O’Neill Outside for Arrivals – by O’Neill Williams 08/19/99

With its riverfront entertainment and restaurant area, moss-covered oaks draping the walkways, and infinitely interesting historic district, Savannah, Georgia is a natural destination for the vacation traveler.  This is not new news.  In fact, AirTran has several daily flights to Savannah. My wife, Gail, and a group of friends visited there for a weekend recently. We had a wonderful time.  However, the destination is not the story here. The method of travel is.

On a hot, sticky Friday morning in August 1999, 16 hearty souls launched their personal watercraft for a 9-hour, 180-mile voyage down the Savannah River from Augusta to Savannah.  Now that’s a story.

Within a few miles of its exit from Augusta’s power plant, the river water remains a chilly 70 degrees making the initial launch an awakening.   The group is under the tutelage of Sam Thomas and Vicki Williams, founders and directors of Discovery River Tours, and after a brief safety chat and procedure runthrough, we’re off running south with the winding current. Sam, Vicki, and the staff have daunting tasks; get the travelers fueled, fed, rested, entertained, and housed both during the run to Savannah and the return but also while there for two nights.  Not to worry though, they’ve been doing so for the 5 years ‘Discovery’ has been in operation.  Their efficiency is inspiring.

Gail and I cruise on Sea-Doo models that are comfortable, fast, safe, efficient, and quiet.  Gail rides a 3-seat GTX.  I harnessed a 2-passenger, 110 horsepower GSX.   These Sea-Doos are not just for juveniles alone. Indeed, I can testify that a 55-year can push the envelope of adventure quite safely.

This is a quality outing along a beautiful unspoiled river.  No marinas will be found until we reach coastal Savannah.  At three public access points along the way, the ‘Discovery’ van meets the riders and supplies fuel, food, and drink.  You’ll be amazed at how Vicki can turn a shore lunch into a gourmet meal.  Other than that contact, we run with the current and take in the wildness.  Shy, nervous, Whitetail Deer, playful, sleek otter, and stoic, aloof alligators offer fleeting looks from the shadows and tease our senses.  We leave them undisturbed.

To sample the river is to be done on a Sea-Doo.  You are in touch.  You are in the river itself, feeling the rush and power of the current.  There is no stopping.  The river’s path becomes your path, and the river’s destination becomes yours also.  And as you wind through the thick forest with your companions spread out over a mile you will find that you are linked ever so closely because of this mutual purpose.  New friends are made easily.

But the late afternoon sun has begun it’s descent and you have found yourself streaking across the river in full view of the tourists walking the riverfront in Savannah.  Your high-handed wave is returned by the curious and surely the envious.  You, with your adventurous heart and choice of travel, have separated yourself from the masses.  You will find yourself smiling when no one is looking.

Upon arrival at Savannah Bend Marina, we celebrate with a low-country boil of fresh shrimp, sausages, corn and beverages.  Vans portage us to the Hampton Inn in the Historic district and weary muscles are rested.  On Saturday we Sea-Doo our way along the marshes and view Old Tybee Island Lighthouse, an old sentinel that surely must have been a welcome sight to many in times of long ago.  It now just seems to squat in the mud and wonder at our water bug like passing.

An early hour on Sunday, finds us all eager to return to the path north and west and skim the water to take in more of what the Savannah must offer. Ten hours later, after matching our refreshment and fuel stops at places with names like Poor Robin’s landing, we beach the small crafts near Augusta from hence we had started only two days ago.

Gail and I recommend this and the other trips arranged by Discovery River Tours.  You’ll be refreshed.  If you wish, you may contact Sam and Vicki by telephoning 770-493-1792, or you can book your tour online  here.  Just remind them to hold 2 spots for us next time too.