Thursday, December 11, 2008


Video Supplement to "Thanksgiving, St. Mary's Style!"

Thanksgiving, St. Mary's Style!

Celebrating Thanksgiving St. Marys Style! There is one word to describe our Thanksgiving celebration in St. Marys Georgia. HEARTWARMING! We were already feeling very thankful as we entered the St. Marys River on Sunday November 23rd, but this riverside community brought new meaning to giving thanks. We dropped the hook and couldn’t wait to dinghy in and get acclimated. All of our boat show friends (the ones I declared I didn’t need in Annapolis) declared that we did NOT want to miss Thanksgiving in St. Marys. We were anxious to find out what all the fuss was about. The first person we met was Ralph, who doubled as the Bait Store Attendant and Ambassador for the St. Marys Yacht Club. He gave us the low-down on everything and offered to give us a lift to the grocery store. I couldn’t find hot pepper jelly, the key ingredient to an appetizer I intended to make. Ralph said he would get me jelly if we didn’t mind going for a ride…and took us to his home! He had phoned ahead to his wife Sandy, who said she had a jar that she would give to us. That was our first of many examples of this entire community’s warmth and hospitality. You could almost feel a red carpet under your feet as you walked through town. Next we had to track down Sea Tramp, who Ralph said coordinated the whole cruisers event. En route, we ran into Ann Barr and Lynn Harden from the boat show, and told them we were anxious to meet the people from Sea Tramp. Ann smacks us and says “WE are Sea Tramp ya big dummies!” Oops, we missed a critical boat name association. Sorry Ann, most of the time we talked to you at the boat show we were either not awake yet or too exhausted to retain information! Great! We are buddies with the big wigs! Now I will be in the know about everything! Where do we go for the first party Ann? Happy Hour at Seagle’s! Count us in. What else do we need to know? Ann got her clipboard out and added our names to the cruiser attendance list along with what we were bringing to the pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. Next she added us to the shuttle schedule with Lynn (world’s coolest chauffeur) for a provisioning run. Anything else we need to know she will announce each morning at 9:00 a.m. on Channel 69. Morning announcements, just like back in school. This is so cool! The first happy hour was a small but jovial crowd of fellow cruisers. The legendary bartender Cindy Dean wasn’t working, everyone gave us a heads-up to treat her with great respect, we’ll see why at happy hour number two tomorrow night. Good news Monday morning. Jage and her friend Carmen from Simplicity are on West Dock, and Archie docked Janey right next to her. Sounds like this is shaping up to be the boat show party dock. Gary knew what to do right away to make his baby happy. Get Tessa a spot on West Dock quick! Boats continued filling the anchorage all day Monday. It was fun listening to the morning announcements and hearing familiar boat names checking in with Ann. She warmly welcomed everyone, then moved on to business at hand. Who needed a ride to the store, laundry, or to fill propane tanks? Who wanted to volunteer for transportation, set-up, serving Thanksgiving dinner, or clean-up? Volunteers flooded channel 69, everyone eager to help their fellow cruisers and contribute to the success of our Thanksgiving celebration. The Monday happy hour crowd doubled in size. Cindy Dean wasn’t scary at all. She was totally entertaining, slinging cocktails and insults all around the bar. We all shared appetizers and swapped cruising stories, mostly about the cold weather. The weather in St. Marys was absolutely gorgeous but still very chilly. Jage, Carmen, Archie, Gary and I walked together to West Dock to check out our new digs and plan our docking procedure for the next morning. Tides and current make or break a successful docking maneuver, so Captain determined that we would move Tessa Tuesday morning at dawn. Everything went smoothly with competent help from our crew on the dock. Archie worked the lines expertly but had to strain a bit. After getting her all tied up, he commented “Tessa’s a big girl!” We spent Tuesday bouncing from boat to boat, doing some boat chores, some visiting and some cooking. Gary and I had a big pot of Admiral Hanks Chili simmering on the stove to fight off the chill. Our gang agreed to come back to Tessa after Seagle’s happy hour for a bowl. Then we moved the paahty to Aaahchie’s boat so he could D.J. for us like he did in Annapolis. We had so much fun listening to him explain the lyrics and tell the stories of his Caribbean music. Dancing soon followed….or something slightly related to dancing. Archie moved with that beautiful St. Lucia rhythm, and with just the right amount of rum and wine, we all assumed we could to. During the party, Jage threw out the idea of hosting a Pain Killer party on our dock the following day. We’ll make ten gallons of the Pain Killer mix and everyone can bring their mug and rum. Sounded like a great idea at the time, but just to be safe, I checked in with Jage and Carmen early the next morning before it was too late to turn back. They had already contacted Ann and our invitation was on the roster for the morning announcements. We were committed! Tuesday we were on the schedule for a noon laundry run combined with lunch at Ann’s highly recommended restaurant, Dick’s Wings. Ann, Jage, Carmen, Archie and Leslie (Archie’s friend from Minnesota) joined us. Happy Hour followed again at 5:30, but we cut it short to head for Simplicity for the tasty pork roast Jage and Carmen had waiting. Wednesday you could sense the anticipation growing along with the size of the group. I’m not sure what our red hat gang (boat show employees) was more excited about….Thanksgiving, the Pain Killer party, or the long awaited arrival of Hayden that afternoon. The ladies prepared the Pain Killer mix while Archie prepared twenty pounds of Caribbean chicken. Right before 3:00, Archie got the tropical party music blasting from Janey, and within minutes friends were arriving with mugs in hand. The party was a hit! HOT-HOT-HOT was playing and Archie and I stood side by side at the dock basking in our success when he leaned over and whispered “See…we know how to throw a paahty!” Yes we do, my friend! That afternoon, our friends Captain Don Dunn and Lauren arrived from Put-In-Bay to cruise with us the last leg of our journey to Key Biscayne. It didn’t take long for them to fit right in once they both got a mug of Pain Killers. And then came Hayden! We had not forgotten that unforgettable smile and laugh, and it felt SO good to see him again. First things first, we checked the length of the bunk in Tessa’s salon and were relieved that he fit! Then on to Happy Hour where it was quite obvious that we weren’t the only ones happy to see Hayden. He received a rock star greeting as loud cheers erupted when he walked into Seagle’s bar. Except from Cindy Dean. The only comment she had was “YOU OLD ENOUGH TO DRINK SON?” To which Hayden replied confidently “YES!” and the bar was lined with shots of Tequila. The celebration continued back on Tessa and Janey with more laughs, music, and dancing. Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and sunny, just like every smile we encountered as we walked through town. Each person, young and old, cheerfully wished us a Happy Thanksgiving as we passed by. This is how Thanksgiving is supposed to feel! The first event was a gathering at Seagle’s for an oyster roast sponsored by the townspeople. The local men prepared the oysters and eager cruisers lined the oyster table to slurp. While this was going on, the ladies of St. Marys and a committee of cruisers laid out the Thanksgiving spread. The turkeys and hams were all generously prepared and shared by the locals. The cruisers supplied the sides and deserts. Many tables were lined with wonderful dishes, and Seagle’s looked and smelled like Grandma’s kitchen when the flood gates opened. A line soon formed halfway down the block, but everyone was in good spirits and enjoying the experience. Just like a traditional Thanksgiving, everyone was soon stuffed and moaning that they ate too much. Unlike a traditional Thanksgiving, we had no living room couches to flop on and no TV’s to watch football, so we improvised and went back to Janey to continue the party. Even sailors run out of steam (and rum) once in a while, and we called it a night earlier than usual. Friday we decided to save the $50 bucks and move Tessa out to the anchorage, but not until the festivities were planned. A local came down the docks inviting everyone to visit his buddy’s restaurant, transportation to and from provided in a limo. A real limo? Yes, a real stretch limo. OK, count us in! We’re not sure if they knew what they were getting in to, as the limo ended up running numerous trips of cruisers who take advantage of any free transportation offered! It was a perfect way to top off a perfect week of celebrating with friends. Looking back toward the town of St. Marys as Tessa carried us down the river Saturday morning, I realized that we were leaving with so much more than we came with. Boatloads of memories, great friends that were now family, and a renewed faith in the genuine goodness of people. The oh-so-appropriate lyrics from one of Archie’s songs kept running through my head. “Celebrate! Celebrate! Another Day of Livin!” Thank you St. Marys for showing all of us how to celebrate the joy of livin…St. Marys Style!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Video Supplement to "Don't Look Back". The Milson's want to know what "You" are doing! Please leave comments and let them know.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Don't Look Back"

“Don’t Look Back” Charleston South Carolina to St. Marys Georgia It’s just the two of us on Tessa again. It’s funny how much we enjoy each other’s company and cherish “alone time” yet tend to surround ourselves with friends and family at every opportunity. I know Mom is relieved when we have others on board during this journey. She can’t bear to think of us out here all alone! Each time we talk, she asks me “So, how are you…really?” as though she suspects I’m holding out on her and there’s some bad news to come. So, here’s how we are…really! It didn’t take long for us to realize how much work this is! I’m absolutely not complaining, just amazed at how little time there is to really relax. The boat shows aside, it’s been a lot of work , physically and emotionally. Even tied up to a nice safe dock still requires you to be on your toes. Breath a sigh of relief, assess Tessa’s condition, check the weather, then begin planning for the next day. Thankfully, I have the worlds coolest, calmest, and most collected Captain who navigates expertly and takes excellent care of Tessa and I. Try to imagine how much of an affect weather has on you when you literally live outside. The unseasonably cold weather really takes a toll on us, especially by the end of a long day in the elements. Which motivates us to plan yet another long day. Surely the further south we get, the warmer it will be, right? It hasn’t happened yet, but we keep hoping! The only time we are really warm is in bed. Which isn’t such a bad thing! We snuggle into our berth, wrap our arms around each other, and life is good. Our life together has always been good. We didn’t leave home because we had a dull or unhappy life. We were just ready to grab the brass ring and experience cruising. Because of how good life was at home, there’s lots to miss. I miss seeing Bob Wolford patrolling CRC with that spring in his step. I miss seeing “AT D LAKE” and knowing fun was in store with Brad and Chris. I miss catching up with Bob and Mary Jane each weekend. I miss harassing and being harassed by Bryan Diveto . I miss our younger friends Jaclyn and Lenny, and our oldest dearest friend Ken Turvey. I miss karaoke with the Wernings. And I can hardly bear to think about other people having fun with OUR Nick and Lynne James without us! And I miss the comfort of knowing in three hours I could be sitting at the kitchen table with Mom and Cindy and Alivia. But all in all, are we loving this? Absolutely! It’s just that being gone would have been a whole lot easier if we hadn’t left so much behind. Now on with the story………… Way back on the Alligator River when Jim was with us, we heard a woman from the boat “Don’t Look Back” advise on the radio that they were towing another boat. After listening to her communications during the day, and hearing so many other boats hailing them, I decided I wanted to party with those people! They were by far the most popular boat on Channel 16, and for some reason, she just sounded like someone I would want to know. Fast forward three weeks to City Marina in Charleston. We decided to walk the MegaDock before we departed to ogle the Mega Boats. Gary, look! There’s “Don’t Look Back”! We were disappointed that they weren’t on board, and turned back toward our slip. Darn, I really wanted to meet them. A couple walked towards us carrying provisions. I asked “You wouldn’t by chance be “Don’t Look Back” would you?” They replied with a curious “Yes” as in, who are these complete strangers approaching us on the dock?? While their ice cream began to melt, we quickly told them the story of my need to party with the popular people, which they thought was quite funny. We exchanged names and boat names and agreed to look for each other down the road, where surely our paths would cross again. Little did we know……. In Georgetown and Charleston, Gary, Chas and James had worked on the Mizzen Mast furler but were unsuccessful in repairing it. My assignment was to find a boat yard that could help. The guy I hooked up with in Thunderbolt asked for a model number, so Gary went topside to locate it on the furler secured to the deck. He came down below and cried MAKE ME A DRINK. I knew something was very wrong. He stated “The furler is GONE!” We silently stared at each other in disbelief. How could it be gone? He tried to put the pieces back together. The guys worked on it at the dock in Charleston, so the most likely explanation would be that it rolled off the deck while we were driving the kids back to Myrtle Beach. We just didn’t notice it missing for the past three days. Worst case scenario was that it rolled overboard while we were underway. Gary got on line and contacted the manufacturer, referred to a guy in England, only to be told that model was discontinued. However, there’s a place in Holland that could manufacture one. Wh….wh….whaaaaaaaat?? OK, take a deep breath, calm down, and think! I saw a diver at the docks at Charleston. We call a diver, ask him to search for it at the slip we were in. Then how do we get it here if he finds it? We have to backtrack three days on the ICW. Noooooooo! There’s got to be another way. How about UPS? Won’t work, the furler is 30 feet long. We’ll rent a car. Won’t fit in a car either. Wait a minute…..didn’t John and Bobby Jo from “Don’t Look Back” say they were staying in Charleston until Sunday? Maybe they could bring it south until we can hook up somewhere. Could this possibly work? They seemed like the nicest couple, but is this pushing the limits of a five minute friendship? We had to call the marina to get their phone number and nervously left them a voice message explaining the embarrassing situation we were in. They called back and without a moment’s hesitation agreed to help, as though lashing a 30 foot aluminum tube to the deck of their beautiful catamaran for people they just met was something they did on a regular basis. No big deal. Gary contacted the diver and described the exact location of where he thought it may have gone overboard. He agreed to dive the next day at low tide. Cross you fingers….. John and Bobby Jo went so far out of their way to help as to contact the diver themselves to explain our tentative delivery plan if he found the furler. They were there to watch him go below the surface! The next afternoon, I answer the phone to hear the diver exclaim excitedly “TELL GARY I FOUND IT! IT WAS EXACTLY WHERE HE SAID IT WOULD BE!” It was lodged in the bottom at a 45 degree angle, and almost poked him in the eye! Hooray!!!!!! Bobby Jo was as excited as the diver. She phoned to say all was well, the furler was secured to their deck, diver was paid, see ya in Vero Beach! Allison from Annapolis told us that cruising would restore our faith in humanity, and John & Bobby Jo take the prize in that regard. We have seen countless examples of this unexpected fellowship and camaraderie all the way down the east coast. Our travels have taken us over 1800 nautical miles, through ports and anchorages from Charleston, Beaufort, Port Royal Landing, Hilton Head, Savannah, Isle of Hope, St. Simons Island, Brunswick, Jekyll Island, and on to our Thanksgiving destination of St. Marys Georgia. We’ve had memorable, heartwarming experiences at just about every stop. There were the locals in Beaufort who cooked steaks for the cruisers at Port Royal Landing Marina while Gary brought down the house with “Chantilly Lace” during karaoke. There was the fogged in anchorage, with two other boats to follow the next morning along the ICW. Safety in numbers! There was the laundry fairy at Isle of Hope who took our full load out of the dryer and instead of a pile on the table, I came back to find neatly folded stacks. There was the peaceful, calm, still very cold anchorage where I attempted to cut Gary’s hair. I began to lose my patience listening to him say “Jaclyn doesn’t do it like that” and “Yeh, yeh, that’s how she does it” as I fumbled with my kitchen scissors. “Gary Milson, I am no Jaclyn Kromer, so just give it up and sit still.” There was the going-aground experience in the Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff, right smack dab next to the dredging boat. Other boats called to see if we needed help. No thanks, we’ll just wait for some water (it was low tide), and by the way, don’t say our boat name over the VHF thank you very much. There was our good fortune of having Audra as our bartender in Hilton Head. We had such a nice time chatting with her and she offered to take us on an island tour the next day (when she got off of one of her three jobs). We went to The Big Bamboo for lunch and did some sightseeing, but the best part was hearing about the island from a local and getting to know Audra better. Thanks Audra, and don’t work too hard! Also in Hilton Head, we met David Collins and Mary Lynn Finn at the annual Oyster Festival. Here’s how an oyster festival works in South Carolina. You stand in line (where Gary met David) and buy a bucket of roasted oysters. Then you stand at an oyster table and start shukkin. The oyster table consists of wooden horses with a big sheet of plywood tabletop, a big hole cut in the center with a trash can underneath, into which you throw your shells as you shuck. David invited us to join their table, and we hit it off so well that they invited us to the bar they were headed to next. We took a rain check since we had a half hour dinghy ride back to our anchorage at Palmetto Bay, but made plans to see each other the next night. We invited them out to Tessa for a sunset cocktail, which turned into many glasses of wine and lots of lively conversation and laughs. If we had stayed over another night we could have made it to their dinner party, but we needed to keep heading south in hopes of finding warm weather. There was the very impressive couple we shared the courtesy car with at Isle of Hope Marina. We had been feeling very abused by the weather and running low on energy, only to be put in our place by these two cruisers. He is 84 and she is 78, and they have done the ICW trip 27 times. How inspiring! So many experiences, so many memories, and so many to look forward to. Mom, rest assured that we are fine. Better than fine! We are living the dream. There are ups and downs, but we focus on the ups and appreciate every precious moment together on this incredible journey. If any of our boating friends are wondering whether they should go cruising, our advise would be to do it! And like John and Bobby Jo, DON’T LOOK BACK!