Monday, February 13, 2017

On the big blue highway at last!

January – February 2017

After leaving Brunswick our first anchorage was just a 30 mile doddle south down to Cumberland Island. Pushing us along was a pretty fresh breeze from the south west with nasty short choppy seas. We decided that for our first day out it would be unwise to tackle an overnighter until we got our sea legs back again.

As we pulled into the anchorage just on dusk and were rewarded with a spectacular sunset. Ahhh the cruising life once again.

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Up early the next day we headed further south to St Augustine. Dia Gratia who we’d left Brunswick with decided to take the ICW for this leg but were caught short just before Jacksonville when maintance on one of the bridges crossing the waterway prevented them from going any further. Despondent they had to backtrack all the way back to Cumberland Island and make the trip to St Augustine the following day on the outside.

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That night when they arrived they were pretty tired so we cooked an early dinner for them and sent them home for a well earned sleep. After a day or so at St Augustine we headed out for the overnight leg down past Cape Canaveral and on to the warmer weather of West Palm Beach in Florida. It was great to shed all the bulky clothes and jeans which had been the wardrobe of choice  and necessity for the last few months. It was shorts and tee shirt weather down here!

West Palm is a great place to stop. Good restaurants, great city entertainment  and handy supermarkets are the draw cards here for us. During our stay here it was Super bowl weekend and the town was really pumping.

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Streets were transformed into walkways and  a big screen TV and outdoor dinning and bars were set up to watch the game. Friends Tina, Doug and their pooch Chloe drove down from Vero for a fun afternoon of lunch and people watching then later that evening we watched the  big game with local friends Bob and Lorraine from Scaramouche. It was a nail biter at the end with the New England Patriots defeating Atlanta after an amazing catch that threw the fans into a frenzy.

 

 

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Over the past two weekends President Trump has been in town. He hangs out at the very posh residence of Mar de Largo over on Palm Beach and along with his entourage creates quite a mess of the local traffic scene while he’s here. Yesterday afternoon we watched from our cockpit as Air Force One flew overhead whisking him back to Washington DC. It was quite a sight to see the big 747 fly past us, and naturally we waved . Not sure if he waved back though.

Well time has marched on as it always does and today we are leaving. Tonight will be an overnight sail to Bimini in the Bahamas. Unless something goes pear shaped GWTW will never dip her keels again in US waters. We will though  sometime in the future and for sure and for certain we will miss this  mighty country and her friendly people.

God bless all who live here.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

December 2016 to January  27th 2017

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A couple of weeks before Christmas we strolled uptown to our favourite Brunswick coffee shop. Daddy Cates had been one of our haunts since arriving in town in July 2015. Yes, we’ve been here that long. Dee, the owner makes fantastic lattes, great breakfasts and a killer club sandwich. We’ve been there dozens of times and often see the same clientele. But this particular morning there was a new face sitting just across from us.

A lanky, personable fellow with a big southern drawl, obviously a local to the area, struck up a conversation. He introduced himself and for over an hour or more we exchanged stories. Edwin, one of the ships pilots for the Port of Brunswick, guides the giant ro/ro car carriers safely into and out of the port,no matter what the weather gods may throw at him. It is an occupation that requires one to be incredibly skillful.

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We were lucky enough to be able to experience his work first hand when he invited us to join him on the bridge of one of these monoliths one evening as he took her out to sea. The Wihelmsen line ship was bound for Baltimore , New York and across the Atlantic to Germany and has the capacity for carrying around 8,000 cars in her hold. We were given the ships tour and apart from the sumptuous smell of new car leather it was the engine room that just blew us away. That big thumping engine put our piddly Yanmar 75’s to shame.The pilot sea buoy is some 12 miles offshore and that’s where we’d be disembarking.  It was a cold, dark, windy night with a decent sea running. Under the watchful eye of Edwin while the the ship skipped along at 11 knots we gingerly climbed down the not-so-steady rope ladder to the bucking pilot boat nudged up along sideway below To say that the climb down got the adrenaline flowing and focused the mind is an understatement. What a hoot of a Saturday night that was!

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Christmas morning dawned and somehow Santa had found us even though we weren’t in the land of palm trees. As is our tradition we started the day with a glass of bubbly followed by the opening  of a cache of prezzies. Our fun Canadian dock neighbours, Tina & Doug from S/V Amazed,  joined us a bit later for some Christmas snacks while our roast chicken and veg sizzled away in the oven.

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Tina and Doug headed up to the clubhouse to join in the festivities while we elected to stay home for our yummy chicken dinner. One can definitely over socialize in this marina. So we had the usual laid back Christmas on GWTW and it was he first one on record that we’d not taken a plunge over the side to cool off.

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With Christmas over for another year our focus was now on getting ready to leave. There were still things to do and both our lists seemed to be endless. One morning when there was just a whisper of breeze we hoisted our spinnaker which had sat in its bag for over two years. We were worried that it would shred itself though lack of use but instead it set beautifully even though were still tied to the dock. That’s the closest we’ve been to sailing for a very  very long time.

 

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New Years Eve saw us with no plans. That was until the phone rang. Edwin,who I mentioned earlier invited us out to his house to celebrate the evening. He’d organized an oyster roast and bbq on his dock with neighborhood friends. We had a great night with a wonderful bunch of people. The southern hospitality never ceases to amaze us. Thanks  so much Edwin and Deborah.

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And there you have it, another year has flown by and we are still in Georgia.

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January 2017

DSCN0401Keeping a watchful eye on the weather our leaving date kept getting pushed back. Cold fronts from the north rolled through every couple of days bringing cold winds and near freezing temps, which left a calling card of ice on our decks. It was starting to give us Deja Vu ‘Vu from this time last year.

 

Having only been in Brunswick like forever, at pretty much the11th hour we decided to have a large sun awning made up to cover the front of the boat. This took a little longer than we’d anticipated  and as luck would have it a rocket launch was scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in a few days time. Having missed seeing many over the years we decided to book a car and hotel and head south. It was an Atlas V rocket that is integral to detecting ballistic missile launches world wide.

The launch date was set for January 19th with a window of just 45 minutes to get airborne. Sadly, the launch was aborted after a stray aircraft drifted into Canaveral airspace just as the window was closing.  Rescheduled for the following night we rebooked our hotel. Second time lucky and right on time with a live feed on the phone giving us the countdown, the the launch pad glowed bright orange. The sound of the massive engines thrusting upwards reverberated through the night sky as Atlas V soared skywards, disappearing into space a few minutes later. It was a spectacular sight to see and yet another tick for the bucket list.

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So there were to big bangs that day. As they say in racing horse parlance it was the daily double. The first was earlier in the day at 12 noon precisely. And when the clock stuck twelve president elect Donald J Trump  became the commander and chief of the United States of America. We watched it live on the TV from our hotel room. I guess what happens next is in the lap of the gods or the hand of fate. Take your pick but time will tell.

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Driving back to Brunswick next day we caught up with two sets of friends in Jacksonville, Larry and Lena from S/V Hobo and Mark and Mary from S/V Mary Sol. It was great to see them but very sad to say our goodbyes after all these years. It was something we’d have to get used to over the coming days.

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Liam, on and off for the past months, has been helping our friend Kris get her boat up to speed. Between the two of them they have tackled many jobs to get the boat to a level where she could actually move it from the dock and get S/V Water Frog out and sailing. After a few hands-on lessons of docking and maneuvering Kris finally took the helm and got out there. It was a real notch in her belt and we were glad we were able to be part of her monumental occasion. Good onya Kris!

 

Well saying goodbye is always hard but leaving day, January 27th, finally rocked around. An early morning load of last minute washing started the day which was consequently deposited into one of the clubhouse dryers along with a memo to self to pick it up before we left. Then it was off to Daddy Cates for one last coffee with friends. Next up was return the rental car and pick up some eggs and bread at the local Wal-Mart. Back to the marina  we rushed to pay one last bill and then a dash down to dock 13 to help Jim, Judy and their beautiful Golden Retriever Amber drop their dock lines.

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Then it was our turn. With tears flowing  and an air of sadness we dropped our lines and waved goodbye to our Brunswick home and family we’d come to love. Georgia will always be on our minds. We motored down the inlet to join Jim and Judy (S/V Dia Gratia) who we’d buddy boat with down to West Palm Beach in Florida.

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Well it seems that Brunswick had its clutches on us. You can check out but you can never leave. About an hour into our journey the penny dropped….the washing. Yep, the memo to self must have got washed away with the tears because it dawned on me that the washing was still in the dryer!! With an about turn back we went. The marina staff all had a good chuckle at that and Kris came to the rescue delivering my bag of very dry and neatly folded washing, thanks Kris, to the fuel dock for a very well executed snatch and grab operation.

Take two and we were outta there.

We’ve had an absolute ball in the 19 months that we spent at Brunswick Landing Marina and thoroughly recommend it as a place to linger a while. There are so many wonderful people that we’ve met over that time that its hard to name y’all. Some were only brief encounters while others  were friendships with those who’ve been there as long or longer than us.The memories will last a lifetime and we hope our paths cross again someday.

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But for now new adventures await us. It’s time to go cruising!

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

 

Time to get cracking, but everything always takes longer than you think!

November - December 2016

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There’s a saying in cruiser speak that goes like this plans are written in the sand and then the waves come and wash them all away”. Believe us when we say that is sooo true. It’s actually pretty much become a way of life for us these days. 

So we got back from Oz and figured on a week or two to get the boat up to speed, provision her to the max and then bid goodbye to Brunswick and the USA for the final time. The plan was to be sunning ourselves and dipping our toes in either the warm waters of the Bahamas or maybe the British Virgin Islands by Christmas. I tell you the man upstairs must have had a good laugh at that one. I mean really, what were we thinking.

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Enter the game changer. After a joint meeting of the heads of staff on board GWTW there was a significant back peddle re the venue for having our mast removed and the standing rigging replaced. Not that there was anything wrong with our rig it’s just that it is sweet sixteen and has done a lot of miles since our launch back in 2004.

Originally that task was earmarked for down in Panama where we’d haulout and give the bottom a new lick of paint before transiting the canal and setting sail into the South Pacific.

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Aussies, Matt and Karen from the Lagoon cat “Where 11” on the dock next to us, mentioned that they were having a rigger come over to quote for taking out his mast etc. It sounded like a good idea so we piggy backed on that one. Julian from Sparman USA showed up a couple of days later checked both rigs and offered us both a deal that we couldn’t refuse. He had an opening for the two cats down at St Mary’s Boatyard the week of November 15th with an approximate date for the masts to be reinstalled not more than two weeks later. That sounded like a plan.

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We drove down to checkout the yard and chatted to the yard owner Rocky about the possibility of hauling GWTW out at the same time which would save us doing it in Panama. He said it was possible though we’d have to shed a few pounds for the crane to be able to lift us. So thanks to friends Chris and Erin from the beautiful trawler “Barefeet” who were back in Boston at the time, we set about moving our sails and a few other bits and pieces over to their boat for some short term storage.

The 16th rocked around and we sidled up to the not so pretty dock at St Mary's where Rocky and his crane along with Julian were waiting for us. The day before the mast was coming out we baulked at going the whole nine yards with the haulout . This was much to Rocky’s relief we think. We decided there was just too much at stake lifting our porky house with a crane rather than than the usual travelift or on a submersible trailer.

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The de-rigging went as smooth as silk and within an hour or so the mast, forestay, shrouds and boom were sitting comfortably on terra firma. We were now officially a power cat.

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Not having a mast does have it’s advantages. Birds can’t sit on your mast and poop on your decks from great heights..yeah,! and t’s way easier for you know who to wash the boat. Also instead of having to go back out into the ocean we could motor back to Brunswick via the Intercostal waterway. That’s a  privilege reserved for those with masts of 65 feet or less due to the height constraints of many US bridges.

Let the buying frenzy begin. The next couple of mastless weeks were filled with muchos biggos ordering of spare parts from our friends at Amazon and many many visits to equally as friendly Wal- Mart and the like for those last minute “must have before we depart these shores” items.

Our credit cards took a severe beating as the planned two week period for re-stepping the mast came and went. A majorly important part for the rig was just not available in the US and had to be sourced from the UK and that apparently would take some time. Remember what I said earlier about plans? 

Well Thanksgiving, Nov 25th,came and went. Annie’s birthday, Dec 8th,came and went and our first attempt at barbequing Godzilla the turkey, Dec 14th, came and went.

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Christmas decorations and trees crept into the stores and front yards became adorned with nativity scenes and blinking light displays. Dozens of boats tossed off their dock lines and headed south like the Canada geese and still we sat mastless in our slip .The birds that usually roosted on the mast and pooped on our decks were definitely not impressed at the delay and neither were we.

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Then finally on December 18th we got the call. The all important part was due to arrive by the 20th and the mast could be put back in the following morning. So we got hoping and shimmied on down to the boatyard 50 miles south.

Putting the rig back in went without a hitch and taking the place of our good luck charms placed under the mast during GWTW’s launch (Rhett’s dog tags and some of his fur ) are now a few US and Aussie silver coins. Along with a quick prayer and a nod to the gods we hope that these coins too will keep us safe on the oceans travels. 

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Once all the important things like backstays and forestays nipped up we were ready to go and once again on our way as a sailboat back up to Brunswick.

With Christmas now just days away we gave up on our plans to be some place warmer than Georgia.

The waves had once again won out over the sand.

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