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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.



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 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 .


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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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Absolutely Amazing Alaska

Cruising The Southeast : Sitka

2nd –5th June 2016

Sitka. 57 39.59 N / 136 05.81 W


Flying into the small town of Sitka was quite surreal. Having come from the blistering summer temperatures of the low country of Georgia, we were now staring out the window of our Alaskan Airlines 737 at the snow covered mountains of southeastern  Alaska.

Nestled on the western side of Baranoff Island, picturesque Sitka is flanked on the east by majestic mountains and to the west the Northwest Pacific Ocean.


There are only a few roads running through and around the town, none of which lead outside Sitka’s boundaries. The surrounding wilderness forms a huge dead-end barrier to any sort of land travel This isolated seaside community, like may others on this coastline, is only accessible via commercial aircraft if the town is big enough to support an airport otherwise, you come via sea plane or boat.


Sitka sprouts a population of just 9,000 hardy souls and is home to an awesome number of deep sea fishing vessels, the likes of which you see on television programs like “The Deadliest Catch” and these trawlers are massive. The majority of people here are employed in the fishing industry or it’s related services  In fact Sitka is one of the busiest fishing seaports in the  United States.


With two days to spare before we were off on our Alaskan Adventure aboard Heli Mai, we rented a car and settled into our comfy digs at the Eagle Bay Inn.

My sister Helen was joining us for the trip and was flying in later in the afternoon. Having a set of wheels gave us time to checkout the lay of the land before heading back out to the airport for her arrival. Having the car also meant that the chore of provisioning the boat would be a whole lot easier and would also give us the better part of two days  time to visit some of the out of town attractions before our 8am departure Sunday morning.

But first, a snapshot of history.

Sitka, in the days way back when, was inhabited by the native Tlingit people who called this area Shee At’ika, anglicized to Sitka. The Tlingits were a peaceful race who fished and lived off the land for over 10,000years. Then in 1741 the area was discovered by a Russian expedition. The Ruskies, who at the time occupied much of  current day Alaska had pretty much killed off anything with fur on its back during the colonial fur trading days.

A few years later the powers that be, decided to move their operations from up north to down here. They marched in and in true bully fashion took over and renamed the town to New Archangel. To say that this did not impress the Tlingit one iota is an understatement if ever there was.

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1802  saw the Tlingit’s saying enough is enough and their warriors rose up and destroyed the original settlement of Old Sitka, killing many of the Russians in the process. A few tears later the pesky Russians returned en-mass and bombarded the Tlingit fort. Knowing it was a loosing battle the natives surrended and deserted their home, moving camp to a neighbouring island. Over the years to come Sitka became the major seaport on the Pacific coast. Sea otter pelts were the dominant export to Europe and Asia however salmon, lumber and ice were also exported to Hawaii and California.

After the purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867, Sitka remained the Capital of the territory until 1906 when the seat of government was moved to the new and present day capital of Juneau.

Today Sitka is one of the main stops on the well trodden Alaskan cruise ship route, but the towns roots are still embedded with both Russian and Tlingit history. 

Days two and three in Sitka had us out and about early to take in as much as possible. First up was a visit to the Fortress of the Bear, a habitat for rescued and orphaned ubanized black bear cubs. Without the hard work and dedication of the staff employed here these cubs, many of who are now adults would  have been euthanized.


After spending an hour or so listening to the guide and watching the bears being fed and interacting with one another, and believe it or not they love eating oranges, it was time to head to the Alaskan Raptor Centre to have a close encounter with national emblem of the USA, the magnificent Bald Eagle. You just don’t realise how big these birds really are until you get up close and personal. They have a wingspan of between six and eight feet! That makes them a really big bird.


Situated on twenty five acres of lush spruce and hemlock forest, the centre rehabilitates injured birds of prey to release them back to the wild. While some make the cut and get to soar the thermals once again,those whose injuries prevent them from ever getting airborne again live out their days in the  care of loving handlers. Each year the centre treats around 200 injured birds including a variety of owl, eagles, falcons and hawks.

IMG_3374So enough with the animals. It was time to check out the town itself. Wrapped up like bunnies Helen and I hit the pavements. There were plenty of shops catering to the tourists, selling any number of mementos ranging from fur coats and tee shirts to Russian Christmas tree decorations. It was nice to pop our heads into some  and warm  up for a bit but there were some must see historical places to see as well. We started with St Michaels Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church smack bang in the middle of the main street, literally. The onion shaped domes and spires dominate the Sitka skyline and inside is a treasure trove collection of religious art, some of which dates back to the 17th century.



Next up on our walking tour was the Russian Bishops house. This dates back to the mid 1800’s and is one of the few remaining examples of Russian log architecture in the western hemisphere. The house is adorned with period furniture, a small chapel and as you’d expect, a host of Russian icons.

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IMG_3237With map in hand we ambled up a rough stone pathway and steep stairs to Sitka’s highest point, Castle Hill. The sweeping views overlook the township, harbour and onto the mountains beyond. Originally the Tlingit Fort, many years later this was the site of the handover of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867.

Plenty of hiking trails wind in and around the outskirts of the town with many leading through lush rainforests areas, and along the rocky waterfront and parklands. Scattered along some of these trails are colourful century old totem poles erected by the Tlingit natives. An encounter with wildlife of the bear variety on these trails is not an uncommon event either we ‘re told.

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IMG_3299By late afternoon it was time to head down to the marina and move into our new home aboard Heli Mai. That evening we met all the other boaters in our flotilla and had a detailed briefing aboard Deception, the lead boat in our newly acquired family. Tomorrow we’d be doing some serious provisioning for the next 19 days as well a s having a hands on lesson on how to drive and dock our new home, after all this wasn’t quite GWTW. Liam got the hang of it pretty quick and passed with flying colours. He particularly fell in love with using the bow thruster. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!.