Thanksgiving 2011

          What’s a better Thanksgiving tradition than inviting a stranger to share your bounty?

            With plenty of depth and three furloughed college students in tow, we set out on a 10-hour overnight passage from Hilton Head to the Georgia-Florida border.
          Our goal was the annual St. Mary’s, Georgia, cruiser Thanksgiving dinner.

            For about ten years, the town has laid on a weeklong welcome to boats travelling the nearby ICW: oyster roast, happy hour, pancake breakfast, swap meet and, of course,  the Big Event. 
Mike's vocabulary: ICW is the IntraCoastal Waterway, the preferred route of most American boats from cold to warm climates. It's a publicly-funded canal/ditch that runs parallel to the Atlantic from the Chesapeake to Florida Keys and over to the Gulf Coast. The problem for us is that it tends to be too shallow for our 6.5 foot draft and the bridges a little too low for our 66-foot mast. You saw what happened last time we ventured into shallow waters. So we go outside.
            November marks the end of the hurricane season and the beginning of the boater pilgrimage to the Caribbean and Bahamas. As cruisers can be quite, uhm, thrifty, offering them a free meal is a pretty smart way to channel business into town, too. Combine that with free wi-fi and residents can suddenly find a hundred new masts in the harbor.
          Despite our crew’s food restrictions including celiac, diabetic, vegan and vegetarian diets, I wanted to see what it was about.
          We had sworn that this time out we would sail where the wind blew, not keep to a schedule. We would wait for the right weather and live for the moment, which explains why we ended up motoring all night with MORE lightning, lumpy seas and at least one crew member making liberal use of the chum rail.

         Thanks to an out-of-date chart, we entered the St. Mary’s channel a couple of miles farther out to sea than was necessary. The VHF radio chatter was already pretty annoying, with all those cruisers hailing each other over the emergency frequency, Channel 16, to discuss who was passing, dragging or aground and making their evening cocktail arrangements. The Coast Guard was chiming in every half-hour with Right Whale regulations, bridge closure announcements and weather, so between the two I was pretty fed up with noise.
          I turned off the radio so I could devote my full attention to angsting over the awash sunken jetties that were emerging on the radar and calling up warnings to Stephan about our course. He was driving the equivalent of a well-marked highway, but I know he secretly loves that I am so diligent about our safety.

          As we passed the Cumberland Island National Seashore, Avery was on the lookout for its miniature horses.

           (They're very small so I added arrows.)

          About then, Stephan said the Coast Guard suddenly appeared at the mouth of the river, barreled down the channel past us, then hung a U and pulled up alongside.

          We did the same guilty run-through that a motorist does at the sight of police lights in the rear-view mirror. Did someone flush a toilet? Dump oil overboard? Is everyone wearing life jackets? Where's the boat registration?

          Then you smile and say, "What seems to be the trouble, officer?"

          Since we hadn’t ever cruised the US in our own boat, we hadn’t had much contact with the Coast Guard. I always thought of it as the pretend-branch of the military, but now it’s part of Homeland Security. The manned machine gun at the bow really got our attention, too. Evidently, they had been trying unsuccessfully to contact us by radio to tell us we were in a high-security situation.

          “Move out of the channel, please. We have a submarine coming through.”

              ColRegs, the Rules of the Road, don’t actually mention submarines when they say that a vessel with limited maneuverability has the right of way. But if four USCG boats with guns think it’s a good idea to give way, so do we.

           Our cruising guide said not to even think about taking a picture, so this is a thoughtless one.  

          The mostly-out-of-water sub tubbed along looking like a lost whale, flanked by two USCG boats; our own escort kept us within grappling-hook distance until it had passed.

          A few minutes later, with the excitement over, we headed up the river, thankful that our only concern was looking for a free lunch.


Stealing anchors, laying around in the low tide. heading down the submarine highway all in the pursuit of a free lunch! Can't wait for the pirate and Bermuda triangle stories that are on the horizon. Chum rail with that experienced crew? As a reminder tonight the sunset was at 16:15 and the low is 30 ;-)
Miss y'all

           In our defense, it was James' chum, Jason, doing the chumming. After that we put him up where he couldn't get ick on us.



Wow! So much excitement and you haven't even left the US. I hope the free lunch was worth it. Glad to hear you all got to be together. Miss you.

Cool. Although I never be able to talk sailing stuff and still have no clue what you're blogging about, the pictures are neat and it sounds like you guys are having a hoot.

I'm not totally lost since I know what an oyster roast, happy hour, pancake breakfast, and swap meet looks like. What's a sub? Kiss and hug, Mike