1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bonus edition - Two Rants!!! Georgia On My Mind, and West Marine Dinghy Design

I can hear everyone's heart going pitter pat with this announcement - not one, but two of Wally's world famous rants. This will be epic. Sit down, grab some popcorn and your favourite adult beverage, and enjoy!

Georgia On My Mind...

As many of you know, I've been involved in the Georgia anchoring debacle since late May when it became publicly known that the state wanted to create anchoring permits, charge people for anchoring, and limit where they could anchor. The cancer that we have been dealing with in Florida is metastasizing northward, sorry to say.
What really gets my goat however, is how this came to be. The original complaint which led to the DNR creating this horrendous legislation allegedly came from a judge who claimed to have observed someone pumping sewage overboard from their boat. This information came to me through a political source and was trustworthy, but not quite on the money. Here, publicly for the first time, is how this monstrosity, HB201, was conceived.
This bill got its birth because a GA judge, former Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Amanda Williams, was upset over an old Navy vessel legally tied to a dock near her office building. She made a complaint to her House Rep, Don Hogan that a boat anchored out was pumping waste overboard. So she lied about the boat if this is true, and can anyone please tell me how she knew the boat was pumping out anyhow?  Hogan, fyi, sponsored HB201, probably dealing with the DNR to create it. I'll get back to this point.
GAMBA, Georgia Marine Business Association, became involved. Why, when and how isn't entirely clear, but there appear to be significant connections between Williams and marina operators who are GAMBA members.
Now Williams,  who was the source of the original complaint, isn't your typical upright and honest judge. She was formally removed from the bench some years ago and very nearly faced jail for serious charges - see this - Former Judge Booked and Released on Bond
That is not the worst of it however, not from where I stand.
One of the beneficiaries of her brand of justice was the son of the current owner of a Georgia marina. Quite a few years ago, he was placed in a drug court diversion program, over the protests of the district attorney, for his offences. Nonetheless, successfully completing the program ensured that the participant would not have a criminal record, which I'm sure you agree is a substantial benefit. Don't get me wrong - if someone completes the program and stays on the straight and narrow, I'm all for it. It's a good thing, but that's not the point here.
This marina stood to gain from this legislation that this judge wants, and in particular the 1000 foot rule, because it eliminates an anchorage that they object to adjacent to their marina.
That being said, there is no evidence that the man's family interceded on behalf of the erring scion. Perhaps the judge is just a kindly soul and did this on her own. 
A favor was done, solicited or not. A debt was created, acknowledged or not.
Next, the president of GAMBA, Charles Waller, would receive a significant benefit from the 1000 foot setoff that was proposed. It would eliminate a USCG anchorage that is adjacent to his marina that he apparently finds problematical. Without any valid reason that I can see, I would add.
Again, there is no evidence to substantiate this motive, but I do have emails from GAMBA that alluded to this issue and Waller's problems with it.
Was this why GAMBA was so keen on this legislation, because two of their members stood to benefit from it? Seems likely, but I doubt we'll ever know for sure, and GAMBA is all on the side of cruisers' rights now.
Anyhow, what we are seeing is that Hogan got a call from Williams about someone pumping overboard from the ex-Navy boat, and then got together with the DNR to deal with Williams' issues. Along the way, members of GAMBA saw that they could benefit from this legislation and got behind it.
The bill got passed with no studies, no public input, nothing. Only one vote against it.
Then we, the boating public, found out about this at the end of May and raised a huge stink. GAMBA reversed its position, with Exec Director Amy Thurman telling the media that GAMBA wasn't supporting, never supported, the 1000 foot rule. Unfortunately for Ms. Thurman, I have the emails from her to prove she said exactly the opposite, that in fact, GAMBA strongly supported the 1000 foot setoff proposal.
Then - the judge who I'm told was the complainer showed up to speak at the DNR hosted public hearing in Brunswick last week. She made a lovely little speech, but never told us who she was.

However, a cruiser at the meeting was a retired FBI agent - I just love that touch, lends drama to the whole thing - and he busted her for her deceptions the next day in a post on the Save Georgia's Anchorages Facebook page.
Since then, we've determined that the boat in question was behind her office, not her home. How did we do that? Her state House Representative Don Hogan, the bill's sponsor, made specific reference to it in his talk that night.
It appears quite likely that House Representative Hogan was fed a line of crap about what was actually going on, was given a considerable amount of bad or dishonest advice from a number of people, including some at the DNR, and trusted people he should not have to do the right thing. It didn't help Hogan that the complainer was someone of significant influence, not just any upset waterfront property owner. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.
So what happens next, now that the old boys (and girls) network has been caught out?
The Save Georgia Anchorages group (see their Facebook page here) is now working with the various members of the Georgia legislature to ensure that HB201 is brought back before the legislature in the 2020 session to be properly amended. We are also preparing a presentation for the Coastal Committee Board of the DNR, to ensure that cruisers' issues are properly presented to them before any new rules are put in place. And we need your support in this work.
What can you do to support this? It's important that the DNR be aware that boaters object very strenuously to HB201. You can make your views know by writing to Kelly Hill, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520 <Kelly.Hill@dnr.ga.gov>
Talking points, sample letters and other useful information are available at the Save Georgia Anchorages page. Please join us in defending your rights to anchor in Georgia.

Is This Any Way to Build a Dinghy? NO!

I just launched a West Marine inflatable after selling my 10 foot aluminum, which I now sorely miss. But hey, I got a great price for it.
Now there's nothing really wrong with the new inflatable, but there is ONE thing that drives me nuts, and it's the same thing I hated about the first one of these I had ten years ago: the drain plug.
Just how hard is it to design a properly functioning drain for these little boats? Apparently, VERY hard.

The first one of these I had had a fancy design with a lever, a screen, all sorts of little doodads to it as you can see from the photo. I am absolutely certain that the engineer who designed this monstrosity was overhyped on caffeine on a Monday morning. There is no other rational excuse for this thing. Ok, maybe LSD or magic mushroom, but other than those...
The problem is, it caught every single piece of debris in the dinghy, and plugged up. And when it plugged up, as often as not it would then bugger up the drain so that the drain leaked water into the boat.
So we have a drain that won't drain when you need it to, and lets water into the boat at all other times. To fix it involved removing it from the boat, disassembling, cleaning and then reassembling and reinstalling it. Sometimes that was a weekly occurrence - but only when it wasn't happening every other day.
So I eventually sold that boat, bought the aluminum, and then a few months ago, moved back to a new inflatable sportboat from WM. It does not have the same drain. If anything, this one may be worse.
It doesn't have the fancy engineering. It's some kind of rubber flap, kind of a one way thing that supposedly keeps water from entering your boat, provided the plug is in place. We'll return to the plug in a moment, but suffice it to say, if the plug is in place, the flapper isn't needed.
The problem is, the drain doesn't allow water out of your boat unless you continuously 'tickle' it with your finger. Why? I presume it's because minute particles of debris plug it up. At least the old design, bad as it was, needed a visible piece of crap to bugger it up.
Then, it takes forever to drain because of the flapper valve, and because it keeps plugging up with tiny, invisible pieces of crap.
Now, to the drain plug. This rubber beauty goes in the outside of the drain hole and is attached to the boat with a piece of string. If you lose one - which according to my extensive survey of Sportboat owners who were in Marsh Harbor on April 22 - takes 4. 873 days on average, it will cost you $20.95 US to replace it.
That's right. An Achilles Rubber Self Bailer Drain Plug with String (Part #ACHC441B), a 1 3/8" plug that is guaranteed to be lost will cost you more than three Kaliks at Snappas. That's just wrong.  So if you're smart like me (ignoring that I was dumb enough to lose the stupid thing in the first place), you go to the local hardware store and get a rubber chair tip for $2.44 (but $5 in Marsh Harbour) which fits perfectly, AND you have a choice of beige or black. It's all about style, baby!
So, I'm asking West Marine CEO Ken Seipel to get involved here.
Ken, I know this isn't your fault, you've only been there since last December. But please - tell these engineers that designing a functioning drain plug for your inflatables is NOT rocket science. It's not.
Here's how you do it.
You drill an oversized hole low in the wooden transom of the dinghy. You then fill the hole with fibreglass resin, let it cure, then redrill the hole to fit the $20.95 goldplated drain plug. You put the drain plug INSIDE the dinghy, where it won't get broken off and sink into the depths. You use something more durable than a piece of "string" to attach it to the boat.
If you want to save your customers some money, you use West Marine part Model # 375493, pictured to the left, which retails for $10.99 but that, because of its design, is unlikely to be lost. I know, because I had one in my aluminum boat for 6 or 7 years. Never had a moment's problem with it.
Uh, full disclosure here - I bought it at a competitor's place of business for $5.95. Sorry.

Please, Mr. Seipel, just do this before I buy my next dinghy. I don't know if I can stand the frustration of dealing with another overdesigned, underperforming drain plug. You can do this, Sir, and I and thousands of Sportboat owners beg you to do this.Thank you.

Ok, enough ranting, on to happier things. The Fifth Annual Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is moving along well, and we're half full now. Our departure date from Hampton will be October 21, one week after the end of the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Our anticipated arrival in Miami is December 12, after eight weeks of fun and adventure on the not so high, but imminently comfortable, safe and enjoyable, seas of the ICW.
During that eight weeks of fun and frolic, there will be shrimp boils, a blue crab feast, a visit to a rum distillery for the pirates amongst us, dinghy raftups, dinners out, dinners onboard, and an all round great time for all. We're even considering an alligator bbq...yes, you read that right: gator burgers and steaks, done by a professional chef.
If you want more information, or a brochure on the Rally, or even a free copy of my free ICW ebook, or all three - go to the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page and you can request it from there.

Bonus Rant #3 - The Last Straw

Some time ago, nine year old Milo Cress created a first-world fuss over straws. By his calculations, suspect at best, and as reported by USA Today: "as Cress began to dig into research on plastics and the environment, he noticed there wasn't much data: "I couldn’t find anything on our use of straws in the United States," he said. 
Gee, really? In all of history, nobody studied straw usage? I can't believe it, there has to be some useless little university researcher out there who had nothing better to do with $50,000 in grant money than to figure out what the story was behind straws.
So Cress determined the status of straws through a truly questionable study - about the kind of thing you'd expect from a precocious but misguided pre-teenager.He called straw manufacturers himself, asking what they estimated to be the straw market in the United States per day. Some gave him a yearly estimate, which he divided by 365. "Others gave an estimate of around 500 million straws," Cress said. "That was the number that I stuck to, because it seemed to be around the middle of what they were saying.""
That's his research. On this sort of thing do our fates turn - a nine year old's guess at something of minimal importance in the greater scheme of things.

So of course, following the young lad's revelations, everyone got all eco correct and decided to ban plastic straws. Good move, right?
Well, have you ever tried to drink a great thick milkshake - the only proper way to have one - through a paper straw? You end up with your lips caved in from sucking so hard, the staff at the Steak and Shake or Sonic Drive In laughing at you as they watch on their video monitors. How humiliating is that?

All of this over a 9 year old boy's unproven and unprovable contention that we use too many straws.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Anchor Rant - Now it's Georgia's turn

Well, the Florida anti-anchor illness has now spread to Georgia. Georgia just quietly passed a law that will force you to pay $5 per night to anchor in Georgia, and you can only anchor in approved locations. You will also be required to keep a log of your pumpouts.
Here's the problem. What locations are going to be approved for anchoring? What if they disallow anchoring off Fort Frederica? What if they forbid anchoring in any of the hundreds of side creeks, such as Kilkenny Creek, or Big Tom, or Warburg Creek, not that that would be real easy to enforce, but what if?
It's almost impossible to go through Georgia without having to anchor out at least once in the remotest of areas, areas that often don't have phone or internet service. That means you may not be able to avoid breaking the law, because you can't get to the online portal when you arrive. That means you can't find out if the anchorage is permitted, and if it is, you can't get online to pay the $5 charge. Should a DNR vessel come by and demand your permit, you're screwed.
Then there's anchorages such as the one in Jekyll Creek. The nearby marina is often full during snowbird season, and there is no place else nearby. Or how about Cumberland Island? Many cruisers stop to visit here and there is only the anchorage. What if they disallow these two locations?
The fact is, we have no idea what is coming. The Department of Natural Resources has asked for public commentary. A shame they didn't do this before making the new law, but hey - our pols know what's best for us, don't they?
Now here's what I see as an even bigger problem. Georgia has come up with a new idea here, paying for anchorage rights in designated anchorages, and Florida is going to look at this and wonder how they can adopt this for themselves. Count on it.
What do we do then? And what if South Carolina follows suit? Suddenly, the thousands of boats heading south will all be forced into a limited number of locations. Can you see that working out real well? It's bad enough now as it is with no restrictions, since the lay of the land already eliminates many locations for us. Imagine what this will be like when a group of bureaucrats, with NO idea what's involved in cruising, decide where we can anchor.
Georgia, up until now, didn't allow liveaboards to anchor out for more than 90 days per year. Now, they can anchor out year round for $240 per year. Those pristine anchorages that we now enjoy? They'll fill up with local liveaboards and be useless to those of us just passing through.
Of course, we can always just go offshore and avoid Georgia. That's of course assuming that you are willing to do an overnight sail to accomplish this, that the weather is favourable, that you have the skills to do it and are properly equipped for offshore. Just forget about visiting Savannah, or Brunswick/St. Simons, or Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island. And what will this do to the annual St. Mary's Cruisers' Thanksgiving celebration? There is no dockage there. Are we looking at the end of that event? I sure hope not.
At this moment, the Department of Natural Resources is looking for comments, and as cruisers, we need to fill their inbox on what a bad idea this is. You have until July 15 to comment, so do it now so you don't forget!
Here's the link to make comments: Kelly Hill, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520. Kelly.Hill@dnr.ga.gov
Additional information is available at www.CoastalGaDNR.org. Click on the “News and Notices” tab or click this link: https://coastalgadnr.org/notice-rule-making-coastal-marshland-protection-and-boating-regulations
Here is a link to a letter from the executive director of the Georgia Marine Business Association. What she says sounds good - but note my comments following. https://cruisersnet.net/anchoring-under-attack-in-georgia/
We will be following this issue closely on Facebook, at Sailing and Cruising. Let us know what you think there.

For some time now I have been considering the need for a national Boaters' Rights organization, one that will monitor attempts at regulations such as this and work to see that they do not infringe on our rights to anchor or otherwise enjoy the cruising lifestyle. The organizations currently in place do lobbying at the legislative level, and as we can see, have missed this entirely. That's not a good thing - we can do better. If you think a new organization is a good idea, let me know on Facebook and respond to the survey at 

In happier news, this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is one boat short of being half subscribed, putting us well ahead of previous year's enrolments.  If you're going south this year and want to have a hassle free trip, consider joining the Rally. On top of expert navigational advice and assistance to get you through the challenging spots of the ICW, you get to share your adventure with 19 other boats. You'll make new friends that will be closer than family, explore neat anchorages, villages and towns - and a lot of local pubs too - see a rum distillery, and participate in dozens of adventures.
The Rally has been called "a two month long floating party", and I'm more than happy to go with that description. We have a great time every year, and you will too!
If you'd like more information, or a brochure, go to Sail to the Sun ICW Rally and read all about it. You can also sign up directly from the site.
Best of all - we'll get you through Georgia 'hassle free'. (full disclosure - the new rules don't start until 2020 :)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Tired of Getting Waked by Inconsiderate Powerboaters?

We’ve all been there - a narrow body of water such as the ICW, a fast powerboat coming from behind who is clearly not going to slow down for you. You know what’s coming, and you just hope that everything below is properly stowed. 
Still, you get on the VHF and plead that the approaching vessel slow down to pass you. Your only reply, the sibilant hiss of the VHF. Now you know for sure. Your only remaining response - a finger raised to the cowboy who passes by you, oftentimes less than a boat length away - and too often with a big smirk on his stupid face. He knows what he just did. He thinks it’s funny.
Last fall, leading 16 boats on the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, at the north end of Lake Worth and with several other boats also southbound, I heard a commotion on the VHF from the boats behind me. Looking back, I saw a large powerboat at high speed flying through the fleet, moving in and through them with a three foot or better wake. He passed several of the boats as close as ten feet, and at least one even closer. 
I tried to hail him myself on the VHF to no avail, and as he and his passenger roared past me at the head of the line and within 20 feet, I saw no antenna and no markings on the brand new 45 foot boat. Two of my Rally boats were well ahead of the main group at the inlet. They reported that the powerboat had slowed and turned around. They took photos, as did I when it came back past us heading north, this time at a much slower speed. On its side - a small sign indicating that it was a new boat for sale from a local - and large, well known - national brokerage. Several blistering phone calls were made to the local brokerage office. I myself spoke with the sales manager three times. Further investigation discovered that the company’s captain was showing off a boat for sale to a prospect, who had his 8 year old daughter with him on board.
Later that day and a few miles further south near the Lantana bridge, the situation repeated itself. Another large powerboat roared through the fleet, only slowing when I and other boats spread out to block his progress and force him to the edge of the ICW where he had no choice but to slow down. He went a few hundred yards further at slow speed and then turned into the marina.
The year previous, I had a large northbound trawler decide to try to make the Royal Palm Bridge in West Palm right after I’d passed under it. He firewalled the throttle less than 30 yards from me, throwing up a wall of water and burying my bow in the hole he created. He wouldn’t identify himself to me on the VHF, but the bridge tender on hearing us closed the bridge and informed him that without identifying information, he would be held there.
So what’s the thread between all three of these incidents, and countless more I could recount for you?
It’s this: the United States Coast Guard no longer acts on these complaints. You can complain all you want. The Coast Guard simply doesn’t have time for these complaints any longer. They have other duties and policing the waterways is no longer their job. The USCG directs you to contact the FWC (if in Florida) or local law enforcement. 
The problem with that is that you typically cannot reach the FWC, especially on a weekend, and if you’re a transient, you probably don’t know who local law enforcement on the water is. Is it the town/city, the sheriff’s office, county mounties, or who? What is their number? Do they even have a marine patrol?
And have you ever tried to reach the FWC or a water cop via VHF out on the water? I’ve rarely gotten a response, including times when I could see their boat.
So typically, these on water cowboys with their big powerful boats get away with their dangerous behaviour. How dangerous? 
The first boat, the one that blew through the Rally, knocked four people down on four boats, injuring two people, one seriously enough that he needed medical attention. Lawyers are involved and I imagine that legal action is likely if a settlement is not reached.
In the third instance, I spoke with the local police, and requested they contact me after investigating. I never heard back from them.
The problem is that because the laws are not being enforced by the USCG or state/local police, these incidents are becoming much more common. I warn people going south during my seminars that it is unwise to travel south of Palm Beach on the weekends, it’s that uncomfortable. Anchor up in Peck Lake and enjoy a couple of days break at the beach - and avoid the idiots.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from these irresponsible clowns? 

First of all, have your VHF on, and where you can hear it in the cockpit. Too many of we sailors can’t hear our radios and get waked by people who would otherwise slow down for us if they could contact us.
Watch behind you. If you see a powerboat coming up fast, get on the VHF, identify yourself and offer to slow down so they can give you a slow pass. Most powerboaters, bless them, will appreciate that and accommodate you. 
Slow down to under 4 knots so they can get their speed well down. Once they’re past, get in behind them so they can get back up on plane. 
Be sure to thank them too, and by boat name. Not only is it polite (like mom told you to be!) and seamanlike, but other boaters hear you and are far more likely to be courteous when they go by you. It’s a win-win all around.
But what if they don’t slow down? First of all, make sure that you protect yourself. Warn anyone below that you’re about to be waked. Turn the boat away as far as you can, and then turn bow into the wake as it hits you to minimize the rolling. Mutter the appropriate curses under your breath to get your heart rate down.
Get on the VHF and warn other boaters ahead. Name the boat and it’s location, and speed. Every now and then this action triggers the lone brain cell these dopes still have and they slow down for boats ahead. It can’t hurt, and it might help.
Then - contact the local authorities. Try the USCG on Channel 16 and give the details over the air. If the other boat hears it, again it may slow them down. Generally however, the USCG will give you the local police agency’s number.
Get an officer on the line and get his contact information. Even if he says that he’s not the marine officer, get the email for them from him.
Now email the photos you just took of the offending vessel - you did take photos showing the registration number, the driver, the wake the boat was throwing, right? - along with the time, lat and long of the incident, weather conditions, water state, other traffic and pertinent details. Tell them that you want this investigated and that you want to hear back from them about it.
Then, follow up. Give them a week or so to contact the other boater, get his side of the story, and be prepared to be told that the other boater was warned about his behaviour and that is likely as far as it will go.
The police don’t want to bother with this stuff. They’ve got more important issues to deal with, and I understand that. But unless we start reporting these incidents, they’re going to continue, and get worse.
Yes, you’re right - that doesn’t seem like it’s enough to resolve the problem. Is there anything else we can do? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s get a dialogue going and see if there’s a way we can make our waterways safer and more pleasant for all of us.
There is one thing however - we need to demand that the police start aggressively going after these irresponsible boaters. When enough of the boating public speaks out, things will start to change. It’s on us to make it happen. 
For that reason, I ask you as fellow boaters to share this blog post to your own timeline, and to other boating groups you belong to. Make sure as many people as possible get the word. Just use the share button at the bottom of this page. Together, we can make boating safer, and more enjoyable.

Sail to the Sun ICW Roundup
The 2019 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is now 25% full, I’m happy to say, with a lot of inquiries coming in. I’m already in touch with several of the locations we visit to discuss this year’s itinerary. Our hosts at the marinas and towns we stop by are looking forward to welcoming the Rally crew again.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, for those not familiar with it, starts in Hampton VA and goes to Miami FL. We take two months, so it’s a very leisurely trip. Lots of time to explore, and relax while fleeing the cold north weather. 

There are a lot of intriguing events planned. For example, we’ll be visiting a rum distillery as all good pirates should. Also, we’ll visit a maritime museum in Beaufort and learn all about Edward Teach, otherwise known as Blackbeard. A couple of days later, the town of Southport will host a dock party for us, one of many on our way south. Thanksgiving will be in St. Mary’s GA at the legendary Cruisers Thanksgiving Potluck.
As always, we’ll stop at Windmill Harbor on Hilton Head to be treated like royalty by our wonderful hosts there.
Hopefully, the town of Fernandina Beach will finally have its marina back in operation after hurricane damage repairs and we’ll spend a couple of days in this lovely small city. That’s after we leave Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island, exploring these locales. Both are exquisite, and in Cumberland, you’ll see wild horses, armadillos and sea turtles.
One of the trip’s highlights is our stop in Cocoa. They roll out the red carpet for us with a courtesy van for provisioning, a mayor’s reception, a pub night with entertainment and for those who wish, a trip to the Kennedy Space Center.
If you want more details on the Rally, you can go to the website, Sail to the Sun, and read more there. You can also request a Rally brochure there from one of the links, or you can contact me directly here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Were we having fun? Sure looks like it!

I was browsing through my files yesterday, trying to tidy up the computer, and got distracted by my photo file. I ended up reliving the past year on the water and the trip south with the crew of the 2018 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. Looks like I was having way more fun than I realized!

The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is now 25% full, so we're filling up faster than usual. If you're interested in more information about the Rally, click here: Sail to the Sun

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Moving Ahead with More Great Stuff...

As usual, January and February were busy months for me, preparing to head over to the Bahamas, plus doing some preparatory work on a new book. As a result, I have not been keeping this blog updated.
The plan in 2019 is to post here at least a couple of times per month, and re-introduce some formerly very popular features such as our listings of free or nearly free sailboats. There is of course no such thing as a free sailboat, you’re going to spend a ton of money getting it ready to go, but… The thought is a nice one
If you are aware of a free, or nearly free sailboat, send me the information with the link using the contact form, and I will post it here for others to view.

I've been remiss in summing up the 2018 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. This year's Rally started off with 18 boats, the smallest being 26 feet and the largest nearly double that, a 50 foot Hunter. 
Interestingly enough, we had one person who had crossed the Pacific in his late teens, and two people who had done Atlantic crossings. There was some real sailing talent in this group. We had the usual mix of sailors hailing from the Northeast and Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and even one from the west coast. All in all an interesting group of folks, and a lot of fun.
We of course hit all of our regular stops - Dowry Creek (for the pilgrimage to the run distillery), Oriental (where we had a huge shrimp boil), Osprey Marina (great stopover), Windmill Harbor Marina (because it's so lovely and they treat us like kings and queens there), Charleston Maritime Center (because it's SO well located to downtown Charleston), the St. Mary's Cruisers Thanksgiving Dinner, Cocoa FL (because they again treat us like kings and queens there)...
As is expected of a group of sailors, there were many parties, dockside get-togethers and on board fun - such as the blue crab party in the ICW anchorage at the entrance to the Alligator Pungo Canal. I bought a bushel of blue crabs from a waterman I saw on the Albermarle ($30 if you can believe it!) and we feasted that night on the back of Irv and Bonnie Alpert's catamaran, Bonni Jean II. As always with blue crab, there was an awful mess left over when we were done, and I again thank Irv and Bonnie for hosting this messy - but tasty - event.
These few pictures tell the story far better than I can, but as always, the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally was a huge, enjoyable good time for all.

For those interested in more information on the 2019 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, go to Sail to the Sun, and if you'd like a brochure, click here...
I'm off to the Bahamas in a few days, so my next message will be from Bimini, or possibly the Abacos, depending on the upcoming weather. Cheers to all, and to my northerly readers, spring is coming. Be hopeful!