Charleston Attractions

Great things to do in Charleston.

The reunion committee hopes for a large turnout. If you are planning to attend and haven’t submitted the official reunion registration form, click here now and get that done. Be sure to submit your registration fee and book your hotel room.

Looking east on Market Street towards Charleston Market image

Lee Samuelson image
Lee Samuelson, Reunion Host

We are fortunate to have a shipmate and committee member — Lee Samuelson — who lives in the Charleston area. As official reunion host, he will be able to answer questions and make suggestions about how to get the most out of your visit to Charleston.

The committee, with Lee’s direction, will compile and make available a comprehensive list of group and independent activities from which to choose. It will include some of what you see on post; I’m providing this as both a preview for those who have already registered for the reunion, and incentive for those who have not. I hope you will browse this page, make note of my insights into activities and attractions I enjoy, and share with shipmates who need a little extra push to convince them that the reunion will not only be fun, but that Charleston is a wonderful place to visit.

Lee's graduation from CSU image
Our youngest son graduated from Charleston Southern University in May of 2012

My responsibility as a member of the 2015 reunion committee is communication. I thought it appropriate to share some of what Charleston offers. I know a good amount about this wonderful southeast community because I’ve visited there a dozen times over the past six plus years; my youngest son attending college there and then settling down nearby with his South Carolina-born wife.

My wife and I love Charleston, and have taken advantage of our visits there to experience as much of the area as possible. This post will highlight some of our favorite places and activities in hopes that it help you get the most out of your visit. And if you’re on the fence about attending — if hanging out with a bunch of virtual shipmates isn’t enough — knowing a little about what Charleston has to offer could push you over the top.

Patriots Point

USS Yorktown at Patriots Point
Photo taken from a sailboat harbor tour described below.

Patriots Point is probably the biggest attraction for a group of old sailors. The reunion committee is organizing a visit as our main group activity on Friday, April 24. Plans for our visit are still being made, but I can tell you that we will have plenty of time to tour the ships, submarine and other exhibits, and we’ll eat lunch off metal trays in the USS Yorktown CPO Galley. Be sure to sign up for this outing in the reunion hospitality room.

Visit the Patriots Point website.

Charleston Historic City Market

Sweetgrass Basket Vendor at Charleston City Market imageThe photo at the right shows one of several vendors that sell intricate and artistic baskets woven from sweetgrass. You’ll also find some of these sweetgrass artisans along nearby streets if you venture out beyond the historic district and into the residential neighborhood just a few blocks to the south.

But in the market, besides sweetgrass baskets, you’ll find a wide variety of shops and kiosks selling everything from t-shirts, to jams, to jewelry and more. The three block long market is packed at peak hours with tourists looking for bargains on low-country souvenirs. This is an especially unique shopping experience.

Visit the Charleston Historic City Market website.

Horse-drawn Carriage Tour

Charleston Carriage Tours imageI never took one of these tours because I’ve had some pretty knowledgable personal guides with me. I can tell you that the self-guided walking tours are a good way to do it if you have the time and energy, but if you prefer to learn about the history of this beautiful and historic city in comfort, you’ll get it more efficiently if you go on one of these horse-drawn tours.

The tour guides know their stuff and treat their passengers to the highlights of the city’s history as well as humor and interesting trivia.

Visit the Palmetto Carriage Tours or the Old South Carriage Tours website.

The Battery and White Point Gardens

On the way to Battery Park imageWith a history that includes the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and pirates, The Battery and White Point Gardens, also known as The Battery, is a great destination by car, but is even better by foot. Starting at the west end of Charleston City Market, walk straight south on Meeting Street to the park. The less-than-one mile walk takes you through a great neighborhood of beautiful, well-kept southern-style homes.

Charleston Waterfront Park imageThe park features cannons from the Civil War artillery battery and a wonderful panorama of the south and east areas of the harbor. And to make your walk even better, I recommend returning to the market via the shore, heading north on East Battery Street, which turns in to East Bay Street, and turning right on East Adgers Wharf through Waterfront Park. I estimate the round trip to be 2 miles, exercise I will surely need after so much reunion revelry.

Deb and I will probably include this in our Saturday free time activities in downtown Charleston; if you’re interested, let me know and we’ll be glad to take you along.

Visit the White Point Gardens website and The Battery on Wikipedia.

College of Charleston

College of Charleston imageAbout a half mile walk from Charleston City Market is the beautiful campus of the College of Charleston, the oldest college in South Carolina. Unlike almost every other college or university campus you’ve seen, this one retains the old southern charm it must have had when it was founded in 1770. The buildings, many of them resembling large residences, and the ample shade trees draped with Spanish moss, make a stroll through the campus a visual pleasure.

On your walk from the market to the college, you’ll pass through the retail district of downtown Charleston, where you’ll find numerous stores, shops and restaurants.

Visit the College of Charleston website.

Blue Horizon Harbor Yacht Tour

Blue Horizon Harbor Yacht Tour imageShipmate Jim Richardson has offered to provide a day of bareboat sailing on Saturday, April 24th. He will be recruiting sailors among us to crew this craft, hopefully a Bavaria 39 foot. A signup form will be provided on this website beginning in March.

With that said, if you prefer not to be a part of this salty crew, but have interest in enjoying on a more leisurely guided tour, I suggest the Blue Horizon. I discovered this option when my son treated Deb and me to it as his Father’s Day gift in 2012. Captain Paul Mitchell and his wife provided a grand tour of the harbor, pointing out significant Charleston landmarks and offered insights in Charleston’s nautical history.

Aquarium

South Carolina Aquarium imageI visited the South Carolina Aquarium on my very first visit to Charleston, a trip dedicated to registering my youngest in college. He chose Charleston Southern University because of their biology program; he had set his sights on majoring in marine biology. (He ended up earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Theatre.)

We found this aquarium’s 60 unique habitats and 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank to be as enjoyable as what we saw at the world famous Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Visit the South Carolina Aquarium website.

Lianos Dos Palmas Cigar Shop

Lianos Dos Palmas Cigar Shop imageI don’t buy a lot of cigars, but when I do, I buy them at Lianos Dos Palmas in downtown Charleston. If you’ve ever been in a cigar shop, the first thing you notice is the cigar smoke. Not so much here; because they roll them fresh on the premises, the smell of fresh tobacco is prevalent. Walk in and watch the expert roller at work. The cigars they sell are high quality and very reasonably priced. Let me know if you’re interested when we’re in downtown Charleston and I’ll take you there. Otherwise, check their website for a map. It’s just a few blocks from City Market.
Visit the Lianos Dos Palmas Cigar Shop website.

Charleston Area Beaches

Isle of Palms Beach imageThe weather is not likely to be anything like it was when I took this photo at Isle of Palms in June, 2012. We were in Charleston for my son’s graduation from Charleston Southern University. If you’re inclined to visit the beach, even if it’s just to take off your shoes and walk along the sand, there are two beaches within 20 miles of downtown Charleston.

Visit the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Isle of Palms page or Folly Beach page.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Old Sheldon Church Ruins imageDeb and I visited this site on one of our southeast road trips on our way back from visiting friends in Hilton Head. It’s over an hour away from the hotel, but if you appreciate pre-independence history and architecture, you’ll enjoy visiting these ruins. The church was built between 1745 and 1753; the walls and columns still stand. The original church was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1826. It was burned again in 1865 by General Sherman in his march from Georgia to South Carolina.

The grounds and the ruins are one of the most picturesque scenes I’ve seen in my many travels to South Carolina and Georgia. I rank this site right up there with God’s beautiful sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to take your camera if you visit the Old Sheldon Church Ruins.

Visit the South Carolina Information Highway website.

Angel Oak

Angel Oak Tree imageJust 11 miles from the hotel and approximately half way between the hotel and the Charleston Tea Plantation, Angel Oak helps make the drive worth it. This tree is estimated to be over 1,500 years old and its canopy covers 17,000 square feet. It’s pretty amazing.

Visit the Charleston Parks Conservancy Angel Oak page website.

Charleston Tea Plantation

Charleston Tea Plantation imageNow, my wife had to drag me on this one. So guys, if you owe your wife a favor, consider the Charleston Tea Plantation.

The 20-mile drive from the Holiday Inn Riverview takes you through the typical low country terrain and scenery, something you should experience if you are from west of the Great Smokies. The plantation is owned by the Bigelow Tea Company and is the only working tea plantation in the United States. Your visit includes a guided trolley ride through the 127 acre farm, a visit to their high tech propagation farm (my horticulturist wife was really excited about this attraction) and a chance to see the extensive tea processing plant. The tour ends in the visitors center where you can shop teas to please any taste.

Visit the Charleston Tea Plantation website.

Registration is Open for the Conserver Reunion

We’re only five months away from the third annual USS Conserver Reunion — in Charleston, South Carolina this coming April, 23 – 26.

The reunion will be held in the beautiful Holiday Inn Riverview, overlooking the Ashley River and located just 1.5 miles from the Historic District of Downtown Charleston. Activities include a tour of Patriot’s Point, the home of the USS Yorktown and other ships and exhibits, as well as a boat trip to Fort Sumpter, known as the place the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

A hospitality room will be available for getting caught up with former shipmates and meeting new ones, and we’re planning a sit-down dinner for Saturday night.

Please register now! The reunion committee needs to know who be attending and how many guests we’ll have. We’ve provided a registration form on the Conserver website. Even if you’ve already told us you’ll be attending via the website or Facebook, this registration is the official form.

With your registration, we require payment of a fee of $50 per person to cover the cost of food for the hospitality room, the Saturday night meal and a few other expenses needed to make the reunion special.

Click here to register!

If you have questions, reply to this email message or call Kevin Weaver at (610) 780-5484.

Also of interest:

USS Conserver 26-inch Scale Model:
The reunion committee has commissioned the production of a high-quality model for display at our reunions. To fund the building of the model, we’re selling ownership in the form of contributions that make you a plankowner.

Click here to purchase your plank.

USS Conserver Challenge Coin:
We’re taking pre-orders for this beautiful challenge coin.
The coins are 2″ in diameter, 1/8” thick and weigh 2 ounces.
Antique gold finish on the front (ship photo side) of the coin and a three color (green, blue and black) emblem on an antique gold background on the back of the coin.

Click here to pre-order your Challenge Coins.

USS Conserver Patch:
Get your 4” USS Conserver patch before Christmas.
6-colors
4 inch diameter
Anchor chain encircling a Mark V diving helmet
Rescue — Salvage label
Serveron 5 label

Click here to order your Conserver patch.

USS Conserver Hats and Shirt:
See the high-quality cap and a variety of shirt styles in the USS Conserver Ship’s Store.

Click here to shop at the Ship’s Store.

What’s New on the USS Conserver Website

One new page and one updated page can be found here on the USS Conserver Website.

Scale Model of the USS Conserver

USS Conserver Model sampleShipmate Jim Richardson has been working on getting a 26″ model of the ship made that we can display at our reunions. Please take a look at the Ship Model page and consider buying a plank. We need to raise $2,000.

USS Conserver Ship’s Store

USS Conserver Challenge CoinWe have a great collection of products in our Ship’s Store including a ship’s patch, a challenge coin, a cap and a variety of shirts with “USS Conserver ARS-39” and a profile of the ship embroidered on them. Visit theShip’s Store page to browse the selection of quality products. A portion of the proceeds go to the USS Conserver 2015 Reunion fund.

If you prefer to mail a check instead of using Paypal or a credit card to pay for your plank or items, you can mail a check or money order made out to USS Conserver Reunion Committee to:

    Dale Hower
    10407 Santana Street
    Santee, CA 92071-5017

Frank Knox on the Rocks

Provided by David Griffin

USS Conserver on USS Frank Knox salvage operation 1965 image11 October 1965

The message and letters quoted below indicate the esteem and Pride which the Conserver has earned from her superiors as a result of your successful efforts in refloating the U.S.S. Frank Knox (DDR-742) on 24 August 1965.

During the period of 24 July through 26 August, which included the task towing the Knox stern first to Kaohsiung, you willingly worked long arduous hours against seemingly insuperable odds with no though of reward other than seeing the Frank Knox float again.

Your devotion to duty, diligence and continued demonstration of professional skill aided immeasurably in seeing this mission through to its successful conclusion. Your indomitable spirit and outstanding performance were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Fm: SECNAV 251122Z AUG 65
TO: COMSEVENTHFLT

Salvage operations on grounding of USS Frank Knox imageI have followed with great interest the salvage operations on USS Frank Knox. It is apparent that the operations were successfully completed only though the perseverance, skill, and ingenuity of the officers and enlisted personnel involved. Please extend my personal well done to all concerned.

Paul H. Nitze,
Secretary of the Navy

Commander Task Force 73 Letter serial 1603 of 13 September 1965

U.S.S. Conserver participated in this successful operation and CTF 73 desires to commend the Commanding Officer, Officers and Enlisted men for their significant contribution, From the time of arrival at the salvage scene on 24 July until arrival Kaohsiung with Frank Knox in two 26 August, Conserver provided maximum support by applying all phases of salvage technique both prior to and during the vital foaming operations. Conserver may be justifiably proud of the role she played in salvage of Frank Knox. Well Done!

J.W. Williams Jr.

Commander Service Squadron Five letter serial N1/1041 of 24 September 1965

Without the “Can Do” attitude, devotion to duty, spirit of cooperation and outstanding performance of the Officers and Men of Conserver, the successful salvage of Frank Knox well have been Jeopardized.

M.E. Draper Chief of Staff F.A. Hilder, LCDR, USN Commanding Officer

Watch band to remember!

Letter to the Guys from the USS Conserver ARS-39

Monie,

I am so glad you saved all the stuff you did from the time on the Conserver. I have always admired your ability to remember things from the past.

Scott Gossler's watchband made in Subic Bay imageTo comment on your post, I think I might be the only one that has a watch band like yours, in fact I remember you and I going together to have them made. I have lost place of the fake Seiko watch that I got in Hong Kong. Wore it for years after the Navy. Still look at it almost every day.

I had the SCUBA tanks on it because even though I was not a Navy Diver (wanted to be) I admired all of them for their skills at such a dangerous task.

The “time in and around Danang Harbor” was also a an event I will never forget. I remember the RED tracer rounds flying on shore as we cruised the coast at night and thinking about the guys behind and in front of them and thinking how freaked out they must be.

When we stayed in port at the dock, the concussion grenades kept waking me up and I still hear them at times when I sleep. I also went ashore in Danang, don’t remember if it was in the party but I remember having to drive around in a pretty beat up old Ford pickup and wondering why the Vietnamese soldiers were driving new ones. The trip to China beach was a highlight of the cruise for some reason. Maybe because it was WAR going on and we were walking around on one of the most beautiful places on earth.

I don’t remember if it was this West PAC or one of the other cruises I was on while aboard the Conserver but I remember some big storms we road out and if i can find them I may have the pictures I took while standing behind the signal flag storage above the Bridge. I would watch the bow dive into blue water and took a picture just before the wave went over my head.

One memory that I have never told anyone is the time I was sitting inside the armory (remember the armory), it was maybe 8 foot square. Any way there were four or five of us sitting around on ammo cases etc. and the gunner was cleaning 45’s as we talked. Well, all of a sudden, BANG!!!!!, the 45 he was cleaning went off. We all froze as we looked around to see if anyone was dead and to our amazement, no one was hit and nothing else went off. Well the officer or maybe it was a Chief that was there (can’t remember who it was) instructed all of us to keep it to ourselves as there was no damage done. I can guarantee all of you that ever since then, whenever I handle a weapon, I FIRST check the chamber to see if it is loaded. Don’t know if anyone ever found the slug.

Scott Gossler phone made from scale imageRemember this Telephone I made out of a scale I recovered from the salvage yard in Pearl City? The dial was my first ever machine shop project that I did on the ship. The handset is from the ship and the cord is from an electric guitar. It still works but no one has a land line anymore.

These are some of the only remaining items that I have managed to save.

Scott Gossler's shell from dive in Mindoro Straights imageThe shells are from the time we all got a chance to dive in the Mindoro Strait. That was a stop I will NOT forget. One of the cooks knew how to cook these clams and we had then for a meal.

The matches in there are from allover from the 4 West Pac cruises I went on.

An Opportunity of a Lifetime – A dive on the Arizona

We had returned from our 1985 Westpac deployment and were in upkeep status at Pearl when the XO (Paul Bruno) got a call from CSR5. They wanted to know if we could supply some divers to work with the National Park Service 10 year survey of the USS Arizona. Of course the XO said yes and then asked me if I would like to go. Of course I said yes too! My memory is vague but I believe six or seven of the divers volunteered, including Master Diver Jimmy Johnson. Maybe someone out there can refresh my memory on who actually went on the project. But I regress.

USS Arizona overhead and elevation sketch of damageWe went to the memorial in the ship’s workboat and were briefed by the Park Service dive supervisor. Essentially, the Park Service had ran out of divers and needed the Navy’s services to continue the survey until their divers could return. The purpose of the survey, which the supervisor said were conducted every 10 years, was to determine if the wreck was stable or showed signs of movement. The Park Service had installed a grid system that covered the entire ship, which the surveyors used to make their measurements. Paul and I were assigned a small caliber (20 or 50 I believe) gun tub on the STBD side immediately below the memorial observation platform. But before we conducted our survey, we were given the opportunity to do an indoc dive of the entire ship. XO and LT Oswald, Conserver’s Operations Officer, and I suited up and entered the water.

The indoc dive consisted of navigating around the ship, beginning at the memorial’s small boat landing. It was one of the most interesting dives I’ve ever made. Just being so close to this piece of our history was an incredible feeling. Looking into a porthole, even though I couldn’t see what was inside, took me back to that fateful day that will “live in infamy” as President Roosevelt stated in his address to Congress on 8 Dec 1941. As I peered into the inside of the wreck, I wondered who may have been in that compartment back then and if he was still there, at his battle station, entombed forever.

As we circumnavigated the ship, we stopped near the bow and the only remaining 14-inch turret still relatively intact. The barrels were still there and were depressed almost to the deck. The deck forward of the turret was littered with line, chain, and other unidentifiable parts and pieces of debris. The bow was totally destroyed; jagged metal pointing upward was proof of the fact that a major explosion had occurred in one or all of the forward magazines. Paul and I swam between the turret’s barrels and LT Oswald, who had an underwater camera, took a photo of us there. Then we proceeded up the port side to the boat landing, surfaced and got ready to go to work.

The actual survey was fairly simple. Paul and I measured the distance between designated structural points in the gun tub to one of the grid lines, and recorded the distance on a slate board. The whole thing took about an hour and a half, then we proceeded to the memorial and delivered our data to the Park Service rep.

The measurements were used by a Park Service artist to create a sketch of the wreck and the bottom extending a short distance from  either side. We watched him working on the drawing, which if my memory serves me correctly, was about 50% complete. It was fascinating to watch. You can see a large size version of that drawing if you visit the Arizona Memorial Museum at Pearl. Click this link to view the USS Arizona wreck online.

From what I discovered a few  years later, the survey did detect movement of the wreck. It was spreading from the keel outward. The movement wasn’t large, but enough to convince the Park Service that something needed to be done to prevent further movement. I was told that they decided to deposit parts of the superstructure that were removed during the salvage operation back in 41 and 42. I think most of us were unaware that the Navy had saved the superstructure parts on government property at Pearl. So it was a relatively simple matter to move it over and place it alongside the wreck. The thought was that the superstructure pieces would help prevent the wreck from opening up further, thus preventing or delaying a catastrophic fuel leak of the bunker oil still contained in the wreck’s fuel tanks. I’m not sure if this actually happened, but I got the info from a reputable source. I haven’t been back to the memorial since that day in 85 to check it out.

I’ve also learned that the Navy has developed a way to extract bunker fuel oil from wrecks, so we may one day see them removing the Arizona’s bunker, some 2000 barrels of it.

When everyone was finished, we took departure and headed back to the ship. As I recall, we were all pretty excited about what we had just seen and done.  While we were on the way back, and in his inevitable style, the XO approached me and, being very secretive, told me he had removed something from the wreck as a keepsake. “Oh God”, I thought, “we are in big trouble now! Just wait until the Park Service discovers the missing piece”. Then with that ever present twinkle in his eye, Paul produced his “keepsake” for me to see. It was an inexpensive plastic camera, made in Japan, that someone visiting the memorial had probably accidently lost over the side. We both had a good laugh!

Somewhere in my cluttered archives lies that photograph of Paul Bruno and me kneeling between those gun barrels. I’ll try to find it and  post it here and on Facebook.