REAL SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY - CAROLINA BEACH AND CHARLESTON

Beaufort NC is quaint, but a bit of a tourist trap and although Clawson's is
a good
bar/restaurant, the shops tend to sell 'giftes'. The town does however
provide a
courtesy car, (in our case an old huge, wide Buick station wagon), so we
lumbered round the shops of rather more basic Moorhead City for food and
marine bits, trying not to have an accident - God knows what the insurance
arrangements are. Beaufort marina provided high speed wireless internet
which is
a bit of a luxury for us, so we surfed some more, then sailed overnight the
75 miles to Carolina Beach. We left at 5.30pm, and in a 20 -30 knot
northerly Intrepid was so keen to show  what she could do that we kept
having to slow her down. In spite of this, we arrived off Masonborough Inlet
at 4pm in pitch dark and rolly seas and had to heave to for 2 hours to wait
for light before entering. Interesting to see how she hove to - in fact she
did very well, reefed genoa sheeted to port, reefed main also to port, with
the wind at 30 degrees to port and the rudder locked hard to port she lay
smoothly and made 1.5 knots to starboard (no movement downwind at all).

We were going to Carolina Beach to see friends Ric and Mary whom we had
first met in Key West 2 years earlier. Ric is an early riser, and at 4.30am,
just as I was feeling a bit lonely in a dark hove-to Intrepid, Ric's voice
came clearly over the VHF - a real boost. Dawn at 7, and we swooshed into
the inlet and 10 miles down the ICW to Carolina Beach Bight where Ric (who
is a very knowledgeable yacht broker - call him if you are buying or selling
a yacht) had
arranged a berth at a private marina, Intrepid's 6 foot draft just made it
in, and we slept. The next 2 days were a wonderful demonstration of real
southern hospitality - we were whisked off to lunch, toured Carolina Beach
(population 5500 in winter, 55,000 in summer) then talked away all afternoon
as Ric prepared a great BBQ, picked Mary up from work and ...we just had a
great time catching up with all their news - they have met each challenge
head on. We luxuriated in soft sheets, college football and showers that
don't move, Ric and I spent Saturday afternoon at Ric's local bar that had
all the warmth and welcome of a British pub (and I mean that positively) ,
met Jack who had married his 3rd wife (his 2nd was from Birmingham UK) the
day before, and felt at home. North Carolina gets its fair share of
hurricanes and most of the houses are built on stilts to raise them above
any surge - insurance companies refuse to provide cover for hurricanes, so
Federal insurance has to - $800/year for a typical house.

We learned lots - for example, America has some 12 million 'illegal'
immigrants - who nonetheless pay tax. The way it works is this: the company
needs low cost labour, a Mexican is introduced, with a nice new green card
and social security number. The employer sends the details to the Dept of
Employment, works the Mexican deducting taxes from wages (but usually
giving them credit for the 8 or so dependants they claim to have even if
aged 18), after
perhaps a year the Employment Dept advises that the social security number
is not valid, has it been incorrectly recorded? The Mexican says no problem,
and next day appears with a new 'correct social' security card, continues
working, pays tax, never files a tax return, never receives anything for the
direct or indirect
taxes he has paid (because the social security number is invalid), repeat
for the next 15 years or more. The Government receives the tax, pays nothing
for it, and thereby benefits in 3 ways for turning a blind eye - wages are
kept low because of competition, prices for goods (especially construction)
made in USA are kept low for the same reason, and the extra tax is useful.
The Mexicans keep all their money in cash ((because they are illegal) so
they are tempting targets - if robbed they cannot even complain.
But after a while the Mexicans, instead of returning home, bring their
family to the USA - and legal Hispanics have already overtaken Blacks as the
largest
minority. In California a majority of the babies born are Hispanic! Nor are
Hispanics limited to the border states and NY - Hispanics in North Carolina,
Georgia and Nevada doubled in less than 10 years to meet the demands of the
growing construction industry. Whites do not even have the highest median
household income in the USA - Asians do - $53,000/year (Whites $46,000,
$33,000 legal Hispanics, and Blacks $29,000 - the overall American median
household income is $50,000
or roughly 30,000 pounds - about the same as median household net worth -
70% own their own home) -  But immigration and a high birth rate does keep
America young competitive and growing. USA has
almost doubled its population from 1950 to the present, and by 2050 (when I
may be 100) will
still have a median age of about 35 - whereas Europe's average age will be a
horrendous and dangerous 52.

Charleston next - a scenic 15 miles through Snows cut on the ICW to go
inside Cape Fear, then overnight on a 'milk run' 70 miles south west - grey
night with only a hint of moon but calm seas and into Charleston's big ship
channel - it is a natural harbour, the 4th largest port in the US. The
Maritime Centre marina was full, but we found a delightful anchorage
opposite City Marina on the Ashley River to the west of the peninsular which
is Charleston. Charleston YC is a really great friendly club in the centre
of City Marina. Sylvia introduced us to Emmett and Mecca had been ships
agents for a long time, and we were so lucky to meet them - they showed us
all the places we needed, we partied nights, (Toga party on Saturday),
changed all our plans, and did our pre-Pacific maintenance checks here. A
new pole (for the genoa), new halliards and outhaul, new batteries, new
alternator,
recondition the old one as a spare, new BBQ, recaulk teak decks.....). We
met up
with Reg and Larry (who we had first met in the Bahamas), started at Salty
Mikes (which is a very salty bar) and ended upstairs in the very good
restaurant. Only drawback was the record high temperatures (85F - 30C)
which encouraged no-see-ums,small insects that feasted on Nic.

South Carolina argably started the civil war - the democratic convention of
1860 in Charleston split on the issue of slavery, and Lincoln from the
fledgling Republican party running on a ticket to oppose any expansion of
slavery in new states, won with only some 35% of the vote against a divided
Democrat party. South Carolina, so fearful that this would ultimately lead
to confiscation of their main asset - slaves -  seceded from the Union on
20th December 3 months before Lincoln would even take office - the first
state to do so. Meanwhile work continued on Fort Sumter a large Federal
Government fort on a sand bank in the centre of Charleston harbour. The
Federal commander, when he heard of the secession, transferred to the 90%
complete fort with his total command - 85 men. For 3 months there was
stalemate while more southern states seceded, but when President Buchanan
the lame duck outgoing President sent a relief convoy, South Carolina
decided to seize this 'foreign' fort in their 'new' country. They bombarded
Fort Sumter for 36 hours, until with the powder magazine about to explode
because of fires started by red hot cannon shell, the Federals surrendered.
The war of 'Northern Aggression' (as the south call it) had begun. Today
Charleston still has elegant houses, built with the narrow side to the
street to minimise tax (which was levied on street frontage of the property)
and old tobacco warehouses are converted into condominiums and time share.
The WW2 aircraft carrier Yorktown is at Patriot Point - her 2800 crew were
pretty cramped, but she enabled America to dominate the Pacific - by wars
end 18 this size saw service - massive power.

America celebrates Halloween in a big way, and on 31st October and weeks
before the streets were full of witches, ghosts, were wolves and politicians
(Election Day is the first Tuesday in November - 2nd November in 2004).
South Carolina, having voted Democrat for 100 years in protest at the
Republican Lincoln, is now Republican, partly as a result of Lyndon
Johnson's civil rights acts which made southern democrats question why they
were voting democrat 100+ years after the civil war ended.  To all someone a
liberal here is to
be really insulting - and this has been the most effective label the Bush
camp have hung on Kerry. Republicans claim moral values - which used to be
the preserve of Democrats. Most people are for Bush - they dont like much of
what he has done, fear job losses, and acknowledge Iraq is a mistake, but
would rather have Bush than Kerry who they perceive will give hand outs to
all, especially those who don't work, and be 'soft' on terror.  Even North
Carolina (John Edwards state, the Democrat VP candidate) will go
Republican. There are very few undecideds here.

And so it proved, people waited in line for 1-2 hours on average to vote,
even though everyone knows that the outcome of the Presidential race depends
on only 10 'battleground' swing states - especially Ohio (the only state
outside California where Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned for him), Florida,
and
Pennsylvania. Bush won the first 2, and won 4 more years, Kerry came close
but.........Each President has won the Electoral College so may be reluctant
to modify the concept. People voted not just for the President but for the
Senate, House of Representatives and a wide variety of state referenda,
including one in South Carolina proposing a 0.5% increase in sales tax to
pay for transport infrastructure, and another relaxing
the restriction that  spirits in bars can only be sold in mini-bottles ( a
relic of prohibition) - both were approved. I think Britain would do well to
copy this concept of local referenda - it makes people much more involved in
their government.

The election divided America into 2
recognizable camps, divided by how they define morality. Both distrust and
fear the other - many Democrats said to us that they were ashamed of their
country for voting for Bush and were scared of what he might do. Republicans
regard the Democrats as immoral who want live off state handouts. Half of
Democrats never go to church, 45% are
single, 75% would allow abortion in almost all cases and 40% support gay
marriage. 90% of black voters voted Democrat, so did 60% of Hispanics, 56%
of young voters were Democrat, 44% for Bush. More women supported Kerry,
but Bush made significant gains here, partly because some women perceived
him to be stronger to protect them against terror. In fact what probably
swung the
election was something that did not happen - the 'dog that did not bark' -
there was no terror incident similar to the
Spanish election - which enabled Bush to claim with some legitimacy that his
policy of a strong offensive against terrorists was weakening them
sufficiently so that they could not attack the USA.

35% of Bush supporters are white evangelical Christians, 50% have a gun, 60%
believe all abortions should be illegal, and 60% oppose any legal
recognition at all of gay same sex unions (let alone marriage) Many
Republicans
believe gay teachers should be banned.  Republicans now
dominate almost all the states in the middle of the country- even Arkansas,
Bill Clinton's home state is Republican now. Democrats are
reduced to the North East and West coast states and its going to be hard to
even find good
candidates in the central states as they perceive a Democrat ticket to be a
vote loser there. The 2-3000 or so Democrats who would
have
hoped to have key jobs in the Kerry Government have missed their chance and
will have to find something else to do, whereas those Republicans who helped
Bush win will feel they did the right thing and be looking for rewarding
posts and the opportunity to put their convictions into practice. Bush ran
on a clear manifesto - but his last term had such a shift following 9/11and
then Iraq that anything could happen this time. He has earned political
capital with this win and he intends to spend it - his tactic will be to
claim that 'the people have spoken' and that therefore Democrats should
support his program. Since Republicans have a clear majority in both Houses,
they should be able to pass most of their ideas, although the 46 Democrats
in the Senate can still mount a filibuster and talk out some legislation.

We said a reluctant farewell to our good friends at Charleston, after an
excellent dinner at the Anchor - where they cook marvellous fresh seafood in
an eating place (its not really a restaurant) overlooking Folly Sound, and
you sit on rough wooden benches, and headed down the ICW the 75 miles to
Beaufort SC (pronounced Bewfert to distinguish it from Beaufort NC). Well,
actually at 4.30pm we were still 10 miles short when the sky darkened, it
started to rain and we took the easy option and anchored just before the
narrow cut leading to Beaufort. Beaufort SC is similar to Beufort NC -
original ports (although SC's main port is at Port Royal closer to the sea),
old houses generally spared in the Civil war because the inhabitants
evacuated rather than defend it, touristy shops, courtesy car from the
marina ($1.25/ft). We toured the Episcopalian Church built in 1720, with
balconies for the slaves to worship from (and so the slave-owners worshiping
below could keep an eye on them) and the graves of British and Revolutionary
officers. The congregation of 200-300 on a normal week is dwarfed by black
worshipers at the Baptist Church down the road. Some parts of the
Episcopalian (Anglican) Church are threatening to break away because of the
ordination of a gay Bishop in New Hampshire.

One of the 2 main Marine training bases is near Beaufort SC (Paris Island).
We ate oysters and crab cakes at Kathleen's, a great bar with live music
that really gets going around 10pm, and talked to a bunch of marines and 2
of their wives. They were specialists and unlikely to go to Iraq, but they
were against the war, and in some cases quite vehemently anti-Bush. It seems
that ex-servicemen support the war more than those actually fighting it.

As I write we are sailing overnight the 150 miles south to St Augustine.
Clear  night, brilliant stars, sliver of a moon, no-one else about - but the
dolphins have come to play - large bottle nosed dolphins, jumping right out
of the water, and in the quiet of the night you can hear their snorting and
whistling and clicking, without always seeing them. First glimmer of light
at 05.30am. By going outside (in the Atlantic) we avoid a
shallow winding bit of the ICW - we also unfortunately avoid Savannah, but
Charlestonians said there was not much to see that we hadn't already seen
in
Charleston. Biased? Maybe.... but we are also increasingly looking at the
schedule for Christmas and Panama, and want to leave time for weather. We
plan to go through Panama about 20th January and I will then make a brief
visit to UK on 25th January to see family.

We send our best wishes, and hope you had a good Guy Fawkes night on 5th
November.

Andy and Nicky Gibb.

PS I left a line out when I went to sleep at 0630, and woke up at 0830 to
find that Nic had landed a very (un)smart painted mackerel,about 2 feet
long, 5 lbs. Her first fish unaided! Very good eating, first use for the new
BBQ in St Augustine!