Telling a Seanachai Tale

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix, Life Captured

GOPR2320 01

The description on our YouTube channel reads:

He’s a seafaring navigator. She’s a freelance writer and photographer. High school sweethearts, they were married in 1977, raised their children and spoil their grandchildren. After 30 years, they finally stopped dreaming about owning a sailboat. They bought an ‘86 Catalina 22 in September 2014. Capitalizing on their Celtic roots, the boat is named “Seanachai” (pronounced shawn-a-key), which means Storyteller. You’ve found the place where they post some of their adventures, special projects and lessons learned.

We are fortunate to sail in Charleston SC, with its beautiful, busy harbor, active ports and lots of connecting waterways and pristine creeks — each ripe for exploring.  No two days on the water are the same.  I’m a lot like a child on Christmas morning when I see the playful dolphins surface,  or the soaring seabirds taxi into flight.  I can’t resist trying to capture them or the scores of watercraft we encounter; everything from stand up paddle boards to mega yachts, cruise ships, cargo ships, fishing boats, pleasure craft and tugs.  None of these sights are new for the Captain, but his mate is mesmerized.

It’s challenging to capture images on a moving sailboat, especially when–just as the photographer is framing her image–the Captain orders, “Ready about!”  The dutiful deckhand abandons the shot and preps the jib sheets for a tack.  To tell the full story, I also want to show how we work together to get underway, handle the running rigging and such.

Recently we made a day sail up the Wando River near Charleston with the GoPro Hero mounted to the stern rail. Together with the Panasonic camcorder and the Nikon D5100 on hand, we’re able to tell a new Seanachai tale.

What do you think?


Peacock Blue

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Head shot of male Indian (blue) peacock

Male Indian Peacock – Nikon D5100, 35mm, f6.3, 1/60 sec.

One of my favorite colors is the iridescent blue as found in the Indian peacock.  Scientist tell us that unlike most birds, “peacocks do not derive their colors purely from pigments, but from a combination of pigments and photonic crystals”.  Nope, I never heard of photonic crystals, either.

Kylene Arnold, writing for Sciencing explains in her article , “This color is created by a crystalline lattice of nine to 12 rods containing melanin, a color pigment. These rods are spaced roughly 140 nanometers apart, a distance that causes light to reflect back at the viewer in wavelengths that fall in the blue spectrum.”  Okay, the jargon of physics is a little beyond me, too.

Not to worry, though.  We can appreciate the stunning beauty of this creature even if we don’t understand how our eyes see the color.  I captured this image of a very handsome bird last week when I was with my granddaughter at Bee City Zoo in Cottageville, SC.  He hopped off a fence and happily strutted his plumes amid the astonished toddlers.  And he’s my entry for this week’s Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Color of your choice.


Indian Peacock glides down from fence at Bee City Zoo



Indian Peacock prances past toddler at Bee City Zoo







Arnold, Kylene. “What Are the Colors in a Peacock’s Feathers?” Sciencing, 16 April 2018.

Effortless and Organic: Volunteer Sunflowers

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Pollen covered Honey Bee on Sunflower            Nikon D5100 35mm, F 6.3, 1/500 sec

Perhaps, like our family, you have a backyard bird feeder, frequented by numerous birds and squirrels.  If so, you know they are messy eaters.  Effortlessly, seeds are strewn about the area below the feeder. Spring and summer brings a circle of thin, grass-like shoots.  But this year, after we had to take down a tree in the yard, the area became quite sunny.  I was thrilled to have a few volunteer sunflowers spring up.  They attract the honey bees and make for fun photo opportunities. This post is my contribution to Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge: Organic.

This portfolio contains a few more of my images of the volunteer sunflowers.

A Fellow To Fell A Tree

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A diseased tree was leaning over our house. We contacted Jason Kelly, a certified  arborist who determined the 50ft. water oak needed to come down.  So, up he went and methodically felled the tree over the course of one very fascinating afternoon–giving me the opportunity to meet two challenges in one!  Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Leaves or Trees and the Jen H’s Daily Post Challenge: Story

Wearing helmet with face shield and ear protection, a chainsaw, hand saw and other equipment attached to his harness, the arborist, using climbing spurs and rope, scales a high limb.

Wearing helmet with face shield and ear protection, a chainsaw, hand saw and other equipment attached to his harness, the arborist, using climbing spurs and rope, scales a high limb.

After tying off the limb to a pulley rope, he removes the top branches with chainsaw.

After tying off the limb to a pulley rope, he removes the top branches with chainsaw.

He guides one of the cut upper branches down while standing in the basket of his 40 ft. boom lift.

He guides one of the cut upper branches down while standing in the basket of his 40 ft. boom lift.

Arborist and "skywalker" balanced on a branch some 40 feet in the air.

Arborist and “skywalker” balanced on a branch some 40 feet in the air.

Arborist uses a pulley and rope system to guide heavy branches down safely.

Using a pulley and rope system, he guides heavy branches down safely.

Assistant removes the wedge shaped notch after the arborist makes the notch cut.

Assistant removes the wedge shaped notch after the arborist makes the notch cut.

Assistants hold a guide line and keep the cable TV wires out of the fall zone as the final fell cut is made.

Assistants hold a guide line and keep the cable TV wires out of the fall zone as the final fell cut is made.

The felled tree trunk comes to rest as planned-- on a log placed in the fall zone.

The felled tree trunk comes to rest as planned–on a log placed in the fall zone.

Certified Arborist Jason Kelly of Skywalker Tree Company

Certified Arborist Jason Kelly of Skywalker Tree Company

Snowflakes in the Spanish Moss

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Snowfall among Southern oak trees, Spanish moss

55mm, f 7.1, 1/200, iso 2000

At the start of 2018, the Southeast coastal area experienced a rare snowfall, turning our landscape into a peculiar panorama where snowflakes in the Spanish moss looked like thick icicles dripping from from the branches of our great oaks.  This photo is my first contribution for Becca’s Sunday Trees challenge.

Fortunately for the tropical Spanish moss, our snow event was short lived.  After six days all traces of ice and snow melted away and we enjoyed the balmy 55º typical of our January highs.

Neither lichen nor moss, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is one of the signature plants of the Antebellum South, (although it may be found from Virginia to Argentina).  It’s an epiphyte, meaning that it uses trees for support.  It absorbs nutrients and water through its leaves from the air and rainfall.  You see it most often along the coastal areas, because it needs high humidity and mild winter temperatures to survive.

Mysterious and ubiquitous, the plant is a favorite of storytellers throughout the area.  Among the legends is this poem (author unknown):

There an old, old legend, that’s whispered by Southern folks,

About the lacy Spanish moss that garlands the great oaks.

A lovely princess and her love, upon her wedding day,

Were struck down by a savage foe amidst a bitter fray.

United in death they were buried, so the legends go,

‘Neath an oak’s strong friendly arms, protected from their foe.

There, as was the custom, they cut the bride’s long hair with love,

And hung its shining blackness on the spreading oak above.

Untouched, undisturbed it hung there, for all the world to see,

And with the years the locks turned gray and spread from tree to tree.

Carolina Snow Birds

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Two small birds in a backyard bird feeder during snowfall

f 6.3, 1/320, Nikon D5100, AF-S Nikkor 55-200 @ 200

We certainly have our share of snowbirds in South Carolina.  But those who thought they’d escape the cold blast of Arctic weather by slipping into Dixie were in for a big surprise January 3.  According to the National Weather Service, the precipitation brought by the 2018 Winter storm “Grayson”  was the heaviest one day snowfall in the city of Charleston since 1989.  Freezing temperatures kept our streets treacherous for six days, cancelled more than 75 flights into and out of the airport, and kept our kids home from school well beyond the holiday break.

These little birds chose the frosty ledge of our backyard bird feeder to rest during the snowfall.  It’s my favorite image captured during the record winter storm.  And it’s my contribution to the One Word Photo Challenge “Weekly Weather Jan. 7: Pick your Own”


Talking Machines

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Sound box from a 1940s era portable Birch windup gramophone

Know what this is? It’s called a reproducer or a sound box. Found at the end of the tone arm of a portable gramophone, it holds a steel needle at approximately 60 degrees to the shellac surface of a recorded disc. Once the main spring is wound-up, a turntable gently spins at 78 rotations per minute.   If you close your eyes, perhaps you can imagine how astonishing it was to hear the very popular Billy Murray sing “Pretty Baby”.

It’s 1916, and for the first time, Americans can take recorded music anywhere they want to go.  They’re called “Talking Machines.” State of the art technology, 100 years ago.

Today there are savvy youngsters who have never seen an 8-track tape player, boom box, Sony Walkman, Discman or Rio. Even the iPod is 16 years old.

Now we talk to a machine and it retrieves the music we want from a nebulous place called “the cloud.” I can’t begin to imagine where the next 100 years will take us.

Perhaps you’d like to slow down, step back and remember how it was. These vintage Talking Machines are still out there, ready to be recycled.  That makes this photo my take on the Tuesday fpj-photo-challenge: Recycle

Did you ever hear the story of how the first talking machines changed the way we listen to music?

Floating Oddity

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“Lady in the Lake”  by Mark Cline                     35mm   f 5.6  1/250

When you embark on a 5-night, 6-day sailing adventure along the Gulf Coast of Florida, you expect to see the sugar sand beaches and blue green water of the Gulf of Mexico.  What you don’t expect to find is the likeness of a 108-foot woman skinny dipping in a marina.  She’s my entry for Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge this week.

In 2012, George Barber, billionaire art patron and owner of the marina, commissioned Mark Cline, a self-taught sculptor, to design this unusual floating lady.  Already well known for the whimsical creations formed in his Enchanted Castle Studios, the Virginia artist built the fiberglass sculpture, inserted giant styrofoam blocks inside her head and knees and  gently splashed her in a pond at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, AL.  Later, she was trucked down the the Alabama gulf coast and placed in the corner of the Barber Marina, where she could greet all the visiting crews.  Mark Cline christened her “Country Girl Skinny Dipping,” but locals call her “Lady in the Lake.”

My husband and I had a chance to see her when we took our Catalina 22 “Seanachai” on the 20th Annual C-22 Northern Gulf Coast Cruise (NGCC).  A YouTube video series highlights our adventures, this episode includes our visit to Barber Marina.

Sailing Vessel "Seanachai" at Barber Marina

Seanachai “The Storyteller” at Barber Marina, Elberta AL May 10, 2017


A Cultivated Wood

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Waterfall at Poinsett State Park

Waterfall at Poinsett State Park                              35mm      f7.1      1/50

This image of a waterfall nestled in the cultivated woods of Poinsett State Park is my entry for Frank Jansen Photography’s Tuesday Photo Challenge-Woods.

According to archaeologists, people have lived in the “high hills” area of South Carolina for at least 10,000 years. The landmasses, water features, flora and fauna preserved in our State Parks are mere inkling of how the country looked for centuries.

Poinsett State Park in Sumter County, SC exists in an area called “the mountains of the Midlands.”  More than 11 miles of hiking trails traverse a mixed terrain that includes 100ft bluffs and black water swampland, where you’ll find a blend of Upstate mountain laurel shrubs, Lowcountry Spanish moss draped over hardwoods and tall stands of Southern yellow pines. You may encounter red-tailed hawk, deer, snakes, turtles and possibly an American alligator.

Evidence shows Native Americans from the Santee, Wateree and Catawba tribes hunted in these woods. In 1753, Matthew Singleton petitioned South Carolina for 300 acres with the understanding he would improve the property by clearing fields, building houses and mills. Remnants of the mill still exist.

It’s believed someone named Levi built a dam to create a pond on Shank’s Creek in order to cultivate rice.   The 10-acre lake in the park is named “Old Levi Mill Pond” in his memory.

During the 1800s, the area around the property became known as the “Capital of the Lumber Industry” in South Carolina. According to the SC Forestry Commission, such was the production that by the end of World War I, most of SC’s virgin timber was gone.

In 1934, Sumter County purchased 1,000 acres, dedicating it to the public as a recreation and game refuge. Subsequently, the County donated the land to the State of South Carolina.

In an effort to address the unemployment of the Great Depression, and conserve timber resources, President Franklin D. Roosevelt conceived a “New Deal” program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was responsible for the construction of many state and national parks, including 17 State Parks in South Carolina. The CCC employed young men and World War I veterans. The men learned a wide array of skills in addition to their wages.

From 1934 to 1938 the CCC built recreational and support facilities and trails in this Park.   Company 421, one of three CCC companies who helped with construction, named the park after the South Carolina congressman, physician and amateur botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was also an envoy to Mexico from 1822-23. (That’s where he found the red plant known in Mexico as the Christmas Eve flower. Due to his promotion of the plant in the US, it became known as the poinsettia.)

The CCC companies used coquina, a local rock made of ancient sand and shells to build a 75ft. spillway and the waterfall (pictured above).  A number of the buildings constructed by the CCC are still in use today, including the ranger station.

Poinsett State Park Ranger Station reflected in Old Levi Pond Lake.

Poinsett State Park Ranger Station reflected in Old Levi Pond Lake.                      35mm   f6.3   1/100



Almost There

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35 mm,  f/ 4.5, 1/200   desaturated colors, add’l filter (81)

This bumblebee is making her way to a cluster of tomato blossoms.  The pollen baskets on the tibia of her hind legs are almost full, but she is going back for another batch. According to, pollen is loaded at the bottom of the pollen basket, so the pollen that has been pushed towards the top is from flowers the bumblebee visited earliest. Only female bumblebees have pollen baskets (corbicula). A full pollen basket can contain as much as one million pollen grains.

Not quite black and white, this desaturated image is “almost there” too.  I got this effect through Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor by completely dropping the saturation of each color–except yellow, which I reduced by about half, then tinted the entire image with a warming filter (81).

It’s my contribution for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge “Anything that Flies



Catch a Falling Star

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Camellia Sasanqua “Falling Star” and Viceroy Butterfly                          F5 1/60 35 mm

January and February is the peak blooming season for camellias in our neck of the woods, although the blooms start showing as early as October in the Southeast. This image of a Viceroy butterfly drinking the nectar from Camellia Sasanqua “Falling Star” was captured in my backyard this past October.

I’m certainly no expert on these plants, but if need to know more, there’s always help nearby.  The local branch of the American Camellia Society,  Coastal Carolina Camellia Society held their 68th Annual Camellia Show in Charleston, SC on January 28.  At that event 1067 different blooms were shown.  The variety of Camellias seems endless! For those who may be interested in the American Camellia Society, the National Convention will be held April 5-8 in Newberg, Oregon.

Sharing this one with Cee’s Photography,  Feb. 21, 2017 Flower of the Day.

Bird in the hand

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Fledgling Robin                                                                                       f6.3, 1/60s, ISO 280, 35mm

This fledgling robin was found out of its nest in a Greenville, SC neighborhood.  A fledgling bird is about two weeks old, fully feathered and able to grip a finger or perch.

The homeowner was mowing when she noticed the young bird in the grass.  Nearby, she could hear the call of the adult robins.  After this brief photo-op, the chick was carefully placed out of the reach of curious cats, where it’s parents could continue to feed it.   Within a couple of weeks, the youngster flew off to roost with the other robins.

According to an article by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, the homeowner did exactly the right thing. Often young birds are mistaken for orphans and humans try to save them, but it’s really better to simply place them out of harms way. I’m just glad I was there to capture the moment for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Feathers.


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Fighter plane?

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Aboard Seanachai on August 22, we were on the Cooper River, passing under the Ravenel Bridge around 5 PM.  Suddenly, we saw this small airplane making several close passes around the bridge and later, over Drum Island.  At first I thought it must be a photographer, but it seemed incredible that the pilot would be making so many passes.  We watched the plane, a Thrush S2R-T34,  make big swooping curves around the iconic bridge, then drop down for a low pass over the trees.  It was not until we were home again and some investigation revealed that the plane was likely spraying for mosquitos in the city and the island.  (The photos clearly show the sprayer attachment.)  Local news reports from a previous treatment noted drivers on the bridge were terrified at the sight of the plane.  According to other reports, the low flying airplanes deliver specially modified chemicals to eliminate mosquitoes in areas of stagnate water. Although it’s the first time I saw it, this kind of delivery system has been used in this area for at least six years.  This fighter plane was merely turning around over the river so as to continue making passes across the land–doing battle with the mosquitoes!

Today’s Shot: Folly Beach, SC

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Morning Walk, Folly Beach                          f/7.1, 1/2500s, ISO 640, 55-200@55

I like this “boilerplate” image of a walk on Folly Beach not only because of the familiar composition, but also because of the details.

My eye is drawn from the highlights on the cloud, to the roof of the observation deck, across the curling surf to the rising sun reflected on the couple, who are walking in perfect tandem—each touching their toes on the wet sand.

The lighting is clear enough to see the fishermen at the end of the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier.  The pier stretches 1,045 ft. into the Atlantic, at the “Edge of America.”  The pier is 25 ft. wide and 23 ft. above sea level.  It is the second longest on the east coast.



Birds of Little Oak Island, SC (1)

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Pair of Ibis

Pair of Ibis                                                      f6.3, 1/125s, ISO 100, 55-200@200

Just before crossing Folly Creek onto the Edge of America, there is a little strip of land called Little Oak Island.  Developers of the gated community built marsh-front villas and beautiful water-front homes.  In the center of the island is a rookery that boasts a diverse population of egrets, pelicans, herons, ducks and other birds.  Recently, I dropped in on the birds and found this pair of Ibis and a black crowned night heron.

I usually shoot my Nikon D-5100 with Nikkor 35mm lens, but inspired by UK blogger Mike Hardisty, I tried a few shots with the Nikkor 55-200.  Birds are challenging and Mike has some masterful images.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron                                                          f6.3, 1/125s, ISO 180, 55-200@200


Garden Critters 1

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Carolina Green Anole – changes color from green to brown


Carolina Anole Couple


Carolina Anole Green

The garden seems overrun this year with these little green lizards called Carolina Green Anole (Anoles Carolinensis).  These creatures are about 5-8 inches long and change color from green to brown depending on their surroundings.  We see them dart about the plants, especially among the jungle of eggplant leaves.  We’re happy to have them, as they are great bug hunters.

According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory:  “Anoles eat a wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.  They may be either green or brown depending on environmental conditions. When brown, may have faint markings on the back. Males have a pinkish throat fan that is displayed in territorial rivalries or when approaching a potential mate.”

“The anole’s ability to change color has given it the nickname chameleon; however, this species’ color changing abilities are not nearly as sophisticated as the true chameleons which inhabit the old world. The green anole is the only anole species native to the U.S.”