expected, has a more verbose history:
The tower is made mostly of brick with a cast iron shell. The conical tower is 136 feet tall with a second order, Fresnel light (the original light is no longer lit and the lenses are at the base of the tower for the public to view). The top third of the tower is painted black and the lower two-thirds is painted white. A fog horn was not installed. The only sound signal is a large bell.
Currently, a rotating light is in place to mimic the original lamp in the lighthouse. It is turned on at dusk and rotates brightly through the night. While not bright enough for navigation, it provides night visitors to the island the feel of an operating lighthouse. When operational, the Hunting Island Lighthouse was visible for 17 miles. Historic records from March 1890 note that the Lighthouse was complete, "including one of the larger sized fire proof oil light houses."
Construction started in 1859, but was set back as the tower was destroyed during the Civil War in 1862. Major George H. Elliot is credited with the 1860s development of what is known as the "segmented cast-iron" light house design. In the United States, two were constructed: the Hunting Island Lighthouse and subsequently Florida's Cape Canaveral Light. Hunting Island’s Lighthouse was designed to be disassembled and moved if required. It consists of cast-iron sections, each weighing up to 1200 pounds which are bolted together to form the shell. the shell is lined with brick, which constitutes the main load-bearing structural element.
Erection commenced in 1873, and was completed in 1875. With its 167 steps that lead to an impressive observation deck, the Hunting Island Lighthouse has handsomely built cast and wrought iron staircase, railings and support beams that were fashioned by the Phoenix Iron Works company of Philadelphia. The Lighthouse was first located on the northern portion of Hunting Island, South Carolina, but severe beach erosion threatened the light station and its structures. By 1888 it was reported that the Atlantic Ocean’s high tide had reached within 35 feet of the keeper's house. As a result, the Lighthouse, the keeper's home and two other structures were relocated a mile away in 1889 to their present locale.
At the time of the 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane the Hunting Island Lighthouse functioned as a sanctuary for some passengers aboard the steamer "City of Savannah I" which had been forced onto the shoals. The Lighthouse continued operation until deactivation in 1933. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as reference #70000561. In 2009, celebrations were held in honor of the lighthouse's 150th anniversary.
And there the are! The "handsomely built cast and wrought iron stairs," whose handsomeness eroded notably somewhere around step 78 as I started to feel my age.

The little plaques at each landing either celebrated your progress or taunted your fatigue, depending.

Can you tell from the picture that I am wildly uncomfortable? I'm not sure when I developed an aversion to heights, but wow, did I ever hate that narrow, windy platform!

The stairs going down looked every bit as daunting as they did going up:

I needed some quality beach time after that ordeal. A chair, a magazine, a flask of rum, and an ocean: it'll cure what ails ya!

The third sunrise was at low, low, LOW tide. This is the sand that you would normally walk on while wading in the ocean. It's kind of a sandy mud:

Further up the beach, I ran into a pair of horseshoe crabs that missed their curfew, to their great detriment:

As is my wont, I grew curious about horseshoe crabs and what would prompt them to leave the ocean in the first place:
During the spring and summer, adult horseshoe crabs migrate in huge numbers towards sandy beaches and congregate in the shallow water. Breeding is associated with the lunar and tidal cycles, with most adults arriving at the full or new moon and within a couple of hours of high tide. The direction of the waves guides the females towards the beach. Male horseshoe crabs patrol along the bottom of the beach in the shallow water, waiting to intercept beach-bound females. Pairs make their way to the high tide mark and the male fertilizes the eggs as they are laid into a 15 centimetre deep nest in the sand. From 2,000 to 20,000 eggs may be produced in a single clutch. Very often there may be more than one male accompanying each female; in some cases there have been as many as 14 males to one female. As the tide begins to retreat, the horseshoe crabs make their way back to the sea.
Once I recognized the pattern that they leave in the sand, I was able to see a lot of tracks from the male crabs having patrolled the beach. It was all very interesting!

Every now and then a shrimp boat would pass along the beach:

Not quite done with tourism, we visited Fort Fremont:

This too required further research:
Fort Fremont is located at Lands End on St. Helena Island, S. C., four miles southeast of Port Royal. It overlooks the Fort Fremont Reach of the stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from Port Royal to the Beaufort River.
The complex at Fort Fremont consisted of almost 170 acres of land with numerous outbuildings, including an Administration building, guard house, barracks, hospital, stable, mess hall, bakery, commissary, post exchange, lavatory, and water tower. Of these, only the 10 inch battery, the rapid-fire battery and the brick hospital built in 1906 survive. All the other structures were made of wood and were demolished at various points before 1989 when documentation was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places.

Construction of coastal batteries was authorized by Congress under the $50 million Harbor Fortification Defense Act of 1898. Fort Fremont was built by the Corps of Engineers on condemned private property with construction starting in 1899. Former owners of portions of the condemned land were Ellen A. Crofut, F.A. Dran, Jacob Meyers, Jack Freeman, July Fripp, Andrew Jenkins and Ellen Williams. The Corps of Engineers hired labor from the Beaufort area to build the military complex. In 1900, Fort Fremont was turned over to the Coast Artillery. The National Register of Historic Places documentation states that "Fort Fremont is one of only two extant Spanish-American War fortifications which retain their character from that period."
According to Historic Resources of the Lowcountry, "Fort Fremont is said to have been the most expensive of all Beaufort area forts and perhaps the most useless, because no shot was ever fired from the fort."
The garrison's single artillery company manned three 10-inch disappearing guns and two 4.7-inch rapid fire guns. The full company of personnel at Fort Fremont was set at 108 men in July of 1908, when 40 newcomers arrived from Columbus, Ohio.
Hey, how about that!

I was also curious about what exactly a 10" disappearing gun was, so I consulted Google/Wiki:

A disappearing gun (often called a disappearing carriage) was a type of heavy (mainly coastal) artillery used in the past for which the gun carriage enabled the gun to rotate backwards and down into a pit protected by a wall (the parapet) or a bunker after it was fired. This retraction lowered the gun from view by the enemy while it was being reloaded.
It also made reloading easier, since it lowered the breech to a level just above the loading platform, and shells could be rolled right up to the open breech for loading and ramming. Although it had these advantages, the disappearing carriage was also a complicated mechanism. In the U.S., disappearing carriages were mostly withdrawn from active service by the early 1920s.
The disappearing gun was usually moved down behind the parapet or into its protective housing by the force of its own recoil, which (on many models) lifted a counterweight. Before firing, the crew tripped a catch on the counterweight, causing it to fall into a well at the center of the gun position and move the gun back up "into battery" (firing position).
Some disappearing guns also used compressed air, while a few were built to be raised by steam.
The disappearing carriage had several principal advantages:
  -- It afforded the gun crew protection from direct fire by raising the gun over the parapet (or wall in front of the gun) only when it was to be fired, otherwise leaving it at a lower level, where it was also able to be loaded easily.
  --  With its guns in a retracted position (down behind the parapet), the battery was much harder to spot from the sea, making it a much harder target for attacking ships. Flat trajectory fire tended simply to fly over the battery, without damaging it.
  -- Interposing of a moving fulcrum between the gun and its platform lessened the strain on the latter and allowed it to be of lighter construction while limiting recoil travel.
 --  Simple, well protected earthen and masonry gun pits were much more economical to construct than the previous practice of constructing the standing heavy walls and fortified casemates of a more traditional gun emplacement.
  --  The entire battery could be hidden from view when not in use, unlike a traditional fort, enabling ambuscade fire.
The disappearing gun had several drawbacks as well:
  -- The carriage design restricted maximum elevation to under 20 degrees and thus lacked the necessary range to match newer naval guns entering service during the early part of the 20th century. The additional elevation gained by mounting the same gun on a later non-disappearing carriage increased their range.
  -- The time taken for the gun to swing up and down and be reloaded slowed the rate of fire. Surviving records indicate a rate of fire of 1 round per 1 to 2 minutes for an 8-inch (20 cm) gun, significantly slower than less complicated guns.
  -- The improvement in the speed of warships demanded an increased rate of firing. The disappearing gun was at a disadvantage compared with a gun that stayed in position as one could not aim or reposition a disappearing gun while it was in the lowered position. The gunner still had to climb atop the weapon via an elevated platform to sight and lay the weapon after it was returned to firing position, or receive fire control information (range and bearing) transmitted from a remote location.
  -- Their relative size and complexity also made them expensive compared with non-disappearing mounts.

Disappearing guns as a functioning concept were invented in the 1860s by Captain (later Sir) Alexander Moncrieff, who built on his observations in the Crimean War to improve on existing designs for a gun carriage capable of rising over a parapet before being reloaded from behind cover. His key innovation was a counterweight system that raised the gun as well as controlled the recoil. Moncrieff promoted his system as an inexpensive and quickly constructed alternative to a more traditional gun emplacement.
Buffington and Crozier further refined the concept in the late 1880s by incorporating hydro-pneumatic recoil control to assist the counterweight action. The Buffington–Crozier Disappearing Carriage (1893) represented the zenith of disappearing gun carriages, and guns of up to 16-inch size were eventually mounted on such carriages. Disappearing guns were highly popular for a while in the British Empire, the United States and other countries.

Aiming the 14" guns at Fort Hancock
However, in the 1890s, a series of Royal Navy/New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy trials carried out in New Zealand (where numerous disappearing guns had been bought and installed during the Russian Scares), revealed the virtual impossibility of a small shore installation being hit by a warship, except by chance. Others dispute that the advantages were so limited, and point to the efficiency of such artillery in for example, the Battle of Port Arthur. In any case, with their protective benefits thus cast into doubt, no further production of the expensive gun carriages was undertaken in New Zealand.
Though effective against ships, the guns turned out to be vulnerable to aerial attack. After World War I batteries of disappearing guns were usually casemated for protection or covered with camouflage for concealment. By 1912, the guns were declared obsolete in the British Army, with only some other countries, particularly the United States, still producing them up to World War I and keeping them active through to the end of World War II.

This may appear to be the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view for a spell, but it was anything but. The nice ocean breeze we had enjoyed for the first two days had been replaced by a light whiff of air coming off the land. This allowed the mosquitoes to return, and they did so in droves.

As bad as the skeeters were at the small beach, they were ten times worse when I stopped to take some pictures of this old church. I was an absolute swarm! They were so bad and I was shooing them away with such vigor that the South Carolina road crew guy sitting in his truck having a lunch break must have thought that I was hallucinating that I was a major league baseball team manager sending signals to the winning run on third base!

The drive home was, as expected, just as mind-numbing as the drive down and it took me a couple of days to recover. It was just this morning that I finally got around to writing a review for the web site Pete uses to manage rental requests. I ran into problems with the 2,000 character limit, but I did the best I could in the space available:

Review #6643298 Clean, Contemporary, Comfortable

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in this condo as a guest of the owners and found it to be just about the perfect place to spend some time unwinding from the stresses that build up from living and working in a large city. Traffic? Hardly any. Noise? Well, it's hard to object to the sounds of wind blowing though the flora on the dunes, and everyone loves the sound of surf on the beach, right? Crowds? Perhaps it was because of the winding down of the tourist season, but I never felt frustrated by having to deal with large groups of pushy, impatient people or by having to wait up to an hour for a table at a restaurant. And best of all, having the absence of all of these daily irritations did not come at the cost of having to do without all of the conveniences of home -- the modern appliances and entertainment devices provide all of the things you would miss if staying in a hotel room. 
This newly renovated condo is attractively appointed with soft colors in a relaxing seaside motif and decorated with a personal touch that includes canoe paddles used by one of the owners and his siblings when they were children, and by a number of paintings drawn by his wife. The look of the interior so perfectly matches the beach environment that the expansive view of the dunes, beach, and ocean as seen through the glass patio doors blends in so well that it becomes an integral part of the design.
I am by nature a morning person (having spent the last twenty years getting up before the farmers in order to avoid rush hour traffic) which tends to cause issues on weekends when I am up long before the rest of the family. Not so, here. The early morning walks on the beach enjoying the beautifully unobstructed sunrises were one of the highlights of my stay. The early morning beach is both secluded and fascinating, with all sorts of local wildlife to enjoy and shells to be found. The ocean was at low tide at sunrise while I was there and that left a wide expanse of sand to walk on, while high tide later in the day traded walking room for easy access to the water. Each had its own appeal. 
The local area is somewhat secluded, but for a quick bite for breakfast or lunch there is a new place just outside the gate. Try the panini! Restaurants, groceries, and other supplies are an easy fifteen minute drive away. Add another few minutes of driving and all of Beaufort is yours for the asking. The historic district is a great place to find a number of fine places to eat.