Monday, December 21, 2015

Homeward Bound to the land Downunder.

10th – 18th September 2015


Joining the rat race on the I- 95 our Chevy SUV headed north towards Virginia. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere and the scenery and the mileage posts wizzed by. You can cover great distances in a relatively short time on the American road system. It’s an enginnering marvel to say the least. As the hours slip by you get accustomed to this new fast mode of travel and the mind wanders and settles into chillout mode. Sometimes when the cruising season is finished and we know that GWTW is tucked away safe and sound in a marina, we feel a bit like we are on school holidays all over again. You remember that feeling don’t you? Free and easy without a care in the world.

For us that special feeling comes in a three part package. No more worrying about the weather, it can blow like the clappers and we wouldn’t give a rats. No more fretting over the genset having unscheduled downtime when we have guests over and there’s a roast dinner in the oven. Our oven is electric and it’s life support is the genset. And finally absolutely no sleepless nights wondering if the boat upwind of us has set their anchor correctly so they won’t drag down on us in the middle of the night. That trifecta of feelings is pure bliss.


After a one night stopover in Fayetteville North Carolina, we continued on our merry way to Deltaville, a sleepy seaside town on the banks of Jackson Creek just off the Cheasapeake Bay. Our long time friends Donnie and Judy live here and we arrived in good time for a sunset garden party amid rambling lawns hosted by their nextdoor neighbour Craig. We’d met Craig on pervious visits to Deltaville and it was nice to be invited into her home. There were around twenty partygoes in attendance and a good southern spread was put on to fill empty tummies.

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We spent a couple of days in Deltaville before moving back to D & J’s Richmond home where we caught up with their two lovely daughters and did a couple of day trips around the city of Richmond.


First up was a historical tour of Hollywood Cemetery circa 1849. Given its name due to the many Holly trees found on the property, the cemetary overlooks the James River and is set amongst rolling wooded hills and dales. It is the final resting place of two US presidents, James Munroe and John Tyler, as well as the only Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis, along with many Confederate generals and around 1800 soldiers who are buried there.



According to the poster at the gatehose there are many legends surrounding certain tombs and gravesites within the grounds. One being of a young girl  named Florence Rees who died of scarlet fever in 1862, and the iron statue of a black dog which stands by her grave.


Apparently the statue belonged to her grandfather and the little girl loved the iron dog. Due to the iron shortage during the Civil war the dog was at risk of being melted down for bullets so her grandfather placed it at her graveside to watch over her for eternity.Today many sentimental visitors still leave small mementos of beads and stuffed toys on the grave for both her and the faithful dog.

We also squeezed in a trolley tour of the city the following day which took in the highlights of the city  and surrounding suburbs. Taking photos from the moving trolly was rather challanging but suffice to say Richmond is a beautiful leafy city with postcard perfect streets lined with a miryad of restored heritage homes.It’s well worth a stop if you are passing by.

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As usual time flys when you’re having fun and before we knew it it was time to head to the airport for our long flight back to the land downunder.

Our Virginia visit was the perfect way to spend time between leaving the boat and arriving back in Sydney, and having Judy and Donnie as the quintessential  hosts what more could we have asked for.






Friday, December 11, 2015

Brunswick Landing Marina : A social kinda place.
28th July – 10th August 2015.
Ok, to say that Brunswick Landing Marina (BLM) is a “social place” is pretty much a huge understatement. It has to be the biggest happening thing that we’ve ever experienced at a marina anywhere on this planet. We hadn’t actually planned to go to Georgia as plan A was to transit the Panama Canal, but fate, time and the weather gods intervened. Then with lady luck putting her tuppence worth in for good measure, Brunswick was where we ended up. Are we happy about that? Oh yeah.
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Where to start? Nestled on Academy Creek just off the Brunswick River the marina is literally a stones throw from the historic area of town. There are several eateries along the main drag as well as coffee shops, small mom and pop grocery stores, a bakery and an excellent library. Just out of town, a bike ride or a “get your heart pumping” walk away, are the usual suspects… Publix, Home Depot, West Marine, Lowes, Wal-mart,Target, Enterprise Rental Cars etc etc. So anyone who thinks there’s not much in Brunswick for cruisers should think again, ‘cause it’s all there.
Right, back to the marina’s social side. The evening we arrived we were met on the dock by Sherrie. Along with Cindy she is one of the dockmasters here. By and large she runs the docks while Cindy runs the office. After snuggling into our berth we were told to get our asses up to the marina’s clubhouse as it was happy hour and a bunch of people were waiting to meet the newbies. So dutifully, after a quick clean up, off we trotted.
Happy hour was in full swing and after a few meet and greets we realised that there were a couple of folks that we’d met in other places along the way. Bob and Vicky from Foxsea we’d met the previous year down in Guatemala and  Kerrie- Ann and Kim, owners of Busco Viento 11, we knew from our recent stopover in St Augustine. Actually everyone we met in that short space of time had made us feel exceptionally welcome and we felt right at home.

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Most people come to the marina at the start of hurricane season, June 1st, and either stay aboard or leave their boats battened down and unattended returning in November ready for the start of the cruising season on December 1st. The majority of insurance companies, ours included, insist that their clients’ vessels be above latitude 30.05 degrees north in order to comply with the hurricane clauses in their policies.
The popular marinas, BLM being one of them, fill up quick with return customers or new ones like us. There are over 200 slips in the marina and about one quarter of the boats have couples staying aboard during the off season. This makes for something more like a mini neighbourhood than a marina and if you’re not careful with all that’s going on everyday you can get socialised out pretty darn quick. Oh and before I keep going I should say that every event and activity during our stay was completely gratis,100% free, compliments of the marina management.


There was happy-hour wine and beer Mon, Wed & Fri evenings and a fresh keg of beer placed in the “kegorator’' every Sat on-tap ‘till whenever it ran out. Movie night was Thursdays, Chickenfoot dominos on Saturdays, musical jam sessions Tuesdays, Spanish lessons three afternoons a week,  ladies craft two mornings a week, pot luck dinners on Sunday evenings and probably a couple more things that I’ve forgotten to mention. Throw in the complimentary bicycles, cable TV, wi-fi, washers and dryers and gas BBQ’s on each dock, well you get the picture. It’s the sort of place you find very hard to leave.


Apart from the the marina activities the town itself also put out the welcome mat on the first Friday of every month.  As an incentive to keep the historic area alive and to attract people from the surrounding district, the shop keepers would throw their doors open ‘till around 9pm and host nibbles and wine for all the passerbys. Local bands belted out popular tunes in the leafy parks and squares along the main street and the restaurants also did a roaring trade. These nights always had a great community feel, with families, children and creatures great and small all welcome.

Labor Day in the US was celebrated on September 7th and the marina came to the party by hosting lunch for the cruisers in the form of a Low Country Boil. The coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina make up the low country, a term given it due to the coastal terrain, so it is most fitting to have a dish named after it. Now if you are like us, we’d never heard of such a delicacy. You certainly won’t find the recipe in any cookbooks downunder. But thanks to Mr Google all was revealed way before we got to taste it.
Known as Frogmore stew it was a handed down family recipe created by Richard Gay, a national guardsman, who needed to cook a meal for 100 of his fellow soldiers. Named after the town where he’d grown up, the dish was later renamed “low country boil”, after the US postal service eliminated the town’s name from its registry. The one-pot wonder is a combo of shrimp, smoked sausage, corn and potatoes. Crab, onions and butter are often added for more  flavour. Taking about one hour to bring out the best of the ingredients, it’s cooked in a large pot with a removable draining basket and is traditionally served straight onto a table covered with newspaper.
Along with everyone else who call the marina home we had a great afternoon. There was quite a crowd and we were all asked to bring along a side-dish to accompany the main fare, so there was a ton of food. Surprisingly there were no double-ups on the dishes. A local band played all the tunes from yesteryear  and quite a few of us oldies hit the dance floor for a bit of fun.You gotta hand it to BLM, they sure know how to throw a great party for their clients.
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Ok, so now you know all about the social activities, but it sure wasn’t all play and no work. We were both kept busy doing boat chores as we got ready to pack up GWTW for yet another hurricane season.. There were new engine mounts to install, engines to service, the watermaker to decommission, fridges and freezers to defrost, clean out and shut down, deck awnings to wash and pack away and dozens of spare parts to be ordered for next season.
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We also bought and installed a household A/C unit to leave running in our absence to keep the boat cool and ward off mold forming on the inside surfaces. But by far the biggest challenge came when Liam ran some Barnacle Buster cleaning solution through our genset. Following the instructions to the letter ended in disaster as the solution ate through the  generator’s gaskets and as murphy's law would have it, the rear of our genset where the gaskets are located is in the most inaccessible place.
After contacting those in the know who built our boat  they decided the only solution to reach the back of the genset was to cut a hole through the main central beam of the boat, a scary thing to do as that beam is structurally integral to stop the boat from flexing when under way.They all assured us that it would be ok so long as it was a round hole with a certain distance from the bottom of the beam. So with a four inch holesaw Liam gingerly cut the hole. With help from fellow cruisers Kim off Busco Viento 11 and Mike on the boat in the slip next to ours, after 5 days of cussing, blood sweat and tears literally, the job was done, the gaskets replaced and our genny roared back to life. Once we return to GWTW Liam will re-fiberglass the opening to give it back it’s full strength. Fingers crossed the advice we were given was correct!
Whilst at the marina another wedding anniversary came and went. We’d clocked up 30 years and had a nice lunch downtown and  later shared the day and a little bubbly with friends back in the clubhouse. Thanks everyone for making our day extra special.
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After a month and a half of living like landlubbers the time came to make a move. We said goodbye to GWTW and our new found marina buddies for the next seven weeks whilst we’d return to Australia to visit family and friends. As we’d booked our flights to leave from Richmond airport in Virginia, we’d rented a car to drive up and stay a few days with friends who lived there before catching the flight back to Sydney. As always, when packing up our home, we just needed one more day.This time we stretched it out to two. Weathering one last afternoon thunderstorm, a very frequent occurrence at this time of year in Georgia, around 2pm we turned off the lights, closed the cockpit doors and effectively ended yet another great year of cruising.

Monday, December 7, 2015

West Palm Beach Florida to Brunswick Georgia.

17th – 28th July 2015

After spending a very pleasant week anchored just off the city’s town docks in our old haunt of West Palm Beach, it was time to make our way north again. Cruising friends Daryl and Annie from “No Rehearsal” were berthed just up the road in St Augustine (an overnight sail away) and rang us to ask if we’d like to drop in and spend a few days with them. Daryl very kindly had organised a complimentary slip for us next to his at the St Augustine Marina Centre so that we could check out their facilities and haul out yard as a possibility for later in the year. Deciding to accept the free marina slip was a decision that took a nano second, after all how could we turn down an invitation like that? So off we set.


The distance between the city of West Palm Beach and St Augustine isn’t far in sailing terms, a mere 200 miles. Following the western edge of the Gulf Stream we made good progress with a full mainsail and alternated between the jib and the screecher, our very large reaching sail, as the wind gods dictated.

Offshore passages can be boring at times but this wasn’t one of them. Great TV reception, a lot of the time better than when we are at anchor, kept each of us amused and informed on the off-watch and to our delight, Liam caught a couple of good sized beauties along the way, a mahi mahi and a sumptuous wahoo.The wahoo was earmarked for dinner once we caught up with No Rehearsal, while the mahi would be gracing the dinner table at a later date.

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Arriving at St Augustine Marine Centre late in the arvo Liam backed GWTW into her temporary home. Annie and Daryl played dock masters taking our lines and securing them as only seasoned cruisers know how. Over the next few days we met with various marina staff chatting about our prospective haul out, the costs and the timing. We also inquired about having a large awning made to cover the foredeck which would give us an extended shady area to relax with friends when at anchor. In between all this we socialised with friends, walked into the town, your’s truly swam laps at the municipal pool conveniently located across the road and we made very good use of the of the free wifi and cable TV in the Captains lounge.

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Right next-door to the marina was the Dept of Homeland Security’s Marine Training Facility. The facility was one very busy place with recruits and their minders heading out in a variety of fast response vessels for training exercises throughout the day and night. Amongst other things, they’d practice their shooting  skills on polystyrofoam bad guys and judging from the bullet holes in the dummies when they returned their hit rate was pretty damn good.

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After a week of hanging out in St Augustine it was time to get moving again. We’d heard from friends on S/V Hobo that the northern part of Cumberland Island was worth a stopover so that’s where the next dot on the chart was penciled in.

We have visited the southern end of Cumberland Island before but hadn’t ventured to the northern anchorage adjacent to the Plum Orchard Mansion located on the western shores of the island. To get there we would have to mooch along the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) for about 10 miles passing the vigilantly guarded US Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay before turning into Brickhill Creek and up to our anchorage.

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Built in 1898 by Lucy Carnegie for her son George and wife Elizabeth, Plum Orchard is a 20,000 sq foot magnificent Georgian revival mansion. Not much has changed on the island since the mansion was built, I guess the sprawling oaks have grown taller over the years but they are still draped in beautiful Spanish Moss, a trade mark of the low country of Georgia.

The vast open spaces surrounding the estate and the wild horses that roam the grounds just add to the stately feel of the place.

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We took the National Park Service tour of the mansion and our young guide was excellent, She had done her homework, dug deep and was very informative. Entering the foyer with its grand stairwell, high ceilings and huge fireplace, was an eye opener to the grandeur and wealth of the era and the meaning of true southern comfort. 

Animal trophies adorned many of the walls, while tiffany lamps spread a soft warm glow around the sitting rooms. On the upper floors were large bedrooms and ornate bathrooms with hot running water pumped from the basement, a first for that era. Amazingly,the shower roses bore a striking resemblance to the rain water heads found in expensive hotels and trendy bathrooms of today.





We spent two lovely days anchored in the peaceful Brickhill Creek surrounded by low country grasslands. Dolphins cruised slowly by a couple of times day  while a menagerie of birds flew over head, returning at dusk to roost in the trees along the silent shores. It was bliss.


With a booking at Brunswick Landing Marina (BLM) just a few miles further north it was time to make a move. Leaving the creek a couple of hours after the turn of the tide we gingerly edged our way out just kissing the entrance sand bar on the way back into the ICW. After turning the corner into the mainstream we were home and hosed as the depths fell away to a 20 ft nearly all the way to our exit point at St Andrews Sound. The sound has a reputation of shifting sands but our navionics charts were spot on and we just took it slow staying dead center of the channel back out to open ocean without a hitch.

Twelve miles north the next turn on the left brought us into the mouth of the Brunswick river. Roll-on roll-off car carriers have a terminal further up the river so the buoyage  and depths in the river is excellent. No chance of running aground here. Ducking, well not really, under the Sidney Lanier Bridge which spans the river with a clearance of 185 ft, signaled the start of our marina time for the next few months.

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We’d heard and read great reviews about the marina and we were looking forward to spending time there before flying back to OZ mid September. Calling the marina office on approach, Sherrie the dock master boomed across the airways with instructions on how to find our berth along with a larger than life southern style welcome to Georgia. And as we would soon found out, Sherrie doesn’t mince her words… she also told us to get our asses up to the club house as it was happy hour and everyone was waiting to meet us!  The best kept secret on the east coast, Brunswick Landing Marina, had already taken us into it’s bosom. It would be  the place we call home for the next little while.



Cruisers' Info : St Augustine Cruisers Shuttle Service. The shuttle operates several times a day and picks up from at St Augustine Municipal Marina, St Augustine Marine Centre as well as a couple of other marinas.

Shuttle drop off points: Includes Publix supermarket,Home Depot, Target,    Wal-Mart, West Marine and Sailors Exchange.

Fee : A small donation as the service is run by volunteers and not supported by the marinas.  For information re departure times please see the flyers at the various marinas.