Photo Essay: St. Augustine, Florida

Four days after we said we would leave St. Augustine, we are still here. It started with excuses like “we need to go shopping,” then “we need to mail the cats’ permit applications to the Bahamas,” then “let’s look for a used spinnaker at Sailor’s Exchange,” then “we haven’t visited the fort yet”… until it became just plain, “It’s so pretty and warm. Can we stay just one more day?!”

I think the sunny weather had a lot to do with our inertia, but it also helped that St. Augustine, “the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States,” was positively breathtaking. In a country that doesn’t really do old the way they do old in Europe, St. Augustine is an honest-to-goodness treasure well-worth visiting (or making your home).

From the moment we arrived, we were transported back to southern Spain in another century, but with hot showers and southern American comfort food, which is an addictive combination. If someone had served me chicken and waffles and mac-n-cheese every day when I lived in Seville, Spain, I just might have stayed forever.

St. Augustine only has a population of about 13,000, but you would think that half the population is involved in a festival of some kind at least once a week with the amount of parades they had during our mere week-long stay. It is, quite simply, the most adorable, tourist-friendly small town I’ve ever visited in the continental United States.

Here’s a photo essay portraying our visit:

st. augustine sunset

The sun sets on our first day in St. Augustine.

st. augustine spanish charm

The city’s colors show the Spanish charm of St. Augustine.

st. augustine street

St. Augustine’s streets are from another era.

st. augustine signs

Signposting St. Augustine’s antique beauty.

castillo de san marcos st augustine

Castillo de San Marcos: the fort that never fell.

fort matanzas st augustine

“The British are coming?”: Tasha playing sentry.

st. augustine christmas parade

The British are coming!

st. augustine christmas parade

Christmas is coming!

hells angels christmas

Even the Hells Angels celebrate Christmas.

jacksonville rollergirls

Santa’s “little” helpers arrive on rollerskates (and tug at my heart strings – my derby name used to be “Risky Chaser”).

st. augustine xmas parade

The parade was very inclusive.

thomas vesper tasha hideaway

St. Augustine was also a place to catch up with friends: Tasha with Thomas (s/v Vesper).

st. augustine bar

Dinner with Matt, an old friend from our days in Spain, and his wife Serena.

Fitness Afloat: Anastasia State Park

“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

Actually, it turns out it’s mad dogs, Englishmen and me.

It has been over a month of pushing our boat onward in cold weather, huddled next to our Coleman camping heater, doing long hours at sea or in the ICW, not getting to shore much and wondering if we had strapped our road bikes to the deck for no reason.

So, having already extended our stay in St. Augustine way beyond our original plan, we went on a mission to get out in the sun, and get a good sweat on by cycling to Anastasia State Park and running down the beach to the infamous inlet where our friends on Serendipity ran aground just a few days before.

Cycling through the center of St. Augustine to get out to Anastasia State Park reminded me of a past life when we lived in the similarly terracotta-colored city of Seville, Spain, bouncing our bikes along cobbled roads every day with the sun in our faces, passing tanned, smiling people lounging in outdoor cafes.

It was a pleasant 2-mile ride to Anastasia past an Alligator Farm with cycle paths most of the way there. There was a $2 entrance fee per person, but we figured it was a bargain compared to our old Manhattan gym membership – and it offered us sun, sand, waves, and no crowds, unlike our old Manhattan gym.

I was absolutely ecstatic to be at the beach, to say the least. The sun was scalding, the air was hot, I was sweating, and we were jogging slowly and steadily along a beautiful, secluded ocean stretch. It started out as a difficult run, since heavy sand makes for slow jogging, but it was shaping up to be a great workout. And I was so happy to be outside I would have pushed boulders up a hill, if you’d asked me to. I just lost my thoughts in my iPod music and thought about what temperature it would have to be before I complained about it being too hot. I decided on 100 degrees. Nah, maybe 120.

Then, about 2 miles into the run, I looked over at Ryan and realized that for him, this was it. Whatever temperature this was, it was too hot for him. Ryan was plodding forward with his head down as if trying to duck as far away from the sun as possible, with sweat pouring down his face and his feet moving heavily in the soft sand.

Looking at my watch, I realized that it had never mattered what time of day we went running before because every hour of every day this last month had been freezing cold. In St. Augustine, however, it turned out the intensity of the midday sun could easily shock the system of someone who’d been living like an Eskimo in a floating igloo for the last six weeks.

But Ryan trekked on bravely without looking back and, having survived the hot three miles to the inlet, took off his shirt and draped it over his head, panting, “We must be insane. It’s too hot for this!” I thought he might throw me in the ocean if I admitted how much I was loving it, so instead I suggested we head back before we ran out of water.

In the end, it was a gorgeous four-mile bike and six-mile run, topped off with an ice cream from the park store as a reward. And I even learned a few new things about running on the beach:

  • Running 6 miles in soft sand feels more like 8 miles. Maybe 10. It’s hard work.
  • Where the water meets the sand, the ground is firmer and easier to run on.
  • Focusing on maintaining your usual road-running speed is a bad idea. It’s better to relax, loosen up, and don’t look at the pace on your GPS watch (if you have one). Go with how hard your body feels like it’s working and get into your groove that way.
  • Bring lots of water. Anastasia State Park had no water stops along the beach and we ran out at about mile 4.
  • Running between the hours of 12 and 3 pm in Florida is not a good idea. Especially if you aren’t an alligator.

With my sore knees finally healing up after the painful pounding they took at the Outer Banks Marathon in November, which I was under-prepared for, I finally felt ready to hit the pavement again. Or the sand. Or anything, really. Hell, I’d be happy to run up mountains now that it’s finally warm enough to wear shorts and flip-flops! I say, “Bring it on, sun!”

running along anastasia state park beach

Fitness Afloat Lesson #342: Running on beaches is hard

inlet st. augustine florida

Ocean inlet entrance to St. Augustine, where our friends ran aground

anastasia state park map

Anastasia State Park map

Towboat US: When is it a tow? Salvage? Extortion?

“The thin veneer we call civilization can disappear where a shipwreck is concerned.” – Richard Loran, Shipwrecks of Great Britain and Ireland (quoted on Boat US’s web site, an affiliate of TowBoat US)

We ran aground three times in the middle of the channel in the ICW between Cumberland Island and St. Augustine, Florida, so we were pretty frazzled when we finally arrived to the entrance of St. Augustine’s inlet. Each time Hideaway slammed to a stop on a sand bank, I had visions of our keel ripping clean off the boat, leaving us with a sinking home, an aborted trip and two angry, swimming cats.

And we weren’t at all reassured by the channel entrance markers as we approached St. Augustine, either. They seemed to lead in all different directions and conflicted with the markers on our charts, causing us to circle for 15 minutes in front of one particular green buoy until we could figure out which side to pass it on.

Eventually we worked out if we hugged red buoy #2 on the way in, we were likely to have enough water under our keel, though we still had to get over a 7-foot barrier without running aground before we were safely in the channel (which is not much room for a boat that draws 5′ 6″). So we proceeded slowly, with our eyes glued to the depth gauge.

That’s when we heard the call over Channel 16 – it was Jessica from Serendipity. She was hailing TowBoat US for help, saying she couldn’t see the next channel marker after red buoy #2 and didn’t know how to proceed.

Ryan and I spun around to look, expecting to see Serendipity directly behind us. But we realized that there must have been another red #2 out on the ocean, where they were. So we listened intently as TowBoat US explained to Jessica that red #4 was missing and she should approach green buoy #5A directly from red #2 and take a left, as illustrated in the satellite picture below:

st augustine inlet satellite

Entrance to St. Augustine from Atlantic – red #4 missing at time of writing.

We were too far away to reach Serendipity on the radio to find out more about their situation, so we continued on to St. Augustine with the volume on our VHF turned up. And I had just picked up our mooring ball in St. Augustine when we heard, “Coast Guard, Coast Guard, this is Serendipity. We’ve run aground. I repeat we’ve run aground.”

I quickly tied up the boat and hurried down below with Ryan, then sat with my knees folded up to my chest next to the VHF, listening for any sign that our friends and their boat were okay.

Amazingly, Jessica sounded perfectly calm as she answered the Coast Guard’s questions:

“How many on board?” -Two.

“Is everyone wearing life jackets?” -Yes.

“Are you taking on water?” -No.

I felt completely helpless as words like “run aground”, “slamming”, “breakers”, “ten-foot waves” and “drifting” flew out across the radio waves.

Then the calls went out from the Coast Guard to Search and Rescue announcing a “distress call” and asking boats to look out for “sailing vessel Serendipity” which was now “adrift.” I said to Ryan, “I don’t understand. If they’re adrift, then they’re not aground. Which one is it? What’s going on?!”

After almost an hour, when we finally heard TowBoat US on the radio telling the Coast Guard that they’d secured Serendipity and were on their way in, we exhaled. And then we heard Jessica’s voice on the radio asking how many lines were needed. She might as well have been asking the captain what he wanted on his sandwich, she sounded so calm and collected.

Then the towboat captain said, “I understand your engine failed, is that correct?”

Ryan gave me a look that said “I don’t like where this is going” and then nodded when Jessica replied, “Negative. Our engine did not fail. Our jib sheet got wrapped around the prop.”

“Good answer,” Ryan said, and explained that he wasn’t sure how it worked, but he’d heard that if you lost your engine at sea, TowBoat US could claim an exorbitant “salvage fee”, even if you are a TowBoat US member.

I stared at Ryan incredulously, figuring he had to be making this up. “What kind of company makes money rescuing boats and then holds your boat for ransom when you call them to help?!” I shouted.

It seemed too crazy to be true, so I had to research this one for myself. And sure enough, what I found was some very alarming language on TowBoat US Fort Lauderdale’s website referring to the question “When is it a salvage?“

Here are some quotes:

“A marine salvage takes place when we rescue your boat whether it is aground, on a reef, beached, stranded at sea, flooding, sinking or in any other number of situations.”

“What’s the difference between towing and salvage? …Generally speaking, the courts have explained that towage is merely speeding up a vessel’s voyage without reference to any circumstances of danger.”

But if all I was looking for with my Towboat US membership was “merely speeding up my vessel’s journey,” I’d argue my money would be better spent on a bigger propeller. Then I could at least speed up all my journeys rather than just when I call my towboat company.

And because of this murky gray area with maritime law, Boat US Towing Services, on their site, advise members to have insurance against salvage, saying “The best protection against a salvage bill is adequate insurance. Boaters should make sure the policy provides for salvage up to the full value of the boat, not a percentage of its value, and that there is no deductible for salvage costs.”

Boat US distinguishes between towing and salvage on their site, saying “Towing assistance, like the pre-paid service available to BoatUS members, provides help for breakdowns and light groundings.” But what is considered “light” and “heavy” with respect to groundings is not clarified.

But they also put the responsibility on boaters to know the difference between a tow and a salvage before requesting assistance, stating, “Since the same marine assistance company often provides both towing and salvage services, it is essential that the boat owner reach an understanding with the marine assistance provider before action is taken… BoatUS Towing Service Providers are required to inform the captain of a boat before beginning any work if the procedure is salvage, not towing. If this isn’t possible due to wind and sea conditions, the towing company should tell the captain as soon as possible. However, boaters should not assume they will always be told. Boaters should always ask whether the job is towing or salvage before they accept a tow.”

So, basically, we pay for TowBoat US membership for those times when our boat might be in danger and we need help. And yet, according to the letter of the law, this is exactly the time we should be wary of calling Towboat US because if they succeed

Anchoring angst: What is the etiquette?

We were startled awake by foghorn blasts at 7:30 am in Cumberland Island, which I can now say is my least favorite way to be woken up other than having Charlie pee on me (which she does when her litter needs changing).

It took about four or five blasts for Ryan and I to realize that the horn was aimed at us, at which point I grabbed our iPad from the bedside and looked for signs of dragging. Our iPad has an “Anchor Alert HD” app that not only allows me to set very specific parameters for a dragging alarm zone, with an offset for our boat’s actual position, but it uses a satellite image to show me our anchoring position, and a GPS to track and record our boat’s movement throughout the night. So when this app says our boat isn’t dragging, it isn’t dragging. And according to our GPS tracks, we were almost exactly where we were when we dropped anchor the night before.

anchor alarm HD

Image capture of our anchoring position – the yellow shows the boat’s movement.

Yet the foghorn blasts kept coming, and outside our window there was an anchored motorboat floating so close that if the captain had wanted to see through our portholes that we weren’t wearing any pants, he could have.

So Ryan threw on some pants, ran up into the cold, windy cockpit and heard the motorboat captain shout, “You’re dragging!”

Ryan looked at me. I looked at the iPad and shook my head. Ryan shrugged and shouted back out of the cockpit, “No we’re not! We’re in the same position we were in last night!

I couldn’t hear the captain’s response, but it definitely wasn’t an admission of fault because the next thing I knew, Ryan was putting on all his foul-weather gear, grabbing the engine keys and anxiously asking me to help him figure out what the hell was going on.

By the time I got up to the cockpit to show Ryan the GPS anchoring tracks on our iPad, the captain who’d fog-horned us awake had left his enclosed pilot house and must’ve gone back to bed or something because he didn’t reappear or hail us on our radio, and he definitely hadn’t started his engine to try to help the situation.

“Who’s responsibility is it to move in this situation?” I asked. “I know we’re not dragging… how does he know he’s not dragging? And where the hell is he?!”

I was visibly annoyed, but Ryan reminded me that it was a good thing that we were woken up before our boats could touch, so if I got on the radio, I should be courteous and thank the captain for alerting us.

That made sense. Except I spent the next ten minutes trying to hail the motorboat in question on channel 16 while Ryan droveHideaway forward over our anchor to get as far away as possible from the boat, which was now perpendicular to us off our port side. And there was still no answer on the VHF. “Who blasts a foghorn and doesn’t have their radio on?!” I exclaimed.

But this wasn’t the only strange thing about the scenario – while rubbing our eyes and trying to figure out what to do, we scanned the anchorage and concluded the following:

  1. We were facing the same direction as the five other sailboats around us.
  2. We were in the same place we were in when we went to sleep.
  3. The motorboat appeared to be the only boat swinging in the opposite direction to the other boats in the anchorage.
  4. The motorboat had about twice as much anchor rode out as everyone else.
  5. The motorboat had an enclosed (i.e. warm) pilot house and a windlass.
  6. We had an open (i.e. cold) cockpit and no windlass.
  7. Points 5 and 6 meant it would’ve been way easier and more comfortable for Mister Motorboat to pull up his anchor and move than it would’ve been for me to haul up all our chain and our 44-pound anchor by hand just to drop it again a few feet away.
  8. The captain seemed to have concluded that this was our problem and not his, as he went back down below to drink his coffee while we froze in our cockpit, running our engine and scratching our heads.

Eventually, I saw the captain’s wife pop her head up into the pilot house, so I shouted to get her attention and mimed a telephone to my ear while pointing to the cabin down below. She appeared to get the message and disappeared below.

But instead of getting the captain’s wife on the radio, I got the captain. So I said, “Thanks for waking us up, Captain. I appreciate the warning. But we have a very detailed anchor alarm with GPS tracks that show we’re not dragging. It appears that either your boat is dragging or you’re getting pulled in a different direction because of the current. What would you like to do? Over.”

The captain replied, “Well, I’ve been monitoring the situation for the last hour. If you say you’re not dragging, that’s fine. You can stay there as long as you monitor your position. Otherwise you’ll have to move. Over.”

Ryan’s eyes got wide and he started pointing at the motorboat and shouting, “WE’LL have to move?! Why doesn’t HE @#$-ing move! We both arrived at the same bloody time last night! He’s in there drinking coffee in a t-shirt in his pilot house with a windlass and pointing in the wrong bloody direction from everyone else! I don’t mind him waking me up if we’re about to hit, but why am I the only one out here with my engine running trying to solve this problem?!”

I paused with my finger hovering over the VHF button. “Is it okay if I don’t say that?”

“Don’t say that,” Ryan said.

“Um, I guess we’ll monitor the situation. Over.”

And so we looked around us some more and weighed our options. We could move. Or we could wait with our engine on to see if the motorboat leaves. And if he didn’t leave, we could move then. But we had a really hard time anchoring the night before because the anchorage was narrow with a shoal marking the boundary, and because Ryan had cut the top of his thumb off cooking dinner in St. Marys. So I was the only one on board with two good hands to drop anchor with when we got to Cumberland Island.

And anchoring is not a job I’ve quite perfected yet. After resetting the anchor twice the night before because of poor positioning, my arms were killing me. So I was reluctant to pull up the anchor a third time if I didn’t have to. Plus, our plan was to stay another day and do some work online from the boat, so we weren’t planning to pull up anchor at all until the following day.

In the end, it turned out we couldn’t get a signal on our Verizon Hotspot at Cumberland Island, so we were forced to weigh anchor and give our motorboat neighbor his victory.

In hindsight, I’m not really sure what the proper anchoring etiquette is in a situation like this (I even Googled it and came up with some not-so-helpful threads on sites like Cruisers Forum), but I think we definitely learned that though it’s not nice to discriminate against motorboats (we know lots of lovely motorboat owners), it’s probably in our best interest to discriminate when anchoring.

Anchoring amongst your own kind (of boat) means you can better predict how the boats around you will swing, where they’ll settle and how they’ll react to the wind and current.

Next time, when anchoring in a tight harbor, we’ll be seeking out sailboats only for company.

Please share, what is anchoring etiquette? Are there rules?

Photo Essay: Cumberland Island, Georgia

Just a few miles from St. Marys, is Cumberland Island, a state park that was once home to a Spanish settlement, slave plantations and Dungeness, a mansion owned by the Carnegie family up until 1925. The mansion burned down in 1959 with rumors of the arsonists’ identities varying from a gang of scorned girlfriends of the Carnegie sons to vengeful squatters who got kicked off the island.

We spent the day exploring this extraordinary spot with our cruising friends from s/v Rode Trip and s/v Serendipity, thankful to have the opportunity to get our land legs back for a day. The views on the island were so spectacularly bizarre that everything looked like it had been Photoshopped, with its gnarled enchanted forest trees, antique car graveyards, red and purple sunsets, wild horses, wild turkeys, armadillos and ruins of old mansions.

For that reason, it seemed most appropriate to share this photo essay, giving Ryan his debut as s/v Hideaway’s official photographer.

cumberland island dungeness

The path to Dungeness.

dungeness cumberland island ga

Approaching the entrance to Dungeness.

dungeness cumberland island

The ruins of Dungeness.

cumberland island horses

“Wild horses… couldn’t drag me away…”

cumberland island wild horses

Sharing my lunch with the horses.

dungess car graveyard

Antique car graveyard.

cumberland island beach

The effects of storms on the beaches.

rode trip mjsailing turf to surf

Jessica (Serendipity), Stephanie (Rode Trip) & Tasha shell hunting.

cumberland island ghost crab

A friendly ghost crab we found on the beach.

cumberland island scallop

A live scallop found amongst the shells.

cumberland island shell

Tasha with shell.

cumberland island live oak

Spanish moss was draped on the island’s live oak trees.

cumberland island salt marsh boardwalk

Boardwalk across the salt marsh.

mjsailing turf to surf

Matt, Jessica, Tasha and Ryan posing for the camera.

turf to surf mjsailing

School’s out!

cumberland island sunset

Sunset after a great day on the island.

Sailing with Cats: Adopting a boat kitty

Our friends on Serendipity had been throwing around the idea of getting a boat cat for a while. So when they found out that Anthyllide got their sailing cat Allie from St. Marys last year, they decided to check out the local animal shelter to see if they had any kittens.

Sure enough, Georgiana, a 6-month-old gray-and-black tiger cat nudged and purred her way into Matt and Jessica’s heart and into the companionway of Serendipity. So naturally, being cat lovers, we offered to help out with any pet supplies they might need. And what it turned out Georgie needed was flea medicine. So Ryan and I hopped on our bikes and cycled a few miles down the road in search of a pet store.

After about 5 miles, we came across a boarded-up broken door on a storefront called “Pet Comics,” which appeared to sell dirty fish tanks, comic books, dolls, and used video games, amongst other oddities. Figuring we had the wrong shop, we turned to leave when a guy yelled from the parking lot that he was open and rushed over to insist that he had whatever we needed. And he was probably right because when he unlocked his shop, he opened the door to a bizarre world in which someone could buy fish food, plastic bracelets, Garbage Pail Kids cards, Sci-Fi paperbacks, plastic troll dolls and, it turns out, flea and tick spray…all in this one-stop shop for hoarders.

pet comic st marys ga

“Pet Comic Store,” where you can buy a Richard Nixon mask to go with your flea spray.

With flea spray in hand, we were thrilled to have thrown a few dollars at a guy who looked like he desperately needed to sell some stuff before he was buried alive under it, and to help out our furry friend Georgie by keeping her bug-free.

Not to mention all those kitty play-dates we could now start scheduling with our boat buddies, Serendipity.

matt and georgi

Georgie’s found a good home with Matt and Jessica.

Fishing for help in St. Marys, Georgia

We heard rumors of a local nautical swap meet near the town cemetery on Saturday, so we headed over to see what we could find. And the best thing there turned out to be Vonn, a local fisherman who was selling an array of used fishing rods and gear.

Ryan and I have been threatening to learn to fish for years, knowing how useful it would be to catch our own food while cruising. Only we’ve never had the guts to throw a line in the water – probably out of fear of actually catching something.

But Vonn turned out to be just the man we needed – he was incredibly patient and chatty, and didn’t mind at all that we knew nothing about fish, fishing rods, or how to get started. In fact, he seemed to get a kick out of taking us under his wing, explaining the difference between trawling and bottom fishing, how to tie fishing line to lures, what kind of lures work on what kind of fish, and showing us how to work a rod.

In the end, Vonn set us up with a trawling rod, which we can also use to bottom fish, for $35, and talked us through our new equipment. And though we thought we’d exhausted Vonn’s patience, he wasn’t going to just let us go there – he came back to see us the next day and bring us some lures he’d picked out from his collection, refusing any money and saying all he wanted was for us to send him a picture of our first catch. Which of course we promised to do.

It turned out Vonn once dreamed of sailing to the Caribbean on a 41′ Columbia sailboat that slipped through his fingers when it was sold to another buyer before he could close the deal. He told me that he ended up staying in St. Marys and made good money in property investment. But he always wondered in the back of his mind what might have happened if he’d bought that boat.

So, I think Vonn may have wanted to live vicariously through us for just a little while, and we were more than happy to let him do just that. The challenge now is to go catch a fish and make Vonn proud.

Ryan with his new rod

Ryan, showing off his new rod

Friday Night Lights: The Camden Wildcats

Black Friday found us running errands, rather than Christmas shopping, so we hired a local taxi to help us do things like get to the laundromat, get our hair cut and stock up at the liquor store. And during our trips around town, we got friendly enough with the driver, John, that we found ourselves later that night going with him to watch a local high school football game.

Ryan, who has converted from British rugby to American football with the zealousness of a born-again Christian, was positively giddy when John told him there was a “Friday Night Lights” playoffs game that night.

Now, when I say “high school football,” I don’t mean the brand of backyard football played at schools in my native upstate New York. In St. Marys, the local Camden Wildcats are as highly revered in Camden County as the NY Giants are in Manhattan. And the Wildcats’ stadium is only slightly smaller and less expensive (a slight exaggeration), attracting thousands of spectators and demanding $12 per ticket (not an exaggeration).

Ryan was like a kid at his first NFL game, asking John questions about the size of the team, the football culture and who the big players were. Even I thought the game was well worth $12, considering we got to nosh on some stellar southern BBQ, watch the fans pump their fists and scream at the field and, in the end, witness the Wildcats‘ win over East Coweta (an Atlanta, GA team) 34-14, putting them well on their way to becoming state champions.

If anything, it was a unique experience to see a game in action under the real-life “Friday Night Lights.”

camden wildcats st marys georgia

Camden Wildcats vs. East Coweta

camden wildcats georgia

John and Ryan, engrossed in the game

Photo Essay: St. Marys, Georgia

How much I like a place seems to be directly proportionate to how warm the weather is and how often I get off the boat. By that criteria, St. Marys, Georgia is hands-down my favorite port so far.

Not only was the weather warm enough for me to run outside in shorts and a t-shirt, but the town of St. Marys itself was charming and understatedly beautiful. Though tiny and not at all a built-up tourist resort, St. Marys boasts quality food, a picturesque harbor with pelicans and sea otters, a few good museums, a waterfront snack shop with friendly clerks who are basically tourist information, an adorably sleepy main street, and stately trees dripping in Spanish moss.

But, really, above all, it’s the overwhelming hospitality of the people in St. Marys that makes you want to stay just a little bit longer.

waterfront st marys georgia

Walking along the waterfront is enjoyable in little St. Marys

market on the square st marys georgia

Cruisers can buy fudge and do laundry for $1/load at Market on the Square

main street st marys georgia

You’d be surprised to see any cars on the main street of St. Marys

golf cart st marys georgia

Residents drive around in some seriously souped-up golf carts!

no profanity st marys georgia

Watch your language here!

spanish moss st marys georgia

Grace, standing under the Spanish moss

swinging in the sun st marys georgia

Swinging on a porch swing by the waterfront

The sun setting over St. Marys' anchorage

The sun setting over St Marys Georgia

Cruisers’ Thanksgiving in St. Marys

With the anchor up at 6 am on Thanksgiving morning, we were back on our typically rushed schedule to cover 35 statute miles by a deadline: the 1:00 pm cruisers’ potluck Thanksgiving dinner in St. Marys, Georgia.

Luckily, the day’s journey wasn’t nearly as brutal on the ICW as the previous day’s trip on the ocean. The sun was out, there were dolphins swimming around the boat, the cats started looking happy again (even Celia made a rare venture out on deck), and we managed to eke into The St. Marys River at 12:45 pm with potatoes boiling on the stove and about 40 anchored boats in view.

bill grace charlie st marys thanksgiving

Bill, Grace and Charlie, on our way to St. Marys, Georgia

celia hideaway sailing with cats turf to surf

Celia, bravely sitting in the cockpit

As the story goes, St. Marys’ Thanksgiving potluck tradition began 12 years ago when a group of cruisers pulled into the river to wait out a nor’easter. When they started looking for ways to celebrate Thanksgiving together, a local sailor named Charlie Jacobs offered to cook up a turkey for the cruisers, and the owners of the Riverview Hotel offered up their restaurant lounge so everyone could gather there.

And ever since, this tradition has continued, still hosted by the Riverview Hotel and its owners Jerry and Galia Brandon, bringing hundreds of cruisers from nearby and afar together each year to celebrate.

riverview hotel st marys georgia

Potluck Thanksgiving at the Riverview Hotel

For us, Thanksgiving was made particularly special not only because we got to meet so many cruisers in one place, but because we got to meet up with so many cruising couples our age, with whom we stretched the restaurant’s patience by staying long after clean-up, gabbing away about our experiences and our plans. And then, deciding we weren’t quite done with each others’ company, we created an impromptu, moving after-party that involved boat-hopping in our dinghies from shore to Rode Trip to Serendipity to Hideaway. In the process, we managed to empty all three boats’ liquor stashes, pick up Scott and Kim from Anthyllyde, convince Matt on Serendipity they should adopt a cat, make macaroni-and-cheese for 10 people and discover that our wee little Catalina 34 is actually a lot roomier than it looks.

And, funnily enough, at no point in the evening did anyone acknowledge that it was Thanksgiving or attempt to announce what they were thankful for on this day.

Maybe the holiday itself wasn’t important to note, or maybe, like me, those around me didn’t feel the need to remind themselves out loud what they had to be thankful for.

On this particular Thanksgiving Day, we were living life as though we were nothing but thankful for every day we had. And it seemed as though we were all so obviously grateful to be together at that time, in that place, and at this time in our lives.

Perhaps “thanks” just didn’t need to be said. It was simply felt very deeply.

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Brian (Rode Trip), Jessica & Matt (Serendipity) and Bill

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Jessica, Tasha, Grace, Bill and Stephanie on Rode Trip