Our time here in Charleston, SC grows short. The cold fronts are coming through, reminding us that we vowed to be well south before winter finds us. We pretty much had our remaining time here at St. John's Yacht Harbor pencilled in... when we got the message that fellow Cruisers, Kathe and Gary (S/V Tribasa Cross) would be in town and wanted to meet up!
Irvin House Vineyards and the Firefly Distillery. A new plan is born!
Gary and Kathe picked us up and we started getting to know each other on the short drive out into the beautiful countryside. This late in the season, we found that there wasn't much going on at the Distillery or the Vineyard... the plants are in their dormant stage and the bottles are all corked and shipped... but the TASTINGS will go on! Lets face it folks... that's all we're really after anyway!
Firefly Distillery and let Wanda guide us to the best flavors... We each got to choose six from the many flavors of Vodka, Moonshine, Liqueurs and even RUM made right here... from GRAPES???
Bruce and I chose different flavors so that we could share and taste more flavors... then Wanda added a couple more of HER favorites to our list... giving us a pretty comprehensive sampling.
I DeClaire!) She seemed to be eyeing the apples that Kathe and Bruce were munching.
She finished them off in record time and then turned her backside to us and melted back into the vineyard as if it had never happened... I think the Vodka samples and the sunshine are starting to affect me!
Winery for our next tasting.
We sat at tables right next to the vats where wine was fermenting. We watched the video showing how the wines are made while the samples were distributed.
We tasted five different wines, all made from the muscadine grapes grown just outside the door... They were all very good and sweet, as the muscadine is a very sweet grape.
Bruce and I did not purchase a bottle, but Kathe did. We collected Gary and set off down the lane looking for the next stop on our list... Charleston Tea Plantation. But... another random thing occurred. Again we zigged when we should have zagged...
Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery.
The WHAT???? I know! Kathe and I almost didn't get out of the car when Gary pulled up and turned the engine off. But the guys had been so good, and their eyes were alight with the promise of seeing some fish... We couldn't say no.
We entered the first of three buildings housing the many tanks of varying sizes. The facility is primarily concerned with three types of fish:
Red Drum (or Redfish). The fish are hatched and grown to a size then released back into the wild. They are genetically tagged and then studies are done with "caught fish" in the Edisto River. They are then genetically compared to the hatchery fish. The yearly results are documented and compared to fishery records to determine the facility's success in helping this "overfished" species in making a comeback.
Some are externally tagged, while others receive internal tags. These are inserted inside of the fish. The tagging devices have grown smaller and smaller over the years and it is important when tagging a fish internally, that the tag not "work its way out" of the fish as they swim along. EEK!! I guess it's all a necessary part of the science of fish... but it seems kind of mean.
Moving on to the next type of fish being studied here.. the American Shad. There are areas where these fish are declining while other areas still enjoy abundant numbers. The fishery is sampling fish from the areas where they are abundant in an effort to determine if there are any differences between those fish and the ones in the areas experiencing a decline. It seems to be a long and ongoing process that will take years to complete.
The shad are tiny fish. They are kept in tanks according to their age and chemically marked. Fish caught in the wild are tested against these chemically marked fish to determine differences in growth as the exact age of the marked fish can be easily determined.
|About two inches in length|
|Little bigger - six inches or so...|
They net the tanks because raccoons have been known to break into the buildings and make off with the fish!
These fish can reach lengths exceeding 13 feet. They live for years, some here are over 25 years old.
The eggs are collected and incubated in multiple small tanks until they hatch. These tanks lie unused now as there are no eggs or babies here today. But they are kept ready for the new batches which occur annually. A single mother can produce about 35 lbs of roe. These have to be washed and counted... by hand, so that they can be separated into the tanks. Then when they hatch, the babies are again counted and separated into tanks. I wonder how many marine biologists knew when they were in college, that they would end up counting fish!
Close attention is paid to what and how much the fish eat. This keeps down the amount of waste to be filtered and assures that the fish don't grow to abnormal sizes. The do get treats however...
She explained how she dissects fish and examines the ringed bones in their tiny heads to determine their ages... Cool stuff! But today, she's washing worms!
We watched as he tossed handfuls of squirming wet worms into the tank. He had to pick them off of the nets...
|These fish are longer than we are tall!|
The huge fish looming in the dark shadows began to swim over and slurp the worms up from the bottom of the tank.
Today we took a chance. All four of us committed to an entire day with people we didn't know at all. As it turns out we now have great new friends with whom we have a shared experience on which we can build our new friendship. No more are we "random".
Months or years from now, when we meet again... we can laugh and remember the day when we had the picnic... and THOSE WORMS! And we'll raise another glass in toast: "To Making Friends From Random People!".