Thursday, January 25, 2007

About Life Floating By

Views on Charleston from a different perspective, Charleston’s little known marina neighborhood.

Dawn comes early to Charleston’s most obscure neighborhood. Soon after the sun begins its steady rise, the calls of Laughing and Herring Gulls are greeted with the sounds of dock carts and bicycles making their way towards the parking lot.As the rubber tires roll across the concrete and wooden planks, their rumble signals a morning wake up call for the neighborhood most know only as The City Marina.

You might not know it but the Peninsula’s largest marina is a floating neighborhood and the full time home to more than 100 people who live the aboard yachts and small boats.

This waterside oasis is a surprisingly modern paradise located at the edge of Charleston’s historic district, and just three blocks from the 100 year old homes that make up the area most often referred to as South of Broad.

Long time Charlestonians, might argue that a marina is not a neighborhood, but a neighborhood it is, working, thriving, and even participating in Charleston’s time honored tradition, gardening. Yes, palms, vegetable and even flower gardens grow from docks and decks, in carefully tended pots.

The residents of this floating neighborhood have the same concerns that all residents of Charleston have, taxes, crime, parking, and are the streets going to flood during this afternoon’s thunderstorm?

They also share the same zip code, 29401 with some of Charleston’s most expensive homes. But you won’t find street signs with the old and familiar names of Murray, Tradd, or Rutledge. Instead the addresses are CW14, J-10 and I-6, and often simply 17 Lockwood Drive. Sometimes a boat is big enough to be a landmark so one resident gives his address as simply Themis c/o The Charleston City Marina.

Life is not always as easy as it might seem, registering to vote is often met with a few more questions than normal as the number of voters calling 17 Lockwood Drive home, numbers 26 at last review of the voter rolls. Years ago it was considered a dirty, run down, gritty municipal marina but today, The City Marina is the home to some of the most expensive yachts in the Carolina’s.It’s an eclectic neighborhood, with residents whose occupations include, doctors, lawyers, medical students, artists, law enforcement officers, school guidance consolers, charter boat captains and investment professionals.

Though they don’t have block parties they do have dock parties. A few times a year during, boat open house events, “Race Week” and the “Mega Dock Tournament” they’ll even invite all of Charleston to party in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood is lively and active during the summer and in the grips of winter, it’s as quiet as a ghost town.

But year round the 100 plus residents go about life just under the James Island connector and their stories are as unique and different as the neighborhood they call home.

In the coming months I’ll tell you about life on the water, and the people who have made the choice to live afloat. About two golden retrievers who live aboard a 40 foot sail boat with their owner and his wife, how a couple who work opposite shifts at MUSC still make time for each other and sailing.

The stories are funny and sometimes sad, like Turmoil a 20 million dollar yacht delivered to her owner just weeks before his death, and why dogs insist on grass and cats don’t care.

About a couple who gave up the waterborne life only to find that mowing a lawn and having a shady live oak tree in the front yard, isn’t all that they had hoped.

But for now…. I think I’ll just enjoy “Life Floating By”.

Chris McIntire
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