05/10/2013, Two Way Boat Yard - Darien, GA
Rebuilding the mast systems required more hours of research and shopping than actual work, and the project dominated every free day of my life for over four months. Normally, a prudent boat owner would pick one project at a time, but masts don't easily come down and are even less likely to be transported to one's back yard allowing for easy access. I felt that I had no choice but to strip the mast and spreaders down to the bare aluminum shell and start over.
Standing Rigging - This is the high grade stainless steel wires and turnbuckles that hold the mast aloft. One failure of a single wire fitting, clevis pin, cotter pin, or turnbuckle will result in demasting of a sailboat, no exceptions. Roma's standing rigging was 39 years old and showing signs of corrosion and wear due to age and the past 12 years at the ocean. The existing rigging was removed and measured in order to shop for competitive pricing. This was the first part of the mast system to be removed and the new rigging would not be reinstalled until the mast was transported back to the coast and ready to be raised.
Running Rigging - Primarily, these are the lines used to raise and control the sails. Halyards are lines used to raise and hold the sails in position while sailing. With the advent of hollow aluminum masts many boats, including Roma, utilize internal halyards which run inside the mast exiting at the top and near the bottom of the mast. Roma actually uses a combination wire/rope halyard and therefore cannot easily be replaced if the mast is rigged upright on the boat. In addition to replacing the two internal wire/rope halyards I have always wanted to add a third halyard for flying a spinnaker. I chose to do this by shackling a high quality air block to the masthead and using an all rope external halyard. Additionally, I've replaced the topping lift which is another external line used to hold the aft end of the boom in place when the mainsail is down.
Electrical - Roma's electrical wiring was simply "shot," meaning that none of her mast lights worked. Two navigation lights are required on any sailboat mast when using the boat at night. Midway up the mast or near the spreaders is the steaming light. Atop the masthead is the anchor light. Additional lights on Roma are the dock lights mounted on the spreaders. Dock lights are sometimes added as a combo light with the steaming light to provide illumination on the boat's forepeak or bow area. I decided to go with separate dock lights mounted on each spreader with one pointed slightly down to provide light on the bow area and one shinning straight ahead for lighting up the water ahead of the boat. One issue with night navigation is running over crab pots which are usually dropped in the channel - the very area a boat is trying to navigate.
I opted to replace all the lights with modern LED type fixtures and bulbs in order to minimize electrical output. Additionally, Roma's DC wiring consisted of a red or "hot" wire to all the lights which were then grounded directly to the mast. This might have been the standard in 1974, but it also provided a direct path to the boat's batteries and other electrical systems if there is a lightning strike. I added a separate black or ground wire for all lighting fixture and thus eliminated the mast as a DC electrical ground. The mast still provides service as a lightning grounding device, but at least the grounding methods are separated.
Electronics - Prior to my purchase of Roma, she was equipped with a wind instrument which one of the previous owners had removed. I've long wanted a wind instrument with a cockpit gauge to show wind speed and direction. My birthday present from Susan and Cail was a Clipper Model CL-W wind instrument. Needless to say, Roma and her skipper are quite pleased. Since the mast is removed from Roma this is the perfect time to install the masthead transducer needed to provide data for the wind instrument.
I also decided to add a digital television antenna to the mast during the renovation project. We've learned that most marinas do not have cable TV so boaters must rely on their own antenna to receive local television stations. Here I opted for a 10" Glomex Model GXV9123 with gain control.
My plan was to complete the mast renovation and launch Roma in time to participate in the Golden Isles Sailing Club's annual Coastal Cup Race on May 18. With all the projects complete I loaded the 32' mast on my 24' trailer and headed back to Two-Way Boatyard near Darien on May 8. Over the next two days I added the new standing rigging to the mast, and with the help of the crew at the boatyard raised the mast prior to "splashing" at high tide on Friday May 10. Shortly after loading Roma and installing the sails I headed off for the three hour trip to Morningstar Marina at Golden Isles located on the Frederica River at St. Simon's Island.
CLICK HERE FOR PICTURES OF THE BEFORE AND AFTER MAST REBUILDING
There was still a great deal of work to do, but Roma was once again in her element and it felt good to be back at the helm after five months of dry dock.
05/01/2013, Two Way Boat Yard - Darien, Georgia
ROMA was pulled at Two-Way Boatyard in early December 2012 in preparations for bottom paint and some much needed fiberglass work in the engine compartment and centerboard well. While ROMA is on the hard, I'm taking the opportunity to rebuild all systems on the mast. This will include: adding a wind instrument transducer with a readout gauge in the cockpit; standing rigging including adding a spinnaker halyard; topping lift; running rigging; new LED anchor, steaming, and dock lights, and a digital TV antenna.
Click here for photos of ROMA's new bottom paint and fiberglass work.
Masts are not things that you remove very often from a sailboat. When I purchased ROMA 13 years ago her rigging was marginally ok, but even then the internal wiring was not working properly. Fortunately, I did have a working steaming light. The wind instrument had been removed by the first owner and the rigging was 26 years old. Zoom forward to 2013 and the running rigging or stainless steel wiring, which supports the mast, is showing signs of rust in critical areas. Every piece of standing rigging, or ropes used to raise and control the sails is just worn out from nearly 40 years of use and exposure to the weather.
Fortunately I own a trailer large enough to transport the mast back home for the rebuilding project. Otherwise I would have to make dozens of trips to the coast to complete the rebuild project. I have rigged two new sailboats over my years of sailing, but have never completely re-rigged and upgraded the wiring, lights, & electronics at the same time. After making it safely home transporting a 32' mast on a 24' trailer, I began the task of removing, measuring, and documenting every system on the mast. By early January 2013 I was ready to start the research and educational process necessary to bring ROMA's mast up to current codes and standards.
12/03/2012, Darien, Georgia
Monday would prove to be a very long day as ROMA had to be prepared to be pulled at high tide just about 11:00AM. This meant removing the Bimini, Sails, Boom, and everything we did not want to leave on the boat for the next few months.
As planned, ROMA was successfully pulled, and after a short trip across the boatyard was blocked on stands. She was immediately pressure washed to remove as much slime, barnacles, and loose paint as possible before drying out.
After the pressure washing, it was very clear why the diver had advised us that the paint was in bad condition when he cleaned the bottom in early November. The salt water environment is very harsh with organisms constantly trying to attach themselves to the boat's bottom. Historically, boats have used copper as a natural repellant to marine growth. In olden days ships would actually be covered below the water line with thin sheets of copper. Modern vessels are painted with a marine grade paint containing up to 65% solid copper. The key to longevity is multiple coats of paint, but at $200-$300 per gallon most boats get only 2-3 coats at a time. A good bottom paint job will last 2-3 years.
In addition to repainting the bottom and having some fiberglass work done, I also planned to completely rebuild all the mast systems. This would include replacing the running rigging (halyards & topping lift), standing rigging (steel cables that hold the mast up - forestay, backstays, upper and lower shrouds), electronics (wind instrument), and lights (steaming, dock, and anchor lights) with LED type, as well as all the internal electrical wiring in the mast. This meant that the mast would be dropped and strapped onto a trailer and taken back home to Warrenton, GA where I would complete the work.
By 3:00PM we were ready to hit the road with the mast in tow. We had to travel back to Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island in Savannah to pick up our second vehicle. It was an unusually long and slow trip because of the side trip through Savannah at rush hour, and pulling a trailer. The usual 4 hour trip home turned into an over 6 hour trip as we arrived back home around 9:30PM.
Early Friday to late Monday night was four long days, which I will never do again! We accomplished everything planned, but it was just too much on this seasoned skipper and his first mate. But, the long trip down the ICW from Savannah to Darien was a wonderful experience. I've now traveled the entire coastline of Georgia on the inside (ICW) and outside in the open ocean. ROMA is safely blocked and ready for much needed repairs below the waterline, and the mast is at home where I can more conveniently work on it during the winter months. Come Spring, we will once again be ready to enjoy sailing and exploring the Southeast coastal area on the decks on ROMA.
12/02/2012, Darien, GA
In order to make the 55 miles/10 hour trip from Sunbury Crab Company Marina on the Medway River to Two-Way Boat Yard on the Altamaha River we had to depart an hour before sunrise. Normally we do not sail at night, but choices were to sail an hour before sunrise or possibly an hour after sunset. We also had to travel through the infamously shallow Little Mud River before low tide.
Our early rise was rewarded by a magnificent sunrise as we approached St. Catherine's Sound. By 7:00AM we were back in the ICW headed south. The first 10 miles had us navigating behind St. Catherine's Island before reaching Sapelo Sound.
I've long been fascinated with the names of the rivers, creeks, islands, and hammocks along our unique coastline. On this day we will sail through or pass Walburg Island, Cattle Pen Creek, Wahoo River, Blackbeard's Island, Dog Hammock Spit, Old Teakettle Creek, Doboy Sound, Rockdedundy Island, and Buttermilk Sound just to mention a few.
Shortly before 1:00PM and with a mid-high tide falling we entered the north end of Little Mud River. Within 30 minutes we were pass the shallow area and entering Altamaha Sound. The lowest water level noted was 11.2'. We were now within two hours of Two Way Marina & Boat Yard on the South Altamaha River.
Click here for photos of our trip down the ICW from Sunbury to Darien.
By 3:30PM we were safely tied up at the docks and ready a relaxing evening in a local hotel room. On Monday I would come back to the boatyard to assist with pulling ROMA and dropping her mast.
12/01/2012, Sunbury, GA
Picture above is the owner of Sunbury Crab Company,Elaine Maley, Captain Hugh & Admiral Suze.
In early December, Susan and I prepared to head down the ICW to Two-Way Boatyard to have ROMA pulled for unscheduled bottom work. A few weeks earlier our diver had reported a problem with the bottom paint, which required immediate attention.
We had only been at Delegal Creek Marina for three months, but the "political" situation in the Landings had led our group of friends to make the tough decision to relocate to other marinas before the end of the year. This was a perfect opportunity for us to have ROMA pulled to take care of several maintenance issues.
I've sailed the entire Georgia coast outside in the open ocean and much of the ICW. However, I'd never traveled the ICW between Savannah and Darien. The total distance from Delegal Creek Marina to Two-Way Boatyard is 84 miles, which would take us about 14 hours to travel. We were not going to travel at night in unfamiliar waters and didn't want to anchor out overnight. This meant the trip would be made over a 2-day period.
Located on the Medway River about 28 miles south of Savannah is Sunbury Crab Company. An easy 5 hour trip on Saturday to Sunbury would leave us a 9 hour trip on Sunday to Two-Way Boatyard.
The first leg of the trip had us traveling about 15 miles behind Ossabaw Island first in the Ogeechee River, then the Florida Passage and Bear River before reaching St. Catherine's Sound around noon. We motor sailed whenever possible using only the smaller 75% Genoa Jib. The sail choice proved to be a good one because crossing the Sound with 15 MPH wind and an opposing tide was a little rough.
Click the link below for video of sv ROMA crossing St. Catherine's Sound.
Crossing St. Catherine's Sound
Suze and ROMA fared well and by 2:00PM we were headed up the Medway River to Sunbury. I was not able to find the exact channel crossing about 6 miles up the river and consequently hit bottom twice. ROMA's swing keel was again allowed us to navigate in water less than 6 feet in depth. By 3:30PM we were safely tied up at the dock.
Sunbury Crab Company & Marina is a story unto itself. The family owned and operated marina and restaurant are hidden gems along the Georgia coast and ICW. Owners Elaine and Bernard Maley and their sons handle every chore from catching the seafood, to cooking, tending the bar, operating the marina, and even playing in the house band.
Our good sailing friends, Joe and Pat Brasfield drove down from Savannah to experience a wonderful evening of fresh seafood at Sunbury Crab Company. "Picking the Blues" and fresh steamed blue crabs aren't just experienced here, they are celebrated. Elaine joined our table after dinner and shared the story of her family's dream at Sunbury Crab Company. Live music, great seafood, good company and a beautiful setting all combine to give this place a feel of the Keys.
Click for photos of our Layover at Sunbury Crab Company Marina.
We turned in early because tomorrow's trip would have to start an hour before sunrise so we could navigate the infamously shallow Little Mud River section of the ICW before low tide.
11/10/2012, Savannah, Georgia
St. Simon's Island and Brunswick have been ROMA's home ports for over 12 years and we have sailed everywhere reachable within a day from these locations. Even though Savannah is only 80 miles north and a short car trip from SSI, it is 12-14 hour open ocean voyage by sailboat, or a two day trip up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). A good rule of thumb is that a one hour trip by car will take a day on a sailboat.
We have long wanted to visit River Street in Savannah by sailboat, so one of our main reasons for moving ROMA to Savannah at the end of the summer was to position ourselves closer to new sailing destinations including Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, and Charleston. I also have an assignment for Southwinds Magazine to write an article about cruising in and around Savannah.
In early November, on a perfect fall weekend, we set sail from Delegal Creek Marina for the 6 hour trip to River Street. You might wonder why, if we are docked at a marina in Savannah ,will it take half a day to sail to ...... Savannah? The straight line distance from Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island to River Street in downtown Savannah is 13 miles, or about 20 minutes by car, but the track by boat is over 35 miles up the ICW which follows winding and twisting rivers, creeks, and canals.
The ICW or water route through Savannah is as interesting and mysterious as many of the names suggest. Our trip started south of the city on Delegal Creek in Ossabaw Sound and first brought us into the Little Ogeechee and Vernon Rivers just north of Hell's Gate, the infamous made-made cut through the western end of Ossabaw Sound . At Possum Point we turned into the Burnside River where we soon passed the confluence of Moon River, and yes there is actually a Moon River.
Savannah native Johnny Mercer penned the lyrics for Moon River, the hit song composed by Henry Mancini and sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 Academy Award Winning movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Mercer had a summer home on Burnside Island, which is bordered on its northern shore by Moon River. It is difficult to pass through Moon River without "Moon River, wider than a mile, I'm crossing you in style some day" dancing in your mind.
After passing Moon River and entering Skidaway Narrows near Pigeon Island boaters pass under one of the last two drawbridges remaining in Georgia. A new high span bridge is under construction on Diamond Causeway and within a few months Skidaway Narrows Drawbridge will pass into history. It will be a sad day when the drawbridges are gone. Each seems to have its own personality and there is something special about hailing the bridge tender by radio and seeing the massive roadway rise to allow your sailboat to pass underneath. You know all eyes are on you and for this brief moment time seems to stands still.
(Click here for video of ROMA passing underneath Skidaway Narrows Drawbridge)
The next ten miles of the ICW follows Skidaway River as the waterway passes between Skidaway Island to the east and Isle of Hope to the west. Isle of Hope is home to the Wormsloe Historical Site and many picturesque coastal homes overlooking the waterway. Wormsloe was the colonial plantation home of Noble Jones, one of the original settlers of Georgia along with General James Oglethorpe, the colony's founder. Wormsloe was purchased by the state in 1973 and now most of the original plantation is a state park. By car, visitors enter a mile long drive lined with live oaks and immediately think "Run Forest Run" because this was the location of the iconic scene from the 1994 hit movie Forest Gump. Who can forget Jenny yelling "Run Forest Run?"
Past Isle of Hope Marina and Burntpot Island is Runaway Negro Creek and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO). SkIO is also home for R/V SAVANNAH, a state of the art oceanographic research ship, which provides her crew of scientists a platform for conducting "biological, chemical, physical, and geological oceanographic studies in estuarine and continental shelf waters throughout the southeastern US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts." SkIO was founded in 1967 on land donated by philanthropist Robert Roebling who was a prize cattle breeder and the great grandson of John A. Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge.
John A. Roebling was an engineer who emigrated from Germany in 1832, and became a pioneer of suspension bridge technology. He built the Niagara Suspension Bridge, the first to carry a steam train. Roebling founded a wire cable company, which provided for the family's fortune. The John A. Roebling's Sons Company was carried on by subsequent generations, and had contracts to provide cable for George Washington and Golden Gate Bridges, among others.
Robert Roebling developed a deep love for the sea and shortly after his marriage in 1925 he commissioned the construction of a 170' three-masted schooner, the BLACK DOUGLAS. Built at the Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine, and launched in 1930, she is one of the largest steel-hulled schooners ever built.
Robert and his wife Dorothy also built their home, Landfall, near Trenton, New Jersey and the family's foundry. By the late 1920s the Great Depression was worsening and a failed attempt to kidnap their children after the famous Lindbergh kidnapping convinced Robert that his family could no longer be safe at Landfall. Robert first visited Skidaway Island while on a hunting trip and fell in love with Modena Plantation on the north end of the island. He promptly purchased the plantation and by 1936 the family was living on BLACK DOUGLAS tied up at the north pier at Modena Plantation while the plantation was being restored.
In 1996 the BLACK DOUGLAS returned to her original dock on Skidaway Island to celebrate the 66th year of her commissioning and as part of the official opening ceremonies of the yachting events of the 1996 Olympics. BLACK DOUGLAS is currently owned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
The Skidaway River gives way to the Wilmington River just past SkIO at the north end of Skidaway Island. Whitemarsh Island with the prestigious Savannah Yacht Club is to the east and the maritime community of Thunderbolt lies to the west. Thunderbolt is a small town of less than three thousand, but is home to a large shrimping fleet and several excellent seafood restaurants. Thunderbolt Marina, Hinckley Yacht Services and Morningstar Bahia Blue Marina line the shore along this area of the ICW and provide service to small and large vessels of all makes from around the world. Thunderbolt is the heart of Savannah's recreational marine industry.
After passing under the Highway 80/Victory Drive Bridge and the causeway to Tybee Island, the ICW passes Bonaventure Cemetery. Bonaventure was once a 600 acre plantation and much of the grounds were planted in Live Oaks over a hundred years ago. For over 50 years an unassuming statue stood in Bonaventure Cemetery until Savannah photographer Jack Leigh chose "The Bird Girl" as his cover shot for the 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. The Bird Girl and Bonaventure Cemetery became world famous and the cemetery is one of the top tourist attractions for Savannah visitors.
Past Bonaventure Cemetery and its peaceful walkway and benches overlooking the ICW, boaters encounter Causton Bluff - Sam Varnedoe Drawbridge on Island Expressway, which is actually two bridges since the roadway is four lanes wide. The drawbridge is decades old, cantankerous, and expensive for the City of Savannah to operate. In 2011, the state unveiled plans to eventually replace the drawbridge with a $43 million high span bridge over the ICW. Once closed, coastal Georgia will lose its last drawbridge.
Skipper James Ludwig of the sailboat LOVE OF MY LIFE will probably argue not soon enough. In 2002, he was traveling down the ICW when he contacted the bridge operator, Wesley Bowers, via radio and requested that the bridge be raised to allow him passage underneath. Unfortunately, the bridge was lowered too soon and LOVE OF MY LIFE was dismasted.
Miraculously, Ludwig nor his wife were injured as their ship's mast and rigging crashed down upon them, but their tragedy continued when the City of Savannah refused to pay for the nearly $50,000 of damages and the bridge operator blamed the problem on the skipper of the boat. The legal battle raged for over 6 years and actually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before it was ruled that Savannah (Chatham County) was not entitled to sovereign immunity, and therefore responsible for all damages.
(Click here for video of passing under Causton Bluff Drawbridge)
As the ICW winds through pristine salt marshes with its cordgrass gracefully blowing in the wind, most boaters are unaware that they are witnessing one of the world's greatest ecosystems and estuaries. Georgia's coastline contains almost one third of the total saltwater marshes of the entire Atlantic coast. Originally formed by melting glaciers, the tidal pools or lagoons formed behind a series of barrier islands and contain a mixture of salt and fresh water.
Few plants can survive in such a hostile environment, but the smooth cordgrass actually flourishes here. Immortalized in the poem "The Marshes of Glynn," author Sidney Lanier captured the marvel of the marshes in word, perhaps better than even pictures can reveal, as he sought to give strength and encouragement to his fellow Southerners following the destruction of their country in the War Between the States. The marshes have been called the cradle of the sea and often stretch along Georgia's coast from horizon to horizon.
The Wilmington River enters the Savannah River at Elba Island to the southeast of Savannah. Elba Island is owned by Southern Liquid Natural Gas (SLNG) and used as a receiving terminal for providing domestic storage to international producers of LNG. The facility has a capacity of 11.5 billion cubic feet and is connected to four major pipelines that service the southeast and mid-Atlantic markets.
After exiting the Elba Island Cut into the Savannah River at ICW Mile 576 there are still eight miles to travel upriver before reaching River Street and downtown Savannah, and this can prove to be the most challenging stretch of the trip. Savannah is ranked as the fourth busiest seaport in North America, and seaport means ships - big ships! You don't need a navigation class to figure out that the Savannah River is the only water artery connecting the massive shipping terminals at Garden City, just above Savannah with the ocean.
Upon entering the Savannah River the prudent boater looks left and right and prays not to see a ship. However, being a major seaport means you are going to either meet or be passed by one or more ships when sailing this stretch of the Savannah River - without fail! The rules of navigation here are fairly simple - get out of the way.
As soon as the ship's pilot spots your boat ahead, he hails you on the radio and advises which way he will pass, and which side of the channel you are to favor. Since ROMA only draws 6 feet, I move beyond the channel into water around 15-20 feet in depth. I figure the "big boy" can't get me because it's too shallow for him. Actually it's all very safe, but still a bit of a white knuckle time.
The ships actually create very little wake, but the turbulence caused by the propellers and natural river current can be extreme. Once, after a ship passed, we moved back to center channel too soon and were caught in this turbulence. It is unnerving to have your boat whipped around as if the sea gods are taking their vengeance out on you. The lesson learned from this experience was to avoid the prop wash by not following directly in a ship's path.
Approaching River Street is a busy and exciting time with water taxis, riverboat cruises, cargo ships, tug boats, tall ships, and recreational boats all vying for a safe course and formulating docking plans. There are no full service marinas serving the downtown Savannah Riverfront, but the area is serviced by four independently managed parallel docks. The City of Savannah operates a municipal dock at the center of River Street, River Street Market Place operates a private dock on the lower end of River Street, and two docks are operated by the Hyatt and Westin Hotels on either side of the river.
The Savannah City docks are more centrally located than the other facilities and offer free daytime dockage unless an American Cruise Lines ship is scheduled to arrive. These 250' small cruise ships are now visiting Savannah once a week, and travel the ICW calling on historic coastal ports of call such as Charleston, Beaufort, Savannah, Jekyll Island, and Fernandina.
We opted to stay at the Hyatt Hotel Dock, which has better overnight accommodations for cruisers than the City Docks or Market Street Docks. Before reaching River Street we were joined by a second sailboat, our friends Joe and Pat Brasfield on SABRINA, who departed from Sail Harbor Marina on Wilmington Island. Neither the Hyatt Hotel, nor any of the facilities on River Street have a dedicated dockmaster on duty, so boaters are usually on their own to negotiate docking.
Docking in a strong current is always challenging, so we prefer to motor past a given docking area prior to actually making our final approach. This allows us to test the current, determine how much throttle will be needed, and also gauge the available space on the dock. We decided ahead of time that SABRINA should dock first since she was the larger vessel. This would allow her skipper maximum docking area for maneuvering.
Once safely tied up at the downriver end of the dock, Joe, would assist me since I was docking in a a more confined area between SABRINA and another sailboat on the upriver end of the dock. The plan worked perfectly, and in short order both boats were safely tied along the Hyatt Hotel Dock.
SABRINA is a first generation Hinckley Bermuda 40, hull #11, and in the world of sailing the Bermuda 40 is a legendary boat. The Bermuda 40 is a Bill Trippe, Jr. design and considered by sailing purists as the one of the most classic sailboats of all time. At the very least SABRINA is major eye candy for everyone who appreciates the beauty of a sailboat. ROMA, a Seafarer 29, is a McCurdy/Rhodes design and not a slouch in the classic sailboat category, so we caused quite a stir among the tourists on River Street.
River Street is Savannah's version of Mallory Square in Key West. Marketed as Savannah's Riverfront - The Way to Experience Savannah, visitors are greeted with an array of shops, restaurants, historical landmarks, land and water tours, and nightlife - all against the backdrop of a very busy seaport as cargo ships pass just a few hundred feet from the crowded walkways. This is where the rich history of Georgia's oldest city meets the reality of the 21 century.
Two tall ships, the PEACEMAKER and ROSEWAY call Savannah their homeport for parts of the year and add greatly to the ambiance of River Street. PEACEMAKER is a 124' Barquentine built on the riverbanks of Brazil in 1989. Her original owner and designer was a wealthy Brazilian industrialist who envisioned sailing the Caribbean with his family. His initial voyage in the South Atlantic proved more challenging than his vision and the ship was docked at Palmer Johnson's in Savannah until purchased by the Twelve Tribes religious group in 2000. PEACEMAKER offers a seagoing representation of the life of peace and unity of the group and also provides opportunities for their youth to learn many valuable and practical skills, not only in rigging, sail-making, sailing, navigation, but also in marine mechanics and carpentry. While docked in Savannah, PEACEMAKER is open for free tours on most days.
ROSEWAY is a 137' pilot schooner built in 1925 for the specific purpose of beating the Nova Scotians in the international fishing vessel races of the 1920s and 1930s. The ROSEWAY was the last pilot schooner in the United States when she was retired in 1973, and the last Grand Banks schooner built in Essex. ROSEWAY is a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark. She travels annually between her winter and summer ports in St. Croix and Boston, and spends six weeks in Savannah twice a year during the transitional voyages. While docked in Savannah at the Westin Hotel ROSEWAY is available for private events and conducts paid tours on the Savannah River with proceeds going to the World Ocean School organization to support under-served youth in the local community.
Our first trip to River Street was a great success, and on our return voyage to our home marinas we were already planning the next trip on New Years Eve. Savannah and her River Front have extended Southern hospitality to seafarers and tourists for hundreds of years. Her streets, paved with ballast stones from ancient sailing ships, provide a connection with the maritime past that is undeniable.
Over 12 million visitors are attracted to the city annually, and most come face to face with the rich history at Savannah's Riverfront. River Street was once the financial and commercial center of the city as tall sailing ships loaded goods such as cotton, indigo, and rice headed for ports around the world.
Through two devastating fires, occupation by foreign armies in the Revolutionary War and War of Northern Aggression, epidemics, and hurricanes Savannah has always proven to be resilient. Most of the original stores and warehouses between Bay & River Street have been preserved and today River Street is now the centerpiece of Savannah's $2 billion annual tourism industry.
Cruisers traveling the ICW will find Savannah an interesting and unique stopover on their travels. In addition to staying at one of the River Street docks, boaters can also lay over at one of the full service marinas in Thunderbolt where easy day trips can be made by boat, car, or tour bus. Boats traveling offshore can access the Savannah River inlet at Tybee Roads, but need to be alert for strong currents and major ship traffic. Cruisers traveling north will find it more advisable to enter Wassaw Sound to the Wilmington River and Thunderbolt.
Savannah and her waterways are beckoning the casual cruiser looking for a taste of history and a good dose of Southern hospitality. Most visitors to Georgia's oldest city come back time and time again. Odds are Savannah will become a regular stop on any cruiser's itinerary after their first visit.
(Click here for pictures of ROMA & SABRINA Sailing to River Street - Savannah, GA)
10/28/2012, Savannah, GA
The last weekend of October 2012 will long be associated with Hurricane Sandy, the tragic loss of HMS Bounty, and the destruction along the mid-Atlantic shoreline from Sandy's landfall. Fortunately for us folks in Georgia, the "Bite" saved us once again as the storm passed well off our shoreline.
As Hurricane Sandy was headed north from Florida, I was driving to the coast to spend the weekend on Roma and to prepare her in case the storm turned inland. Friday and Saturday we experienced winds exceeding 35 mph with occasional stronger gusts. Not necessarily the kind of weather for sailing, but considering the alternatives it wasn't too bad.
I was more than happy to complete a couple projects on Roma until the storm passed by Savannah late Saturday night. Sunday brought clearing skies, cooler temperatures, and moderate winds in the 15-25 mph range, or as we say - "just right for sailing."
I did feel somewhat guilty going sailing while most of the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states were preparing for one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the area. Weather analysts had already named this super-storm "Frankenstorm" because it would most likely make landfall on or near Halloween.
I don't believe in tempting the sea gods or mother nature but: 1) Hurricane Sandy had passed us by, 2) the weather was perfect for sailing, 3) I happen to have a sailboat, and 4) I really needed to go sailing.
Just past high tide about 11:00AM, Joe Brasfield - good friend and skipper of s/v Sabrina, and I pushed off from the dock at Delegal Creek Marina and headed south for Hell's Gate on the backside of Ossabaw Sound. Hell's Gate is a man-made cut of about ½ mile in length through Raccoon Key connecting the North and South Channels of Ossabaw Sound. The cut saves cruisers running the ICW a disance of over 6 miles out and 6 miles back in Ossabaw Sound.
Hell's Gate is not an unique terminology for the cut through Raccoon Key. Many areas around the country have transitional water areas with this notorious name, which is generally associated with strong, confused, or potentially dangerous current.
Ossabaw Sound's Hell's Gate is generally narrow and shallow if traversed at low tide. With a flood or ebb tide running the current becomes the issue. Caution must be taken to remain near the center of the cut to avoid shoaling near Marker G89. Fortunately, we only saw less than 10' of water in this area one time.
Once we cleared the south end of Hell's Gate at Markers G91 and R92 we continued to sail south up the Ogeechee River near Marker R94 before turning back to sail the south channel of Ossabaw Sound. There is plenty of deep water for sailing in the south channel between Egg Island Shoal and Raccoon Key. We continued to make our way east towards Bradley Point on the north end of Ossabaw Island. Bradley Point is a popular beach area for boaters so we pushed Roma as close as possible to the beach to check out the water depths.
Once we cleared Bradley Point we were in the ocean and headed out to Marker G1 to start our turn into the North Channel of Ossabaw Sound. This is more familiar territory since we have sailed three boats through this channel over the past four months.
As we turned into the North Channel, our point of sail changed from a broad reach to a beam reach, and later to a close haul. Even though the weather forecast was for diminishing winds later in the afternoon we were experiencing the strongest winds of the day. Fortunately, I had swapped out my head sail from the 150% Genoa to my 75% jib before leaving the docks. With a full main and the 75% jib we were set up perfectly for the 15-20mph winds.
On our previous trips into Ossabaw we were sailing on a broad reach with the wind behind us. Now the wind was dead off our bow which meant tacking all the way back to the entrance to Delegal Creek. We learned that there is plenty of water for sailing in both the North and South Channels of Ossabaw Sound.
We sailed back into Delegal Creek about 4:00PM with the tide flooding and experienced no problems with depth at the entrance to the creek. Docking was relatively easy as the current was running towards us as we approached the slip.
Roma performed excellent over the 18.32 mile circumnavigation of Ossabaw Sound.
09/04/2012, Delegal Creek Marina, Skidaway Island
Sailboats are made to travel and experience the adventure of new ports, but's it still a bittersweet moment when you leave a place you've grown to call a second home. After 12 years in the Golden Isles and Brunswick area, we made the difficult decision to move s/v Roma to Delegal Creek Marina in The Landings on Skidaway Island, Georgia.
Several of our "C-Dock" friends from Morningstar have already moved to Delegal Creek Marina and we thought this would be a great opportunity to relocate so we can experience Savannah, Hilton Head, and Beaufort by water.
Final preparations for the trip were completed in August and all that remained was hoping for a perfect weather window. Hurricane Isaac threatened to spoil our plans but the storm moved into the Gulf and made landfall near New Orleans just before Labor Day, and then traveled into the heartland and away from the Southeast coastal area.
The forecast for Sunday September 2 was for mostly clear skies and favorable but light winds of 8-10 mph blowing from the Southeast. The plan was to buddy sail with Steve Barrow on s/v Elbaba, who was also moving to Delegal Creek Marina. Crewing with me on s/v Roma was Joe Brasfield, the skipper of Sabrina. We needed to depart at 8:30AM in order to arrive 11 hours later at Delegal Creek Marina at mid-tide or around 7:30PM.
Less than five minutes away from Morningstar Marina, Steve reported an overheating problem with his engine on s/v Elbaba and had to turn back. Although we were disappointed for Steve it was much better that the issue occurred where he could make a safe return to the marina.
Facing a light headwind in the Frederica River and a flood tide on our bow, we raised the mainsail and never looked back. By 9:00AM s/v Roma was passing the St. Simon's Lighthouse for the last time, at least in this chapter of her life. At 10:30AM we reached marker R4 and made the 90° turn north on a course of 29°. We were already enjoying winds of 6-8 miles per hour coming from about 180°.
The total trip from marina to marina is about 74½ miles, but it is 9 miles from Morningstar Marina out the St. Simon's Bar Channel to R4, which is earliest point there is sufficient water depth to leave the channel headed north. The open water distance between Ossabaw and St. Simon's Sounds is approximately 51 miles.
Even though the wind was consistently the SSE, the velocity continued to increase to about 12-15 miles per hour. We were on a broad reach to a run downwind for the entire open water passage. S/v Roma handled the trailing seas well even though it was difficult at times to keep her on course because of the rolling waves.
We had estimated that we could motor sail and maintain an average speed of 6-8 miles per hour and burn about a gallon an hour of fuel. My 6 gallon tank lasted about 6.5 hours, which meant that our fuel consumption was on target. Roma also has a 12 gallon tank and I had an additional 8 gallons of fuel in auxiliary containers for a total of 26 gallons. I burned about 10 gallons on the trip so I had over 160% amount of surplus fuel.
(Click here for video clip of the trip)
As in previous trips up the coast the threat of afternoon thunderstorms is the main concern. About 10 miles from the entrance to Ossabaw Sound we noticed a thunderstorm building over St. Catherine's Island so we played it safe and reefed the main and genoa jib. Even though the thunderstorm passed well south of us reefing early proved to be a good action as we did catch the stronger winds entering Ossabaw Sound as the storm passed.
Joe brought his Garmin chartplotter since it had two previous tracks laid down for entering the sound. We essentially split the tracks and laid down a new and improved track through the North Channel of Ossabaw Sound and experienced good water depth all the way to the entrance of Delegal Creek.
We dropped sails as we entered Delegal Creek and arrived at the marina at 7:14PM, just 16 minutes ahead of schedule. With the tide flooding I pointed s/v Roma into her slip on C-Dock and we made a very soft and easy landing.
Our plans are to stay at Delegal Creek Marina for one year, and then move back to Morningstar Marina at St. Simon's Island. For now, let the new adventure begin.
(Click here for photos of the trip)
08/25/2012, St. Simon's Island, GA
If sonar/depth gauges are boats' "ears" then GPS/chart-plotters are their "eyes." Roma has had three sonars in her 38 year history, and even came from the factory with a built in sonar or depth gauge. That's pretty amazing since she is a 1974 model and marine electronics were in their infancy on privately owned vessels during that period.
Over my twelve plus years of "parenthood" (I've been told that Roma is my 4th child) I've only had a couple inexpensive handheld GPS or chart-plotters. Built-in or mounted chart-plotters were initially very expensive and well out of Captain Hugh and Roma's budget. Just as computers and other electronics have come down in price so have marine electronics. After a year of research, six months of saving, and finding a real good deal on Craig's List, Roma is now sporting a Lowrance HDS7 Insight electronics unit.
The days of individual instruments on smaller boats are over. Now most critical electronics data can be driven to a single unit with what is referred to as multifunctional navigational technologies. With the Lowrance HDS7 I have the capability for chart-plotter, depth gauge/sonar, radar, engine instrumentation, SIRIUS satellite weather and radio, as well as Global Maritime Distress and Safety System or GMDSS - all reading out through one instrument and screen.
GMDSS is an automated marine radio distress alerting system called Digital Selective Calling (DSC) using a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) or unique number when tied in to a compatible VHF radio system. The advantage with this system is that a radio distress call will not only carry a voice description of the emergency but will also transmit the exact coordinates or position and unique identity of the registered vessel and captain.
Essentially, the Lowrance HDS7 Insight is a single electronic unit that I can add layers of capability to as the budget becomes available. For now, the functioning systems are the GPS/Chartplotter and sonar/depth gauge. Since my motor is already NMEA 2000 compatible I can activate the instrument readout feature with relatively inexpensive and simple cable connections. Then I'll replace my existing 12-year old built in VHF radio with a MMSI compatible unit for added safety.
After two days of installation work which required me to crawl into places a 240 pound man should never have to go, the sea trial took place on Friday, August 24. The results were a complete success and Roma seemed to know something new was up because she's never performed better. Joining me were my son-in-law Chris and his dad, Greg Phillips. We enjoyed 12-15mph winds from the Northeast and the sea conditions were flat and perfect. Roma proudly clocked between 6 and 7 mph SOG (speed over ground) while on a beam reach into a slight current, and otherwise sailed and handled great. Her new "eyes" and "ears" worked flawlessly.
Click here for video of Roma sailing in St. Simon's Sound near Jekyll Island.
All of this is just in time for Roma's move from St. Simon's Island to Savannah over Labor Day weekend. The 75 (statute) mile off-shore trip will take approximately 11 hours, assuming we have favorable weather conditions. Roma's new home for the next year will be Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island.
08/08/2012, St. Simon's Island
July was "moving month" as three of our good friends from Morningstar relocated to Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island, Savannah. Troy Gray, the skipper or s/v Excalibur and I crewed on Joe and Pat Brasfield's Hinckley Bermuda 40, s/v Sabrina, as the first boat to make the voyage.
The 65 miles offshore from St. Simon's Sound to Ossabaw Sound takes about eleven hours on a sailboat. With the long summer days making the trip in one day is very doable . The only issue is dodging afternoon thunderstorms. (Click here for video)
We left Morningstar Marina about 9am on July 6 with a very favorable southeast wind behind us. Buddy sailing with us was a couple from South Carolina on s/v Island Gem, an Island Packet. After a slow start the winds continued to build to 15-18 mph by mid- afternoon. (Click here for photos of the trip.)
As we entered Ossabaw Sound about 7pm, s/v Island Gem continued up the coast to Charleston. This was our first time entering Ossabaw Sound and negotiating the channel here is tricky. Ossabaw Sound serves as the outlet or mouth of the Ogeechee River. Since commercial shipping doesn't take place here the channels are only marked and not maintained. There are two choices, the south or north channel, and the dockmaster at Delegal Creek Marina suggests using the north channel. (Click here for photo of our route into Ossabaw Sound and Delegal Creek Marina.) The yellow markers on the chart indicate areas of shoaling. We managed to only touch bottom one time (near marker 23), but were able to reverse course and avoid running aground. We arrived at Delegal Creek Marina just before dark.
Three weeks later on July 28th we repeated the trip on s/v Cest La Vie, a Cal 34. We sailed solo this time with a second boat, s/v Excalibur, planning to leave at dark and sail the outside trip during the night.
We had a good forecast of moderate winds from the southeast, which meant we could motor-sail a direct line up the coast to our destination. As we were headed out of the shipping channel we attempted to raise the main only to find that the halyard was misrouted down the mast and actually crossed over the spreaders.
Essentially there was no way to raise the main unless the halyard could be re-routed. Since s/v Cest La Vie has permanently attached mast steps I scurried up the mast to the spreaders and made the correction. Mast steps are very handy for such occasions, but otherwise a bit of a nuisance since the halyards were constantly getting tangled in them.
This second trip up the coast line seemed somewhat "old-hat" as we hit each mark on our chart-plotter without fail. However, the law of averages was about to catch up with us we approached St. Catherine's Island. We spotted the first thunderstorm building over land and it headed away from us toward the northeast.
The second and more severe thunderstorm also formed over the mainland but headed straight towards us. Realizing the inevitable, we turned into the wind and double reefed the main and furled in the jib all by about 6 feet. We were now motor-sailing but rigged for severe storm.
As the thunderstorm approached from the opposite direction of the prevailing wind, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in a matter of seconds. Almost immediately, the winds of 25-30 mph followed. The interesting thing is that the seas started to flatten out as the thunderstorm and prevailing winds fought for control. (Click here for photos)
S/v Cest La Vie stood the test well and we continued to charge towards "RWOS" (Red White Ossabaw Sound) ocean marker and the entrance to the sound. With the stormy seas and blowing rain, we struggled to locate "G1" our first green marker to the sound. Even though our chart-plotter said we were headed dead towards the marker we didn't actually "lay eyes" on it until we were within a couple hundred yards. (Click here for video)
Once we entered the protective waters of Ossabaw Sound the seas were more settled and all we had to deal with was the rain and wind. Even though it was over 2 miles to our next marker, "G5" navigation was much easier. We continued into the North Channel of Ossabaw Sound and towards the entrance to Delegal Creek Marina.
Now our only concern was making landfall before dark. We were almost two hours behind schedule because of leaving late from Morningstar Marina, and we lost another hour dealing with the storm. We made radio contact with our friends at the marina and they assisted us with docking just before dark. After days like this, a shower and hot meal were most welcomed.