Saturday, November 13, 2010

Savannah Georgia

The guidebooks say that if you only call on one port on the East Coast make it Savannah.  I would agree but it isn't that easy.

We made the sea buoy at about 2100 hours.  As is my standard procedure I did a security call announcing that three sailboats were headed up the Savannah River.  I got an immediate response from a Coast Guard small boat that announced he had us all in sight and was going to cut us off and head up the channel in front of us.  Since it was Veteran's Day (and my birthday) I thanked him for his service.  Actually, I always thank the Coast Guard and Navy Ships for their service.  He seemed surprised.

About a minute later I got a radio call from the Savannah Pilots.  They go by numbers, so the call was from Savannah Pilot 41 (or some number like that.)  He indicated that he was bringing a deep draft tanker down the channel and that there were two more deep draft vessels right behind him.  Since I have AIS I could see his progress (and one hopes, he could see mine) and we agreed that the sailboats would go outside the channel at the meeting point.  Meeting tankers is always weird.  Cruise ships are lighted up like Christmas trees.  Most cargo ships have at least a dozen working lights down the side.  But tankers rarely have anything but side and white all around lights.  (Most ships do not have "bow" lights, they carry their red and green lights on the "house" in the stern.  This really confused me when I started going out into the ocean.)  So here we are looking at a big dark blot on the water with just three lights.  Pretty spooky.  No sooner did the tanker go by then the next pilot called to arrange the meeting.  And then the third ship.

We continued up the river for several miles and then got another call.  This time it was an inbound ship.  He told us that he did not expect to catch up to us.  I told him we knew nothing about Savannah and could he help us find a place to anchor or dock.  He said sure.  Well of course after coming up a very dark river for about an hour we reach the LPG terminal.  It is so brightly lit that I start having trouble seeing the river and the marks.  So I look over my shoulder just as the radio crackles.  Yup, the ship is right behind us!.  At this point the river does a sharp bend to the left and then right and of course narrows down.  The pilot walked us through the pass on the radio, reduced his speed to as to not wake us, and then told me to drop in behind him and he would lead us up the river.  As we came around the second bend I see his tugs waiting for him.  So we drop back a little while they get tied up and follow the parade up the river.   The pilot tells us to do a wide pass on his starboard side and the tugs start pushing him into his berth.  They really churned up the river.

One frustration on the ICW is boats constantly calling on the radio to ask if you want a "slow pass."  Like I would say, "No, hit the throttles, get up on a plane, blast by and throw me out of the channel."  Then of course you are supposed to thank the boat for the slow pass.  In other words thank him for doing what he was supposed to do in the first place.  But I admit the devil made me do it.  As the cargo ship cleared my bow I thanked him for the slow pass.

As we continued up we got a VHF call from a outbound pilot.  I figured that we were getting pretty good at this so the meet would not be a big deal.  Imagine my surprise when the pilot started telling us which docks were full and which had spaces where we could dock.  We finally made downtown at about 0200 and threw some lines around the dock.

The down side of Savannah is that there is no place to anchor and very few places to dock.  The three "marinas" are actually just face docks in front of hotels and they charge $3.00 per foot per night.  Strangely there never seem to be any boats at the dock.  The city dock charges $1.50 per foot but only has space for about 8 boats.  Fortunately we were able to raft up for a couple of hours and then take over the spaces vacated by the departing boats.

Downtown Savannah is right at the dock.  Since this is a very long post already I will describe it in another post.

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