Savannah is our home for a few months. Kind of nice to just pick a city that appeals and live there for a while.
Why not pick Savannah we asked each other a few months ago while deciding where to finish this sailing season? Its old, its scenic, classic, fun to walk around, the food is good and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” takes place in Savannah. For mood Spanish Moss hangs down from two hundred year old oak trees in front of the antebellum homes.
It’s been a few weeks since we arrived at our new “home” at Isle of Hope Marina. Just starting to recover and just starting to adjust to Savannah, it’s laid back attitude, it’s heat, all while watching the dolphins play in the quiet waters of the ICW flowing next to the marina. So far Savannah has lived up to its expectations.
Brief Trip Recap
We started this season with the boat in Jamaica, from there, on to Cuba, Turks and Kakos and the Bahamas. From the Bahamas the Gulf Stream provided a fast moving walkway (like in an airport) heading north, adding about 5 knots to our measly 5 knots. Leaving the Bahamas we sailed to Cape Canaveral Florida where we watched a rocket launch and joined the ICW on our journey north to Savannah.
The 1600 mile long ICW is a connected series of lakes, rivers, sounds, marshes and canals running almost the length of the United States east coast; just inside a set of natural islands that protect the route from the sometimes cruel Atlantic. The islands are sometimes referred to as barrier islands.
The ICW was first suggested by Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin in 1802 as an economic boon for commercial vessels when the ocean was not safe or impassable. It required dredging some rivers and creating some canals to connect the natural waterways. Federal laws provided the funds for maintaining the length of the ICW to a navigable depth. A job that is now hard to fulfill given two things: the amount of silt that naturally fills the waterway; and the now, the more man-made struggle to acquire federal funds to keep dredging.
The ICW is used by both recreational and commercial vessels. It’s free for the recreational and not free for the commercial.
Georgia’s part of the ICW is one of the hardest to keep deep and clear. It has a max tidal range of about 7 feet. At low tide, depth in these segments is zero. At high tide it’s seven feet. So, us in Cetacean, having a six foot keel depth have to be careful to travel the lowest spots, only when the tide is high.
A new website, Active Captain, maintains a list of trouble spots. Shallow places are entered into the web database by boaters and confirmed as more boaters pass. One guy, Bob423 (his online name) travels the ICW a few times per year, adds additional comments, measures the depths and even scouts safe routes adding accurate “waypoints” for the most navigable passage through really tricky sections. A few of us really appreciate Bob423.
We learned (the hard way) paying close attention to Bob423’s comments is critical. We would plan our travels a few days in advance, noting the “skinny” spots for the journey ahead and plan to arrive at those places near high tide. Don’t ask how we learned these lessons, suffice it to say Towboats US is a wonderful organization. We’ve heard there are three kinds of boaters on the ICW. Those that have gotten stuck, those that will get stuck and those that lie.
Navigating the ICW is stressful, the ocean is way easier but less scenic. The route markers complicates matters. Our entire boating lives, many decades, of travel: we used the rule : “red right return”. Returning from the sea keep the red colored buoys to your right. It’s a safe mantra , drilled into our heads. Going North on the ICW red is kept to our left. I have no idea why. Evey buoy needs to be thought through a few times. And when the course is “S” shaped – you can see a few miles and many red and green buoys ahead, but not the path. From a distance red and green look to be placed by the devil playing some hideous hide and seek game in a maze.
But the ICW takes the traveler through country un-see-able by anyone not on a boat. It took us about a month to go 300 miles from Cape Canaveral to Savannah including stops, a long time but I think worth it.
The most memorable places ( the good, the bad and the ugly too) and critters encountered on the ICW:
Click on the two tabs below for a few more ICW galleries.
Horse drawn carriages carry tourists down the narrow cobblestone streets. One morning, one of the horses stopped at a partially open shop door; stuck it’s head for a treat. She explained , he’s done this everyday for ten years.Some pictures from St. Augustine
Once the playground of the very rich – Melons, Rockefeller’s, etc. many of the old mansions have since burned or crumbled. What remains are the feral horses, the beautiful hiking trails and great beaches. In 1972 the island became a National Park.
We spent a few days anchored off the island… for me, one of the highlights of the ICW trip.Go to Cumberland Island Gallery