We are back at the dock at Hogan's Marina, on Wilmington Island outside of Savannah. This marina, on Turner Creek off the Wilmington River, is where we have been since the day after we bought the boat, in Thunderbolt. We chose it on the recommendation of friends in town, who used to live literally right next door, and knew the dockmaster pretty well. That made it easy to make arrangements not only for a slip, but also to park the bus right here during the transition.
We're here on a pretty reasonable monthly rate, and we had figured to take two full months, giving us plenty of time to get everything moved over, and get Odyssey ready for sale or storage. As visiting cruisers, we're allowed 60 days in Georgia, and we figure that clock re-started when we came back into the state from South Carolina Monday morning. The bridge tender who opened the Caustin Bluff bridge for us even took down our boat name and hailing port and welcomed us to Georgia. So things looked pretty good for re-upping for a second month when our first runs out on the 22nd.
Circumstances have conspired against that, however, and we'll be leaving here Thursday, just one week from today. We'll stop for one night in Thunderbolt, and then head right back to South Carolina, bound for a marina on Hilton Head Island. We are now in a mad scramble to get everything else moved over from the bus in that time, including the most challenging of all: the scooters.
We learned a lot of things during our training cruise with Captain Chris. One thing we learned is that the dock we are on here at Hogan's is extremely difficult to land with a large, single-screw boat. When we arrived Monday each of us took a turn at it, without success, and Chris had to take over both times. It was clear that it was quite a task even for him, and he has decades of experience. There are only two end-ties at the channel side of the docks that would be easier to reach, and both are occupied with long-term tenants.
Another thing we learned is that we are not ready to operate the boat on our own. While we had a great cruise and we learned a lot, falling into bed exhausted each night, we simply did not get enough time to practice the hard stuff, such as docking a heavy single-screw trawler in the tidal currents and winds of the low country. We need more training and practice before we can even leave the dock.
That creates yet another challenge: another thing that we learned on the cruise is that our waste holding tank can go only three days with three people aboard full time. I think it is somewhat smaller than advertised, and the whizzy Headhunter toilets use a lot more water per flush than the Microphor we have on Odyssey. There is no pump-out station here at Hogan's, and even if there was, unless it was within line-handling distance of our slip, again there is no way we could drive the boat around to it and get back to our slip without help.
Chris had to return home Tuesday, and is not available again until June. He referred us to another training captain, in Fort Lauderdale, but she is not available until mid-March. I am sure you can see the conundrum we have. We pumped the tank out at Thunderbolt just before we returned here to Hogan's, and after Chris departed Tuesday morning, we have essentially been using the bathroom on the bus instead of here on the boat as a conservation measure, to tide us over until we have a more workable solution.
And so it was that I spent most of Tuesday on the phone and the computer trying to track down a more newbie-friendly dock, preferably near a pump-out, and a more local training captain who can get us to a level of proficiency with the boat wherein we can be signed off to our insurance company's satisfaction as competent operators. (Note that there is no license required to operate a pleasure boat of any size, and neither is insurance required to own or operate a boat. Consequently the waterways are rife with boaters driving enormous vessels that they can't dock without the help of a slew of dockhands willing to take their lines in the hopes of seeing a five- or ten-spot for their efforts. Every harbormaster has stories to tell.)
Our extremely well-connected broker was able to refer us to a captain in Hilton Head who was willing to take us on, and that captain suggested the Shelter Cove marina as a great place to train, where he would have easy access to be with us as needed until we are fledged. He is well connected on the island and made the call to the marina for us, to get us on a dock that would be good for our purposes. It's quite a bit more expensive than here at Hogan's, but it beats the alternative of having to pay someone to get us to a pumpout every week or so and/or fly a captain up from Fort Lauderdale to continue our training.
As with so many marinas, monthly dockage is a great deal less expensive than overnight transient dockage, and if you are going to stay more than a week, it usually pays to just take a month. So we've booked the slip for a month, and we'll see how it goes. We'll train on and off with Captain Gary as needed, and when we are not training, there are worse places to be than at a resort on Hilton Head Island. Ironically, we had vowed never to return there after our first and only visit in the bus, way back in 2004, just a month after we started blogging.
Captain Gary will meet us at Thunderbolt early Friday morning, so we can have favorable tides all the way to Hilton Head and still arrive in the daylight. Unfortunately, there is a shallow bar here in Turner Creek that we must also pass on a high tide, so having Gary meet us here Friday morning was not going to work. I've booked a night at the Thunderbolt Marina for Thursday night, and we'll need to find another local captain to help us get the boat over there Thursday afternoon when the tide is up.
None of this is really a surprise to us, and it's just a hiccup along the road. A few years ago, when we were still in the research phase of the boat process, we discussed extensively the strategy of buying a "starter boat" -- something smaller and easier to handle, probably an older boat and likely with twin screws, to build our experience and get comfortable with cruising before we moved along to the offshore boat that we really wanted. Ultimately, I felt that I really only have one boat left in me. After all the work getting Odyssey just the way we wanted it for our needs, I knew that no matter what might still be wrong with it when we were done, I did not want to do another bus. Similarly I knew that I could never have a "starter boat" that I didn't spend a ton of time and money fixing up to work the way we'd like it to.
Making the decision to put all our efforts into just one boat that we'd live with for a decade or more, we ended up with a boat that will challenge our abilities for a while. We knew it would take more effort, more training, more practice, and higher insurance premiums to go this route. We are right where we expected to be, at the beginning of a steep learning curve, and we will take it one day at a time.
In the meantime, work proceeds apace with the many boat projects on the list and getting everything moved in. Given that we now have a firm schedule for departure from here, we are tackling the long pole in the tent: the scooters. Today we rented a pickup truck from Enterprise, which we used to go out for a nice Valentine's dinner at our favorite local Italian place before heading over to Home Depot for two sheets of plywood and a cart full of hardware. I'll be making a platform with chocks and tie-downs for the bikes that can be strapped to the boat deck in a suitable spot. We'll have a yard weld us up some proper mounts at a later date, but this should work fine for protected waters in the short term. Once it's all built and tested on the ground, we'll hoist it onto the deck with our crane, followed by the scooters themselves.
Earlier today I also installed the new over-counter microwave that arrived this afternoon from Best Buy Online. And we picked up more shelf organizers and other container odds and ends at Target as long as we have the truck available. Once I get the scooter platform built, my biggest challenge will be finding a nearby place to store the bus while we are on Hilton Head. There is no place for it on the island, but we will not be far enough along on emptying and cleaning it out to take it further inland to a more permanent storage yard or consignment lot.