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Day Six and Seven: Georgia Coast Passage 2004 - by Dale Davenport


April 2, 2004The city of Savannah in spring

Toward: Ramp South of Darien, Georgia

From: Darien, Georgia City Dock

Distance: 2 n.m

Wind: n/a

Notes: Rebecca Ann towed Sara through General's Cut to a ramp to leave the water.

The house in Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilRebecca Ann's Captain's comments: Jay and I rose earlier than the crew and left them asleep in the motel. We shuttled our vehicles to a nearby public ramp and then motored and towed the boats from the Darien municipal pier to the ramp. We managed to take up all the pier frontage by the ramp just before a Coast Guard boat came up. It was forced to stand off and wait for us to load the first boat. Jay, ever the old merchant mariner at heart, has two definite prejudices: first, he is uncomfortable with the color blue anywhere on any boat and, second, he is uncomfortable with the U.S.C.G. anywhere near his boat. He found very gratifying our first-in-time, first-in-right claim to dock space.

By late morning we had rounded up the crew, loaded the gear and were cruising north on I-95 toward Savannah. Reaching the outskirts of the Savannah metro area, we left Jay's truck and both boats in the parking lot of a vacant business and took the Jeep downtown. The City of Savannah is stunning in the spring. We walked through one of the squares where the flowers were in full bloom. We saw the houseWe visited a couple of bars by the river in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We visited a couple of bars by the river.

Late in the afternoon we left town and drove about a dozen miles east to Tybee Island. It's a great old beach town, mostly just a strip of motels. The area was more than half empty, populated by eager college kids trying to have fun despite the lack of critical mass in the formula of oiled bodies and hot sun. We got a couple of rooms in adecent beach motel and relaxed in the customary manner.


April 3, 2204

Toward: Around Tybee Island, Georgia

From: Sand beach at south end

Distance: About 6 n.m.

Wind: 8-20+ knots

Rebecca Ann's Captain's comments: The next morning Cal and Harry decided to go lie on the beach, and Jay and I decided to go sail. We launched off the beach at the end of a paved street, which served as a public ramp and caused us no problems on the packed sand. We headed across a small bay called Tybee Inlet, about a quarter mile wide and a half mile long, toward a bar lying at the mouth where the inlet borders the ocean.

We anchored and had lunch, waiting for the tide to riseThe tide had started rising, but some of the inlet width dries at low tide and we couldn't pick a clear route as we approached the bar. So we anchored and ate a light lunch, and after half an hour we slipped out through a bit more water. The wind was very light, so I headed down the beach where Cal and Harry were encamped. I got close enough to them for a long range photo. After I had ghosted along for a mile or so, Jay raised me on the VHF to say that the wind was giving him a nice ride about a half mile offshore of the inlet mouth. I reversed course and, sure enough, before long I took a reef and was still at hull speed. When I reached Sara I found she was surrounded by dolphins, one of which surfaced so close that Jay heard it blow.I headed down the beach for a long range photo of Cal and Harry

After a while sailing around that area we decided to go back in. As we approached the bar, I became concerned that I was looking at the back side of breakers. As I went over the bar, it was shallow enough that my rudder kicked up, and the board scraped. I didn't have any real problems and neither had Jay a few minutes earlier. There was light surf, but not enough to threaten a broach. However, in discussions since then we have both agreed that of all the sailing decisions we made on that trip, this was the most gratuitously foolish. Some of the other blunders happened in situations suddenly occurring and we - well, I - made poor, hasty choices. Some mildly negative repercussions arose from risks prudently taken and decisions quite properly made, yet which simply did not work out. That's life; that's sailing. This one, although causing no harm at all, was easily avoided. There we were, having survived the mighty Altamaha two days before, and now just puttering around in and near a harmless little bay. The weather was truly fine. We had unloaded most of the expedition equipment. Foolishly, however, we had inadequate charts, we failed to look at Zydler's very good charlet for the area, we didn't take the time to ask local people about the bar or even probe it ourselves before committing our boats. Reviewing the chartlet afterward showed that we would have found a much better way to get in if we had hugged the shoreline. Yet, we paid no price for the blunder.

Nevertheless, as it happened the passage was not quite over and the account book had yet to be finally balanced. We both sailed down the inlet back to the launch area, Jay in the lead by a fair distance. The wind was just perfect for me as I neared the shore - steady and firm but not rowdy. Jay had beached already and was getting his truck and trailer down to his boat.

Suddenly, as I buzzed the beach and swung around to port very near to shore, the wind shifted and became enraged. Ahead of me to starboard and very close now was the first of a long series of short private piers extending from the shore. Behind me was the beach, the first patch of which was the launch area where Jay was pulling Sara over to her trailer. I tried to come up and tack, but was headed and jammed. Now, I was being shoved toward the first pier and didn't have room to beat my way out.

Rebecca Ann broadsided a high piling topped by the corner of a small building. She balanced and lodged there, the lug held by the wind against the wooden post. I was concerned about tearing the sail and hoped that if I could dislodge the boat I might sail out a bit before I was pushed further along to the next pier in the line.

I succeeded in the dislodging but failed in the escaping. I was pushed backwards, out of control. I was so much out of control, I am not really sure how I wound up where I did. I know I scraped, or fended off and nearly missed, ten more piers before I was rescued on the twelfth one. Jay saw my pathetic situation, bounded across eleven backyards, hurdling low fences, and reached the end of the twelfth pier just as I passed by. His sudden appearance surprised me but mercifully he caught my line and tied me up.

He had to return to his boat as soon as possible, having barely secured it as he bounded off to save me. However, before departing he quietly suggested that perhaps I should forget sailing for the day and instead just put the motor in the well and head on back. He said it with the tone that a very good father uses with his eight year old. Given the level of my self-esteem at that moment, the approach seemed too generous. I took the suggestion. I did have the presence of mind to count the piers on my way back.

I beached my boat and dragged it up on the sand as much as I could. The tide was rising and I put out a stern line and tied it to a big rock on shore, to keep the stern from coming around in the mild surf and damaging the propeller. A little boy sat in the sand nearby digging a hole to Australia. I saw that Jay had Sara on her trailer, but as I went over to watch him pull her out, I realized that although outwardly calm he was very tense. He had spun his truck wheels, digging holes as deep as the one dug by the little boy, and had begun letting air out of his tires in hope of gaining traction for the next, and probably final opportunity for self-help. His truck was too entrenched for tremendous optimism. I cut loose the fifteen feet of chain from my rode, retrieved my Jeep from the parking area, backing it close enough to his truck to connect the two vehicles while barely keeping all four of my wheels on the pavement. Jay and I worked as a team at our tasks, almost wordlessly, but as quickly as possible while the eight-foot tide came in.

Like the waters of the tide on the sand, thoughts flooded my mind. Does a Ford F-250 King Cab Super-Diesel 4WD truck float? If so, how would she sail? If we got rid of the cargo box cover, and raised all four sails from our two boats, stepping the masts down those little stave holes at the corners of the bed, would we have sort of a double schooner rig? Had Bolger ever thought of that? But wouldn't it have a lot of weather helm, and how would we hang a rudder? And, on a more practical note, exactly what method would the real Sara select to murder Jay if he sunk her horse trailer truck off the end of Tybee Island?

I once watched my father - he was a mechanical engineer - tear the drive train out of an International Harvester Scout, trying to move a mobile home. After Jay and I completed our preparations and each got behind the wheel, the recollection of the look on my father's face was in my mind. Jay and I tried to accelerate both vehicles together, pulling his truck out of the ruts and Sara and her trailer away from the Atlantic Ocean.

It worked. We then unhitched my Jeep and used a long line to ease my trailer to the water and back up the slope with Rebecca Ann loaded up, while keeping the Jeep on the pavement. As we used a sealed battery compressor unit and a plug-in pump to fully inflate the huge tires on Jay's truck, the tires whose immense circumference and resultant centrifugal force had created the situation, we stepped back to take some deep breaths and look around. For the first time we saw the large, official sign at the edge of the pavement, bearing words to the effect of "Loose sand - keep vehicles on pavement".

We collected the crew from the beach and headed toward Virginia, our homes and families, determined to put some mileage behind us before we stopped for the night. Still, a long day's drive was in store the next day as we made our way back. We passed over the water that separates Tybee Island from the mainland, over a bridge that gave us a final view of the archetypal landscape of the Georgia coast - broad rivers separated by wide grass marshes, moving slowly out to the Atlantic Ocean. That memory stays with me. It is a fitting image to finish the story of a mildly adventurous small boat passage undertaken with good friends.

The archetypal landscape of the Georgia coast


The Georgia Coast - Waterways and Islands, by Nancy and Tom Zydler

We relied for the whole trip on a cruising guide called The Georgia Coast - Waterways and Islands, by Nancy and Tom Zydler, put out by Seaworthy Publications out of Wisconsin (seaworthy.com). It provides a general discussion of the history of the area, as well as being a decent field guide to plants and animals in the area. That's in addition to its main purpose, which is to tell you where to sail, what to see, what to avoid and where to anchor and dock. Our team had scoured and dissected it for months before we started our trip. It has dozens of very large scale chartlets, one of which had provided us the reassuring buoy number mentioned in the Day Five segment. The only time it let us down was in mixing the phone number of the motel we selected with the address of another. That puzzled us for a while until we realized the error. We tested the book time and time again, so this one lapse is extremely minor in context. I strongly recommend the guide - it's far more useful than the other, better known book.

You can skip the rest if you have no interest in intellectual property law matters. But let me mention a little exchange I had with the publisher of the guide. Nick felt that a map of our route would be useful for readers to follow. The guide has a small scale, simplified map of the entire coastal area in Georgia in addition to the chartlets. I liked the map because it shows the main route without having all the extraneous data of a roadmap. And, some of the chartlets, typically covering an area four by five miles on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch page, show the tricky spots I have mentioned. I wanted you to see them, and when I selected a few key ones and photographed them lying on my desk, it looked like they would work just fine in this cruise story. So, I responsibly emailed the publisher and asked for permission to use the materials. Permission was promptly albeit courteously denied as to free use, although a fee schedule was provided that would have allowed you all to see the materials if we paid $15 per chart, and then either pulled them off this site within one year or paid up for each subsequent year. They said the authors had developed the chartlets by a tedious survey, most of it by dinghy and much of it with leadline. (I believe that, because when you look at the incredible detail of the chartlets, there would be no other way to do it. It's pretty amazing.) Although we were surprised at first, and moved for a rehearing, emphasizing that nobody is making money off this site and if we added all the viewers up and their uncles, too, there aren't enough people involved to justify the cost. I also tried to point out that my rave review here might sell the book better if readers could see for themselves. No luck.

But, upon further consideration, I think imposing a charge regardless does make good sense. A publisher simply cannot justify the cost of vetting individual requests, and the fee requested is indeed modest. I told the publisher no thanks, but promised to put a commercial in this write-up, which said promise I hereby discharge by repeating that if you sail that coast, buy that book. I'll certainly see if Nancy Zydler has spent days in her dinghy checking out any other serious waters where I plan to sail.


I'd like to thank Dale for putting together this delightful and inspiring account. He shows just how much fun you can have in one of these boats. I know he's done another cruise since this one, so maybe we'll get to hear about that soon.

Anyone who has a Caledonia Yawl sailing story they'd be happy to share on this site, please contact me via the Forum - Thanks, Nick Grainger, Site Creator.

Rebecca Ann's hull was built by Geoff Kerr. Dale Davenport fitted her out and did all the finishing work. You can learn all about her here.
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