Our second adventure to the Cape Romain lighthouses began in a similar fashion as the previous trip. This time around we decided to spend the night before in Mount Pleasant instead of Surfside so that we would not have as long of a drive to get to the Sewee Visitor & Environmental Education Center. The meeting time was 9am and as usual, we were early. After taking a few minutes to get acquainted with a few other people taking the trip, we took our seats in the visitor center’s lecture hall, where Tommy Graham who is a local advocate for the lighthouses, gave a very enjoyable slide show presentation of the lighthouses and their history. The presentation took about forty-five minutes, and once completed, we all got into our vehicles and headed north to the small town of McClellanville.
The ride to McClellanville took about twenty minutes. Once we arrived at the dock, the two-person crew from Coastal Expeditions greeted us at the boat as we boarded. Once everyone was on the boat, we began the ride out to the island. Along the way, we were treated with wonderful views of the marshes, several species of birds, and a few dolphins that were playing alongside the boat. The trip to the island took close to an hour due to the winding route through the marshes.
Experiencing this trip before, we were quite prepared for what was about to happen. By the time we arrived at the island, Christina and I were prepared to wade onto the island. The captain got as close as he could to the island, then let down the wooded ramp. Once we got clearance to go, we were the first to go and we walked down the ramp and into the muddy salt water and wadded ashore. Once we were ashore, we headed up the overgrown trail to the lighthouses. Being the first ones to make it up to the lighthouses, we decided to photograph the 1827 tower first while no one would get in the way of our photos. As we cautiously walked up to the tower, I began to take a photo of the entrance to the tower when one of the native goats came running out of the entryway of the tower and ran off into the brush. I was so disappointed that I was not able to get a photo of the goat, especially since we didn’t see one alive on the previous trip.
Disappointed, we cautiously entered the base of the tower and began taking our photographs. The tower seemed to be in about the same condition as it was during our first visit. Taking extra care and time to make sure we photographed everything we could, we were fortunate that we were able to make all the photos that we wanted before the others on the trip entered the tower. We then exited the tower and took a good look at the cisterns, one of which remains in pretty good condition, located near the tower. Then we concentrated our focus on the 1857 tower.
The day was mostly overcast and as we were making our way over to the 1857 tower, the sun came out from behind the clouds and we quickly made a number of photos that I am quite happy with (see photo above and in the galley below). Once we made it over to the tower, we waited our turn to climb the tower. During our 2001 visit, we were allowed to climb to the top of the tower and step out of the door at the gallery level to enjoy the wonderful view. The lantern room was also open to us to enjoy. Since 2001, some of the stairs have become loose inside the tower, and the building has been condemned. Given this, we were not going to be allowed to climb all the way to the top. We were allowed to climb to the first landing in the tower, which is in my estimate about thirty feet above the ground. After climbing to the landing, we took time to take a number of photos to catalog the interior of the tower that was open to us. A number of photos were taken of the stairs, showing the amount of rust, which completely covered the stairs and center post, which helps to hold the stairs in place. The condition of the iron staircase can be directly attributed to nearly thirty years of being exposed to the moist salt air. All the windows in the tower were either blown or broken out, allowing the corrosive elements of the coastal environment to erode the integrity of the staircase.
The brickwork inside the tower also shows the age of the tower. The brickwork hasn’t had any restoration work completed since the tower was originally built. Time and the elements have caused the mortar, along with the bricks themselves, to crumble and become loose from the tower (see photos by using the galley links below). After a good look at the interior of the tower, we descended the stairway and exited the tower. We were the last members of the group to exit the tower and we helped lock up and secure the tower. Making a few more photos of the tower and surrounding area, we headed back down the path to rejoin the group aboard the boat. Wading back through the muddy water, Christina and I took turns climbing the ramp to board the boat. Once on board, we began the trip back to the mainland, discussing the wonderful experience that we were just treated to. Back at the dock we departed the boat, said goodbye to all the nice folks that we had shared our memorable experience with, and headed for home.
NOTE: I have included a gallery of both towers, combining photos from both trips, so that I can not only show more photos, but also have all images of each tower together so that it is easier to get an idea of what it is like to visit these lighthouses.