As a former captain and resident of Savannah, Georgia, I have had the opportunity to drive boats on the Savannah River countless times. Without question, you need to be aware of the challenges when navigating the river. Two of the biggest factors are remaining clear of the heavy shipping traffic and managing the tidal flow. In the Savannah area, the tidal changes are significant. Here is how to navigate the tides in the Savannah River.

Savannah, Georgia Tidal Swings

One of the biggest things to consider is the differnces between low and high tide and high and low tide. In Savannah, the tidal swings are large and for this reason boater must be cautious especially in the river. 

Average Tidal Change

It should be noted that the tidal changes can be as significant as 10 plus feet in the Savannah coastal waters. I have gone boating during the more extreme tidal changes and will tell you first hand that it presents a challenge. 

However, for the most part, you can expect a tidal swing ranging between six and eight feet. Keep in mind that this is still a lot of water moving between tides. 

Tidal Change Frequency

In conjunction with the amount of water that flows in or out during low or high tide is the frequency in which it occurs. 

In Savannah, the tide shifts every six hours from the city out to the opening of the ocean. With that said, it is a massive swing between the tides. As a boater, imagine the flow of water if the depth increases or decreases by 8 feet over 6 hours. Yes, it presents a challenge when navigating especially in the river. 

The Challenge Of Wind And Current In The Savannah River

For the most part, I spent most of my time operating vessels out of South Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. That being said, I entered and exited tight inlets. Tight inlets with flowing water and strong winds working opposite each other build massive waves. The same can occur in the river from the city of Savannah to the open ocean. 

Why Waves Build In The River

As if operating a boat during shifting tides isn’t challenging enough. Combine tidal swings with stiff winds especially near the mouth of the river. 

When wind blows in the opposite direction of the water moving with the tide waves build. I have seen this occur as far inland as downtown along river street. Large waves as a result of the opposite flow build big waves. 

How To Navigate Wind And Tide Driven Waves

Unquestionably, you need to remain alert when these conditions are present in the river. Avoid being distracted. The last thing you want is to bury the bow or come within close proximity of a ship and tugs transiting the river. 

Importantly, keep your bow into the wave or at a slight angle when driving towards the waves. Manipulate the throttle to keep your bow up. Avoid the bow from dipping down and taking on water. 

When moving with the waves, monitor your stern to prevent water from crashing over the back. Furthermore, never race from the top of a wave and down the opposite side, as you can stuff the bow. 

With that said, it is imperative to use caution and understand that conditions can change quickly. If need be, tuck into a smaller creek where the waves will be unable to build. 

Always Be On The Lookout For Traffic

Take it from me: the Savannah River is a busy place. Not only are recreational boaters cruising up and down, but so are massive ships, ferries, and tugs. 

Unquestionably, rough waves and strong currents can cause distraction. Keep your eye out for passing recreational boats and commercial traffic. 

Furthermore, it is essential to keep a wide berth when navigating near ships. Yes, the river isn’t considerably wide; therefore, you are likely to approach the shoreline when passing a ship. 

Avoid operating too close to the shore, where you will risk running aground. 

Lastly, understand that tugs which are assisting ships to move direction rapidly and abruptly. The position of a tug boat can change in a matter of seconds. Give them plenty of room. 

Navigate The Savannah River Tides With Confidence

Boating safely in the river is easily accomplished by remaining vigilant. Remain focused by avoiding distractions. The beauty of the river is unmatched between the marsh shoreline, historic city, and the opportunity to be close to massive ships. Take the opportunity to go boating in the river.