Friday, November 10, 2023

Flat calm.

We are under way southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Georgia. We had three very pleasant nights in Savannah, and were sorely tempted to spend a couple more, but today is the last good day out here for the foreseeable future. It's a bathtub today, and by this time tomorrow it will be steep four-footers, and just going upwards from there.

Vector docked at Eastern Wharf. Even a bit dirty from passage, she's gleaming.

We both had quiet watches Monday night, and the nice push persisted through our whole passage. We arrived to Tybee Roads just at the start of the flood and had a nice ride all the way to downtown Savannah. We were tied up, all alone, at the Eastern Wharf docks (map), a new venue for us, by 1:30. I used the afternoon to explore the area a bit on foot.

This pinboat passed us headed upriver to Savannah.

We've been eyeing these docks for a decade, since our very first visit here. They were officially closed due to damage for many years, although you'd still see an occasional tugboat tied up. For a while, there was no gangway from the dock to shore. A couple of years ago they rebuilt them, including installing new ramps, as part of the giant Eastern Wharf mixed use development here that is still ongoing. Construction of the complex ran in fits and starts due to the pandemic.

Our view from the newly opened Eastern Wharf docks. We had them to ourselves until last night, when a couple of sailboats came in after dark, clearly disappointed that Rousakis was full.

We often wondered who owned the docks, who would yell at us if we simply used them, and when, if ever, they might open to the public. A short while ago they showed up on the city's web site, clarifying that they were run by the city parking office just like the more popular docks at Rousakis Plaza. The web site said they were open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, with no indication of fees or time limits. We found no signage at the docks at all, unlike the Rousakis docks.

Vector with the Marriott Hotel and the Talmadge Bridge in the background.

Although the dock is lined with very expensive electrical pedestals, it has no umbilical to shore and thus they do not work. While the Rousakis docks have working power, they also have the unwanted encumbrance of "trumpet guy," and it was worth it to us to have to run the generator just to avoid him. As it turns out, they are also in much better shape, are slightly less impacted by tugboat and ship wakes, and lack the shady characters and excess late-night noise of their closer-in counterparts.

The closest restaurant to us on the waterfront has closed its doors. This was Joe's Crab Shack. No great loss.

The downside is that it's a 2/3 mile walk to the downtown waterfront, and so I was on a mission to discover closer dining options. For all its shiny newness, Eastern Wharf is just a couple of blocks from some of the oldest buildings in Savannah, and we ended up strolling to The Pirate's House, situated in a cluster of historic buildings that includes the oldest house in Georgia, for dinner. We recalled eating here with friends on one of our early visits.

These dockless electric scooters are neatly arranged in front of the Thompson, good for a grocery run in a pinch. Squirrels Pizza and Vector in the background.

While we were still offshore I had reached out to our good friends John and Laura Lee, of nearby Richmond Hill, to see if they might be available while we were in town. By coincidence, John had an appointment downtown on Wednesday, and so we arranged to meet for lunch. He wanted to see the fresh paint job, and so we opted to meet at Bar Julian, in the Thompson Hotel just steps from the dock. This turned out to be a rooftop bar with spectacular views; apparently in the evening one needs a reservation even to have a drink. We enjoyed their very limited menu of lighter fare, and it was great catching up with John, although we missed seeing Laura Lee.

Vector and the plaza as seen from Bar Julian, atop the Thompson.

We normally limit ourselves to one meal out per day. But on my walk Tuesday afternoon I met Einar and Ruth, owners of the Krogen Whaleback Tandem, over at the Rousakis docks. They had passed us in the ocean on the same Cape Fear to Savannah run, and we spoke briefly on the radio heading upriver. We ended up meeting them Wednesday evening for an early light dinner at old standby Tubbys, just across from the Rousakis docks. We came up on the ferry, making it a much shorter walk, but service at the dock closest to Eastern Wharf ends at 6:20 and we walked back. It was an enjoyable evening.

The view toward the waterfront from Bar Julian.

The temperatures have climbed into the 80s throughout our stay, and it was mighty temping to just enjoy the city more yesterday. But sometimes circumstances call for using the fleeting resource of a free dock in a full-service city to do what must be done. And in this case, that was source and load new batteries for the thruster and windlass. I can mostly do everything with no thruster, and it was so useless arriving in Savannah that I docked without it. But if the windlass quits in an anchorage it will be a much bigger problem.

Logs and debris running up and down the river are a constant issue at the docks; this one announced its arrival with a large clunk. There seems to be less here than at Rousakis.

While I had it in my head that I wanted to replace the two 8D gel batteries with a pair of Group 31 AGM truck batteries, I simply could not find any in stock nearby with enough cranking amps. I spent all the time between meals Wednesday combing the Internet for something that would work that could be picked up locally, and what I ended up with was a pair of H9 AGM start batteries from O'Reilly's. I don't know what uses this DIN battery size, which in the US is really substituted with a Group 95R, but they were far more common and less expensive than the Group 31 truck standards, with higher capacity.  They are an odd form-factor, but we had plenty of room. O'Reilly said I could pick them up after 8am yesterday.

The rig I used to hoist the batteries out. The two ratchet straps are looped around bolts that hold woodwork to the steel deck stringers above. The portable electric winch is normally for mast lowering. One battery is already out, seen at left.

And so it was that I spent yesterday morning jury-rigging overhead support for the portable winch using ratchet straps and chewing gum so I would winch them out from under the forward berth. I'm going to need a couple of guys much younger and stronger than myself to carry them up the stairs and off the boat, but we were able to get them out and then set them on the sole just port of the berth using the winch.

The box with the remaining battery. I had to rig them to come up at an angle to worry them past the duct and the bulkhead.

We walked over to the hotel with our rolling cart and grabbed a Lyft for the three mile ride out to O'Reilly's, and another Lyft back, batteries in tow. I had them winched back in place, wired up, and some wood blocks filling the now excess space in the battery box well before dinner time. The thruster is now back to its normal old self, and I expect the windlass will be as well.

Hoisting the battery. You can see the angle. Bike helmet and safety glasses are in case a strap lets go; the battery and winch together are 200 lbs.

In the plaza between the docks and the hotel sits an unassuming pizza stand called Squirrels, in what looks like a pair of converted shipping containers. Attracted by their impressive array of tap handles and some comfortable outdoor seating on a very pleasant evening, we walked over for dinner last night, settling on the "Detroit-ish" pizza, which was quite good, and a couple of happy-hour drafts. With no indoor seating this is definitely a fair-weather venue, but the food was good, and we would certainly come back.

The two new batteries in our rolling cart. At 65 lbs apiece, these are less than half the weight of what they are replacing.

All in all we found this end of town quite enjoyable and these docks will probably be our new go-to in Savannah unless we need to run the air conditioning. There's a nice-looking high-zoot restaurant in the Thomspon that we did not get to sample, and it looks like several other retail businesses will open in the complex by the time we next pass by.

Installed. I put rubber mats under the batteries, and after I snapped this I added blocking in the empty space.

This morning we cast off at the start of the ebb, just before sunrise, for a good push out the river and into the sea. We have our sights set on St. Simons Sound, near Brunswick. At about 85 miles end to end, that's a long day, and we'll arrive to the anchorage after dark and after dinner. But it will bypass long stretches of shallow water, including some of the most notorious trouble spots on the ICW. The run from Savannah to Brunswick on the inside takes us three days.

This private event, I think for the construction company, was going on just outside the boat last night.

From here we will proceed down the inside to Jacksonville. I expect an early start tomorrow as well, because we will need plenty of tidal help to get past the back of Jeckyll Island. Our plans once we reach Florida are rather murky, but we will probably go upriver and spend a few days in Jacksonville before moving on.

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