Out of the Box

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Out Of The Box

Mary Anne Street

When I first arrived in Savannah, I couldn’t get over the huge ships coming into that skinny river. I sat on River St. in Savannah and marveled at their might and tonnage, and how in the world they maneuvered in such a small space. This is a wonder for adults and kids alike, and it is one of the things I recommend to my guests.

We currently take 98% of the world’s ships into our harbor, and we’re the second largest container port on the East Coast and fifth in the nation; that’s pretty impressive and it surprises many people. Our cable-stayed, Tallmadge Bridge (named after a governor of Georgia) is 185 ft. clearance at high tide and allows the big ships access to our ports. There is talk of dredging our river six more feet so we can handle the grandest ships of all, allowing 100% of the world’s ocean monsters into the Georgia Ports. There is controversy, of course, as it may upset the delicate balance of marshes, creeks and rivers, and I respect that, but I’d love to be able to view the largest container ships in the world. I’ll leave it to the experts to duke this out.

My friend, Bev loves ships. She loves the magic of them, the wonder of where they’ve been and where they’re going. She comes to Tybee and stays at Lighthouse Point. When she sees a big ship coming, she jumps in the car and heads to River St. where she can usually be in time to see the ship come into the river where she can view it up close and personal. It is thrilling for her. Often, she’ll begin early in the day, and repeat the process as many times as she can. Once she was able to “chase” 4 large ships in a day—from Tybee to Savannah, and then back to Tybee to be on the lookout again.

It makes me think that one could play a “game” with kids in that you’d watch for a big ship, jump in the car and head to River St. to see it. Kids would particularly love the watching, the chasing, the “seeing it up close and personal,” and the involvement of the family, and if you don’t count the cost of gas, it’s FREE.

Every Friday, the Savannah Morning News publishes a shipping schedule for the week. They list the ship name and date of arrival and you’d be surprised at how many ships come in in a day. For example, this week we had five each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; three on Monday; eight on Tuesday; three on Wednesday and eight on Thursday; total for the week was 37! That’s a lot of ships, and a lot of action.

Thinking about the ships makes me wonder about Florence Martus—the Waving Girl whose statue is on River St. in Savannah. She lived with her brother on Elba Island (he was the lighthouse keeper), and beginning at age 18, she waived at every single ship that came into Savannah for 44 years!! Forty-four years!! Never missed one!! She’d wave her towel or apron in the day, and wave her lantern at night. The sailors loved her and brought her many gifts from overseas. I always embellish the tale for my tours—she fell in love with a sailor who promised to return, and she waved at the ships hoping it would be her love. He never returned (aaawwwww is usually heard hear). This tale may or may not be true, but it’s a nice story.

Watching the ships also gets me wondering where they’ve been. It reminds me of Conrad Aiken, a Savannah native and famous writer buried in Bonaventure Cemetery. He was a poet and novelist, writing or editing some 50 books, and in 1930 he won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He eventually became Poet Laureate of the United States. He used to sit on the banks of the Savannah River, sipping martinis, and watching the ships go by, wondering where they were from and where they had been. One afternoon he saw one with the name Cosmos Mariner on the bow. That delighted him. (The word “cosmos” appears often in his poetry.)

That evening he went home and looked for mention of the Cosmos Mariner in the shipping news. There it was, in tiny type on the list of ships in port. The name was followed by the comment ‘Destination Unknown.’ That pleased him even more. So, his instructions for his tombstone were to make it a bench as an invitation for visitors to stop and enjoy a martini at his grave, and the inscription was to say, “Give my love to the world, Cosmos Mariner—Destination Unknown,” and that’s exactly how his grave is today.

Until next month,

Mary Anne

Mary Anne lives on Tybee with husband The Tybee Handyman.
Contact her at: MaryAnne@tybeevacationremtals.com

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