Being a lover of all things nautical, I couldn’t wait to go to the 2012 Savannah Tall Ships Challenge by Kyle Milsap
When I heard that Savannah was hosting the Tall Ships for a weekend my jaw nearly hit the floor. Then (as soon as I realized the Tall Ships of Savannah, GA were not the same as the cross-dressing “tall ships” of P-town’s Fantasia Fair), I closed my mouth and went on a Google expedition to find out more. It turned out that this event was pretty special, a tour of large, traditionally rigged sailing vessels: what my nephew would keenly identify as a pirate ship. The Tall Ships Challenge tour only comes around every three years and rotates between the east coast, west coast, and Great Lakes.
Being a lover of all things nautical, I couldn’t wait to go! I called up my friend Blake, a fellow adventurer and seafaring wannabe, and we hit River Street. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were eager to see some boats and enjoy the people watching that River Street provides in spades. Once inside the event, we saw that tours of the ships came with our tickets. Water excursions were also available for some of the vessels, but for an additional fee. We opted for the free trips on the Savannah River ferry boats that commute from one side of the river to the other. Note to tourists: take advantage of the ferry when you visit River Street. You get an amazing view of Savannah from across the river, especially at night.
After climbing aboard the ships, we met the wonderful crews and got a taste of what life on the open seas is like. I found out that every ship has a different purpose and story. While one, The Eagle, is a training vessel for the US Coast Guard, another, the Roseway, is a sea bound educational program for the World Ocean School. Another, the Peacemaker, is a ship that “[brings] people into peace with their Creator and with one another.” They were nice folks, selling crafts from their trips around the world. When leaving the respective ships, your event-guide/passport was stamped with their individual seals. If I had to guess what the “challenge” in the Tall Ships Challenge was, I’d have to say it was touring all the vessels, collecting all of the stamps, and withstanding the looming heat of the midday sun while doing so.
On the final day of the festival, the ships left Savannah’s harbor in a parade of sails and cheers. Though I have not investigated the analytics of the event, from what I could tell, it was heavily attended and a big success. The Roseway had such a great time that it has decided to make Savannah a permanent port of call. The ship will drop anchor twice a year for a few weeks while in route between its two homes of Boston and St Croix. I’ll be eager to see them return, and I hope we’ll get to see more Tall Ships Challenge tours in Savannah’s future.