The Katie Underwood is the main ferry serving Sapelo Island. Its namesake, Katie Hall Underwood (1884-1977), was born on Sapelo and began working as a midwife in the 1920s. She assisted almost every birth on the island until retiring in 1968 and was among its most beloved citizens. She was the last in a long line of midwives who served Sapelo from slavery days onward. Mrs. Underwood lived in the north end at Raccoon Bluff but carried her black bag all over the island, to the scattered communities of Hog Hammock, Shell Hammock, and others. A story is told of her delivering a baby on the north end one morning and walking seven miles to the south end to deliver another in the evening. She is said to have never lost a child during delivery.
The ferry was dedicated on 28 October 2006. It was built by Geo Shipyard in New Iberia, Louisiana.
The interior has seating for 102 passengers.
The boat is 70’9 3/4″ in length and has a maximum speed of 26.6 knots. It’s powered by two Caterpillar C-18 engines rated 700 hp.
A covered upper deck provides open-air seating for 48. 10 additional seats are located on the bow.
Like all roads on Sapelo, the road to Cabretta Beach is devoid of even a stop sign and it’s usually a rough ride.
One of the prettiest views on the island is Blackbeard Creek as seen from this wooden bridge, built by the Department of Natural Resources.
Blackbeard Creek separates Cabretta Beach from Blackbeard Island, which is visible in the distance from the bridge.
African-Americans were baptized in this swamp beginning in the 1840s. It’s just downstream from a well-known fishing and swimming spot known as Round Hole and was likely chosen for its proximity to that natural landmark.
Baptisms were first performed on enslaved persons by white members of the nearby North Newport Church. When the white congregation moved to Walthourville in 1854, the slaves renamed the church First African Baptist Church and continued ritual baptisms here until the 1940s. Some of their descendants are the Geechee people who still live nearby.
Today, the Historic Baptismal Trail has been memorialized as a public park with a boardwalk, including signage identifying plants and trees that were historically important to the community.
Views of the Skidaway River from Bluff Drive are among Isle of Hope’s most appealing qualities, emblematic of the slower pace that residents enjoy.
Bluff Drive and the surrounding little streets are truly among the most idyllic neighborhoods in Savannah.
Noel Wright’s fascinating history of marine operations at Isle of Hope confirm their central role in the community for the better part of the 20th century. The Hallman family were among the first commercial operators in the 20th century, bolstered by Joe Hallman’s reputation as one of Savannah’s best shipbuilders. The Brady and Barbee families were also important to this early industry. Bill Brady, brother-in-law of Willie Barbee, bought Hallman’s Fish Camp circa 1939 and renamed it Brady’s Boat Works.
Mr. Wright recalls: Over the years, the marina added numerous floating docks and large covered boat wet storage sheds. They installed benches in front of the over-the-water office for customers and kibitzers, and the marina became the center of activity for the entire island. Many of today’s Isle of Hope adults worked for the marina in their youths as their first paying job. In 1962, Isle of Hope was filled with excitement! Gregory Peck, Polly Bergen, and Robert Mitchum were in Savannah filming the movie, Cape Fear. Several of the important scenes were filmed at the marina under the gaze of thrilled crowds of Isle of Hopeians. Isle of Hope lads Malcolm Harbison and Jim Sickel both had bit parts in the movie! Bill Brady retired in the middle 1970s and Neil Mingledorff became the next owner.
In the mid 1980’s, real estate investors became interested in buying the marina and the houses on the Bluff that had been acquired over the years with plans to close the marina and build condominiums and develop the marina land for commercial uses. When the developers realized the strong opposition to their plans from the Isle of Hope residents, David Johnson stepped forward and purchased the marina operations, and the IOH Historical Association purchased the residential properties across the Bluff. The Association immediately resold the residential parcels to individuals who agreed to rehab the existing homes or construct new homes on the few vacant lots in compliance with guidelines established by the Association. Jack Oliver became the manager, and peace returned to the island.
Today, Charlie Waller and his sister Kathryn Waller II, are the marina owners. They have recently completely rebuilt and modernized the facilities to transform it into the most up-to-date, desirable, and sought-after marina on the Georgia coast.
Mr. Wright has lived on Bluff Drive since 1944 and his history is worth reading. This is just a small part of it.
Buckhead Creek can be viewed from the site of the Genesis Project at Middle Place.