As promised, we got home from our sixth summer cruising the French canals and within about a week rented a one-way car and drove to our trawler, Miss Adventure, and her summer home in Georgia. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but owning a boat, especially a bigger, ocean-going boat like the Miss A, is really an exercise in boat maintenance, and not so much about cruising on the boat.
We did get to spend a weekend with Dad in Northern (“Occupied”) Virginia, and helped him and his German club with the Shirlington Oktoberfest, where we worked grilling and serving sausages. Fortunately, the folks working the beer tents tend to get hungry, right about the time those of us working the grills get thirsty, so there is always a steady flow of goods (bratwurst for beer) behind the scenes.
At the boatyard, we had a number of projects queued up, the biggest one being stripping the aft deck of all of its hardware (stanchions, lifelines, and bimini top) and installing a rigid aluminum frame. I also needed to upgrade the electrical inverter (and the connecting cables) to a big, 2kW inverter/charger. In addition, we had our port prop shaft straightened and the propellers re-balanced, after hitting the sunken log in the Great Dismal Swamp over a year prior.
We arrived in Brunswick Georgia a week after hurricane Matthew mowed through the area. Fortunately, we had picked our summer spot well, and our boat rode out the storm at Hidden Harbor Yacht Club without a scratch. The very nice folks (Bobbie and Allen) had ensured that our boat was well tied down and the soft bits (bimini, canvas awnings, etc.) were taken down before the storm. When we parked the boat back in May, they had told us not to worry because Brunswick hadn’t been hit by a hurricane in 118 years. That right there should have been a warning sign.
After a few days of getting the Miss A ready for a short cruise, and an interesting exercise in starting the starboard engine (which involved not only bleeding the injectors – which is somewhat normal for old diesel engines after they’ve sat for a while – but also bleeding the injector pump itself – a more challenging exercise), we backed our way out through the expensive boats and cruised two days south to the boatyard at St Mary’s Boat Services, at the very southern edge of Georgia. The folks at SMBS came highly recommended, and we had a terrific, if busy, two-week stay.
The basic aft deck structure was built over the summer by Fred Miller’s Welding, about 15 minutes from the boatyard. Once we had the boat up on land, I spent 4 days at the welding shop helping to fabricate all the add-on bits (solar panel mounts, fish cleaning table, dinghy davits, etc.). Heather spent that time cleaning, compounding, polishing, and waxing the hull. She had a lot less glamorous work than me, I’m afraid.
While we were in St. Mary’s we visited a local restaurant with some new boater friends and one of the boatyard workers. This being Georgia, they helpfully put sign on the wall that said:
FIXIN – About to do something
FIXINS – Side dishes
I need to mention at this point that the locals we met in south-east Georgia were, without fail, the kindest, most helpful, most pleasant folks we could hope to meet. Everyone from the boatyard owner, to the workers, to the crew at Fred Miller’s welding shop, were top-notch people, and we were honored to have made their acquaintance.
Once we got everything installed, we put the boat back in the water and started driving towards south Florida. After three weeks of strong north-easterly wind, the forecast was calling for a brief calm about 6 days hence, and I hoped to make it to Lake Worth and West Palm Beach by then so we’d have calm weather for our crossing to the Bahamas.
A couple days later, in north-central Florida, we picked up our friend, Susan, from Colorado. For the next few days, she drove the boat (one of her favorite things to do in the whole world) while Heather and I did boat projects. One day after the presidential election, we pulled in to West Palm Beach and dropped anchor right in front of Trump Plaza. We couldn’t decide whether that was a good or bad omen.
After a drive (by rental car) to Ft. Lauderdale to pick up a replacement solar panel for one that was damaged in shipping, dinner onboard a friend’s yacht in West Palm, and a short night’s sleep, we were up at 3am to begin our crossing. We left the Lake Worth Inlet at exactly 4am, and with a light northwest (following) wind, we arrived in West End, Grand Bahama and were tied up to the customs dock by noon. This was an order of magnitude easier than our previous year’s crossing.
Once checked in, we motored about four miles north to Sandy Cay and dropped anchor for the night. The following three days we cruised around the uninhabited Cays on the banks north of Grand Bahama, stopping at Great Sale Cay, Double-Breasted Cay, and Mangrove Cay, before motoring through the Great Lucayan Waterway that splits Grand Bahama in two, and anchoring in Port Lucaya. Susan took us out to the delicious Flying Fish restaurant for a going-away meal, and the following morning we motored the short way down the coast to Knowles Marine Boatyard, where we put Miss A to sleep for the winter. We saw our friend MaryJo, plus the boatyard owner Charlton, and had a great time catching up since we last saw them about 10 months ago.
One final bit of interest to us engineers (and even us physicists) was an evening rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center in central Florida. Because of my former life as a rocket scientist, I knew that the satellite being launched, GOES-16, would be placed in a geosynchronous orbit. This would take the flight path of the Atlas V launch vehicle near the northern Bahamas, where we happened to be. We found a live broadcast of NASA TV on the internet, and walked to a clear spot in the boatyard where we had an unobstructed view to the north, and listened to the countdown. Sure enough, about 10 seconds after liftoff, we saw a bright orange light in the north-west sky that moved rapidly towards the east. The exhaust plume from the main engines was quite spectacular, and seeing the launch from the side (as opposed to from near the launch pad like all the normal launch footage one sees) was a very rare thing, indeed. Most launches arc out over the empty Atlantic Ocean, and are unseen by anyone except the rare cargo ship that happens to be in the right place at the right time.
A couple days later, we flew back to the DC area in time for the Thanksgiving holidays. We plan to stay in “Occupied” Virginia for about 6 weeks, and then will head to Colorado for six weeks of skiing at Vail (which, because I’m so late in getting these posts written, is already half over).