Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Pie of Knowledge

 With the exception of a few years early on, my entire adult working life has been focused on moving people and cargo from one place to another. I spent 12 years flying the massive CH- and MH-47 Chinook Helicopter, carrying soldiers on the inside and 18000-pound howitzers slung underneath. 

In Honduras, I took doctors and veterinarians on "MEDRETS" to assist rural villages located far from any modern anything. I flew tons upon tons of relief food to starving people in the interior. In Liberia, I flew men, women, and children who were at risk of being brutally murdered safely away from that terror. 

And finally, at the end of my military career, I flew special forces operators who occasionally drove their inflatable boats straight into the back of my helicopter as we hovered with our cabin partially submerged. It was often high-adventure, occasionally frightening, and it paid the bills. Moving people and "stuff" is what I like to do. 

But I'm no expert. I never will be, as an expert is a combination of somebody who used to be something and a drip under pressure.

As an avid boater, it was only natural that I would come to move people by boat. I mean, what a great place to work! Mike Neal, the owner of Bull River Cruises, gave me my break into commercial boating and has counseled me every step of the way. He also recently hooked me up with one of the greatest adventures of my life, an eleven-day boating-marathon that had us working on the water from first light to twilight. It was epic.

A production company is in town filming the "Devotion" movie. As much of this film involves aircraft flying over water, safety-boats were needed in case an aircraft was forced to ditch. Divers stood on standby, ready to go into the water and extract pilots. They did this on a boat that I captained. Fun? You betcha.

Offshore and on duty. Ready to respond. Captain Mike Neal.

Savannah Firefighter, USCG officer, and rescue-diver Scott
speaks with stunt-man and rescue-diver David as we depart a
new Savannah Boathouse Marina in the 28'.

I put this route into the 28's SIMRAD EVO3 in order to help
with exiting the Wilmington River. There are numerous bars
and breakers off our barrier islands, and "you must follow a
channel or you risk losing the boat." (Cpt. Scott) Our track
lines tell a story.

Our weapon of choice for this multi-day life-guard mission was the 28' NauticStar owned by Tommy McCarthy and Savannah's Freedom Boat Club. A special lease agreement was reached, and one condition was that I operate the boat as I am the guy who shows Freedom Boat Club members how to operate her and go offshore safely. When we started I had more time in her than anyone else. After running her for this job, I think that record will stand until she is sold.

I ran her 829 miles and burned 457 gallons in 11 days.
I'd start again tomorrow.

Good Morning!

Our days started early and ended late, and often I ran home solo, alone with my thoughts
but certainly not lonely. The 28' proved herself to be a fine friend. The 600 horses helped.

Rescue divers have a lot of gear. And David brought the snacks too.
I had my first ever "Clif Bar" but not my last.
Movie people don't go hungry.

Wyatt; an actor, stunt-man, former USCG member, and current
rescue-diver. He was a constant source of laughter and fun, as indicated
by the look on Mike's face. Hey, I thought it was funny!

So did Wyatt...

One thing about boating; the more you do it, the more you learn. Scott mentioned something he has become aware of as a platform-instructor for both fire-service-related and maritime-related topics. 

"If you consider knowledge as a pie, there's a little sliver that constitutes what you know. Then there's another little slice that's the stuff you know you don't know. But the vast majority of that pie-of-knowledge? That's all the stuff that you are simply unaware of. You don't even know all the stuff you don't know. So never stop digging and learning." (Captain Scott Boyd)

Ignorance is no excuse for damaging equipment or hurting someone. If you don't know what you are doing on the water, don't do it. Ask for help. If you don't know how to dock a boat, get some instruction. The fact that the government lets you take to the water without a clue is not reason to do this. Take a class (the one from Boat US is F.R.E.E.). Click here to see for yourself.

As for me, I'm 63 years old and have been boating my whole life. I know a lot about operating a boat. And then again I don't know crap. So I took full advantage of the experience around me on those eleven days and asked a thousand questions; continuously eating from the pie of knowledge.

"Clutch In!"

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Just Like the Port of Savannah--Our Waterside Port Tour is Super!

It's one thing to see it in a picture. It's another thing entirely to be next to it in our boat!
Here's a China Overseas Shipping Company container ship arriving at the Port of Savannah!


Savannah was created by people sailing up our river on ships. Even before Europeans came here in the 1500s, Native Americans paddled the river in dugout canoes. The river has been a highway for trade since time out of mind. 

"The Port of Savannah is home to the largest single-terminal container facility of its kind in North America, encompassing 1,345 acres. Moving millions of tons of containerized cargo annually, Savannah is also the third-busiest container gateway in the U.S., providing greater scheduling flexibility and market reach with direct links to I-95 and I-16, on-terminal rail, and 36 weekly container ship calls. The Port of Savannah is the most westerly port on the Atlantic seaboard, providing shorter transit times and greater efficiency for cargo destined for major inland markets. A hundred miles closer to Atlanta than any other port, Savannah offers superior connections to multiple markets by road and rail." (GPA)

Here's a video about what goes on aboard a ship visiting the Port of Savannah. Video courtesy Brian Boyle.

Our Port is a vibrant exciting place. The ships plying our waters are behemoths! Watching the tugs help them in and out of their moorings is impressive. If you want to see it all in person, call Island Shuttle Boat Tours at 912 657-5222 today!

This is the Port Of Savannah. We are Island Shuttle Boat Tours. "We go there."

Friday, March 26, 2021

Hickory Dickery Dock... The Boat Just Sank Like a Rock!

I am on at Atlanta for the NASCAR race and my phone rings. It's Dr. Donohue Waters, who lives next door to the community dock.  He says "Hey! I'm looking at my dock cam and there's a boat sunk at the community dock!" 

I reply, "please tell me it's not mine!" 

"Nope, it's not yours!"  

I feel a flood of relief.

I have an idea of which boat it is, but I'm not sure, so I call the dock club president. He already knows about it. And so does the owner. Towboat US is on the way for a salvage recovery. In short order, they raise her with an airbag or two, tow her away, and tally up a major bill that will have to be paid by insurance or out of the owner's pocket. 

Having your boat sink sucks, and is to be avoided if at all possible. 

For a boater, there are few sights more forlorn and sad than that of a sunken boat. Whether she's down on her luck, down by the head,  or completely upside down, a boat isn't supposed to be sunk. 

The first thing that comes to mind is that someone has made a mistake--and whether it's an error of action or inaction, it's bad. You've probably heard that a stitch in time saves nine. Well, when it comes to a boat, a few dollars and a few minutes of work spent now may save a boatload of money later. And later may come sooner than you think.

In the case of this vessel, I observed her laying significantly lower in the water a few weeks ago after days of heavy rain. I alerted the owner who came and got the water out of her. What he failed to do however was to take that near-miss to heart and make sure his stuff was tight and right. And while I was enjoying a NASCAR race last weekend, Savannah had a whole bunch of rain come down. 

Having a good bilge pump in working order, an automatic switch that will turn it on in the event of flooding, and a strong battery to power it are the keys to this not happening to you. The salvage bill for this event will be in the thousands of dollars. The electronics are ruined. The engine may be ruined. When it comes to a boat, out of sight must NOT be out of mind. In the event you are in the middle of getting your boat in good order when storms come, you may need to get your butt off the couch and go check on your boat. And take a good bailer. 

Folks often underestimate how little water it takes inside your boat hull to sink her. If you have a cutout transom, a few inches of water inside her, and your stern pointed in the wrong direction, that slight reduction of freeboard is what allows wind-driven waves to finish the job. It takes less than you might think. 

Sidebar: If your dock has a prevailing wind or wave direction, put the pointy end of your boat that way. 

We had to moor this little skiff with her bow toward the open water in Islamorada.
At night, the waves got big. If we had put her stern to them, she'd have sunk.

Even with a good battery and bilge pump (or two or more of each) you have to keep up with what's happening down below. In the case of a float switch, any piece of debris sloshing around might become lodged in the float and keep the pump running until the batteries run out of power. On the other hand, a piece of gear, like a throw-cushion (a type-4 PFD) or a loose fender might find itself interfering with the float operation. Then the pump, she no come on...

You have to attend to this stuff. Don't procrastinate.  Putting it off can end badly. Whether the bill is big or little, it's bad and it's sad and it doesn't need to happen. 

Talk about a crying shame...

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Island Shuttle Boat Tours Promo Video #2 "We Go There!"

 Rates and Rides:

The boat is available for tours and charters at $100 per hour for up to 4 people. For extra passengers up to 6, add $25 per person per hour. We can accommodate larger groups on Bull River Cruises Island Express and Island Explorer.

Savannah-Daufuskie Round Trip, Daylight Hours, Savannah Boathouse Marina to County Dock: $50 per person up to 6 passengers with a minimum charge of $200.00. We drop off and pick up on your schedule. For a trip to and from Freeport, which is further north on the Intracoastal Waterway, add $10 per person.

Golf cart rentals are available and are the easiest way to get around on Daufuskie Island. We partner with Daufuskie Carts (they deliver!) and Discover Daufuskie. For a good time call Ron at 843 997-0062. Click here for more info...

For lodging on Daufuskie call Deborah Smith with Daufuskie Island Rental Group at 404 414-1282. Click here for more info...

For ground transportation to and from lodging on Daufuskie call Stewart Yarborough with Daufuskie Transit. Click here for more info

For ground transportation in Savannah, (to or from the airport, lodging, restaurants, beaches) with full concierge services call Chris Keihm with Tybee Beach Bus Company at 912 209-6300. Click here for more info...

Night returns (only) from Daufuskie County Dock: $100 per person with a minimum charge of $300. Service to Savannah Boathouse Marina. Night trips on the water involve significant risk of striking an object in the water, and henceforth require slow-running. This takes extra time and involves extra expense. If the size of your party requires a second run to retrieve luggage/coolers/etc, we will perform that trip the next day in daylight.

Savannah Area On-Water Tours include...

2-hour loop tour (with no backtracking) including sights and history of Turner's Creek, Turner's Rock, Modena, Dutch Island, Thunderbolt, Causton's Bluff, Bonaventure Cemetery, Oatland Island, and Saint Augustine Creek: $200 for up to four people. Additional $50 for additional passengers up to 6. Tours for larger groups are available.

2-hour trip through Savannah history including the story of slavery in Savannah. Travel through the world-famous "Freedom Creek" near the Isle of Hope and see Wormsloe from the water.  Hear the story of Young's Marina, the only African-American owned marina in our area, and how it relates to the tragedy at Ebeneezer Creek and William T. Sherman's Special Field Order number 15. We also discuss the role that Savannah's waterways played during prohibition. This trip must be scheduled to coincide with high tide.

3-hour big-loop tour of Turner's Creek, Wilmington River, Wassaw Sound, Tybee Cut (dependent on the tide), and the Bull River. See the original path of the "Inland Passage" and hear the story of how the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to move it towards Wassaw Island for a steamboat line. $300 for up to 4 passengers. Additional passengers up to 6: $75 per person. Tours for larger groups are available.

 3-hour Waterside Port tour. See the ships and facilities that make Savannah's port world-class. Learn about the history of our port. $300 for up to 4 passengers. For additional passengers up to 6, add $75 per passenger.

4-hour circumnavigation of Skidaway Island via Turner's Creek, Wilmington River, New Cut, Oddingsells Creek, Wassaw Sound, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. (Restroom break at Delegal Creek marina on the south end of Skidaway Island) See the sights and hear the stories of the Inland Passage, Skidaway Island, Wilmington Island, Skidaway Narrows, PinPoint, Isle of Hope, Modena, and Turner's Rock. This trip is dependent on passing through New Cut at high tide and must be scheduled to coincide.  $400 for up to 4 passengers. Additional passengers up to 6, add $100 per passenger.

Baggage/cargo capacity limited depending on the number and size of passengers. In cooler months or inclement weather, appropriate clothing is recommended. (It's cooler on the water than it is on land.)

Children 12 and under must wear a Type 2 or Type 3 life preserver at all times while aboard. Life preservers are available for wear by all passengers.

10% discount for active or veteran military, law-enforcement, fire service, and EMS. Any group that includes a dog receives a 5% discount.

90-minute sunset tour for only $150 for up to four passengers. For Extra passengers up to 6, add $35 per person. 

Cash, Venmo, and Square payments accepted.

Monday, February 1, 2021


 In the 90s, I  wrote an article for the Nightstalker's in-house newsletter (IP Inbound) entitled "Demo Fever."  and after it was published a fellow 3rd Herder said to me "I can't believe you wrote that about yourself!" 

I told on myself because I realized that if I was thinking and doing these things others might be as well, and perhaps my shared experience might help someone avoid making my mistake. The theme of that article, discussing what happens to your heart, head, and hands when you are doing a flight demonstration, came up again when I revised Demo Fever for Vertical 911 Magazine. That was a story about one of my first flights as a Chinook Pilot-in-Command at Fort Bragg. I almost made history. 

All of us understand that we need to learn how to operate a machine, but more of us should understand that we need to learn how to operate people too--most especially ourselves.

The need for honest self-assessment and personal performance-review never leaves us. I am a boat captain now, and the same hard truths that thumped me over the head as a pilot continue to thump me over the head today. Just yesterday I was doing a mid-winter run on my 6-pack boat to charge batteries, circulate fluids, and wash off the bottom. It was windy and cold and I went about a mile from our dock and said to myself, "screw this." I turned around. I was idling under the Highway 80 bridge when the boat thumped under my feet. It sounded like I was running aground over hard stuff. 

My brain said to me, "you are in deep water, you can't be running aground!" WTH and WTF?

Being startled, I failed to perform a basic common-sense immediate-action step. PUT ENGINE(S) IN NEUTRAL and PRESS THE UP-TRIM SWITCH! The thumping feeling and sound moved toward the stern and then the idling engine jerked and jumped. A 6 foot-long 2 by 6-inch board rolled out from under the motor and rolled over in my wake. The nails that had once fastened it to someone's dock were sticking out of the ends. My next thought was, "thank God I didn't hit that at speed!"

I stopped the engine and trimmed it all the way up out of the water to check the prop for damage. All good.

So, after-action-review. Yesterday was the aftermath of a very high tide with high winds. Those conditions put more debris in the water, and the "wrack," (floating piles of marsh-grass debris) was everywhere. A tide that flushes out the wrack will flush out other debris too, so take care and expect this. Note to self: If your boat is hitting something underwater as you make way through it,  take immediate action to try and prevent damage to the lower unit and propeller. 

To train for this: Next time you are standing at your helm at the dock, pretend that you are driving the boat and say to yourself, "we are hitting something!" Practice putting your hand on the throttle and your thumb on the trim switch. Do this a few times to develop muscle memory and set the pattern in your brain. 

There are lots of things hanging out just beneath the surface, 
like manatees...

The opposite of being startled is anticipation. I vote that we anticipate trouble and hope that it never finds us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What You Don't See Can Hurt You!

This is a typical low-country creek at low tide, viewed from the causeway onto Callawassie Island
Those mounds of "pluff mud" are covered with oysters, and their shells are sharp! If you 
hit one at speed and get ejected, there will be blood.

Our tidal creeks are beautiful and full of hazards. The swirling currents of our 6 to 9-foot tides create deep holes down to 50 feet or more--here--and oyster reefs just under the surface there. With no rhyme or reason beyond fluid dynamics, these hazards are everywhere. When a rising tide covers them with a few inches of water, they are hidden.

Mike Neal owns Bull River Cruises and gave me my start in the tour business.  He is involved with movie production and took me up Groves Creek near Priest Landing last year. He was showing me where boat scenes from Gemini Man were filmed.  We were there on a flooding tide and at idle speed. 

Mike passed on a good strategy for exploring uncharted creeks. "If you want to go exploring a creek, go in shortly after a low tide, with more water becoming available shortly to float you off if you get stuck. You can better see the layout of the bottom then. Go slow!"

I would recommend a neap-low versus a spring-low so that you have some water available shortly after the low tide, but can still see the bars, mounds, and oyster-reefs or rakes.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Having someone along to draw a picture of the creek (with the hazards noted) and the route to follow, or just to take pictures, will help you on future trips. You will want your motor trimmed up part-way, but with more up-trim available should you need to stop and back off of a rising bottom. Go as slowly as you can while maintaining control. A lookout posted in the bow can help you spot hazards before you hit them--and be mindful that oysters will destroy your fiberglass finish if you run across them. Water leaving a creek near low tide will form a deeper channel. It may be in the middle, or it may hug one bank or the other. It probably won't follow a straight line but will wind back and forth across the width of the flood area. The outside of a curve is usually deeper, but not always. 

At high tide, the creek pictured above has enough water to go where you want, but clearly, the hazards become a problem as the tide falls. You don't want to get stuck in any creek on a falling tide unless you have hours to spare. 

Since you can't see where the hazards lie at high tide, that's not really the best time to go in somewhere new. And there might be a bar or rake high enough to stop you even on a high tide. Plotting a safe course (if one exists) on a rising tide is your best bet. 

Take care, and enjoy the scenery!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Saga of Sea Island Cotton in Savannah...

It's downright fascinating how the threads of history get woven together This is never more true than when studying Savannah's history. The twists, turns, and intersections never disappoint the curious mind or the wandering eye.

My son Corey Foulds came to visit us over Christmas, and of course, we had to go riding on boats every day he was here. During one of these rides, Corey mentioned that he had flown over Mallorca (or "Majorca") an island in the Mediterranian Sea, and wanted to go there.

His comment triggered some memories I have of reading about Majorca and it's smaller island-neighbor, Minorca. Minorca figures in our family history as one of my sisters married a Minorcan man whom she met near St. Augustine, Florida during my childhood. I had heard bits and pieces of the story of how people from Minorca came to be in Florida, and today the picture became much clearer. And of course, there's a connection to Savannah's islands and her rivers.

While reading my research books (Once Upon An Island, Elizabeth Carpenter Piechocinski / A Georgia Tidewater Companion, Buddy Sullivan / Tidecraft, Rusty Fleetwood) I have come across remarks about "a letter" several times. The letter was written to the newspaper by a local plantation owner, Nicholas Turnbull, protesting published claims made by, or on behalf of, another plantation owner, Francis Levett, Jr, to have been the first person to grow black seed "Sea Island" cotton on the Georgia Coast.

I didn't know why the question of who was first was important, as in good time all of the planters became wealthy (thanks mainly to the efforts of the slaves they all owned.) Bragging rights? Prestige? Money?

I decided to read more about the history of Minorcans, and the area that they were initially brought to, which was named "New Smyrna," in Florida. Here's a link

This project was the brainchild of Nicholas Turnbull's father Andrew, a Scottish physician and consul to Smyrna, part of what was then the Ottoman Empire on the coast of the Mediterranian. The name "New Smyrna" was in honor of Andrew Turnbull's wife, who was from that area. Turnbull set out to recruit immigrants from many locales around the Mediterranian, ending up with over 1400 souls, most of whom were from Minorca. The proposed colony failed in fairly short order, and many of the Minorcan's relocated to the area around St. Augustine. This makes sense as St. Augustine was founded by Spaniards, and Minorca is near Spain. After the demise of the project, Andrew Turnbull relocated to Georgia.

While reading the story about Andrew Turnbull, the name of one of his partners in the New Smyrna venture caught my attention; that of Francis Levett. I had seen that name somewhere else. Indeed!

"I conceive Mr. Levett is not entitled to any merit, as previous to that time the quantity was made in this state and shipped to (England) by the Savannah merchants, and the character firmly established; I do not suppose the trouble was great to Mr. Levett, or cost him anything, and which any anyone could have done as well as himself...The state is not the least indebted to Mr. Levett...( Nicholas Turnbull letter to Georgia Gazette, (Savannah), November 28, 1799, via "A Georgia Tidewater Companion.)

Now when you read that passage, it sounds like a story from today. Anger, jealousy, bitterness? All there.

And I'd bet it had everything to do with the economic relationship between the two fathers that was begun in 1769 with the work at New Smyrna thirty years prior. A relationship that went south just before the two men came north to Georgia.

If you are wondering what all this had to do with our creeks, rivers, and islands, well here's what an anonymous contributor wrote in the Columbia Museum and Savannah Advertiser in the fall of 1799--this is an excerpt of the letter that sparked Nicholas Turnbull's angry response a few weeks later...

"(Growers of) Sea Island Cotton (from the Caribbean Islands) gave the early planters ... a supply of that article from their own country, and completely foiled the making of indigo in the United States; but thanks to our climate, though the planters were compelled to turn their attention to something else, they recollected that cotton could be cultivated on lands that produced indigo, and included their thoughts to that article, and to this most were encouraged by a crop of black seed cotton from seed procured for Major Barnard on Wilmington Island which was raised on the island of Skidaway, 10,000 lbs. of which crop was shipped to England in the spring of 1791 by Messrs. Johnston and Robertson on account of Francis Levett, Esq. which established the character of Georgia sea island cotton; being the first shipment of any consequence; and to him (Levett) the state is indebted... (Companion, pg 98)

From a further reading of both full letters on the Jstor site (where you can enjoy the first-ever Georgia Historical Quarterly,) I can see that Josiah Tattnall (of Bonaventure Plantation) gave Nicholas Turnbull (of Deptford Hill Plantation) one-quart container of cotton seed that he had obtained in Carolina. That seed was planted on Whitemarsh Island. It was taken there by Turner's Creek or Richardson's Creek. The rest is, as they say, history.

The Pie of Knowledge

 With the exception of a few years early on, my entire adult working life has been focused on moving people and cargo from one place to anot...