We who ride PWC are fortunate that they allow us to enjoy various water and riding conditions. From crystal clear waters to twisty exhilarating creeks, our skis allow us the versatility to take in new sights and whatever adventures that we can think of. In special cases, they also allow us the opportunities to see our dreams come true.
Many years ago before PWC riding was such a crazy part of my life, we were in the Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina area. We would sit in downtown Savannah and gaze at the river as various types of boats would go by and thought how cool is that. As we drove over to Hilton Head, we would see sailboats and would think, what a life. Those were fond memories that never really faded and were kept in the back of my mind.
Now fast forward to present day, with its organized PWC ride groups, online forums and a wealth of information on tap, I was scrolling through the Greenhulk forum, and came across a post of a local Georgia rider named Mike who was talking about riding the same waters that so many years ago was only an imagination. With a quick PM and the many informative replies, that got the ball rolling. With a few hours of getting a suitable ramp, fuel stops, points of interest and destination, the ride plan was finished. We were able to put together a ride between two ride groups in different states on waters seldom traveled by most watercraft enthusiasts. Fittingly the ride was called, “Georgia Still on My Mind.”
If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy or experience the Georgia waters and coast, a quick Google view shows vast areas almost untouched by development. In fact, some islands remain uninhabited and others are still only accessible by boat or watercraft. From seeing the wild horses on Cumberland Island to the former Puerto Rican monkey colony of rhesus monkeys located on Morgan Island, SC, there are lots of water and scenic sights to take in.
On this trip, we decided to focus on the Savannah/Hilton Head area. We would launch from the Diamond Causeway ramp and head north on our way to Harbour Town Yacht Basin on Hilton Head, South Carolina. This was the first Georgia ride that far north for most of the Jacksonville group and many noticed the change in water quality. The weather was a bit on the windy side, so we chose the Intracoastal route that took us up the Skidaway, Wilmington, Savannah and Harbor rivers on our way to Hilton Head.
The ride group comprised of two groups, the Jacksonville Jet Riders with myself and Brandon Ford as ride leaders and the Coastal Empire Jet Riders with ride leaders Demian Kelly and David Gross. We had a few riders who rode two up with one being a very excited junior passenger. There was also a rider who rides with us quite often and many don’t know that he doesn’t have the use of his lower body. Turbo Todd isn’t one to let a disability define him and rides with the best of them. He is a Sea-Doo guru and overall great guy.
After a pre-ride greet and chat where the riders were brought up to speed on the days route, the group headed north on the Skidaway River. We continued north past Isle of Hope and up to the Wilmington River. We had a quick head count and rider break before turning west and headed past Thunderbolt Marine. Thunderbolt Marine houses many mega yachts in various phases of repair and refitting. It is also a full scale marina with a tradition of bringing fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts to your vessel each morning. How’s that for service!
While passing under the US 80 bridge, we came up on Sea Ray of Savannah and picked up another CEJR rider who was smart enough to avoid the wake zones! With most of the wake zones behind us, it was go time and the group jetted north on the Wilmington River and up to the Savannah River that serves as a border between Georgia and South Carolina. A turn west would have taken us to downtown Savannah, but that was for another time and trip. At this point the wind was picking up and with more open water, it was becoming more choppy.
A couple of the two-up riders reluctantly turned around with their passengers comfort in mind while the rest of the group turned east on the Savannah River jogging the borderline and then north on the Harbor River and in to South Carolina. We passed west of Daufuskie Island which is a great hang out spot for locals with its east side beaches and its west side hang out spots. As we rounded the northern tip of Daufuskie, Hilton Head lay in view.
Upon approach, there was a sailboat regatta in full racing form which goes to show that the wind was good for somebody! The Coast Guard was also doing exercises which also made for some unplanned entertainment. We could see the Harbour Town lighthouse at this point and with just a little more riding, we would be there. We had the first hiccup of the day with one ski going down due to engine problems. With a quick assessment, it would have to be towed in. Many riders had hungry bellies growling at this point, so the group doubled down and made the last push to Harbour Town.
Harbour Town is a unique circular shaped marina with lots and lots of expensive boats at almost every slip. The 90 foot tall Harbour Town lighthouse greets seafarers to the Sea Pines Resort area which is also home to the Harbour Town Golf Link with the annually televised Heritage golf tournament and the equally famous 18th hole. As we idled in to Harbour Town we were greeted by staff and directed to our docking. Some of the boaters and passers by took pictures of the ride group who by this time was focused on docking and getting to lunch! Lunch was jet ski style at the Harbour Town Burgers and Brews. If you enjoy a gut busting, good time having burger joint with friends, then this is the place for you.
With food flying off the plates and drinks going down, the group chatted up the days events and took in the scenery. For many, we started the morning in Florida, drove to Georgia and rode to South Carolina. That made for quite a day so far! After relaxing and catching our breathe, it was time for some sight seeing and tee shirt buying before the ride back. A few riders fielded questions from fellow boaters who couldn’t believe that a group of people with some being from Jacksonville would ride jet skis from Savannah to Hilton Head. A few more were looking at the downed ski and decided it was time to get it towed back. The rider had tow insurance and was able to call and have it towed back to the departing ramp. How’s that for service!
After lunch, the winds settled down and that made for even better riding back. The group made great time riding three or more wide at some points, as we rounded Daufuskie Island and down the Harbor River to the Savannah River. We crossed back in to Georgia and made the turn south on the Wilmington River. Stopping for another rider break, the group chatted it up on supercharged fuel economy, future mod plans which ranged from fishing rigs to fuel racks and whatever else was one the menu. With the winds settled down a bit, everyone was able to appreciate the Coastal Empire waters and the wheels started turning on future ride plans.
Another sprint put us back to the US 80 bridge and the CEJR riders who turned in to home dock waved the rest of the group by as we continued on. It was time for some to take those mega yacht selfies and with a little more wake zone action and final head count, we were free to fly back to the ramp. Everyone who group rides can relate to this part where conditions line up without effort, riders are cruising hard and carving corners with that jet ski grin plastered across their faces. It’s jet ski riding at its best folks! It’s a mad dash back to the ramp where fuel economy is tossed out the window and bragging rights are on the line! Winners get the first come first served placement at the dock and others get to listen to the friendly banter.
This day the tide revealed a small sandy area near the ramp and some were able to jump out and beach their skis without having to dock. A few “Well played sir, well played” and “Wish I had seen it first” laughs as some jokingly stuck it to the fast guys. Everyone is helpful to lend a hand holding skis, backing in trailers or whatever a fellow rider may need until the last rider is in. This is also where we realized a can of bug repellent is a must have on any Georgia ride. Those little guys pack quite a bite! Hats off to the riders of JJR and CEJR who were willing to try something different and to the planners of a ride 9 months in the making and years in the dreaming. One dream down and many more to go. Lets Ride!