SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
Not having owned a car in over a decade, we have become proficient users of public transportation. So when deciding which southern city to explore, our first consideration was how close to a bus stop we could get by boat. Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah made our decision easy.
We sailed past the marina on the ICW late one afternoon, decided that anchoring in the shallows next to the marina was a bit too close for us, and hailed them to take a slip. Apparently, this wasn't an original idea; they were full for the weekend. (This is not uncommon during the summer, so plan to visit the area during the week or make reservations early.) We continued up to Herb River and spent a rocky few days there, anchored just inside the No Wake Zone that most boaters ignored.
Monday morning we sailed the 5 miles back to Isle of Hope Marina, biting the bullet at $2/foot in order to be able to play tourists to a southern town that came highly recommended. When the employee had heard me choke at the price over the radio, he was quick to add, "But this is a really nice place."
Isle of Hope Marina is laid out like many marinas that have little room between shore and the channel, but a lot of waterfront. Two sets of long piers extend out parallel to shore off of a short pier that goes out toward the channel. This means that there are no slips. You parallel park along these 400-foot piers between other boats. Turning around between the piers is impossible, so you must either back in or out, sometimes a LONG way.
Since Walküre isn't known for her tight quarters maneuverability, we requested a face dock instead. While this made docking easier, it also left us exposed to wind and the occasional wake. We spent most of our time on shore (the entire reason for being at the marina) so it wasn't too uncomfortable.
I wonder what types of marinas the employee was comparing Isle of Hope to when he was spouting its praises. I would call it "adequate" at best. Two showers (large and relatively clean), one washer and one dryer ($2/load), a large covered deck area, fuel dock, loaner bikes and a 2-hour courtesy car are the extent of their amenities. Proximity to the bus was really their biggest selling point for us.
Piggly Wiggly, Wal-Mart and other shopping is a short car ride or a 2-mile easy walk from the marina. The bus stop is at Wal-Mart and leaves frequently for downtown. If the office staff isn't too busy, one of them will give you a ride to the bus stop. The bus system is easy to use. A $3 day pass, which you can buy from the bus driver, allows you to ride all day and is the same price as two single tickets, so we bought the day pass just in case we decided to take the bus elsewhere in the city that day.
Any time we visit a new city we start at the visitor's center for a map and suggestions. This time was no different, and from the visitor's center we started our tour of Savannah by walking along Bull Street toward the river. Bull Street encompasses most of the historic district in Savannah and includes many of the city's 22 parks.
Unlike most city parks that are a square block, Savannah's parks are in the middle of the road, making traffic detour around them. This serves to both slow down traffic through the city and adding an unusual charm to the parks. Many of the parks have fountains, and all are heavily treed with well-maintained gardens. But these parks were made to be used, not just looked at. Places to sit in the shade or lounge in the sun are everywhere in the city. There is even a fountain park for kids to run and splash through: the perfect way to spend a hot summer day in the south.
Downhill, along the river front, hidden from the rest of the city, is the tourist area with restaurants and shopping. Ships arrive in Savannah through this river from all over the world and we laughed when we saw a port of call we recognized from our year in Panama. Before leaving the city, we wanted to visit its cemetery, since so much of a city's history can be read on headstones. Savannah's cemetery is geographically larger than most we have visited, but we were surprised by how few headstones there were and the large space between them.
Then we saw the wall. During the Civil War soldiers camped in this large, flat area and (whether accidentally or maliciously) knocked over hundreds of headstones. After the war these stones were gathered and incorporated into the wall around the cemetery. One particular headstone had a long paragraph explaining the short life and violent death of a young man who was knifed on the street by pirates off of two French ships in the harbor.
The charm of Savannah is that it is not a modern city surrounding a few "old houses." Rather, it is an historical city that has maintained its charm, architecture and hospitality into modern times. Many cities have historical parts of town; Savannah is a historical town in itself. Block after block of history told by stones and iron greet visitors.
The ironwork on entry gates has inspired many jewelers (including Dave--look for his new line of pendants soon), artists, photographers and painters. As we were leaving the city on our hour-long bus ride back to the marina Dave said, "You could wander through this city for a month and never see it all."
Unfortunately, after walking over 10 miles through the city that day, neither my legs nor our budget could afford that. We did, however, add Savannah to our list of places we would love to explore again.
MONDAY we'll share our opinion of the inflatable vs. hard dinghy debate.
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