Last week, I wrote a post talking about what to expect when your spouse is in the Navy, going through the nuke pipeline. It can be a doozy of a time (and feel eternal!), but even in the adversity of nuke school, good things can still happen.
Shockingly enough, even with the busyness of whichever phase of the pipeline your sailor is in, it is possible to have a little bit of a life while in Goose Creek, SC. The life may consistent of trying a random restaurant on a Friday night or Saturday before your SO has to go back to NNPTC to study, but hey it’s something, right? Here are just a few tips and tricks for figuring out when to visit, how to find things to do, and how to navigate the crazy nuke pipeline schedule.
It’s best to wait until your sailor hits phase 3 to go visit. How fast they phase up depends on how well they’re doing in A school. But typically, they can phase up pretty quickly. When you do come visit, you have a few options of places to stay: there’s the Villas on base. But those fill up pretty quickly, and your sailor needs to book them if you’re not married, so this is something you should plan for in advance. Half of the base is “open” (meaning anyone can come on and off with or without a military ID) and that’s where the Villas are. There’s a Days Inn on Red Bank Rd right in front of the base. But, I’ve heard it can be sketchy. I typically stayed with some friends from church, but I would also sometimes stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites on University Blvd. It’s 15 minutes from base and isn’t sketchy.
Exploring the Charleston Area
A lot of people like it here. We kinda hate it. It depends on your personality and preferences. We hate super hot and humid weather and that is Charleston’s weather most of the year. Also, both of us are originally from the West Coast and the South is the exact opposite of the kind of culture and place we like to live. However, we still found some places that we enjoyed, including restaurants and activities. I especially enjoy Mount Pleasant (for the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) and Summerville (for the small town feel, brunch, and coffee). North Charleston is underrated, especially the downtown. It also has that small town feel, and an adorable main street.
Things to Do
There are tons of beaches. I especially like the beaches on Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. Isle of Palms has the best parking, but Sullivan’s is smaller and has an amazing gelato place. If you’re not a beach person (like my husband), downtown has a lot of stuff to do. We especially like doing Escape in 60! I think they just added a fourth room, so there’s lots of opportunities for repeats on this one. There’s also carriage tours and walking tours that are fun. There’s lots of places to eat downtown. However, driving in downtown is very stressful and parking can be hard to find. But, if you’re a southern living junky, it’s definitely worth the narrow roads and crazy parking situation. I’m not much of a southerner, but I have still found some redeeming qualities in downtown Charleston. Primarily the gelato, unique restaurants, and Escape in 60. However, if you don’t want to make the trek all the way downtown (and seriously, don’t feel bad – we rarely do), there are still great places to eat around the Charleston area (Goose Creek, North Charleston, Summerville, Ladson, Mount Pleasant, Monck’s Corner, etc). When we were dating/engaged and I came to visit, my husband and I usually went to a movie or two and hung out with some married friends playing games and stuff.
If you’re married to your nuke, you are able to move down there with him/her as soon as possible after boot camp, since the schooling is much longer than six months. If you get married before or during A or Power school, I would strongly advise that you move into base housing. They have required study hours they have to do Sunday through Thursday nights. These increase or decrease based on how they’re doing, but they are always there. Because the information they are learning is confidential, all of their studying must be completed in the school building. Living off base while in A or Power school just isn’t wise for them. The commute in and around Goose Creek is rough, and any time spent driving to and from base will take away from their time at home (and with you!).
Prototype is a different story – if they’re not married, they’ll be required to move out in town during prototype. If you’re already in base housing, you won’t get the boot. Don’t worry there. My husband found a great apartment about 25 minutes from base. The Charleston area is growing quickly, and a 25 minute commute is the average drive time you’re going to find. Even if you find somewhere close, with all the traffic and oddly placed red lights, you may still end up with a 20+ minute commute.
If you want to do the courthouse thing, SC has a 24 hour waiting period between the time you apply for your marriage license and when you can pick it up and use it. The Dorchester county courthouse is the one closest to base. Both parties must be present to apply for a marriage license, but not to pick it up. I got married in SC, but not at the courthouse so I’m not sure what days the courthouse does wedding ceremonies. There is a wedding chapel on St. James Ave that I believe is open seven days a week. Not 100% on that. We got married during Prototype. I don’t advise that. It’s stressful, especially with the prototype schedule. But my life situation didn’t allow us to get married sooner, so there you have it. Your best windows of time are to get married between A school and Power School or Power School and Prototype. That way, you get some time to be together before the chaos descends again. However, I have known people to get married on a random weekend during either of the first two schools, and my husband and I got married during prototype. Whenever you choose to get married, plan carefully, and have a backup plan or five. 😉
My husband was home for both Christmas and New Year’s during power school. Students are not vital personnel, so I believe they get the full stand down off. Prototype is different story. Prototype stops for no man, no holiday, no nothin’. Check your husband’s shift schedule for that one. There’s potential for him to have a shorter shift on that day, but it’s never a guarantee.
The first seven weeks, he’ll be at work M-F, 7 am – 7 pm. After that, he gets assigned to a crew and goes on the rotating shift schedule. He’ll go through four different shifts, and at the end it goes back to the beginning and he starts the rotation all over again. Almost all of them are seven days long, with a couple of days off in between each. The last shift is four days long and ends with a four day weekend. Those four day weekends always fall from Friday through Monday. They are b e a u t i f u l and so incredibly cathartic. My best advice for the four days is to get the heck outta Dodge. Take a break, go visit friends, go to Disney World or Universal (it won’t count against his leave days!), go see family, do something. You don’t have to every time, but at least for the first couple I would. We did stay in Charleston area for a couple and barely left our apartment. That was also amazing. Whatever you choose to do during the four day weekends, make it relaxing. Your sailor is going to need as much relaxation as he can get.
I think that about sums things up for life in Goose Creek, SC! If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I will do my best to answer it or send you in the right direction.