Sunday, April 28, 2019
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
"Families cheered late Wednesday afternoon as buses began rolling into the parking lot at Tradewinds Casino Cruises at the old Williams Seafood docks off U.S. 80, carrying passengers who had left nearly 24 hours earlier for what they expected to be a five-hour gambling cruise.
The fun ended shortly before midnight Tuesday when the casino cruise ship became grounded on a sandbar between Tybee and Hilton Head islands.
It would be another 16 hours before the 96 passengers set foot on dry land, leaving most of them hot, hungry and exhausted - but mostly glad to be home." (text and image courtesy SavannahNow and Mary Carr Mayle posted July 17th, 2014)
Friday, April 19, 2019
How do you describe a perfect day? For me, it involves family, freedom from worry, no thought of yesterday or tomorrow, and of course - beautiful surroundings help.
We experienced such a day yesterday, as we took a Freedom boat to the sandbar lying at the coast between Tybee and Little Tybee islands.
This huge sandbar gets reshaped by the tides and storms which assault Tybee each year. The sandbar you see this summer will look different next year.
|The sandbar is large enough to allow for a nice walk - after making sure your boat is securely anchored of course.|
My son and his family are specks in the distance at the edge of the earth.
The deck boat we took yesterday was perfect for our group of four adults, three kids, and one dog. Although the ride was not so smooth in the wind and tide-driven chop on the way out, slowing down to the bottom edge of planing-speed helps make the ride less bone-jarring and is easier on the hull. Once we arrived, having all the room was a bonus. The ride home, with wind and tide hand in hand behind us, was perfect...
The water is plenty deep all the way from the Bull River through Tybee Creek (referred to by locals as the "Back River") to the sandbar, but look out for a shallow spot directly across from AJ's DockSide (green structure on Tybee's back side). I found that one the hard way. At high tide, you can go anywhere. At low tide, you can see and avoid the bars. At middle tide is when you find them the hard way. GPS or paper charts help with this.
Click here to view a chart online. You can zoom into the area with a click on the spot.
You may well find dolphins in the river as you travel to and from Tybee's sandbar. They add to any trip and children of all ages love them. Please don't feed them, don't harass them, and don't make sudden changes with your throttle or helm if you encounter them. Don't bang on the boat to draw them to you. I have seen the after-effects of a dolphin and prop encounter and it is pretty horrific. They are beautiful intelligent creatures, and wild. Let's leave them that way as we enjoy our rivers and beaches.
Do you remember the "pecking order?" Here's a good review.
(from my Sea School training I append "willingly" to the end of the mnemonic to include Wing in Ground Effect craft)
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
|Image courtesy HH Island Visitor Guide. Marshside Mama's at the County Dock is closed now, but another|
vendor is looking to renovate the building and open a bar and grill.
Over the 30 odd years that I have lived in Savannah, I have visited Daufuskie Island several times, first by Jet Ski, then by pleasure boat, more than once by helicopter, and more recently as a charter captain. My most memorable charter trips were the ones where I was taking the bands playing at Marshside Mamas to and from the island. I got to chat with many great musicians during these trips for Captain Gary (Gator) Hill. The little deck boat looked like a floating pickup truck packed with equipment and people. We made quite a sight...
Daufuskie is an interesting destination, with a rich history, dirt roads to explore, and quirky places to visit. Writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard played golf here, and the famous author Pat Conroy taught school here after graduating from the Citadel, as depicted in the movie made from his book "The Water is Wide."
If you are a Savannah boater, Daufuskie is a great place to go for a day trip.
|Image courtesy Mandy Matney and the Island Packet|
There are hundreds of online sources of information about visiting Daufuskie. I liked this one.
There are no bridges to Daufuskie, so a boat or helicopter is required. In most cases, a helicopter only visits the island to pick up trauma patients, so going and leaving by boat is best.
Sidebar: You should be aware that Daufuskie is "isolated." There is a Beaufort County Fire and EMS station on the island, but while you are on the island you are a long way from a hospital. Behave accordingly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When I flew patients off of Daufuskie in the LifeStar helicopter, it usually involved alcohol and golf carts. Anecdotes and the following article indicate that law enforcement patrols the island regularly.
Here is a bit from the local paper about carts, cops, and drinking on Daufuskie...
From Savannah, you access Daufuskie via the ICW or the Savannah River, thence via "Field's Cut" a man-made part of the ICW. Field's Cut is shallow at the entrance from the Savannah River, so at low tide take care and mind the depth gage. The deeper water is on the west side of cut, closer to the range-marker tower. The ICW is clearly marked to Daufuskie, and the Coast Guard has dropped some additional markers to keep you clear of bars. Remember - it's Red Right Going South on the ICW, so it's green-right-going-north. You can also think in terms of "Red on the Mainland side", but sometimes you can't tell which side is mainland. Allow about an hour each way from Hogan's Marina or Thunderbolt.
The first public-access dock you will encounter on Daufuskie is the County Dock. There is a boat ramp there and enough dockage for a dozen or so boats, but no other services. The dock is not attended. Don't tie up right next to the ramp, as that part of the dock is for boats entering and leaving the water. A sign indicates that there is a three-hour time limit on using the dock, but that doesn't appear to be rigorously enforced, at least not on a week-day. A weekend might be different.
When the tide is running the county dock can be tricky to get onto, and you may have to put your bow into a strong current, use a bit of power to maintain heading and let the current sweep you backward adjacent to an open spot. Just relax, take a deep breath and take your time, Don't bite off more than you can chew; an old helicopter maxim is "if it scares you, don't do it."
I have never seen anyone raft up at the county dock, but if you are traveling with another boat that might be an option if is space is limited.
There are golf cart rental services on the island. I just spoke with Brandy (very friendly) at Daufuskie Island Carts and Services. She told me that they will meet you at the County Dock and rent you a golf cart. It's $75 a day for a 4 passenger cart and $100 a day for a 6 pax model. The renter/operator must have a valid driver's license. With a cart, you can explore the island, go to the beach, and see the sights. It's the way to do Daufuskie. Another option is to rent a cart from Freeport Marina discussed below - 3 hours is $65.
Here is some info for renting a golf cart, and more about the island...
|Freeport is well marked.|
The other docking option on Daufuskie is Freeport, a marina with bar and grill a few miles further up the ICW. There is lots of room to dock at Freeport, and the docks are serviceable - if a little bit worn. Wear shoes or good flips on the dock and watch where you are putting your feet. The tide runs fast here too, so think about your approach before making it, and have your fenders and lines in position and ready to grab. When leaving, think about how you are going to depart the dock before untying your lines, and tell your pax your plan. I watched a Pontoon boater with a full boat try and do a 180-degree turn inside of two of the fingers yesterday while a strong current was trying to force him into the cross-dock at the end. It was the classic case of poor planning and embarrassing execution and almost ended in disaster. Remember - your motor does have a reverse gear and you can back out against a current.
Freeport is a laid-back jumble of ramshackle structures covering all of your island desires, with restrooms, playground for kids, and cottages to rent. They have a fuel pump at the store and a portable tank that you could roll to your boat on the dock in a jam. They also have live music on certain weekends outside next to the outdoor "ScapIron Bar."
|Store on site with fuel pump.|
|Party in Progress at Freeport!|
A recent development on Daufuskie is that the old Melrose Plantation swimming pool, bar, and restaurant are back in business. Twelve dollars will get you a day-pass to the pool, right on the beach and looking over at Hilton Head. This is a beautiful place and quite an adventure. You can show your friends a really good time by taking them to Daufuskie, getting a cart for a few hours, and swimming in a nice pool. It makes for a great day trip!, or you can rent a cottage there near the pool and stay for a while.
|Image courtesy Kathy Jones. Her grandnieces loved the pool!|
A trip to Daufuskie could end up with you having to return to Savannah in restricted visibility. I wrote about that in another post.. Have a plan for the weather if you go to Daufuskie. And make sure you have drinking water on your boat. Sometimes boats break and occasionally boaters run aground.
|A good time is had by all at Freeport Marina|
Friday, April 5, 2019
Thursday, April 4, 2019
|Perhaps the most enjoyable part of working on the water; taking children on|
their first boat ride. These kids were headed to Ossabaw for the day - a
fantastic first voyage...
Recently, I got to spend a day with Ben Wells, a marine science educator at Savannah's Oglethorpe Charter School. Ben's students get to go with him on the boat and learn about the estuarine environment and, on that trip, the Georgia coastal barrier island known as "Ossabaw."
Ben is a fascinating source of information about this historic area; not only from his college education but also from his local upbringing and being steeped in the history, culture, and legends of this place. Ben belongs to the marine-rescue squadron based at Coffee Bluff, and I can only imagine the stories that get passed around by the old salts there.
As we passed through the Skidaway Narrows, Ben explained to his students how - shortly after the civil war ended - Freedmen moved from Ossabaw Island to live and work at Pinpoint harvesting and shipping oysters and blue crabs. Pinpoint is near the narrows, and the old buildings there are visible from the river. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is from PinPoint.
Ben then commented about the Narrows itself. "You know, this waterway wasn't always here. The Army Corps of Engineers dredged this out in 1905."
That remark piqued my interest for two reasons. First, the "narrows" part of the Skidaway River is, in my opinion, the most beautiful waterway in Chatham County. Second, when I first became a Savannah boater in the early 90s with an old 18-foot sailboat, I entered the water at the Skidaway Narrows boat ramp next to Butter Bean Beach.
|Here is a view of Skidaway Island State Park from the Skidaway River just north of the narrows. The park's observation tower is just visible in the distance to the right of the channel marker.|
Now, much of this book concerns the areas in and around Darien, Georgia. But there is a lot of interesting information about the Savannah area as well. I found the information about the creation of the Skidaway Narrows section of the Inland Waterway - known today as the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. But even more interesting to me was Mr. Sullivan's writing on the history of the Inland Waterway before it traversed the Skidaway River.
Back in the day, you see, boats went inside of Wassaw through the Romerly Marsh! (story continues below)
In 1994 we purchased a small fast boat and began exploring the creeks, rivers, and sounds that make living here so special. One day we ventured into a long straight waterway headed south on the inshore side of Wassaw Island proper. I remember thinking "nature doesn't make straight creeks, this must be man-made!" We kept exploring and eventually came out on the south end of the island at Ossabaw Sound.
I later learned that the straight section is named "New Cut."
I loved that trip then, and I still love it today. I did it last year on a 45-foot excursion vessel, and though it was a tight fit in one of the turns, we made it through without bumping anything.
|Wassaw north image|
In the image above, New Cut is depicted running north-south through the marsh portion of Wassaw. It is a narrow and beautiful stretch of water. The long narrow island it bisects isn't named on the chart, but in the text, there is mention of the cut going through "Long Island." If you look at the southwest part of Long Island, you can see where Rhodes Creek looped around and then cut through. Note the 21-foot depth indicated on the outside of that loop. That's what 6 to 9-foot tidal flows do to a mud bottom. The rapidly flowing water digs a deep hole here and puts a bar just under the surface there.
|Wassaw south image|
From reading the "...Companion" on page 432-434, one can deduce that the original route of the Inland Waterway was west of New Cut, passing through the straight path named Habersham Creek (Wassaw north image). Now here is where the story gets interesting. Political intrigue and special-interest played a part in determining where the waterway would be.
The text states, "The Federal River and Harbor Act of 1882 opted for a Romerly Marsh inland waterway passage, which, by means of dredging a cut through the Wassaw Island marsh, entailed a connection of Dead Man's Hammock Creek with Wassaw Creek north of Odingsells River. This longer, more expensive, transit, which bypassed the previous route through (Adams Creek and) Steamboat Cut, was presumably selected to satisfy local commercial interests that preferred improved access to the Wassaw Island beaches." The Georgia and Florida Steamship Company "regularly transported passengers to the island." Then as now, money bought influence and allowed public policy to be determined by private interests. The Army Corps would comment on this later, however!
On the left side of the Wassaw south image above you can find Steamboat Cut, adjacent to Delegal Creek and today offering access to Delegal Marina. Steamboat is so named because once upon a time - long before Union Camp owned Skidaway Island or created the Landings and the marina - it was cut for and used by steamboats plying the creeks of Romerly Marsh! I have always associated it with the marina. Now I know different.
|A steamer of the period.|
"In 1885 and 1886 New Cut was again dredged...It was a channel 4,117 feet through the Wassaw marshes and Long Island: yet in the two decades of its use as the primary inside route it was never considered a particularly satisfactory, nor convenient, passage."
A later survey and report by the Corps of Engineers stated that "had not the opening of the Wassaw Creek route been made mandatory by Congress that route would not have been selected by the engineers" The report recommended abandoning the New Cut route in favor of the Habersham Creek route. It didn't happen.
"The Emergency River and Harbor Act of June 6th, 1900 authorized a 'preliminary examination and survey of the Skiddaway (sic) Narrows connecting the Isle of Hope with with Burnside River for a channel 75 feet wide and 6 feet deep at mean low water'... 'the present navigable route... consists of an extremely tortuous and very narrow channel, the bottom of which is bare at low water and at high water an ordinary rowboat cannot pass through...without the oars being interfered with on both sides from the marsh grass growing on the banks" The engineer noted that "Skiddaway Narrows in not worthy of improvement by the United States."
A later survey reversed this, noting that the Skidaway route would be 6 and one-half miles shorter than the Wassaw route. The route being further inland also offered more protection from storms at sea and enemy forces.
"Congress authorized the project and contract dredging of Skidaway Narrows began in October, 1905."
And now you know...
With special thanks to Buddy Sullivan for creating "A Georgia Tidewater Companion" from which this post is largely derived. All credit is due him. You can buy this book on Amazon and I recommend it.
Bull River Cruises offers a 6-hour circumnavigation of Skidaway Island for groups of up to 40. If your civic, church or corporate group could benefit from a ride through our coastal history and beauty, visit www.bullriver.com or call 912 657-5222. You can experience New Cut and more for yourselves!
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
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|You will know restricted visibility when you see it. Or can't see it.|
As I lay in bed at night on Talahi Island, I sometimes hear the giant ships in the Savannah River channel sounding prolonged blasts on their horns. If the river gets thick fog, the river pilots stop bringing the ships in. Their size and bulk makes it unsafe to travel the river. They then pile up just off the coast and wait for conditions to improve.
Speed through the water is another consideration when operating in restricted visibility. You should operate at a slow speed to allow time for stopping or avoiding if another vessel or an obstruction "pops" into view on a collision course. As conditions change, your speed should change to adapt to conditions. You should not "overdrive" the visibility.
|In conditions like this, slow down!|
Any time you become aware of a vessel forward of your beam you should slow to the absolute minimum speed at which you can maintain control. If Captain Smith of the Titanic hadn't been running on full steam in restricted visibility (dark night conditions) we wouldn't know his name. You don't want to read your name in the newspaper either - go slow in fog.
|This is what zero visibility looks like. We were creeping through the water - and listening|
as hard as we could. I plugged my ears with my fingers for the sound signals as I was
close to the horn.
In particularly thick fog, you must proceed at the minimum speed that allows control.
If things get "too hairy" you may want to stop. If you do stop, you now must give two prolonged blasts at intervals not to exceed two minutes. The memory trick is "if you aren't making way, you have more time to blow, so blow twice."
One thing to keep in mind as you attempt to follow the rules and do everything right is that other boaters may not have a clue, and may be ripping along at full speed. Listen for this, and be ready with the horn, wheel, and throttle. In an avoidance turn, you should avoid turning to port (left) unless that is the only way to avoid a collision.
As the sun warms the air, the fog may begin to break up or dissipate. You may be able to increase speed in clear areas, but should be ready to slow down again in thick spots. No amount of desire to "get there" is worth injuring someone or damaging a vessel.
You can and should make good use of your radio in restricted visibility. The ability to communicate with other boaters helps with situational awareness. But remember, not everyone on the water has a radio and those that do may have it off or on the wrong channel. If you do have a radio and are operating in restricted visibility, maintain a listening watch on marine channel 16. You can also self announce your intentions and actions using the alert words, "securite, (pronounced sercur-i-tay) securite, securite"
If your message is short, you can send it on 16, if it will be long you should switch to a working channel.
Here's an example of a radio call to announce your position and intention on the radio,
"securite securite securite, this is (pleasure, fishing, sailing, cargo, towing) vessel Young and Dumb entering Field's Cut from the Savannah River. Out" You may want to practice what you are going to say before you push the transmit button. Once you push that button, your transmission should be accurate, bold, and concise. If you expect a reply from another station you should end your transmission with "over." If not, use "out."
|Obstructions to vision make near objects look more distant. That's a bridge right|
there, and it is close.
Radar can also assist with navigation and threat detection - if you have it. We don't. Modern and extremely well-equipped boats might even have the ability to display other vessel's position, course, and speed on a display. We don't have that either. But we do have eyes and ears.
Safe boating, friends!
There are other sound signals for boats not under command, with restricted ability to maneuver, constrained by draft (international rules), towing, being towed etc. It's a good idea to periodically review these sound signals, and/or carry a quick reference card at the helm if underway in restricted viz...
Disclaimer: The author makes every effort to provide good information and links to more resources, but this blog is not intended to replace formal training or a detailed study of the rules and regulations applicable to boating. I hope a novice boater will view this as a point of departure for further study and learning. I also hope an experienced boater will share that experience and whatever tips and wisdom come to mind.
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