The moment we stepped on River Street in downtown Savannah, we saw tall, square riggers moored at the pier. People were dressed like buccaneers, walking up and down the pier and mingling with the crowds. They had long beards, wore tattered clothing and three-cornered hats and swords draping off their sides and cap-and-ball pistols stuck in their sashes.
The tall ships that visited Savannah brought live history to Coastal Georgia. This year, I counted 14 of these two- and three-masted vessels. These ships represent different countries. There were the USS Eagle and others representing America.
People climbed aboard them as if they were part of the crew. The scene was impressive. I was impressed at the large crowds. These sailing ships with tall, square-rigged masts sail on the open seas, and they do not drop anchor in every port— there are selected ports in which they drop anchor. They have a long lineage and are like people with souls.
My imagination flashed to the 17th century, when a code of life was the thirst for gold, fighting for survival, pillaging, reckless adventure on the high seas, preying on ships in the Spanish Main and sea battles in the Caribbean.
Being a fan of pirate movies, my favorite one is “The Black Swan.” I imagined myself as the pirate James Warren, played by Tyrone Power, wearing a sash with baggy, loose trousers, a sword on my side and a red bandanna tied around my head. I probably was not the only one with such imagination.
Of course, the most popular ship at the festival was the new HMS Bounty. She was built by MGM Studios for making the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” She is a replica of the original merchant ship commissioned in 1787 by the British Admiralty that was sunk by the mutineers off the coast of Pitcairn Island, now called Bounty Bay.
In studying the making of the movie, I learned that the HMS Bounty was scripted to be burned in accordance with history. However, it was saved at the request of Marlon Brando, who played Fletcher Christian. The Bounty has since starred in several movies. Because the Bounty has such a history of exciting human adventure packed with drama and suspense, the lines of visitors were so long that we gave up hope of ever boarding.
We bought a ticket for boarding all the ships, but we could only board one, the Dewaruci. Her home port is Surabays, Indonesia.
Moored at the end of the pier was the Eagle, a ship built in 1930 for training Coast Guard cadets. Of course, being a part of the Coast Guard, she looked sleek and the most well-kept of them all.
In the early years on River Street, these tall ships were all that one could see docked at the pier. They were mostly merchant ships being loaded for distant ports. There were wagons loaded with tobacco, bales of cotton, kegs filled with all kinds of alcoholic spirits and other basic commerce. Probably, then, there were no visitors or sightseers on the piers — it was an everyday scene. Sailors and shore workmen walked on River Street visiting the taverns and taking in whatever entertainment they could find.
There was a little sadness when we were ready to leave. I overheard one of the ticket takers say, “If the revenues are good this year, they may return next year.” It would be most regretful if these tall ships did not return.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill.