The Inaugural SBC* click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Samuel W. Norwood III - Atlanta, Georgia - USA
photos by Beth Tumlin and Alice Lynch

*Classic Boat Rally - Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston

The First SBC Classic Boat Rally, from Savannah, through Beaufort, to Charleston, was completed Wednesday, May 3. Six boats participated. They were, two Herreshoff 12 ½ s (16 feet LOA), two Marshall Catboats (an 18 and a 22), a Cape Dory Typhoon (19 feet LOA), and a Melonseed Skiff (13 ½ feet LOA). This was the beginning of what seems sure to be a growing event in the southeast in years to come.

The sailing was up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in these classic designs. The total journey took six days including a “lay day” in Beaufort, Sunday, April 30, for rest and an around-the-buoys race. Each leg of the adventure was twenty to thirty nautical miles, although some days were longer due to adverse winds that caused tacking to windward. The longest day was the final one, turning out to be thirty-six nautical miles sailed in 7 ½ hours. The timing of the rally was set to take maximum advantage of the tides. Tides in this area run seven to eight feet, causing currents of two to four knots.

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The classics were allowed to launch and begin this adventure at Savannah Yacht Club on the Wilmington River just west and a bit south of the historic city of Savannah.

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Through the kindness of Olin McIntosh, the classics were allowed to launch and begin this adventure at Savannah Yacht Club on the Wilmington River just west and a bit south of the historic city of Savannah. SYC is one of the oldest yacht clubs in the United States and was host of the Olympics when they were in the USA in 1996. Catching the last of the incoming tide, the boats sailed up the Wilmington, under Thunderbolt Bridge, and past the renowned Bonaventure Cemetery made famous by the book and movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. The cemetery was reached at high tide. The tide breaks at the cemetery, so the boats sailed on to the Savannah River with the outflowing tide and across to “Fields Cut”. At Fields Cut, the wind died. Malcolm Peter’s H-12 ½ had a malfunction in the rigging, so they anchored to fix the problem. It turned out that this was the best thing to do in the presence of a dying wind and an adverse tide. On occasional zephyrs of wind, Woody Norwood’s H-12 ½ would approach Malcolm’s anchored position and then fall back with the tide. With repairs made, Malcolm and Woody decided to crank up the motors to get through this cut which led to Wright River briefly and Walls Cut that leads to Ramshorn Creek.

In air this light we use the motor until the breeze returns

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Finally the wind returned and we were sailing again. Most of these “cuts” were created in World War II to connect the rivers and creeks along the coast so that barge traffic could move commodities up and down the coast without having to venture into the Atlantic where Nazi U-boats made for hazardous conditions. Ramshorn Creek goes up the west side of Daufuskie Island which is now developing rapidly as a resort community. Pat Conroy’s book, The Water is Wide, was about this island where Mr. Conroy (the movie was “Conrack”) was a teacher of the local Gullah children who had never been off the island. Ramshorn Creek leads into the Cooper River. We sailed down the Cooper River with the ebbing tide as it emptied into Calabogue Sound. We crossed the Sound into a head wind and made it to Harbour Town, an upscale marina on Hilton Head Island. There, we tied up the boats and had a cold beer before heading by car back to Savannah to retrieve the trailers and then to Beaufort to spend the night.

Frank Pontious and Woody Norwood reaching with the spinnaker on H-12 "Myrdie"

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The Saturday forecast was for winds of 15 to 30 MPH offshore, and 25 MPH along the ICW. This was going to be a day of challenging weather caused by a cold front. In this region, a cold front means wind from the northwest to northeast for several days. As our fundamental course on the ICW is generally from the southwest to the north east, the cold front was bad news because it would mean adverse (on the nose) winds for the rest of our journey.

Jonathan Clarke, a Navy physician who had recently returned from seven months in Iraq, had taken delivery of a brand new Melonseed Skiff, a 13 ½ foot sprit-rigged sailboat from a nineteenth century design, trailered his boat to Hilton Head with hopes of sailing with the fleet to Beaufort. It was not to be. The wind was a steady 20 MPH in the morning out of the northeast, and the waves in Calabogue Sound were two to three feet high. The Melonseed was not able to handle the conditions and so Jonathan quickly came into port and called it a day.

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Jonathan Clarke's Melonseed Skiff, "Spartina", before being shipped from the builder. These are beautiful boats but, we found out, not quite up to the challenges of the SBC full course.

The two H-12s came out of Harbour Town and beat their way northward along the Hilton Head west coast on Calabogue Sound, but it was very wet going. At the north end of Hilton Head, these two boats, about an hour ahead of their schedule, pulled into Skull Creek Marina to get warm, eat a sandwich, and to reef the mainsails before crossing Port Royal Sound. At 1 PM the H-12s departed Skull Creek Marina for the crossing of Port Royal Sound.

Port Royal Sound is potentially the most treacherous part of the journey from Savannah to Charleston. The Sound is wide open to the Atlantic from the east to the south. This is a large body of water, and the waves get particularly “peaky” when the tidal current is running in the direction opposite the source of the wind. As we crossed, basically from west to east, the tide was running toward the southeast and the wind was coming from the east/northeast. The choppy waves were three to four feet high, and the wind was a steady 25 MPH. For the H-12s it was a beat to windward. With the mainsail reefed, Malcolm Peters and team mate Frank Pontious, Commodore of Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club, initially took a port tack to the south, while Woody Norwood and team mate Bill Tumlin took an initial starboard tack out into the Sound. As the wind clocked more eastward, the Peters/Pontious team tack to starboard and beat the Norwood/Tumlin team to the south tip of Parris Island (the Marine basic training place) and into the Beaufort River. Once both teams made it to the River it was a wonderful starboard tack reach all the way to the town of Beaufort.

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The picture at left, taken by Beth Tumlin, shows the five boats other than Jonathan Clarke’s Melonseed Skiff that sailed in the rally.

It had been planned that a Marshall catboat 22, owned by Roy Crocker, a retired paper executive, and a Marshall Catboat 18, owned by Andy Corriveau, an insurance broker, and a Cape Dory Typhoon (about 19 feet LOA), owned by Jerry Wadley, a retired radiation ecologist and current publisher, would rendezvous with the H-12s out on Port Royal Sound. The rendezvous did not happen. These boats came down to the Sound, bounced around for a while on the Beaufort side of the Sound, and then returned to Beaufort ahead of the H-12s. Everyone was in port by 5 PM.

This Marshall 18 belongs to Andy Corriveau (left) who was sailing with his grandson, 12-year-old, Drew (right). The writer, Coty Miranda, on assignment from Sail Magazine, sailed with Andy and Drew.

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All participants gathered from 6 to 8 PM at Beaufort’s Carriage Court town-home development for cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres provided by the residents in honor of the sailors.

Sunday was a “lay day” for the sailors. The Beaufort yacht and Sailing Club (BYSC) declared this to be “Classic Boat Day” in honor of the fleet. A race around the buoys was scheduled for 2 PM. As the starting gun sounded, the fleet was drifting down tide in virtually windless conditions. When an hour had passed and no one had even made it to the starting line, the fleet cranked up their engines and returned to the BYSC dock.

Monday was a beautiful day for sailing with the wind from the northeast at around 10 MPH all day. Bill and Beth Tumlin, from Atlanta, generously served as race committee general support boat, and unofficial photographers. George Dewhirst, US Navy Captain (ret.) and former submarine commander, signed on as Malcolm Peters’ team mate for three days starting on Monday. The fleet had an initial six-mile race from BYSC, past the historic downtown Beaufort, to “the Brickyards” up the Beaufort River. Andy Corriveau, sailing with his 12-year old grandson, “Drew”, in the Marshall 18, beat the second finishers, the Woody Norwood / Frank Pontious team in an H-12, by 12 minutes, but it was estimated that half the time advantage was gained when Corriveau, a long-time sailor in Beaufort, took a risky short-cut through the marshes. After the finish, the boats gathered for a photo shoot that just might make the cover of the August issue of Sail magazine. John Snyder, a writer/photographer resident of Maine, was sent by Sail to be the official photographer of this event. “Sail” also engaged Coty D. Miranda, a free-lance writer currently a resident of Phoenix, to write the story, and she sailed on Roy Crocker’s Marshall 22 on Monday.

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Marshall Catboats in the marsh

We soon started a second race, a seven-mile sprint down the Coosaw River to the Ashepoo Cut. Andy and Drew won this race also, but the total time between first and last place was only 8 minutes.

The Ashepoo Cut leads to the Ashepoo River and thence, through Fenwick Cut, to the South Edisto River. Once in the South Edisto River, the fleet departed from the ICW and sailed down the South Edisto with the ebbing tide to Edisto Marina. At the Edisto Marina the participants’ shore crews (spouses) arrived by car and the whole group enjoyed dinner at the Sundeck Restaurant overlooking the marina as the sun descended over the marshes to the west. After dinner, everyone except the Crockers (Roy and Carol) returned to Beaufort to spend the night. The Crockers spent the night on their boat. The next day the Crockers sailed back to Beaufort, and Jerry Wadley pulled his Cape Dory Typhoon out onto a trailer using the marina ramp. Jerry had client commitments that forced his withdrawal.

Malcolm Peters and George Dewhirst at Edisto Marina pose before departure to Bohicket

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On Tuesday, the two H-12s and the Marshall 18 sailed (and motored) to Bohicket Marina on Seabrook Island. This was a day with only occasional zephyrs of wind to punctuate the otherwise glassy conditions. We sailed with the zephyrs and motored in the doldrums until the sea breeze piped up as we entered the North Edisto River. This produced a refreshing beat to windward as a two-hour finale for the day, and we arrived at Bohicket just before 5 PM. Malcolm showed particularly good judgment regarding when to crank up the engine. This night the H-12 teams went to Charleston for dinner at Cypress restaurant on East Bay Street, a wonderful dining experience, and then retired for the night at the Rutledge House Inn on Broad Street. The Rutledge House was built in the 1780s by John Rutledge, on of the signers of the Constitution, and is a highly recommended Bed and Breakfast in the historic section of Charleston.

Wednesday was probably the best sailing day of this journey. The wind was 10 to 20 MPH from the northwest and west all day. From Bohicket Marina to the north end of Edisto Island, about 2 ½ hours’ sailing, the wind was on the nose and very wet conditions as the incoming tide was opposite the direction of the wind. In these conditions, the H-12s demonstrated superior speed to windward compared to the Marshall 18. Again, Malcolm showed good judgment in reefing the mainsail of his H-12 as the boats were sailing at hull speed, and the unreefed main did not add to speed, only to the loads on the rig. Once we turned east, however, it was a port tack reach and run the rest of the way to Charleston, and the Marshall 18 trotted away from the H-12s. When the wind settled down to about 12 MPH, the team of Woody Norwood and his cousin, Joe Norwood, hoisted the spinnaker and had about an hours’ run flying in the H-12 “Myrdie” to Elliott Cut (known to the locals as Wapoo Cut as it leads into Wapoo Creek). Here the tidal current can run 3 to 4 knots. Fortunately the tide was with us, ebbing toward the Ashley River which comes down the east side of the Charleston peninsula.

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The Herreshoffs and the Marshalls on the Beaufort River

Charleston Harbor can be choppy at times, but this particular Wednesday the harbor was perfectly gorgeous with a 10 MPH wind and full sunshine. We sailed around the “Battery” at the southern tip of Charleston, in full view of Fort Sumter where the Civil War began, and in front of the magnificent homes along East Bay Street. Rounding up against the ebbing current of the Cooper River, we dropped our sails and motored into the harbor of Carolina Yacht Club, concluding our journey from Savannah.

As we tidied up the boats there I had mixed emotions of elation for having had this wonderful adventure and yet sadness that it was now at an end until next year.

Carolina Yacht Club Harbor: Final destination

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Through our friend and sponsor at Carolina Yacht Club, Guy Mossman, we were able to have our victory celebration dinner at the club. Sixteen of us hoisted our glasses to toast what we all believe could become an annual event for small classic boats, tying together three fine clubs of sailing enthusiasts who have a particular appreciation for designs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The enthusiasm of this group who participated in this, the inaugural SBC Classic Boat Rally, shows the power of a good idea. We shared the challenges of wind, water, tidal currents and navigation. We also shared the joy of adventure and a full day in boats, and with people, that we care about.

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The victory celebration was held in the Magnolia Room at Carolina Yacht Club. All dressed up, we hardly recognized each other. This is the author and Joe Norwood with Joe's fiancee, Rhonda

In particular, there are two people in this experience that became “captains” of the ship in the course of the journey. One of these is Malcolm Peters who, with little sailing experience, bought an H-12 because he had a dream of sailing it on adventures like this with his wife, Bonnie. After buying the boat, Malcolm and Bonnie took sailing lessons from Joe Jurksis (Blackbeard) on the Georgia coast, but this was just enough of an experience to give Malcolm an appreciation of the complexities of coastal sailing. His boat had not been in the water since his lessons on the Georgia coast. He was able to get matched with three very experienced sailors as his team mates (Bill Tumlin from Atlanta, Frank Pontious from Beaufort, and George Dewhirst, now retired in Beaufort) and Malcolm gained the experience that will enable him and Bonnie to sail safely anywhere and H-12 can go. The other is Andy Corriveau’s grandson, Drew. Drew has a natural feel for boat handling, and, at age 12, was skipper much of the time in Andy’s Marshall 18. Drew already has a vision of going to the Naval Academy for college and ultimately becoming a naval architect. I think he has a good shot at achieving both dreams. I think the SBC Classic Boat Rally will be a great memory for your Drew. I know that it will be for his grandfather, Andy, not just for the sailing but, more importantly, for the relationship that builds when a grandparent and grandchild can share this kind of experience together.

Samuel W. (“Woody”) Norwood III
May 8, 2006

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