Blog

2004 Travel Notes

We spent much of this year refitting and refinishing other cruising boats on the US southeast coast between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. Until June we were docked at Brunswick landing Marina, a couple miles off the ICW in downtown Brunswick, Georgia. Aside from the sand gnats and mosquitoes, which at times make life miserable along the entire Georgia coast, and our preference for living on the hook instead of in a marina, we found Brunswick a fine place to base ourselves for awhile.

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Brunswick, Georgia

Brunswick is large enough to have most things you're likely to need, including several supermarkets and two marine stores, yet not big enough to have traffic jams. The large city of Jacksonville is an hour drive to the south and Savannah about an hour to the north. There's a great bunch of sailors resident here and a variety of cruising boats continually passing through. About six miles down the wide Brunswick River and St. Simon's Sound is a well-marked ship channel to the ocean. If you want to stop in Brunswick on your way down the east coast, you might anchor for a few days in a well-protected spot off the boat launch ramp opposite the marina. You can land a dinghy on the beach near the boat launch. For a more direct access to town you'll need to find a way to climb the quay at the city shrimp dock and waterfront park.It's unclear how long you would be allowed to anchor here before the Coast Guard would ask you to move along. One boat stayed here five months before moving on. (2011 update: The marina has been running off anyone anchoring in this area. Check the 2011 blog for alternative anchorage.) Most people tie up at the marina on their way through. If you dont need access to town there are numerous places to anchor in the rivers and creeks flowing in and out of the ICW and St. Simons Sound including a designated anchorage next to Golden Isles Marina and St. Simons Island.

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St. Simons Sound viewed from Jekyll Island

One of our jobs last year was to refit the 1982 English-built 31-foot Nicholson Tarry G and get her outfitted for cruising. (Click here for an online article describing this refit.) Departing on November 22 last year, we sailed with the owner to the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas, completing the trip in between two cold fronts. Though we encountered mostly light headwinds, it was apparent the Nicholson handles nicely with an easy helm and good compromise between speed and the solid feel of a relatively heavy displacement long-keeled boat that she is. Mei and I flew back to Georgia from Marsh Harbour and Tarry G, renamed Echo, remained in the Bahamas throughout 2004, where she survived with minor damage the two hurricanes that swept over the islands.

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Sailing Tarry G in St. Simon's Sound, Georgia

Among the many boats we worked on this year were some extensive fitting out projects on a Bayfield 32, a Crealock 34, and Columbia 8.7. To prepare these boats for offshore cruising we worked on a variety of projects with a common theme of simple, strong, and functional while providing reasonable comforts todays generation of sailors expect. The 200 and some separate jobs completed this year ran from re-rigging to replacing thru-hulls to installing a manual anchor windlass and chain locker modifications to plumbing to cabinetry modifications. Electrical systems were replaced to include enlarged battery banks, better-organized switch panels and meters, and solar panels. One boat had a broken watermaker that I removed with unconcealed pleasure. On another we added a flexible water tank. A choked and leaky Raritan marine toilet was replaced with a hand-pump vacuum Lavac toilet. Particular satisfaction was taken in ripping out pressure water systems and hand pumps for galley and head in favor of foot pumps (its just too painful for me to watch someone try to wash their hands or anything else while one hand is on a pump handle!).

Another suggested modification that initially often gets resistance from boat owners is removing the space-wasting companionway ladder and extending the locker behind it to make the counter double as a top step. The smaller the boat the more dramatic the improvement this modification creates. Ill go into more detail on some of these projects in future updates.

Atom is 42 years old now and once again showing her age after her many years of cruising. Id hoped to have the time this year to repaint Atoms interior and exterior and replace the awning. It turned out we had little time to do much besides maintain the exterior brightwork while we worked mostly on other peoples boats.

There's a few other projects scheduled for next year such as experimenting with a set of lightweight oars to propel Atom in calm harbors. We still have our Chinese sculling oar, or yuloh, but I'd like to compare its performance with a pair of lightweight fiberglass rafting oars. Another possible future experiment is to install solar powered electric outboard propulsion as an alternative to a gasoline outboard for maneuvering in port. There's no question that gasoline outboards have more power and range, but if you only need the equivalent of say, 1-2 HP for one or two hours between charging, electric propulsion has lots of appeal. After 25 years, Atom is still a work in progress and likely to remain so.

Between boat jobs we squeezed in some local sailing trips and eventually sailed Atom up the Ogeechee River a few miles south of Savannah where she is currently anchored behind a friends house 17 miles upriver from the ICW near golden marshlands once used to grow rice commercially. The water here is brackish, more fresh than salt in wet seasons and home to some interesting creatures. We've watched and been watched by otters, beavers, porpoises, and alligators as well as uncountable varied bird life.

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Atom anchored on the Ogeechee River, Georgia

While many people we meet are making the break from a life ashore to go cruising, we're heading in the opposite direction.This year we surprised everyone who knows us by doing something out of character. I was finally, though hopefully not permanently, driven ashore by life's shifting winds and into a house 60-foot long with a beam of 28 feet. This three bedroom double-wide mobile home is firmly aground - though only a few feet above sea level - located on a shady wooded lot 1.5 miles west of the ICW near St. Simons Island some five miles north of Brunswick. Besides Mei's newfound nesting instinct, I could justify the change by saying that I'd crossed enough oceans for awhile and we needed to work to lay away some money for the future, and that I had family obligations. Certainly in recent years wed overloaded Atom by collecting so many tools and possessions that living aboard and passage making was more complicated than it should be. As H. D. Thoreau warned, our possessions are more easily gathered than gotten rid of.

On the other hand, our affordable little shack has no mortgage to chain us down and property taxes are only $65 a year. Though we are grounded for awhile theres nothing to keep us from one day locking the doors or selling out and sailing away for a season or forever. So here we are enjoying the shade of the grand old twisted evergreen trees known in the South as Live Oaks and marveling at our newly changed status to dirt-dwellers. While watching a bird build his nest outside our porch, I caught the double meaning as Mei quoted the old Chinese expression "Cheun neow gway chow" (Tired bird returns to nest).