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Once upon a time, if you ventured onto one of northeast Georgia’s numerous lakes, there was one way to be pulled behind a fast-moving boat: traditional skis.

That was then.

Now, there are so many ways to be towed, including individual tubes, multiple seating tubes, boards, rafts and skis, that there’s a new term common to water recreation – towables.

Kids, both old and young, love them.

Take young Jack Thomson, 11, of Clarkesville.

Fog used to settle in the bottomland in the 1940s and hang over the Savannah River as it meandered its way from Hart County to the Atlantic Ocean, blanketing the rolling foothills of Northeast Georgia and the farms that dotted the landscape.

Dirt roads crisscrossed the hills, connecting farms and communities like Sardis and Alford to places across the river in South Carolina and beyond via bridges like the Alford’s Steel Bridge.

Above, Cheryl Blackburn sits on the shoreline of Lake Rabun for the season's first boat church at Clayton First United Methodist Church. (Photos/Megan Broome)

When taking the boat out on the lake, people typically spend their time relaxing, grilling or swimming in the water. At Clayton First United Methodist Church, people drive their boats to boat church. Christ’s ministry in the mountains found its way to Lake Rabun in the early 1970s by the Rev. Hal Brady, the church’s pastor at the time.

The church website reveals an excerpt about the beginning of boat church in a remembrance by Sally Long Forlines.

On the lake

The only thing better than spending an afternoon or weekend at the lake may be enjoying your lake-time in a hot new boat.

Several marina managers shared what trends – and what boats – are popular this year. One thing they all agree on is that tritoons, or pontoon boats with three pontoons instead of the traditional two, are more popular than ever.

Brant Tew, owner of Hartwell Marina, said engines have become more powerful in the past few years.

On a cool, rainy November afternoon when it seems winter is just around the corner, Al Olsen has opened the shop behind his Lake Hartwell home. He and his golf partners had attempted, that morning, to get their usual 18 holes of golf in, but the rain wiped out his groupís round.

He has returned to his shop to talk about his passion, Chris Craft boats, and in particular a Chris Craft boat that he is currently rescuing from neglect.

It is a project he estimates he'll spend roughly 200 hours on, but he doesn't consider the project "work." 

Clay Keller is no professional angler, but his experience fishing the lakes of North Georgia — and places farther north like Canada — might as well qualify him as one.

Keller was secretary of the Appalachian Striper Club for 15 years and the Hartwell Largemouth Club for 18. He has the experience of a lifetime of fishing on Hartwell and other North Georgia lakes like Russell, Chatuge, Lanier and others.

“I’ve stirred up the water a little bit,” Keller quipped.

In that time, he has learned one universal truth: fishing in North Georgia is a year-round endeavor.

I first heard from Jabe Hilson about a year and a half ago via email. He dropped by one of the restaurants – a cold call – to see if the beverage director might like to taste his wines. I wasn’t around, but he left with my card. The message he sent – in which he told me a bit about his Clayton winery, Noble Wine Cellar – was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.


Northeast Georgian

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Cornelia, GA 30531

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