Sunday, March 12, 2017

When the winds Blow…..

February 28th – March 12th 2017

Well it seems that here on GWTW we have adopted a national anthem.       No, it’s not the Australian one, Advance Australia Fair and it’s not the USA’s Star Spangled Banner either.

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Ours was written by two brothers who live a little closer to home. They’re from  the land of the long-white-cloud and the song was a top hit from the NZ pop group Crowded House. Have you guessed the name yet? It’s actually quite a fitting  anthem for us given that the lyrics talk about the one big thing in our lives that dictates when and where we go. Yep it’s the “Weather with You” song! and the lyrics go like this “ Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you …you take the weather, the weather with you” And on that note I reckon you already know what comes next in this post.

 

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So here we are in the beautiful Bahamas, a place that most people think of as paradise, and it is on a nice day. But we have truly fallen out of favor with the weather gods this year. It’s slow going when the winds are howling and a howl’n they have been pretty much since we’ve arrived here. This past week has been no different. Since leaving Ship Cay at the top of the Exumas there has been a couple of very nasty fronts blow down from the northern USA. These fronts just reek havoc with every sailors’ plans, including ours.

 

 

The forecasters were so full of doom and gloom that they scared the pants off most of the boats and they scattered every which way. They literally upped anchor and headed for the hills, well  that’s metaphorically speaking of course, because as the Bahamas are so flat and devoid of hills, they actually headed to marinas. But we, being the brave or stupid souls that we be, decided to sit out three full days of 35-40 knot winds and squalls at Normans Cay, alone. That actually had its upside as we could put out as much anchor chain as we liked without anyone else getting their nickers in a knot over it.

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The wind in the rigging is a nice thing to hear, but not all day and night for three days. Still it gave us a chance to do chores, yep they are always lurking around the corner, fix things that weren’t previously broken but now were, read books and ponder both life and why things break for no given reason. So far we have no answer to the latter.

While we sat at Normans Cay we discovered purely by chance while fishing for a can of corn from the adjoining bilge, that our forward bilge under the starboard bed had sprung a leak. From where we don’t exactly know but suspect that the bilge pump outlet had been siphoning in water while we’d sailed down from the Berrys in rough seas. To our horror there was around 110 litres (25 gallons) of water in it when we opened it up to check. Liam spent an entire day replacing the existing bilge pump with a new kickass one and installing a very loud high water alarm. I spent all day washing off all the drowned contents of both bilges, drying them off and repacking them back into their former watery storage compartment and then moving roughly a year and a half of dry stores back onto the bed. We were both stuffed by the end of the night but very grateful that I needed that can of corn!

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With a slight lull in the wind Liam was granted a shore pass and dingied to the beach to burn our paper and plastic trash. It’s amazing how much can accumulate in such a short time.

After three days the wind calmed down to a mere 25 – 30 knots. In need of a change of scenery we headed south towards Black Point, forty miles away. We were having a perfectly lovely sail, that is until we had to harden up and head more east than south. The seas got bigger and steeper, yuck, and the foredeck was constantly awash with waves breaking over the bows. Double yuck. Were we having fun? Not on your nelly!.

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We endured five long hours of crashing and banging and finally pulled the pin. Abeam of Staniel Cay we motored in to join the brave band of fifty other yachts anchored there riding out the continuing strong winds. It was a good decision.

We found a snug spot in the prime location just off Big Major’s Spot aka Pig Beach. In recent weeks there has been a lot of press regarding the world famous swimming pigs. Seven had been found dead, the cause of which was unknown. One report blamed the boaters for giving them alcohol, something we definitely do not believe, others said it was from the ingestion of salt water but no one really knows.

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Anyway, we are pleased to report that this sounder of swine are still alive and kicking. We counted four big heffers and at least fourteen small to mid sized ones. And they all look perfectly fat, happy and healthy. Following the incident a warning sign has been placed on the beach re feeding them, not that the tour operators or tourists give a rats about it. Since our last visit in 2015 we noticed that food bins and a large tub for freshwater have also been placed there. During our stay this time construction of a shade cabana for the high profiled porcines has commenced. We’re guessing that the penny has finally dropped re the power of the tourist dollar when it comes to the value and  well being of this herd of trotting bacon.

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Once the winds calmed down we took to the dinghy out for a spot of lobster  hunting. These critters can be pretty elusive at times but Liam did manage to spot one and he in turn spotted us, which made for a hasty retreat on his part. Sadly for us he lives to tell the tale. On the way back home we did a drift snorkel through the cut between Big Majors and Fowl Cay. The current was hooting through at a couple of knots as we glided at speed over the fish and corals below. It was so much fun that we went back and did it three more times. Later that arvo Liam launched Shadow the drone  and we got some great ariel footage of the pigs, the boat and the surrounding waters. Just as soon as we get sorted the video will be added to this post, but in the meanwhile you’ll have to settle for some still shots.

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Now we are down at Black Point, a small community that is very boater oriented. Since being here I’ve had my haircut in the outdoor salon that has to have THE best view of any hair cutting establishment on the planet. We’ve once again seen the fabled “Green Flash”, that makes a total of four in the past 11 years. We’ve enjoyed a couple of great rum punches at Scorpios bar and grill and caught up with friends not seen since 2011.

Loads of washing have been done and Sunday morning music has been brought to us courtesy of the melodic tones of the church choir belting out songs of praise to the almighty. And tonight we’ll go ashore and feast on a traditional Bahamian buffet at Lorraine's CafĂ©.

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Tomorrow we’ll be making a change in direction as we set sail to a new destination in the out islands of the Bahamas, Cat Island. It’s some 50 miles east of here and with the forecast of south easterly winds we’re chomping at the bit to set the sails again!

                   

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Cruiser Info :

Dinghy dock at the government dock, trash skip also at the shore end of the dock with donation box.

Rockside Laundramat :  Run by Iada , call on ch 16. Open Mon – Sat 0830 – 1730, Closed Sunday.  Washers and dryers DIY or drop off service. Sells cold drinks, souveniers, marine supplies, hardware supplies and wonderful homemade carrot cake. Free wi-fi and dinghy dock.

Scorpios Bar & Grill : Open everyday 0800 till late. Cruisers happy hour Tues, Thurs & Fri, 1600 – 1800. Great food, fab rum punches and great people.

Lorraines Cafe. Open daily lunch & dinner, specials announced on ch 16.

There are other eating places in town as well that we are yet to try.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

 

The Bahamas Beckon

16th –28th February 2017

After clearing out with customs and immigration in West palm beach ( there's a story behind that which I'll note at the end of this post) and saying goodbye to Bob and Lorraine from S/V Scaramouche, we woofed down a quick bite of dinner, upped the anchor around 8pm and headed out the Lake Worth Inlet just on dark. It wasn't our preferred departure time but as I've said many times before, everything always takes longer than you think. Paralleling the coastline south as far as Miami, we then planned to hang a hard left to cross the Gulf Steam towards Bimini in the Bahamas.

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It was a glorious night for a sail. A good size moon lit the way and a blanket of stars twinkled above overhead. The gentle motion of flat seas and a soft west-south-west breeze pushed us along. As a backdrop to all this the lights of Florida and the silhouette of her skyscrapers added to the magic .

I remember thinking how very sad it was that after all these years, six in total, we won't be sailing in the USA 's home waters again. It's strange how the mind wanders at night, but not for long.

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Now one would think that there'd be very little traffic on the ocean at night. Wrong. It's like the friggin’ interstate out here sometimes and tonight was one of those nights. Between cargo ships, fishing trawlers, cruise liners, pilot boats, tugs, tugs towing barges and pleasure craft who all seemed to want the same patch of water as us, well lets just say it keeps you on your toes and keeps the mind pretty well focused.

Our Vesper AIS ( automatic identification system) alarm on our nav computer was sounding off for hours warning us of approaching ships, some a little too close for comfort at times.

The transition from night to day arrives slowly during the winter months and as the sun rose, daylight revealed the deep azure waters slowly turning to the pale hues of the Bahamas.

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Arriving in Bimini we were greeted by our friends Donnie and Judy from S/V Blue Sky waving enthusiastically from the shore. It was great to see them over here. We were all very excited at the prospect of cruising together over the coming weeks. This was to be their first time for cruising the Bahamas and we were going to show them what we considered all the best spots.

 

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We spent a few days in Bimini waiting for some very strong winds to pass. Tucked up in a well protected anchorage at the far end of the entrance channel we were snug as a bug. The wind howled but GWTW sat rock solid .

At around 5am a construction barge with a huge spotlight brought daylight to our anchorage a few hours early. The skilled captain maneuvered his vessel in rather tight quarters avoiding the three anchored boats .

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The barge came within a few feet of GWTW which really got our attention. Given that another barge was due in a bit later we decided to relocate to the other side of the bay where nothing would interrupt a good nights sleep.

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Sadly, next morning we trundled out of Bimini alone. Our friends on Blue Sky had received a distressing phone call the evening before. One of Donnie's best friends, Ken, had been badly injured in a skiing accident in Utah and was now in a coma. So instead of sailing east with us they sailed west back to Miami where they'd board a plane to Utah to stand vigil with Kens family. Our prayers went with them for Ken to make a speedy recovery.

 

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It seemed over the next week that we were being plagued by bad weather systems . The winds clocked around from every direction making us choose our anchorages carefully. We headed for the Berry Islands where we knew the bays and coves well. With two nights here and two nights there we felt we were constantly on the move.

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As we moved slowly south we decided  that the western end of Nassau Harbour would be the best place to drop the hook and avoid the next frontal system which was due to last three days. Surprisingly,  when we  arrived we were the only boat there. All the others who we shared previous anchorages with in the Berry's had run for cover to a marina. In the Bahamas that decision can be a very expensive one.

 

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We heard many calls over the VHF radio requesting berthing rates from the various marinas in Nassau. One marina came back with a costing of six dollars per foot and that would not include power or water. Yikes! Needless to say a little later we heard the same boat calling up another marina. No doubt looking for something a bit more reasonable.

After the front blew itself out we pointed the bows east, unfurled the screecher and sailed over the shallow waters of the yellow banks arriving at the north anchorage of Ship Cay a few hours later.

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The water colours over there are picture postcard perfect. The bay has a little beach and is surrounded by a good assortment of coral reefs and bommies, many of which support ecosystems for a variety of fish life. But more importantly, there are lobsters too!

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We stayed here for four peaceful days soaking up the serenity. By day we did boat chores, read books, snorkeled and caught our dinner from the seas bounty. By night, after watching the sky turn golden then dusky pink as the sun set over the horizon, we’d  fill our tummies with the “catch of the day” and settle in to watch a few episodes of our favorite TV series. Life doesn't get much better I must say. If only everyday was like that.

 

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Cruiser Info:

A note for foreign flagged cruisers following in our wake.

If your vessel’s cruising permit expires while your boat is still in US waters (ours did due to unexpected health issues while in our home country) the whole "moving the boat thing" gets a bit messy. You will not be issued another cruising permit unless you take the boat out of US waters and remain out for 15 days.

However we have been told, but this hasn't been verified by any one with authority, that you can surrender your permit to Customs if you are leaving the country via commercial means. Then upon your return to the US the permit will be reactivated for the remaining time left on the permit. Again this has not been verified so you'll need to check this out yourself with CBP ( Customs and Border Protection )and be sure you record the officer's name and badge number who gave you the information.

Ok, so if you didn't do either of the above and want to move your boat to another port you will have to go to your local CBP office and purchase a permit to proceed for $37. Then when you arrive at the next port front up in person to the CBP office and clear in . They will need your ships documents and clearance from your previous port which they will hold until your departure. Again there is a cost involved. Then when you go back to get your permit to proceed again you'll pay a $19 departure fee for your outward clearance papers and you'll then have 48 hrs to depart. Bottom line is that letting your cruising permit run out becomes a costly and time consuming pain in the arse.

So plan wisely and don't get caught out with an expired cruising permit while your boat is in US waters.

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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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