Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bask In The Aura Of Historic Charleston Harbor On The Wind And A Sail--Schooner Pride

Standing in the shade of the Aquarium Wharf's brick retaining walls dockside, while waiting to board the 84 foot tall ship, the soothing breeze coming off the water was a welcome relief to the sultry heat of the mid-afternoon Charleston sun. On the deck of the three mast schooner, the able crew of three were making final preparations for our groups 4pm departure on a sailing tour described as a way "to escape the crowded streets and sweltering heat of downtown Charleston" to "take in the Holy City the way it was meant to be seen, from the peaceful waters of Charleston Harbor."

With the humid air brimming with excited anticipation, the appointed time arrived. After being checked off the passenger list one by one, we boarded the green and white vessel and took our preferred seats. With everyone aboard, the ship was filled from stem to stern. The captain gave some final departing instructions and immediately after the command, "Let's shove off."

The mooring lines were loosened and we drifted away from the murky tidal waters of the docks. The captain fired-up the Schooner Pride's cruising engine and we entered the bluer, deeper waters of the harbor where the crew, with the help of volunteers, unfurled the canvas sails and secured the running rigging beginning with the jib.

You could feel the forward thrust as the sails scooped up the moist, salty harbor breeze, splitting the rolling surf and bowing to one side in submission. The experience was everything I expected and more as we basked in the aura of the Charleston Harbor waterfront to the consoling sounds of splashing water, creaking masts and bay breezes rushing by.

Not a narrated tour, the Schooner Pride's daily sails offer its passengers a unique way to enjoy the serenity of Charleston Harbor and the soft breezes and beautiful views without having to take in nonstop information. When not busy adjusting the sails and serving refreshments, the knowledgeable crew are happy to point out the numerous landmarks and answer questions you may choose to ask. Landmarks like the storied WWII air craft carrier, USS Yorktown, docked at Patriot's Point, Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Fort Johnston, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, the East Battery, White Point Gardens and along the shores of James Island into the entrance of the Ashley River and the waterfront of the South Battery to the Charleston Marina.

Each day, three different tours are offered: an Afternoon Dolphin Sail($37 for 2 hours), a Sunset Sail on Charleston Harbor($47 adult for 2 hours), and a Moonlight Sail on Charleston Harbor($40 adult for one and a half hours). There are three special event sails: a Sunset Wine Tasting Cruise($60 adult), Ghost Tour on the Schooner Pride($32), and Christmas Parade of Boats Evening Sail. For each cruise, there are rates for children ages 11 and under. Refreshments include wine, soft drinks and packaged goods such as chips and pretzels.

There is no experience comparable to skimming through open waters on the wind and a sail serenaded by the soul-soothing chorus of taunt rigging and a rolling sea with the unmatched scenery of the Charleston waterfront as the backdrop. All you have to do is sit back, soak it in, and let the crew of the Schooner Pride do their thing. If you have not as of yet done this, I highly recommend you give it serious consideration. It will be worth your while to book a cruise.

For an added pleasure, park your car at the Charleston Harbor Resort Marina and take the water taxi to the Aquarium Wharf for $10 a person round trip, all day. It makes four stops every 15 minutes. To view all the pictures, go to Schooner Pride Afternoon Dolphin Tour.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summervillians And Visitors Filled The Town's Streets To Capacity And Enjoyed The Sweetness

On May 26, 2014, The Azalea Magazine published an article in which it documented the history of the tea plant in America and the South's affinity to sweet tea. It concluded with this momentous statement, "So I'm going to do it. In regards to Summerville's role in the great Southern drink of tea, ice, and sugar, I'm going to step out on a pretty thick limb and say it. Come on and say it with me, Summerville is the birthplace of sweet tea. My appeal to all Summervillians; take pride, take ownership. I feel the need to say it again…Summerville is the birthplace of sweet tea." Well, that limb was the size of Angel Oak's bottom branch and Summervillians have determinedly responded to the appeal.

Since taking ownership of this historic mandate, the town of Summerville has guzzled in the sweetness. The Sweet Tea Trail was established to help visitors and locals alike explore all that Summerville has to offer. Also, the Sweet Tea Festival was inaugurated and is celebrated every September. And quite fittingly, as of June 10, 2015, on National Iced Tea Day, the Birthplace of Sweet Tea smashed the Guinness Book of World Record for the World's Largest Glass of Sweet Tea.

A ten foot container manufactured by Scout Boats and painted for authenticity, the largest glass of sweet tea was positioned in front of Town Hall at the head of the Square. The process for the 1,400 gallons of sweet tea began at 7:00am. At which time, 116 pounds of tea leaves from the Charleston Tea Plantation was brewed. At 11:30am, the concentrate was combined with 2,100 pounds of local sugar from Dixie Crystals and 3,000 pounds of ice was added. The official record ceremony with the Guinness Book of World Records took place mid-afternoon with Bill Collins and the Guinness Book of World Records' representative. Shortly thereafter, the party began, and what a party it was.

The largest crowd I have ever seen in Summerville, outside of the Flowertown Festival, ascended on the town and filled the downtown streets. All of Summerville's sweet tea lovers, desiring to stake their claim in a piece of the action and history, stood in a line that continuously stretched from Town Hall to Central Avenue for several hours. Along with the sweet tea, music lovers danced to great music by Midnight City and others filled the shops and restaurants.

It was amazing and it was historic. It was a testimony to Summerville's affirmation to the appeal made by the Azalea Magazine in 2014 and a demonstration of the Town's community pride. Congratulations and the pictures tell the whole smashing story.

If you want to read the full article from the Azalea Magazine, click on "Birthplace of Sweet Tea."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cheers To Oak Road Brewery's Momentous And Successful First Opening

It's been a long and winding road for Ben Bankey, Kyle Colston, Brian Cox and Brad Mallett. From inception to fruition, with numerous twists and turns, the road less traveled in a town famous for pine trees and sweet tea made all the difference. The Oak Road Brewery, Summerville's first craft brewery, finally popped the bungs on five of its brews and a crowd of enthusiastic craft beer followers who have been patiently standing on the sidelines for this long awaited day poured through its doors on June 5th.

High above its L-shaped bar constructed from corrugated steel and cement, the inaugural brews were listed on a large, flat screen TV for the exuberant patrons, I will dub Oakies, to peruse and make their selection. On the beer list was a pale ale(Jam Up), a robust porter(Carolina Evening), a Vienna lager(Vienna Lager), a blonde ale(Glass Cutter), and an IPA(Laughing Weasel).

From opening to close, the tasting room highlighted by raised barrel tables, barrel stools, window counters, and stainless steel bar chairs was standing room only and the pours were fast and furious. After the froth finally settled to drink in the goodness, the Oak Road Team savored a very momentous and successful soft opening.

Loyal Coastal Coffee patron and craft beer lover, Michael Waters, summed up his experience with these appreciative words, "Many thanks to the enthusiastic and supportive customers. Again, a great job done well by the wonderful ladies who made it all possible by serving up the best local brew with a smile and all the hard work from Brian, Kyle, Chris, and Ben."

If you haven't been there as of yet or are a visitor to the Birthplace of Sweet Tea, Oak Road Brewery is located in the same building as Summerville's gathering place called "The C"--home of Coastal Coffee Roasters. The Brewery is the perfect collaboration and an integral piece in the community jigsaw puzzle being assembled by Brad Mallett at 108 E 3rd North Street where talent and ideas flourish and grow.

The brewery's CEO, Ben Bankey, shares Brad's commitment to Summerville and stated at its beginning, "Oak Road Brewery will be an integral part to the growth of Summerville with a focus on working with local small businesses to enhance the quality of life for its citizens and tourist alike."

At the moment, there is no set schedule, but future planned openings will be on Friday's and Saturday's. Be sure to follow Oak Road Brewery on their Facebook page for scheduled openings. Meanwhile, cheers and enjoy the pictures of the Brewery's long and winding road.