capsized ship

Clouds hang over the capsized Golden Ray just before sunrise last week.

As conversation pieces go, the Golden Ray is a big one lying out there dozing on its starboard side.

As of this writing, it’s been there six days shifting slightly with the tides.

This is one of those increasingly rare slow seasons on St. Simons, the less crowded weeks between Labor Day and Georgia-Florida weekend. You could actually find a parking space in the village until the Golden Ray keeled over on its side.

Now it’s a big steel attraction with more than 4,000 vehicles on board still tied to the decks, one hopes, while engineers do the math on how to get it upright and float it off the edge of the channel. You have to also figure about 4,000 vehicles a day are driven to the pier to look at the unlikely sight of an enormous ship’s top deck perpendicular to the water.

It’s not just the professionals trying to figure out how to float the auto carrier. There are a lot of amateurs working on the problem, and we do have some history of untapped expertise.

Back when Glynn County built that first roundabout at Frederica and Demere roads, I discovered that at least 80 percent of those who lived in Glynn County were traffic engineers. “This is going to be a disaster,’’ they said on the call-in shows. Roundabouts only work in Europe, where the English drive on the wrong side of the road and where per capita the French and Italian consume more wine per day than petrol, they argued.

Wringing their hands, they warned of fiery crashes, gridlock from the lighthouse to Christ Church and of confused elderly and teen drivers getting caught up in the flow and circling until they ran out of gas. We elderly would have least have our turn signals blinking nonstop. They exaggerated. I’ve only run out of gas once, and I already was down to an eighth of a tank when I got into it.

The roundabout has actually improved traffic flow and dramatically reduced crashes. In pre-roundabout days, you could drive in on Demere with intentions of turning left on Frederica. If you were lucky, you had to sit through only about three changes of the light before you got to the intersection.

Traffic is bad again, but only because we have too many vehicles for the roads.

The Golden Ray’s tipping onto its side has given residents something new to talk about.

Now, about 82 percent of Glynn County residents are marine salvage engineers with opinions on the cause of the Golden Ray’s capsize. (I’m wondering: Is there a ship that hauls Dixie Crystals sugar out of Savannah called the Sugar Ray? Just asking.)

They say it capsized because it was loaded incorrectly, the hydraulics failed and on and on. Some of that may be right.

I’m thinking it was blown over by Trump’s hate-filled anti-immigrant rhetoric. I’m amazed that NPR hasn’t found someone to say it was caused by climate change. It’s probably not lost on Democrats that it took a hard right turn as it tipped.

There’s a pool among some of the pier denizens on when it will float again. A friend of mine has Nov. 1. He didn’t say what year.

As you know, the Coast Guard has said the removal time will be measured in weeks and months not hours and days.

Some argue they’ll have to take all the vehicles off first although it’s hard to see how that’s possible without removing the top deck — formerly the port side — so a crane could get at them.

We hear that the company contracted with righting the ship plans to do it with airbags. And here I was thinking they could just get a few million of those Mylar helium balloons and tie them to the ship and float it out. Am I the only one who saw the movie, “Up?”

I’m also thinking all the remedies hashed out on the pier will be at least partly wrong. Meanwhile, we’ll have something to watch and good vantage points. Pick your pier, St. Simons or Jekyll Island.

Jekyll has more canopy, but at St. Simons you have better dining choices within walking distance.

You can’t look at that ship — at least I can’t — without remembering the amazing rescue of those four crewman who were trapped in that dark, steamy ship until Monday. You also have to hope and pray nobody gets hurt righting the vessel.

It’s been exciting couple of weeks. First it was the Hurricane Dorian which skirted along mostly harmless after its awful murderous stay in the Bahamas. With another storm predicted to come up the coast, you wonder how the higher tides and winds will affect the Golden Ray.

After that, the next mini-disaster is likely to be a Category 3 vortex of alcohol addled young University of Georgia fans on Nov. 1, the day before the game.

That brings me up to a new pool. How many Georgia fans will get arrested trying to spray paint “Go Dawgs” in black on the Golden Ray’s red hull? I’m thinking at least a dozen.

Terry Dickson has been a journalist in South Carolina and Georgia for more than 40 years. He is a Glynn County resident. Contact him at

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