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.

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