It's 8.45 a.m. at
Hilton Head's Old Town harbour
in Sea Pines Plantation located at the toe of the foot-shaped popular island in South Carolina. Across the water, I see the
Harbour Town Golf Links PGA course
that annually attracts the best professional golfers. On the dock, I notice brown pelicans and smaller black cormorants warming in the sun.
are ugly on land, but in the air, beautiful as they effortlessly glide millimetres above the water.
The iconic red and white striped lighthouse begins to fade as we cross Calibogue Sound and past
, our vessel slows from its 19 knots pace for smaller boats and docks. We travel on the ICW, the
, passing myriad yellow high grass along the way, a fine contrast to the deep blue sky. Eventually, we hit the
shipping channel with industry along the shore including large round oil tanks and assorted funnels; not exactly a picturesque view with tiny
on our port side, a Revolutionary War fortification complete with moat and drawbridge.
Remarkably, Savannah is the second largest US shipping channel after New York/New Jersey, and we witness
lumbering along with their heavy loads. Captain Chuck points at one and says that it sails with a crew of 25, carries 4200 containers piled high on its deck, and takes a full day to unload. Savannah's seven church steeples appear along with the large Marriott and Hyatt hotels, the city's gold dome in between.
Farther down river is the massive 1991
Talmadge Memorial cable-stayed bridge
which spans a total length of 3.1 km (1.9 miles), carrying four lanes of traffic, built 312 m (1,023 feet) high to accommodate the ships. From the dock, we stroll along ballast rocks that form a rough cobblestone pathway to River Street.
We try celebrity chef
The Lady and Sons Restaurant
on West Congress St., and it's the first time my lunch has been started with a complimentary biscuit and pancake. The adjoining store is full of cookbooks and fine cuisine miscellanea.
A few blocks down in the
on Julian St., I visit the A. THUN Art Gallery owned by Chuck Hamilton who represents 14 local artists, one of which is James Dean whose work features "Pete the Cat" paintings Dean became fixated with a stray that he took in that later disappeared. He cranked out portraits of "Pete" which took hold in Savannah and led to a series of illustrated books now used in the pre-K to second grade throughout the school system.
Square (Savannah's founder) adjacent to the
amidst huge live oaks, I'm drawn by the sweet sounds of a trumpet playing
Earl Gardner's "Misty"
and I am happy to drop a dollar bill into the collection pot. I meet a large African-American gentleman sporting an "Obama" baseball cap who reminds me that
died today and accomplished more after age 72 when released from jail than most do in a lifetime.
On the return trip, the waterway dramatically drops nine feet with the tide and we encounter a large cabin cruiser stranded on a sand bar just inside a directional buoy. Captain Chuck responds to their call for help by unleashing a large wake with a surge of his engine, and as I peer backwards, it seems to have done the trick. The boat tour costs $68, and it's well worth the excursion. On board, they also sell Savannah trolley tours for $21, but I recommend a leisurely stroll through the beautiful squares.
Spirit of Harbour Town, photo by Mike Keenan
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia and the county seat of Chatham County. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia's fifth-largest city and third-largest metropolitan area.
Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors, who enjoy the city's architecture and historic buildings: the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America), the Georgia Historical Society (the oldest continually operating historical society in the South), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South's first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African-American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third oldest synagogue in America), and the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America).
Savannah's downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States (designated by the U.S. government in 1966). Downtown Savannah largely retains the original town plan prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe (a design now known as The Oglethorpe Plan). Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.