Saturday, January 11, 2020

For The Love Of A Marina

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Southern Tides Magazine

"Players with Short Bats, Please Step Up Close to the Plate"

I 've always loved marinas.  Each is unique - with its own quirks, forgivable weaknesses, and heartwarming strengths. Marinas are terraqueous places consisting of both land and water, where pleasure begins and ends and memories are made to last.

Like airports, marinas are jumping-off points between two worlds. They are checkpoints on our journey through life; natural gathering-spots where we team-up and set out on adventure - or return from it full of stories that bond family and friend alike.  Re-creation begins at a marina.

During the return from a trip south on the ICW long ago, Jeanne and I stopped at the marina on Jekyll Island as an October evening set in and the sky lost its light. The boss-lady came down to the dock and greeted us with a smile.
“Can we stay on our boat at your dock tonight?” "Yes!"
I think we paid a dollar a foot, so for 22 dollars we were ushered to an inside slip with our bow pointed towards the channel and any wakes from passersby. The lady was so friendly that I will never forget her. “Our restaurant is open now, and tonight we have live music. There are bikes that you can use if you want to go for a ride. If you need to go to the store we have an old van.” She made our stay special. We had a great dinner, enjoyed the show, and walked down to our little floating-bedroom for a good night’s sleep. Water lapping at the hull makes a sweet lullaby. What a great marina! I want to go back!

Image courtesy Jekyll Harbor Marina. I have stayed there and it's great.

When I first came to Savannah thirty years ago as an Army pilot, I lived on the Southside. Our favorite marina in those days was at Savannah’s version of Cape Finisterre - at the far end of Coffee Bluff Road. The old Coffee Bluff Marina - replaced now by a much finer city-funded endeavor - was a ramshackle affair with on-trailer storage barns, an old tractor for pulling boats to the hoist, docks for tenants and visitors, and a store with most of what you might need on the water.

The new Coffee Bluff Marina bears little resemblance to the old, but it's very nice and attractive.
Take note: The store does not sell beer. Photo by Daniel Foulds  

Long ago, I was part of a group of boating families that left Hunter Army Airfield’s dock at Lott’s Island headed for Ossabaw Island's beaches. We ran into a pop-up summer-thunderstorm near Coffee Bluff Marina. In line with “any port in a storm” we tied up to the docks and took shelter in the store, and that’s how I got to know Mr. Freddie. He was the man who ran the show. Freddie was a wonderful combination of behavior-traits. On the surface, he was a curmudgeon. As soon as he determined he wasn’t dealing with a fool or a know-it-all, he warmed right up and became as helpful as anyone could wish.

Freddie and I shared jokes and stories often over the years. He never let go of the day that I attempted to scud-run a Chinook up the river at low-level trying to reach the airfield. The weather was terrible, with low clouds, fog and rain, and no visibility to speak of. We crept upriver at fifty feet, marker by marker. We reached the marina at – maybe – a hundred feet up. On top of the store we ran into a solid wall of “I can’t see anything, can you?” (story continues below)

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We stopped and performed a pedal-turn, pivoting directly over Freddie’s head. Freddie certainly knew we were there. Heck, he may have been outside shaking his fist at us.
We snuck back out the river and up the coast and ended up landing at the Tybee Lighthouse helipad.

Under construction now, this new marina on the Bull River will offer all services and
easy access to Savannah's greatest treasure, her maritime environment. Expected completion
in early 2021. For more info call 912 507-2225

When next I saw Freddie I asked, “Did we do any damage?”  He smiled and laughed and said, “Nothing I can’t handle.” That was Freddie. He was a great American and I miss him.

The Lee Shore Marina on Wilmington Island is a favorite of sailboaters. And Cheers is right there!
Photo by Daniel Foulds

For the last fourteen years, my marina has been Hogans on Wilmington Island. I had the Sea Ray there for twelve of them and now I captain a tour-boat from their dock. The crew there are wonderful. The boss – Bubba Strickland - can best be described as a community-treasure. Like Freddie before him, he’s got a hard shell and a soft heart. He stands on “the quarterdeck” on a summer day and barks orders to his young charges like a drill sergeant. His kids learn much about life and being squared-away while working for him. These kids usually go on to enjoy happy and successful lives.

Bubba does this.
Another beautiful day ends at Hogans Marina on Turners Creek.
 Photo by Daniel Foulds

Hogan’s Marina serves my community in many ways well beyond the normal services that a marina provides. “Hogan’s” and “Charity Event” are paired in sentences about every month. Without Hogan’s, there would be no “Fishin’ for Jaime.” Our lives are enriched by these events where we demonstrate kindness and compassion for our fellow man – where we become the best versions of ourselves. I love my marina

I've done some film-support work out of Isle of Hope Marina. If you ever saw Gemini Man with Will Smith, the marina is a star, and the Island Explorer that I captain is in there too.

Sunrise at Isle of Hope Marina on the Skidaway River and ICW.
Photo by Daniel Foulds

 I sense that this is a really great place with friendly people. I want to spend time there and learn more about it. I want to sit on their deck and drink a beer and hear their stories. They have a "marina car" and the Driftaway Cafe is just down the road. I imagine a fuel purchase might get you the keys, or a ride.

Even the birds know a good marina when they find one.
Photo by Daniel Foulds

We would love to hear your story about your favorite marina. The one that makes you take a deep breath and let it out and relax. Please share your story with us on our Facebook page named
or send us a message at
Heck, I might come to enjoy your marina with you and hear your story in person. First beers on me.

Now, maybe you are wondering why I opened with the quote above. This instruction was printed on a piece of cardboard cut in the shape of home-plate, and fastened to the wall behind the toilet at the old Coffee Bluff men’s room. I imagine Freddie smiled when he posted it, and it never failed to make me chuckle when I stood in position, at the appropriate distance from the plate.

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