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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Saturday, November 5, 2016

 

Back to the land downunder again

September – October 2016

My how time flies. It seems that we had only just landed and then we were back on the flying kangaroo retracing our steps east to the USA. Not wanting to bore you with the usual garb about what we did while back in OZ this time,  I'll write the expedited version, well sort of  with one or two exceptions.
We caught up with all the rels, my sister Helen and beautiful niece Bridget, Liam's kids and grandkids as well as our friends both in Sydney and on the Gold Coast. Thrown in the mix were lots of coffees, lunches and dinners, probably way to many actually. The scales are never kind to us when we are back in Australia and sadly they never lie.

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We did however have a few standout highlights and a couple of low ones during our trip this time.

The first was a face to face meeting with Tracey, who is the latest edition to Liam's family. No, she's not another grandchild, she is his daughter and his first born at that.
Many, many moons ago when Liam was sewing his wild oats as a young man he became an unexpected father. The girl he had been dating disappeared off the scene and nine months later a baby girl was born.
For reasons known only to herself her mother put the baby up for adoption immediately after the birth and the birth certificate stated that the father was unknown. Shortly after, Tracey was adopted and  she was raised by a very loving family in Newcastle. Due to the  Australian adoption laws at that  time  all parties involved in the adoption process were denied any sort of contact details of each other. That all changed in 1990. From that day on she started her 25 year search for her biological father, Liam.

Susan, Tracey's biological mother, kept her secrets close to her chest. Tracey had asked her many times over the years for any snippet of information about her birth father and although she’d kept tabs on Liam, she was not willing to share her knowledge with her daughter. Then one Sunday night  a couple of months ago Tracey saw a television commercial for ancestry.com and she again contacted Susan asking the usual questions. Just hours later Susan sent her a text with an attachment.  The attachment was a photograph of our boat.

That night sitting in Georgia on GWTW thousands of miles away our phone, followed closely by our iPad, made the familiar ding signaling incoming mail .

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After a quick bit of research on the internet, Tracey found our sailing blog site with it’s attached email address. She set about composing a very detailed and no doubt emotional letter, introducing herself in the hope that she would get a positive response. Her long hard search was over and she had finally found the man she'd been looking for.


Liam took the news well, although there was a certain amount of shock which a few chilled glasses of wine certainly quelled. Father and new daughter set up a FaceTime chat which resulted in waves of tears from both sides.  The rest is now pretty much history. We’ve met Tracy's partner Ben, as well as her two adult children Sofie and Sam. They in turn have also met Liam's other three children. The resemblance of his now clan of four is quite remarkable. He quite obviously has very strong genes.

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The other important engagement was on my side of the family with the marriage of my nephew Glenn to his long time girlfriend Jess.  The wedding held at  Silos estate, an upmarket winery and restaurant in Berry on the south coast of NSW, was simple, elegant & stylish. The weather gods cooperated in full and the venue and of course the bride were all picture perfect.

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Sadly, Liam had contracted a very bad dose of the flu and only managed to survive through the ceremony before giving in to the lergy and returning to our accommodation for the rest of the evening. He was less than excited that he had to give up an excellent meal and wines in lieu of his health.  Have to write that one in the log!

 

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Also, while back in Sydney, a very nasty little piece of weather named hurricane Mathew decided to pay the US east coast a visit. That visit included south east Georgia where GWTW was resting in her berth at Brunswick Landing Marina.

Mathew came roaring up from Haiti along the east coast causing a wake of devastation not seen for many years. We watched his progress as nervously  as pigeons with a cat in the loft and debated whether we should jump a plane and head back to our home. But our call on that front came too late as Mathew bore down on Brunswick. A mandatory evacuation was called for the entire town by the police and all our friends got the heck out of dodge, scrambling to find accommodation as the hotels west of the I95  freeway filled to capacity. Some even had to travel across state lines into Alabama to find shelter.

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GWTW was all alone at the mercy of the weather gods along with the other 250 boats in our marina.  We watched Mathew on many reports as we could via the internet and US television news. As the storm approached and  torrential rains and winds of 85 mph/140 klms ph/ 74 knots hit  Brunswick and the surrounding area, water levels rose and the slips and boats were a mere 3 ft from floating off their posts. It was a disaster of enormous magnitude waiting to happen.

Luckily the eye of the hurricane stayed a few miles out to sea and with that the wind shifted and sucked the imminent  high tide and surge back out with it. After many phone calls to friends it seemed that we had been spared the brunt of the hurricane which then continued its destruction through the Carolinas. The only damaged we sustained was the loss of a solar panel which was ripped off our targa bar. Miraculously, it had landed in our dinghy dangling by its electrical cord, still in one piece and working. Sadly, some of the other marinas and boat owners close by weren't so lucky.

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The town and surrounding area was hit hard with  thousands of downed oak trees, power outages, flooded homes and businesses and loss of lives. Our hearts went out to all those who lived nearby the town we'd called home for over a year.

 

untitled.png tracey 2Meanwhile back on the health frontier we both got clean bills of health from our respective specialists. That was a good thing. Then one afternoon while doing a spot of gardening at Pete's  house I twisted my knee resulting in a badly torn meniscus. With the public health system being what it is in Australia  and the extremely short and rapidly closing window of opportunity for treatment before our departure on November 1st,  there was no choice  but to self fund and go down the pricey private patient route. Deja vu from last year with Liam's cancer treatment.

So 10 days before departure I fronted up the Mater hospital for knee arthroscopy surgery.  The procedure went well with a recovery time of six to ten weeks. A rather interesting concept when you live on a boat, to say the least.


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The flight back to the US  this time was way more bearable than the last thanks to a former flying colleague of mine from Ansett who is now a cabin manager with Qantas. He moved us to some "better quality”seats in the upper deck which was poles apart from our original seating in row 84 at the back of cattle class. We hadn't seen each other since the collapse of Ansett back in 2001, and it was nice to see that he earned his stripes and was now in charge of the cabin crew on the massive Airbus A380 aircraft.

The 16 hr flight  to Dallas finally came to and end and we boarded our next  3hr flight to Jacksonville where we wearily checked into our hotel and slept like babies. Next morning we collected our rental car and drove the final 56 miles back to Brunswick GA and GWTW. As always it was great to be back home again.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Alaska posts on hold for a while.

June 2016

Hi folks, well we’ve done the trip and had a ball. I’ve started writing but there is so much to share with you and so many great photos that it will take time  and a VERY good internet signal to complete the Alaska posts. As I’m a fair bit behind I’m going to jump to the chase here and get the blog up to date as of now. Ill be filling in the Alaska gaps as I go along. Thanks for your patience.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A short preamble to our Alaska trip 2016.            The Why, The What & The How.

May 28th 2016

 

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OK, so everyone has a bucket list of some sort. I guess the number one item on ours is sailing around the world. We’ve nearly done it but can’t tick the box for that one just yet. Then of course there are the sub categories on the list and at the top of that list has always been Alaska. 

When we first came up with the idea of a trip to the 49th state we looked at lots of options. Sailing GWTW up there ahhh too far and too hard so that idea got scratched pretty quick. Maybe book on a big cruise ship or a small cruise ship, jump on a train or mix it up a bit and do a combo fly, coach, rail and cruise trip. They were all worthy of consideration. After all, millions of fellow travelers see the state this way but sharing the experience of a lifetime with a gaggle of total strangers just didn’t sit right with us.

So the research hound here buried her head in the internet for a few weeks ‘till she came up with a good all round solution. Way back in the archives of my mind I remember someone once talking about bareboat charters in Alaska, and that little spark was about to turn into reality for us.

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After calling a few companies, submitting our   boating resume and pouring over what was on offer we settled on an outfit called Northwest Explorations (NWE) based in Bellingham in Washington State. NWE had the most diversified fleet of boats in both price and size and sported an excellent Alaska program named Mother Goose.There were several legs to this Alaska trip, all with different durations and destinations and with the option of of having a paid skipper on board or being self skippered. We chose to do leg, # 2, and we”d  skipper and run the boat ourselves for 19 days.

Our trip, starting in the coastal town of Sitka in southeast Alaska, would be the same as the other legs being of a flotilla nature, with a lead boat and five boats following. One thing that we really liked was that unlike the bareboat flotillas in the Caribbean, it was our choice whether to stay with the group or go off on our own for a few days or indeed the entire trip. The only stipulation and it was a reasonable one, was that you must arrive at the finish destination of Cordova in Prince William Sound on the specified date.

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Looking through the specifications of the vessels that were available we chose a DeFever 46 trawler named Heli Mai. She had a great layout.There were two helm stations, one in the raised pilot house  which was spacious and comfy and the other up on the  semi enclosed flying bridge with 360 degree views. She had excellent accommodation and her interior was well appointed. The galley was equipped with everything you could want including a household fridge, icemaker and trash compactor. Internal heating and a washer/dryer combo topped off the list of  accessories. One of the reasons that we chose this vessel over the others in the fleet was that she had the same navigation electronics that we run on GWTW, and that was the icing on the cake. So with all the details sorted it and the deposit paid it was time to start getting excited.

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As we were looking into booking flights we had another thought. It made perfect sense to see as much as we could while we were up there, after all we’d probably never be coming back. With that, the idea of renting an RV for a couple of weeks once we got off the boat sprang to mind. A few days later that too was booked. We settled on a Winnebago 27ft Minnie Winne through Great Alaskan Holidays based in Anchorage. The RV came with pretty good sized accommodation, and a shower and toilet although unlike Heli Mai, you had to rent everything bar the basics including a toaster, kettle,BBQ and outdoor chairs. We thought that was a bit rich.

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With all the bookings done and a loose plan for where to go in the RV this holiday was really shaping up to be one hell of a trip, and before we new it our bags were packed and we were sitting on our Delta plane and heading north.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Biding our time in Historic Brunswick, Georgia.

April 10th – May 20th 2016.

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So here we sit, twiddling our thumbs and not really doing much at all. Well that’s not exactly true ‘cause there’s always a heap of boat chores to keep us out of mischief. And along with ordering spare parts for the boat, Liam has now turned his attention to a new hobby..drone flying. So we now have two new team members on GWTW they are drone number 1 ..aka Kevin and his no nonsense big brother drone number 2 Shadow. Drone-cam will feature in future posts once Liam is up to speed with his piloting skills.

With the start of the hurricane season on June 1st just around the corner and because we had to duck back to Phuket Thailand (see previous post) smack bang in the middle of this year’s cruising season, its now way too late to head out to anywhere. We have turned into temporary land lubbers just for the moment and really that’s not too hard at all. In fact we kind of like it for a change, especially the part about not having to worry about the weather when it turns nasty. The admiral here, but not so much the captain, is particularly fond of her leisure time at the local YMCA swimming pool as well as all the frills that come with living on land, such as shopping, driving a car, and not getting covered in salt spray every time we venture out to the supermarket.

Thanks to all our friends here at the marina we regularly get invited out on day trips or loaned their car to run up to the shops. Most cruisers here own a car which they base at the marina during the sailing season (winter) and then drive it back to their place of residence or visit the rellies during the non sailing summer (hurricane season) months. We do rent a car occasionally but it’s a tad hard to justify for longer periods if it’s just going to sit idle in the car park.

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So what have we been up to and where have we been of late? Well, Darian is a small town, but it’s called a city about 30 miles north of Brunswick. Founded in 1736 it is the second oldest city in Georgia and we drove out there with friends Jim and Maryanne for a bite to eat. The town sits on the banks of the Darien River and has quite a big shrimping fleet. Our lunch venue was a small riverside restaurant named Skippers Fish Camp & Oyster Bar. There are heaps of these ‘straight off the trawler” style fish camp eateries all over coastal Georgia but apparently this one of the best around. Other than the food and the beautiful setting the other attraction was to watch the antics of the resident turtles in the courtyard pond as they vied for a sunny spot  on the back of an artificial ‘gator.

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Although we didn’t have time to explore the town fully with its many beautiful squares, oak trees dripping in Spanish moss and the quaint churches scattered around this will no doubt entice us back at a latter date. We also stopped off at the local hardware store, the oldest in the district, which was jammed packed with a good assortment of stuff. The owners certainly spared no expense when it came to expanding the business to include the store next door. They just knocked out a hole in the wall!

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Meanwhile back in Brunswick we had a surprise visit from Melbourne based crew Bruce and Gena on their South African designed Leopard 47 Wyuna.  We’d caught up with them in the Bahamas last year for just a few days and now out of the blue they’d decided to stay a couple of days in our marina. So in true downunder style we organised a dockside potluck BBQ. Along with a few of the more permanent marina residents a good time was had by all as we set up camp out on the club house deck overlooking the marsh. A few days later Wyuna headed north towards New York and Long Island and we hope to catch up again if they decide to return here for the hurricane season.

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Since our return to Brunswick back in January we’ve dragged our out our golf clubs from the bow a few times and, along with friend Mike, headed to the local driving range to polish up our skills, or rather lack of. The range was fun but we really needed something more challenging. Taking a leap of faith the three of us decided it was time to hit on a real course. One thing about this area is that there is no shortage of courses to play and most of them are full of wildlife and are drop dead gorgeous.

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Jekyll Island, one of many barrier islands in south east Georgia, is a mere fifteen minute drive from the marina and the Jekyll Island Golf Club has three18 hole and one 9 hole course within its boundaries. With it’s diversity of courses we made this our home club. By using the Golf Now tee time app we could  play here at least once a week without busting our budget. A mere $16 bought us 18 holes including a motorised cart and an cooler with ice…gotta be happy with that!

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When we weren’t playing golf there was still lots of other things to entertain us. Liam joined Mike on his Harley Davidson for rides out on the back roads. Thursday evenings at Bennies Red Door Barn over on St Simons Island was a popular spot with the cruisers. Call us cheap but who can resist the lure of two for one drinks for the ladies, good free food and great live music !

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Then of course there were all the local festivals. American small town festivals are a real hoot. In the space of a couple of weeks we went to three.

First up was the Fernandina Beach Shrimp Festival. A very well patronised food, arts and crafts festival headed up by the obligatory town parade along with heaps of local seafood stalls, pirates galore and live bands. Every man and his dog was in attendance with the emphasis being on dogs. This is a truly dogsentric country and canines and humans alike enjoy the great outdoors no matter what’s on offer.

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On the same weekend the annual Crawfish Festival was being held just west of Brunswick in the small town of Woodbine. More low key than its big sister  over in Fernandina Beach, it still had the vital components of bands, parades, pageants and the whole nine yards. Golfing friends from the marina Mike and Christie, along with long time friends Donny and Judy who sailed up from Miami for the weekend, joined us at both festivals. So just what is a Crawfish? For those of you like us who had nada a clue as to what these creatures were, well they’re mini lobsters. And when we say miniature we’re not kidding. By the time you rip their heads and claws off you are left one tinsy, winsy bite. Believe us when we say it takes a bloody long time to fill up on those little critters. Are they worth the work …naaaa. Stick to the real McCoy we say.

 

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May 8th rocked around and yet another festival was upon us. It was also Mothers Day and the marina was putting on the usual bash. Having been to many marina doos we decided to dip out this time and head down to the Brunswick Blessing of the Fishing Fleet, the shrimp fleet that is. It was a pretty hot day and we were ever so glad that it was being held in the shade of the main bridge that spans the East River. We had rated the Crawfish Festival in Woodbine as low key and this one was definitely at least two octaves lower. There was only a handful of stalls but a great kickass band and the locals were toe tapping and stomping their feet to the rock and roll tunes of Back beat Boulevard

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The blessing itself took place out on the fast flowing East River waters where decorated trawlers nosed up one by one behind the anchored trawler  the “Georgia Bulldog” so that the Reverend could toss holy water on their bows, bless them and all who sails in them and say a prayer for a safe and bountiful shrimping season ahead. Following the trawlers, yachts and powerboats also lined up for the Reverend’s prayers, although by the end of it he’d run out of holy water.

DSCN8392Sleepy little Brunswick doesn’t get excited very often but when a big catamaran shows up, no we’re not talking about Gone With The Wind, it really gets peoples attention. So when a navy ship bearing the town’s name came to town was a  big event in more ways than one.

The USNS Brunswick, an expeditionary fast transport vessel, is one mother of a catamaran. She weighs in at a shade over 1,500 tons, is 103m in length with a beam of 28.5m and has a draft of a mere 3.83m. She can cruise along at speeds of 43 knots and carries up to 312 troops with a crew capacity of 41although she normally operates with 26. Primarily she is a transport vessel which is designed to respond to humanitarian crisis carrying both troops and supplies.

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She is constructed from light weight aluminum shell containing 4 diesel engines, a very high tec bridge and a flight deck for helicopters. Her accommodation comprises of berths for the crew and airline seats for her personnel, the Marines.The mission bay, 1,900m2 of can carry 600 short tons and the large loading ramp allows for fast loading and unloading of vehicles and cargo.

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We attended the public welcoming ceremony after which we figured we’d do the tour, however a large queue had already formed and the thought of standing in the hot sun for over an hour really put us off. Then come Sunday morning while I was out for an early morning walk I happened to notice that there were a few people milling around and asked if they were going to do any tours as it was advertised that Saturday was the only tour day. To my delight the answer was yes, due to the popularity of the previous day. So home I bounded to fetch Liam and we were rewarded with a private tour of only six people before the hordes arrived en masse.

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The tour was great ,especially up on the bridge and the crew members were very  friendly and informative answering all our small groups questions.They also let us have a bit of hands on experience which was a bit of fun.

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The following week we rented a car as friends Larry and Lena from M/V Hobo based in Jacksonville had organized tickets for the four of us to watch the golf at the Players Championship .

We had a great time following the big names around such as Jason Day, Adam Scott and Jordon Speith. These guys make all their shots look so easy. If only we had just a smidge of that sort of talent.

The crowds were amazingly big for a Thursday and if that was any indication of the of what was to come we were sure glad that we didn’t go down there for the weekend playoffs.

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The television coverage would suit us just fine. And of course we were so proud when Jason Day took home the booty.

So I mentioned in an earlier post that Alaska was potentially in the pipeline for some travel, well we booked it. Our next posting will be brought to you from the 49th state so stay tuned.

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