Sail to the Sun Rally: Hilton Head Hospitality

An unexpected stop on the Sail to the Sun Rally on the ICW ends up being a trip highlight.

Sail to the sun
The view from Ted's property.Wally Moran

Today's blogpost is about what has unexpectedly become one of the highlights of this trip.

While planning the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally stops, I began to panic when I came to organizing the Savannah section. It seemed that no marina could take more than five boats, and two told me flat out that they wouldn't even consider reservations until ten days to two weeks before our arrival.

When you're booking for 20 boats, that makes it time to panic.

Then, out of the blue, I get a message on Facebook from Ted Arisaka, a member of Windmill Harbor Marina on Hilton Head Island. Why not bring the Rally into Windmill Harbor, a lovely marina protected by a lock? What an idea? Could this marina handle the group?

Well, not only could they handle the group, they rolled out the red carpet for us and made everyone a huge fan of what can only be described as one of the nicest marinas I've ever stayed at. Well, everyone but Let It Be, Frank and Mary Grace's 44 foot catamaran, which couldn't fit in the lock. They took a slip at Skull Creek Marina, about a mile or so away.

The Rally crew started rolling into the anchorage outside Windmill Harbor shortly after noon, waiting their call to enter the lock. Because of the depths in the entrance, the shallow draft boats entered first, and were directed to their slips while the rest of the group waited patiently at anchor. One by one, we entered and cleared the lock until we were all tied up at our assigned slip in perfectly still waters with no tide at all. How pleasant is that? It reminded me of the Great Lakes, not having to worry about tide.

Then the fun started. Ted and his lovely wife Patti hosted a pizza party (24 pies!) at his home that evening, while everyone oohed and aahed at the view. Just spectacular, as you can see.

The following day, most of the group headed out for Savannah to explore. Others just hung out and enjoyed the yacht club and facilities, which were made available for our group - bar, dining, tennis, gym and sailing. I could get used to living like this.

Most of us ended up dining in the clubhouse that evening after a (very) happy hour at the bar and, as expected, the food was delicious - and very well priced too I have to add.

sail to the sun rally
Ted and Ken exchange burgess at Windmill Harbor Marina.Wally Moran

Wednesday, they had some small boat racing on Harbor 20s planned, but the wind didn't co-operate. A few folks headed for the pool instead. Others in the group were enjoying community and home tours of the 'plantation', as it's known. Some even did laundry - dedicated souls that they are, I salute them while in my getting kind of filthy jeans! I can do laundry tomorrow, they still pass the sniff test. (note: if you're a real cruiser, you know what that is!)

Wednesday evening, we were hosted to a reception (complete with nibbles, wine and beer) and a presentation by JR Richardson, the founder of the South Carolina Yacht Club.

JR discussed the history of Hilton Head and of the development of Windmill Harbor - a story he knows well, being one of those intimately involved with this community and the island itself from a young age. Some of the photos of historic Hilton Head were amazing, and his personal anecdotes were well received.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone in the Rally thoroughly enjoyed their time at Windmill Harbor. One came to me openly astonished to tell me that as they walked around looking at the many beautiful homes, neighbours would step out and say "Are you the sailors? Welcome to Windmill, we're so glad you're here."

It's just that kind of southern hospitality and charm that made it so great to be there - and so hard to leave on Thursday morning.

Here's the best part for those of you cruising south - Windmill is open for transients and they'd love to have you visit them too. Check out their website and, on your way south, consider trying something a little different - and a lot nicer than most marinas you'll come to. That's not taking anything away from the many great marinas the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally has stayed at - but Windmill Harbor is just a cut above almost every place I've ever been.

Remember, you can also follow the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally at Our precise location can be found via my Delorme Inreach device, and that map is found at Where's Wally?

If that's not enough Rally excitement for you, you can like and follow us on Facebook at the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page.

The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page is now at Jekyll Island, and preparing for Thanksgiving at the St. Marys GA Cruisers Thanksgiving Potluck. Stay tuned.