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Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Nov. 28, 2015
8:32 pm


Cruising Wilsons

Bob and Carolyn Wilson, aboard Sea Island Girl, continue Lakeside's long running series of cruising adventures which began in the mid-1990s. To date we've had the Johnston family, Jean and Bill Bayman, and Mechelle and Bill Cooksey all contribute to the series. Bob and Carolyn boated on Lake Lanier until leaving for their adventure in 2002.

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The schools are back in session and my neighbor’s kids are already talking about where they will be going for their holiday breaks. Well back in my days of schooling things were certainly different as break days were not about vacation trips, they were about catching up on piano lessons, doing extra homework or starting early reading a book that was on a list the teacher had sent home.

My parents were not brutal task masters, they simply wanted me to remain focused on getting a proper and well-rounded education. Besides, we didn’t have the extra money for expensive trips.
It took me until the age of 21 to realize that my parents were smarter than I thought they were.

Experience had shown that reading, writing and arithmetic would provide a solid foundation for my future endeavors. They challenged me to try different things, to enjoy life and to venture out exploring the opportunities they never had.

All of this led up to a college education, a 40-year career in the medical field, a business opportunity or two and a love for boating. The latter took almost a lifetime to achieve. Looking back on all of it now, I should have become a marine electrician or mechanic.

These are the people that appear to have gotten it all right. My generator won’t start, who do I call? The diesel engine has a knock in it, who do I call? When the new electronic navigation instruments go on the blink … You get the picture?

The same is true when there is a plumbing problem, and ironically in our marina, guess who has the newer and larger boats? It’s the retired plumbers and electricians!

With boating, keeping everything ship-shape is vital. I have read all the equipment manuals that came with our boat numerous times and can certainly carry out basic maintenance chores but when things go strangely awry, I have to bring in the pros. They aren’t cheap, but unlike me, they know their stuff.

A few years ago I had an electrical problem and could not resolve it on my own. A friend on the dock said the stern thruster motor had burned up and it had to be replaced. I phoned the company telling them I needed to install a new motor and was told that would be over a thousand dollars.

The mechanic arrived the next morning and suggested that he test the motor before installing the new one. He finds that my motor was not the problem. After six hours of running test after test and being unable to locate the problem, he asked, “has anyone else been working on your boat?”

Two days earlier I had replaced the VHF antenna. After explaining this to the mechanic he inspects the wiring for the VHF and discovers that I had cut the control cable to the stern thruster by mistake and in less than 10 minutes he had the thruster operational.

I tell this story on myself only to suggest that despite all attempts we simply are not equipped to do all things. This mechanic may not know how blood flows through the heart, or the dietary effects on blood sugar, but thank goodness he was a professional mechanic and knew that there was something strange about why that thruster was not working. As it turned out, in my infinite wisdom, I was the culprit.

What did I learn from this? First, the mechanic was paid $1,100 for his time to fix a $10 problem. Second, I should have brought in an electrician to replace the VHF wiring, and third, I should have known better.

I have read the manuals, explored the unknown and dearly paid the price before learning my lesson. Things like this are better left to the professionals. I am thankful they chose a different path in life. Their experience is worth its weight in gold so if you haven’t done so lately, let the pros around you know how much you appreciate the quality work they perform to keep you out of the dog house.

- Until next time,  
Bob & Carolyn Wilson

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October 2015 column

Our motto for cruising: Live, Love, Bark

There is nothing quite as comforting or entertaining as having a dog onboard your boat. Over the years we have shared our space with a handful and as our collection of pictures reveals they have always been a continual resource of companionship.

As we have learned over the years, not everyone shares our enthusiasm. There are those that detest anything with four legs. Thank goodness it appears that they are in the minority. Some are frightened when approached by a dog. Ironically the reverse is true, as dogs recognize this uneasiness and will characteristically let everyone know they’re just as uncomfortable. Our philosophy has been our philosophy is it’s best not to try to change the thinking of the man or the beast.  

Landlubbers have a common list of questions when they realize you spend a lot of time boating. Near the top of that list is, “how do you occupy your time on a boat?” and in many instances they are asking about the dog as well.

I purchased a cute sign recently that read, “Live, Love and Bark.” That pretty much sums it up when you are talking about a cruising canine. Their life is simple. It’s seldom that they become over stimulated. They have a daily routine and carve out a special spot when its time to relax. When we travel their only excitement is when a pod of dolphins race alongside the hull. Other than that, the height of their day is when they are fed or going ashore following a lengthy trip.

The mornings and evenings seem to be the best times for both the dogs and the crew. Days usually begin with a moist lap across the face letting you know it’s time to get up, and the days usually end with an affectionate cuddle session before heading to bed. These are the good times. These are the days when companionship, becomes a reality. However, being fair and objective, there are those times when the unexpected will occur.

Maggie, our oldest and most experienced crewmember, fell overboard one evening while walking along the deck. We were already nestled in bed, but heard a splash and within seconds I was diving into the water in my skivvies. Maggie wasn’t a swimmer but that night she learned how to paddle, and I learned how to carry a soaking wet, 50-pound dog up a swim ladder!

Coco, a Border Collie mix, came aboard and captured our hearts when Maggie passed away after 18 long years. She was always hesitant about wading in the waters along the beach but thoroughly enjoyed being on the boat. It was an effort to get her comfortable going ashore in the dinghy and her preference was to stay aboard and serve as our watchdog.

As if one wasn’t enough we rescued a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy from the Bahamas. Robert, as he was so aptly named, quickly became Master of the Ship and to this day he always positions himself beneath the helm in the pilothouse when we travel. He and Coco were well suited for each other, and for a pair of rescues the yachting life turned out to be the right life.

We experienced some sad times as well. One evening Coco slipped getting off the boat while attempting to go ashore and suffered undetectable internal injuries. Unfortunately Carolyn, Robert and I could do nothing more than watch and keep her comfortable. The day we lost Coco was the saddest day in all of our years of boating.

Robert quickly assumed the role of watchdog and in most cases he will hear and see things long before we do, but there was one thing he did not see until it was too late.

During a quick trip to our local Petco, a lonely looking Black Labrador caught my eye. Furkids, a local rescue group had saved him from near death at the hands of a kill shelter. His loving demeanor tore at our heartstrings, and before long, Lincoln had joined our crew. And although Robert maintains a dominant role, the two of them perk up their ears, bark and head for the car whenever they hear the word boat.

Live, Love, Bark, it must be a wonderful philosophy to live by.

September 2015 column

September toss-up - football or the lake

The opening school bells are behind us and another fall season begins on the 23rd. As usual there are a lot of happenings in and around our lakes and waterways; and this year is certainly no different.

For those that schedule a cruise southward to the islands its still a little early but you can bet the Canadians have already begun their migration in hopes of beating the colder temperatures and “capturing” the better boat slips before the November rush.

You may or may not know that marine insurers providing coverage for the cruising community establish “travel zones” and use historical climactic data to determine annual premiums. Most limit boaters to North Carolina as the southernmost area, while some use Amelia Island. November 1 has traditionally been the date cruisers may travel south of their designated area free of the significantly higher deductible limits during hurricane season.

With Sea Island Girl our southern-most position was either Cumberland or Amelia Island. Crossing into Florida we could cruise the coastal Atlantic waters from Eastport, ME to Key West, FL, including the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. We needed to be north of Amelia by June 1.

We always enjoyed sailing on Lake Lanier because we could enjoy it year-round! Back in the early ’80s we would leave our home in Atlanta, drive up Peachtree Industrial and would be pulling away from the dock 45 minutes later. Not so anymore.

Some of our most enjoyable experiences were anchoring out with friends in Naked Man Cove, or watching the sunset as we sailed from Sunrise Cove to Cocktail Cove. We were there during the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. And, having so much, so close added to the enjoyment.

For some, lake boating is strictly a summer-time activity. When the kids go back to school their attention shifts to other activities – more commonly football. Those big “G” flags are attached to car windows and mailboxes; swimsuits and t-shirts are replaced with red and black sweatshirts, and woof-woof’s can be heard in local restaurants and bars while revelers watched the TV game of the week.

I had a strange dream the other night and for the life of me I can’t decipher what brought it on. The Georgia Bulldogs were having their opening game and I decided it would be fun to load up a pontoon boat with some lake friends and cruise up to Athens for the game. You’ve got it - all the way from Lake Lanier to Sanford Stadium.

It seems my Uncle David may have been on my mind. He keeps a houseboat on the Tennessee River and during football season, he and his friends have a flotilla that travels to Knoxville for the local Volunteer games. They never leave the boat and simply raft up near the stadium, enjoy the air-conditioning and watch the game on his widescreen TV. They are commonly referred to as “the Vol’s Navy.”

My dream was so realistic! In my sleep I had pulled out my charts and calculated that the 42-mile trip by car from Gainesville to Athens would be about 37.38nm. At a comfortable cruising speed it would take about five or six hours, considerably more than the 55 minutes by car.

Shaken into reality I surmised that it would be impossible to take a boat to see the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium. What do I do? Go to the boat or go to the game? I Googled the schedule, and there was my answer. Louisiana Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern University were the first four games. And, the first three were being televised! I soon decided the best option would be to watch the games in the comfort of a friends boat just like my Uncle David.

You may or may not be a big Georgia fan, after-all we have these toss-ups to deal with, but September’s forecast is calling for cooler weather, a few leaves will start falling and there’s a lot more than football to pique your interest around the lake. We hope that you can get out there and enjoy it!

No August 2015 column

July 2015 column

Get everyone involved in the 'captain' experience

The two Roberts, this author and his four-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Toller, decided a break from what had become the daily routine in Atlanta was in order. So we setoff for a weekend on the boat to venture out into the ocean to reacquaint ourselves with the life we had enjoyed cruising along the Georgia coast. It was a male bonding thing so to speak.

Summer had arrived and the forecasts were promising afternoon temperatures to reach the high 90s and the westerly winds precluded any hope of catching a sea breeze. It was so hot we opted to leave the upper deck fly bridge to seek the comfort offered by the air conditioning in the pilothouse. It did not take long for us to regain our sea legs. Robert (the dog) was enjoying the outdoors but like his master, was far more comfortable down below.

Back on land we enjoyed our late evenings and early morning walks and our visits to the local dog park. We enjoyed our evening gatherings with marina neighbors catching up, cooking out, especially the evenings watching the sunset as the afternoon breezes began to cool things down. Last evening one of the boaters, who may have been a little tipsy, made a comment that provided the perfect subject for this month’s article. He was actually boasting that he was the only one in his family that knew anything about operating his boat. This is not something that most captains would be proud of, especially when you take into serious consideration the prospect of “what happens when the captain falls overboard, or has a heart attack or dies?”

It’s not a male ego matter that captains are considered by some to be the “Master of the Ship.” It is a position of tremendous responsibility, and yes, it is gender neutral. Operating and maintaining a boat of any size can be very time consuming and it requires a working knowledge of the various systems, navigation and emergency procedures. It can be a demanding experience and at its best, it should not be the sole responsibility of any one individual.  

Experienced and knowledgeable captains are in many ways similar to corporate CEOs. They lead, relinquishing responsibilities to those trained to accomplish a specific task and achieve a desired result. The companies that encourage this type of team approach are most often the most successful and their employees and customers respond positively.

How are things on your boat? Are you the master, or are you a knowledgeable captain? Have you assigned certain age appropriate responsibilities to members of your family when you set out on the water? Do you need some help?

The US Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary have local chapters offering a variety of classes from basic boating principles to the more advanced topics. Many of the classes are intended for all family members to attend and are especially designed for those new to boating. It is not uncommon for a family member, having attended one of these classes, to adopt a specific task which they have an interest and then accept responsibility for that task moving forward.

The enjoyment of boating is enhanced when everyone – family members, even guests – share in the responsibilities. When the captain assigns duties taking into consideration age appropriateness and an individual’s experience, everyone will welcome their part by contributing and the on water experience is enhanced.

Summertime provides a great opportunity to enroll the family in a boating class with a follow-up family discussion of on the water boating responsibilities. Subjects you may consider include responsibilities for line handling, passing out life vests, or being a lookout for anyone waterskiing. A pet peeve of mine, is to get back to the marina only to have everyone but the captain go ashore leaving the trash and wash down to be completed. That would be another topic to cover.

Everyone enjoys being on the water and if everyone can participate, the enjoyment is even better. Train others to operate the boat, and know how to get you back to a marina safely. So give it some serious consideration, put a family plan into action, and if do you do, you will sleep better at night knowing you have become a CEO thinking executive of your vessel.

June 2015 column

The new world of boating

Over the years we have reported on our experiences cruising about activities on lakes and waterways, and like us I’m sure you have noticed enormous changes have taken place. Canoes are now kayaks, runabouts have morphed into bow riders and water ski enthusiasts have presented a plethora of new toys ranging from water boards to multi-passenger jet skis and beyond. The change seems to be never ending and according to a large number of marine industry spokesmen, no slowdown in technology or market demand is expected in the near future.

During a recent business trip to Ft. Lauderdale I meandered along the ICW to see what changes had occurred. As to be expected, the mega-yachts docked along the 17th Bridge, what is referred to by many as “Braggers Corner” had changed, the cruise ships were leaving for parts unknown right on schedule, and out of the corner of my eye I see this object zipping around as if it was confused over its identity – was it a plane, a boat, or a jet ski?

As it turned out, it was the new JetLev, a water propelled backpack device that is capable of thrusting the operator 30 feet into the air (although testing has begun that brings the pilot thousands of feet into the air). A nearby representative of the Dania Beach, FL, company conceded the backpack is not for the squeamish. “The JetLev is priced just under $100,000, so it’s not for everyone’s budget for a sporting watercraft.” I later discovered only three colors were being offered, but for $3,500 the company would paint the backpack to suit the owner’s taste. Thank goodness! Being afraid of heights, and not having an extra $100,000 lying around I simply walked away shaking my head thinking – if you want to see it all, travel to Ft. Lauderdale.

For us baby boomers that are a little more conservative, there may be a few gadgets that members of the millennium generation have developed that may be worth a look. If for nothing more than to let our grandkids know that we are hip to all the latest technology. To look your best in today’s world you will need to carry a computer, smartphone or tablet around and have an internet connection. A 3 or 4G network will provide the necessary mobile capability when using out on the water and most service providers offer that service. Here is where things have changed.

Double Dog Studios, one of those techie developers has created a series of iTune applications to help those of us who have forgotten everything but “red, right return.” The Boaters Pocket Reference app was designed to aid both the inexperienced and experienced boater, and is chocked full of the information necessary to make boating safer and more enjoyable.

For those doing coastal or offshore boating, the USCG requires a copy of the Navigation Rules be onboard at all times, and Double Dog has developed the Navigation Rules app that would meet those requirements. If you are looking to hone your knot tying or survival skills, check out their Knots or Survival Skills app. There are others you will want to see on their website

In south Florida, image is everything and for those of us who have neglected our physical image the US Navy has developed a program, Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series, and the NOFSS app is available to help get us back in shape. As always, start slow (Personal Note: our grandson Patrick is a Defensive Nose Guard for the US Naval Academy Midshipmen. At 6’4”, 305 pounds, he uses the guidelines).

Back in 1964 Bob Dylan recorded The Times They Are A-Changin’.  I heard it on the radio the other night and heard these words: “Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown.” Even then Bob seems to know there would someday be a new world on the water.

May 2015 column

Staying in touch with our boating friends

Keeping in touch with our boating friends to learn first hand what has gone on in our absence and reliving much of the traditional events has become an enjoyable part of our day thanks to Facebook and the internet. This has a little quirkiness to it as we recall the cumbersome, almost impossible feats that prevented us in years past from connecting with anyone.

Technology now abounds for boaters, especially with navigation and communication instruments. Sextants are a thing of the past. We have modern GPS tracking devices and instant cartography, weather and other applications to make it virtually impossible to lose your way or avoid dangerous conditions.

In years past, boaters would gather in nearby restaurants or bars to watch their favorite sporting event, when and if television was even available. Today, satellite TV with 300 channels can be installed on your boat making it available 24/7 and certainly more convenient! Modern day boaters have become so attached to their cell phones and the internet that they have compelled marinas, much to the chagrin of those in the islands, to provide these amenities free of charge.

It has been enjoyable keeping up with everyone this season as we elected to remain in Atlanta. From the comfort our home we were able to learn who returned to the Bahamas and who stayed stateside. We were emailed pictures of the dock parties, the largest fish and saw Facebook postings after everyone had discarded their swimsuit or shorts and t-shirts to don their finest attire for the extravagant Commander’s Ball. There were stories and pictures of the many enjoyable side-trips. A few even shared recipes that we have saved and plan to recreate for our opening pool party here at home.

As in years we received emails of a few not so happy times. Two members of the yacht club had eye surgery, and though they can see, the less than perfect outcomes has put a damper on their cruising forever. Another friend emailed that he was excited about visiting Grand Bahamas Island and we communicated further about places to go and things to see. Unfortunately he experienced a boat fire enroute. He and his wife were forced to abandon the boat with only a ditch bag and the clothes on their backs. They were rescued by a passing motor yacht and unfortunately learned their boat was a total loss.

Carolyn and I received emails most everyday. In some ways it was like we were in the Bahamas enjoying the Spring-like weather with everyone else. We continued to stay in touch with many of our “local” Bahamian friends and were able to catch up on everything going on in the Abacos. There were new babies, a host of award ceremonies and a lot of selfies or profile picture updates. Facebook has especially been a great way to stay in touch with all of our island friends and on occasion we have telephoned to congratulate them when appropriate.

We were able to share pictures and video of our new rescued Black Lab, Lincoln and his insatiable thirst for chasing his tennis ball and there were a few beach pictures when we went to St. Augustine back in July. Most recently we shared some pictures of our day at the 50th Anniversary of the Atlanta Steeplechase. Ours may not have been as adventurous as others but we were able to stay in touch and feel as though we remained together in spirit.

Staying in touch with friends and family is an important part of living today. Everyone has their own life to live and their own priorities to manage, but friends and family do not last forever. It’s important to maintain those relationships as best we can. So pick up the phone or go to your keyboard and let those you love and care about know.

April 2015 column

Take out the old, bring in the new

In the blink of an eye, birds are chirping, trees and shrubs are blooming and we are celebrating, making plans to head to the boat after putting away all of the bulky winter clothes. At last!

I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. It is such a depressing season. Being holed up in the house and relegated to watching idiotic reality shows and re-runs on television just doesn’t excite me anymore. I’m not a skier or ice fisherman and if I stepped on the bathroom scales I’m sure I’ve gained more weight than my doctor would be pleased with.

So I am turning over a new leaf. I am throwing out the old and bringing in the new! It’s time to clean out the closets with anything that has not been worn since last season, and make a trip to Goodwill. There are a few favorites that will remain but the others are simply reminders of how miserable I was outside walking the dogs the past several months.

The home office needs rejuvenating a bit as well. There are stacks of papers and old files in the filing cabinet that need to be discarded. There’s a pile of articles that needed to be read six months ago that were only recently uncovered, and what about all of those receipts from when I did our taxes? All of this should have been at the top of the New Years resolution list!

And that’s not all. What about the boat? Oh yes, there were a few things left sitting around the cabin that are out of place believing that I would put them in their proper place the next trip to the boat.

There are a couple of those yet unfinished projects like routing and securing the wires to the EPIRB that I had relocated back in May. A few electrical wire ties are all that’s needed but I was lazy then and left them sitting out along with the tools that will be required to complete the job.

I have started a list of things that need to be completed on Sea Island Girl before we venture too far away from the dock. First and foremost will be a good scrubbing to get rid of the grime that has undoubtedly accumulated over the winter and I’m certain that a quick inventory of cleaners, wax and polish will no doubt uncover a few empty or near empty containers that need to be used or thrown away.

It is always a good idea to keep a running inventory of the maintenance items, parts and service items but despite my attempt to do so I always find a hardened tube of silicon, loose screws or a moisture-infested Ziploc bag full of cleaning rags begging to be washed.

Here are a few things on my list that I hope will make everyone’s boating experience a pleasant one:
  • First, spend a day detailing the boat, inside and out. Open all of the compartments and rid them of any mildew.
  • Second, check to make sure your fuel supply is free of moisture or contaminants as many gasoline fuels breakdown rapidly if not protected.
  • Third, check hose clamps and electrical connections and make sure the batteries are charged and holding a charge.
  • A few others: check all lights to ensure they are properly working, inspect all life jackets, discard items that have lost their usefulness and then toot your horn as a little pat on the back knowing that you have prepared yourself for another safe boating season.

March 2015 column

From uselsess coupons to free cruises, we get them all

Being at home this winter cruising season has opened our eyes. Never would we have imagined that we would receive so many Robocalls and useless coupons or solicitations by mail! These are daily occurrences that do nothing more than clog up the answer machine and mailbox.

While traveling, the unsolicited mail is not so much a problem as our trusty mailman never forwards third-class mail, or our mail forwarding service on the other end has been requested to simply discard it. The phone calls cannot be stopped despite the Federal No Call List and we usually find 60 or more messages on our answer machine that need to be sorted through when we return home.

The coupons we receive are mostly useless. They encourage us to clean this or that, install new windows or gutters, or better yet change our diet by staying at home eating pizza or Chinese dinners. We rarely eat out so the buy one get one free offers go unused, much to the chagrin of the restaurant owners.

Among the recent phone solicitations there is one that causes more angst than the others. “You have been selected for a free cruise to the Bahamas!” Now that is NOT what we want to hear knowing that most of our friends are in the Bahamas enjoying a substantially warmer climate in their shorts and t-shirts while we need to substantially layer-up just to walk the dogs.

Let’s return to the subject of the unsolicited mail. We receive two monthly magazines – Southern Boating and Yachting. I never ordered either and can only surmise that I attended some boating function and by attending was automatically placed on their mailing list.

The Southern Boating monthly is a quick read where regional editors elaborate on the coming and goings or news event for their respective region. I’m always interested in the Bahamas region and appreciate the monthly updates. But I will never understand how I am considered to be a candidate or potential buyer for anything featured in Yachting!

As an example, the March issue is what’s referred to as their Summer Charter issue.
There you will find 178 pages devoted to recently introduced yachts, worldwide summer yacht rentals and the latest in electronic “must haves” or clothing. Now that I find myself pent up inside I do enjoy scouring through the pictures, but I can’t help but think to myself – where do these people get all of their money?

This month’s Hot List of things to buy include a small and stylin’ Louis Vuitton MiniCooper, a diamond encrusted Apple watch for $30,150, and a Onboard Race Car simulator where you can race online against other drivers after you shell out $75,000.

If I were looking ahead to a summer get away, Yachting has provided a multitude of exciting charter opportunities to consider. Take the stunning 115’ classic wooden schooner EROS sailing the Bahamas with up to eight guests for a weekly rental of $45,000, or if you need a bit more room, you can rent Sojourn, a 130-ft Fraser Yacht complete with Jacuzzi and four luxurious cabins cruising the Pacific Northwest for $85,000.

I have seen a lot of boat owner extravagance in south Florida and while taking advantage of connections I have made over the years have had an opportunity to go aboard many of the larger charter yachts. Seeing the opulence is always breath taking and whenever I had the opportunity I would ask, “Why in the world would someone spend that type of money on a boat?” The answer always came back, “because they can.”

Well maybe they can, but not me! Sea Island Girl is enough boat for us and though it would be nice at times to have a little more room we find it hard to justify the added expense. We wish the Yachting clientele well, but when you are used to burgers and beer, it’s hard to justify champagne and caviar.

February 2015 column

Recalling the memories

The Atlanta Boat Show presented an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate everyone’s enthusiasm for boating. Whether you found the next boat, or purchased some accessory items for the boat or home, the show organizers certainly delivered.

Carolyn and I enjoyed visiting with those stopping by the Lakeside booth during the show. It appeared to us that no matter your interest – fishing, skiing, cruising or just puttering around – everyone seemed to have a positive outlook for the boating season ahead. If you were unable to attend, there are a host of other shows sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) throughout the Southeast to quench your thirst.

Much of the enthusiasm expressed centered on the drop in fuel prices. Prices have dropped significantly from the past two years and those who may have parked their boats are making plans to return to area lakes and waterways, which is good for boating families and the local economies.

The New Year has been quite different for us. Normally we are on Sea Island Girl cruising. But, a too good to pass up business opportunity has had us land-locked since May. And while it may seem to be a hardship after cruising each winter, there is a positive side to it all.

Making money is far better than spending it and having more time with neighbors, family and friends has certainly been a blessing. However, while we miss our boating friends in the Bahamas, we hear from them quite often and can reflect back on the fun times we shared together and anticipate that this will only be a respite, not a conclusion.

We have also spent some time with those that were our boating friends on Lake Lanier. At the boat show we reminisced with our close friend Janice Wagner from Sunrise Cove. There was a lot of catching up with stories and pictures to share remembering the 17 years we maintained a boat on the lake. To this day we maintain that those were some of our best times on the water.

A lot has changed since 2002 when we were last on the lake – newer and bigger homes, new marinas, old friends moving on and new ones arriving. New businesses are spring up and despite the wintry weather there is the expectation of continued prosperity. While we continue to enjoy suburban living many of our former weekend boating friends purchased lakeside homes and are enjoying that lifestyle year-round.

At some point we expect to re-arrange our priorities. Not sure where we may end up but as long as we have our health and continue to enjoy the cruising lifestyle it will probably continue as time and business permits. Several of our cruising partners have moved on, relocating to a new home in Florida. Some are traveling by RVs. Others have decided to stay put, entertain the grand children and find a hobby to occupy their time.

No matter where you may find yourself now, it seems that once you have enjoyed boating it will always be in your system. Each of the pictures that we have shared with family and friends have a story to tell, and. despite the years that may have passed, those memories appear as if it were yesterday and will remain forever with us.

January 2015 column

New plan for a new year

With a New Year comes another opportunity to create a new list of resolutions. As in years past, this will be the year that our previous attempts at change will definitely be achieved. And while losing weight, spending less on frivolous things and becoming a kinder, gentler sort are important matters, here are a few resolutions related to boating that you may wish to add to your list.

Tragically each year we see reports of boating accidents, and yes, even deaths due to someone’s negligence or inexperience. In 2013 on Lake Lanier alone there were 43 arrests due to alcohol, 30 unrelated boating accidents resulting in 15 injuries and five deaths, all of which were related to boating while under the influence. State-wide, one-third of all boating accidents were related to alcohol.

Drinking while operating a boat is simply irresponsible, but it is not the only safety concern that needs to be addressed. Weather, contrary to popular belief, affects the statistics. Most accidents occur during nice weather as people want to water-ski. Carelessly speeding around is another culprit. Not paying attention to ones surroundings, or having an inexperienced operator at the helm are just as irresponsible.

Another safety issue involves the use of gasoline powered engines. Here, the most common mistake relates to the accumulation of gasoline fumes where there is the possibility of explosions when the engine compartment is not properly vented. Boats with cabins can experience a buildup of carbon monoxide. That can be often deadly to the unsuspecting occupants.

Before Carolyn and I began cruising we spent a lot of time just learning the ropes. I took a basic boating safety course with the Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron. It was here that I learned how to safely operate a boat on inland waters and the importance of considering other safety issues for my passengers and fellow boaters. The more advanced classes introduced me to piloting, advanced navigation and other topics such as marine electronics which provided the principals that would become necessary as we ventured offshore. All of the classes were fun, informative and they laid the ground work as we developed our own “rules of the road.” To date, with over 20 years and thousands of miles on the water, there have been no accidents.

For us, boating education is as equally important as completing any form of formal education. As with high high school, trade school or college, it prepares you for what lies ahead. The Georgia Legislature and the Georgia DNR agrees and in recent years have passed a law requiring boater education for those under the age of 16. And while that’s a start, we recommend a basic training program for everyone intending to operate a boat. With winter and a new year upon us, it seems important that boating education can be included in your list of resolutions for 2015 although you may have been boating for years. Besides, anyone can use a refresher. You may have a young crew mate at home with some extra time on his/her hands that needs to learn the basics, and now before you expect to get back out on the water would be the perfect opportunity.

The Atlanta Boat Show is coming to the World Congress Center in Atlanta Jan. 15-18. Attending the show makes for a great opportunity to meet with representatives of the Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to check out their upcoming educational programs. Also, the Cruising Wilsons will be at the show (see times in accompanying box), and if you stop by we would enjoy meeting you, share a few of the tidbits about what we have learned along the way and answer any questions you might have.

Until then have a safe and Happy New Year at home, and an even safer New Year out on the water.

Visit the Wilsons at upcoming boat show

Interested in the cruising lifestyle? Want to learn more about the Wilsons’ experiences? Drop by Lakeside’s booth at the Atlanta Boat Show and meet Robert and Carolyn Wilson. Ask questions, get tips on cruising, and find out more about their travels.
  • When: Friday, January 16, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, January 17, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Atlanta Boat Show, Lakeside News’ booth, 109. Georgia World Congress Center, 280 Northside Drive
  • More info: 770 287-1444.

December 2014 column

Preparing for winter for first time in years

It has been awhile since we have spent the winter months in the U.S., and while the adventures of cruising continue to be a part of our long-term plan, we are giving it up this winter to go back to work. Those in the know say we have picked what is expected to be another cold, wintry season in Atlanta, but if snow comes it is something we never saw in the Bahamas.

Our boating friends are heading south, and some have already arrived in Abaco. They’ve planted a vegetable garden and raised the tent that we have used to be the headquarters for our evening get togethers. Some have begun volunteering at the library or the local school for special needs children where Carolyn would volunteer, while others are planning the annual Thanksgiving feast for those that will have arrived by then.

But you know, the Atlanta area has been beautiful this fall. The trees were radiating their red, yellow and golden colors, the like which we haven’t seen in years. The temperatures have been acceptable for this pair of salty boaters. Our shorts and t-shirts have been relegated for indoor only use, and our shopping experience has been Senior Day at the local Goodwill where we have been able to re-load our winter clothing inventory in preparation for the upcoming cold weather.

Last winter we were watching TV while in the Bahamas as the Atlanta area was besieged with that major snow storm. Friends were emailing us about how they got stuck on I-285 and local roadways for hours. Some sat idle for hours, and others spent the night in their offices. As we watched it was apparent that most everyone was affected in some way, while we sat watching the continuing accounts as we sat comfortably on the boat in our shorts trying to imagine how difficult it was for so many of our family and friends.

We are unsure as to what we can expect, but we are in it for the long run. Should we buy a generator in case the power goes out? Should we stock up on water, candles or batteries? How much firewood should we buy? And what about charcoal for the grill? Should we stock up in case we have to cook on the grill if the power goes out? These are things that have not been on the radar in 12 years. We haven’t been faced with this, so what do we need to do?

I imagine the readers that went through last year’s snow storm have their own stories of how they managed their lives. We have heard of those that spent the night in their cars. A few of the teachers at Carolyn’s school spent their night sleeping on the children’s nap-time cots because they could not drive home on the icy roads. Hopefully, everyone will be better prepared should history repeat itself.

An advantage of being semi-retired is that we are beyond the years of having schedules that must be met. Having a home-based office there are no time clocks to punch and no one watching my desk to see if I arrived on time. We can do any errands after the morning traffic settles down, and can get back home before 4 in the afternoon in time to miss the maddening drive time rush.

With this being our first winter in Atlanta in twelve years, we understand that there will be a few surprises. Hopefully the weatherman will cooperate and we will be able to enjoy the holiday season with friends and family for the first time in a long while.

We would like to wish you and your family a safe and enjoyable holiday season as we look forward to what we hope will be a bright, secure and prosperous New Year.

November 2014 column

Ten reasons to be thankful this year

David Letterman always had a Top 10 comedic list to share, but I never heard one about boaters. Seeing that we are in a season to reflect on being thankful I came up with a list of my own, and maybe you can add a few lines of your own.

  • No. 10: You are excited to find a spare part on board on a day when the marine stores are closed.
  • No. 9: When you arrive safely back at the marina and your fuel gauge was showing empty.
  • No. 8: Anytime the price of fuel has dropped.
  • No. 7: Great news! Something you sorely needed just went on sale!
  • No. 6: A big cruiser just created a wake that washed you off a sand bar.
  • No. 5: You found the source of a strange noise before it caused a more serious problem.
  • No. 4: The PVC patch recently applied to the dinghy held.
  • No. 3: The marine insurance company called to say they were paying your claim.
  • No. 2: After a long off-shore crossing, you see land and the inlet just ahead.
  • And the No. 1 thing to be thankful for: The WiFi signal is fast and free! Your cell phone is connected.

For many of us, life on the water can be more than a little challenging. We could decide to give it all up but the joys seem to out weight the hassle. Some of the more frustrating issues involve completing projects. I have found that even those things that appear at first to be simple, end up being more complex and considerably more costly and time consuming.

Take for example, replacing a missing screw. Well, finding the right screw is the first issue. The tin can where they are kept seems to have every type of screw but the one I need. A drive to the local hardware store presents another challenge – they don’t stock stainless steel screws. After 30 minutes I find an ACE Hardware store, paid more than I should have, however, I have the screw I need. I better buy two.

Back on the boat I get out my screwdriver which is a little rusty from lack of use and decide to clean it up with some WD-40. I didn’t lay a rag under the screwdriver so when I sprayed, WD-40 went all over the cockpit. I had to clean that up before it stained anything. Now, onto replacing the screw.

Anytime you are near water there is the chance that it will creep into even the tiniest of holes so I always use a sealant to ensure that water doesn’t invade areas that it shouldn’t. Silicone tends to be my “go to” product, that is unless I also need some adhesive properties. In this case I didn’t have any silicone but found a tube of 3M 5200. The tube had been previously opened and when I removed the cap everything in the tube was solid as a rock. I tried to pry some of the old stuff out of the tube and got it all over my fingers, the rag, the screw and the screwdriver. Now where is the acetone? Carolyn! Where’s the acetone? It seems I had used it up on another project and an hour later found myself back at ACE looking for acetone.

Would you ever consider that replacing a screw could be so difficult? I finally got the acetone, cleaned the screw, the screwdriver and my fingers. I dipped the screw into the 5200 that was remaining on the rag and carefully inserted the screw into its rightful position. Thankfully there were no other issues and after whipping everything down, I put my tools away with a sigh of relief, and checked the screw project off of my list.

In retrospect the project wasn’t all that bad. I’m just thankful to have a boat to work on and to enjoy when everything is going right. For those that have had similar experiences, I’m sure you will agree. Ally Mbululo once said, “if you have nothing to be thankful for, check your pulse.”

October 2014 column

Loving the boating lifestyle

Over the years we have had an opportunity to observe other boaters, and how they go about preparing to set out for an extended winter cruise, or if they plan to stay close to home, how they manage the process of stowing their boat for the season. With either, there is a right way and a wrong way to manage the process. We have also learned that there is also a right time and a wrong time to address each of these.

For instance, Sea Island Girl resides at Brunswick Landing Marina during the summer months. Living aboard during the winter months we feel we can safely assume that the routine engine maintenance can be delayed a while so before putting her away for the summer we concentrate on thoroughly cleaning the interior, stowing the dinghy and giving special attention to the galley and head which need to be spotless.

Timing is everything when you keep your boat in south Georgia. By early May the temperatures have risen sharply and by July it is unbearable. When August comes around we are pretty much confined to the interior of the boat with every air conditioner running 24/7, and by the time it cools down enough to work outside, the sun goes down and happy hour begins.

When we were sailing on Lake Lanier, the weather was not as intense as it is on the coast and being so close we were able to utilize the boat year round. I recall a group of fellows in the marina that would schedule “work” weekends that would allow us to disrupt the “comfiness” of a leisurely weekend with the family to get some of the more manly chores accomplished like re-working the head, installing new equipment or servicing the engine.

As with most things in life, orderliness is always best and by using a little forethought and planning we have devised an better way. Each boat has its own set of requirements, either power or sail, and each manufacturer has their own recommendations for the maintenance of the engine(s), or other systems having similar suggestions. The guidelines are there for a reason and it is always prudent to develop a routine schedule to perform the work. How can that be done? A cruising friend of ours has scheduled certain projects for certain days of the week. It is a simple method to address the workload and one that can be easily followed.

Our summer routine finds us performing inspections, installing or servicing any equipment that is interior to the boat. The batteries are serviced, the water system flushed and we remove any item aboard that was not used during the previous winter. The major exterior work like waxing and polishing are reserved for the cooler months.

For any boater there are projects other than routine engine maintenance that are critical, among them checking to ensure thru hulls and bilge pumps are working properly, investigating any sign of an oil leak or rust. Electrical connections and hose clamps are subject to corroding or breaking and it is always best to find the culprits ahead of time. For our sailing friends, a thorough washing of sails and canvas can be added to the list as doing so will preserve the life of the fabrics.

Servicing and maintaining a boat does not have to be difficult, in fact, if scheduled in an orderly fashion, it can be enjoyable. After all, boat ownership is akin to maintaining a marriage, you get out of it what you put into it, and if you take care of it, it will provide many years of satisfaction. Loving the boat you are on and knowing that she is well maintained not only provides a sense of pride and accomplishment, it also ensures that your days on the water will be safe and more enjoyable.

September 2014 column

An eye-opening tour of Georgia Port Authority's Colonel's Island

In this month’s column the writer describes what he found during a tour of the Autoport facility near Brunswick.

The Georgia Port Authority (GPA) operates an impressive Autoport facility, consisting of roughly 3,000 acres on Colonel’s Island, along US 17, and the inland waters of St. Simons Sound in Brunswick, GA. The facility is an impressive operation which began in 1987 when Yugo, a Yugoslavian automobile manufacturer was in search of a way to introduce their cars to the U.S. As a result, 40,000 Yugos were imported into the facility during the first two years and from that humble beginning, the RORO (roll on, roll off) capabilities and the environmental aspects of the location captured worldwide attention. Today the facility is the leading importer and exporter of automobiles in the U.S.

There are six global transportation firms importing and exporting cars from the port with ocean going transport ships, 950 feet in length by 105 feet in width. Forty to 45 shallow draft transports arrive each month, each carrying a payload of up to 8,000 cars secured on 10 to 14 decks within the ship. One could expect a logistical nightmare, however, the GPA over the years, has developed a system whereby inbound ships are unloaded in four hours and exports are loaded in like manner.

Drivers are organized into teams of 25 to off-load and stage more than 200 cars each hour.
Today, automobiles arrive from world-wide destinations serving 23 manufacturers, including BMW, Jaguar, Audi, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, with imports totaling 674,000 automobiles during its 2013 fiscal year. The port routinely exports 90,000 Mercedes-Benz world-wide each year along with Ford, Chrysler, GM and a host of other commodities.

Import and exported commodities must reach their final destination, and for that, 16 motor transport firms load 1,400 auto-carriers per week. In addition, the Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates an extensive on/off loading system for cars arriving or departing by rail. With 15 tracks and three remote controlled engines, the railroad moves rail cars into position for up-loading and transporting to their final destination by Norfolk-Southern or CSX.

The Colonel’s Island facility is arranged so each manufacturer has its own secure staging area. While some prepare their cars to be showroom ready before reaching the dealership, others ship the cars and final preparations are done at the dealership. Once off-loaded from the ship each car receives a computer generated parking spot. Once parked, the auto-transporters accept the cars and up-load them to their truck.

It was interesting to note that not everything at the port involves automobiles, though that seemed to be the bulk of their activity. John Deere and Massey export tractors, Case and Caterpillar ship heavy duty equipment world-wide. One luxury tour bus manufacturer imports from Scandinavia to a U.S. based firm for customization.

Importing and exporting in the U.S. always involves Customs and Immigration, and at the Auto-port it’s no different. According to our host, Bill Dawson, General Manager of Operations, “most of the custom procedures are managed at the port of origination, however routine measures are taken here to ensure that proper procedures and documentation are strictly adhered to.”

As you can see, the 500 employees of the Colonel’s Island facility have a monumental task. In a combined effort with the Longshoremen, Atlantic Vehicle Processors, Amports, International Auto Processing, BMW of North America and Mercedes-Benz USA the facility has been a boost for both the local and state economy.

Altogether Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $18.5 billion in income, $66.9 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.

August 2014 column

Let's go cruising

Have you ever considered a cruising lifestyle, or had questions about what it might be like? Our former Lake Lanier boating friends, Lynn and Lois Peck, were the ones that share their stories of their adventures to Mexico, Hawaii and South America. They shared pictures and continually inspired Carolyn and I to give the idea serious consideration. Not wanting to brush off the idea only to discover in our lateryears that we should have pursued it, we spent several years investigating the possibility.

While we continued to work, we subscribed to a host of boating magazines and read story after story written by extended cruisers to gain a clearer understanding of what they had experienced, and whether or not their expectations had been realized. It became apparent that such a decision would require a commitment by both Carolyn and I, if we were to accept the challenge.

For us, chartering for a couple of weeks for several years was an ideal way to determine if we could embrace the lifestyle. We learned to manage a larger boat, developed an appreciation of the skills that would be required while enjoying the waters of the Caribbean. Whenever possible, sailing friends from the lake and family members would join us. Chartering gave us an opportunity to meet lots of cruisers who provided first hand knowledge based on their experiences.

While on Lake Lanier we sailed a Catalina 34 which we enjoyed immensely, however after talking with more experienced sailors, we opted to buy an Island Packet 38, considered by some to be more suitable for what we were planning. What were we planning? Well at the time, we really didn’t know … sail around the world, sell all of our worldly possessions? The only thing we knew was that we had to get the boat ready for blue water cruising.

The next two years were spent on the lake installing the equipment which the books and magazines suggested that would be crucial. It was not cheap, but it was enjoyable learning how everything operated. Having the time to complete projects on the weekends while we worked rather than waiting was a wise choice.

When D-Day arrived the transport loaded Gypsy Common in the yard at Aqualand Marina and two days later she was splashed into the salt and briny waters in St. Augustine, FL. After completing some last minute chores and provisioning the galley. When we completed our last, we sheepishly looked at each other and said, “Where to?”

Winter was approaching so we knew we would be heading south. As we crept down the ICW it took a while to become familiar on how to use the mile markers to stay in the channel, but we soon got the hang of that and focused our attention on other things of which we were unaccustomed.

Detailed planning was something that was, at that time, one of the last items on our list, and that taught us a huge lesson. Winter weather and the changing patterns began to influence our travel plans and as a result we found ourselves at anchor in Palm Beach from November 1 until January 18, awaiting favorable conditions to cross the Gulfstream en-route to the Bahamas. But you know, we made it, and with the lessons learned, we have returned year after year.

I would suspect that several Lakeside readers have given some thought to going cruising and to them we can only say that it is a most enjoyable lifestyle. The experiences Carolyn and I have shared in our columns demonstrate that if you are going to do it, now is the perfect time to should start planning and establish a time frame. We have not been “yachties” all of our lives, in fact we could best be described as “newbies” up until the time that we departed. Again, we were a couple wanting to enjoy time on the water and wanting to do it before it was too late.

We would enjoy hearing from those of you that have considered cruising, or are just wanting to learn more. Should you have questions, or just want to know where to go for more information, email us at or simply Google “Cruising Wilsons” to look more into what we have enjoyed. Hopefully we will see you along the way.

July 2014 column

It's all in a name, especially on the water

After many years on the water we are continually being amused by the names inscribed on the transom of the hundreds of boats that we see. While some are historically nautical, some are downright humorous and others are so convoluted that it is difficult to interpret any intended meaning, and even worse, it makes it even more difficult to hail them on the radio.

I remember when we bought Gypsy Common, our 38-foot Island Packet. The previous owner had the name beautifully displayed, but the name seemed a little strange. Well it turns out that in Europe wandering gypsies commune in a common area generically referred to as the Gypsy Common which gave us something to hang onto, and it made an interesting story. It would be less expensive to keep the name, and reportedly it is bad luck to change a boat’s name, so we kept it.

Boat names give you some insight into a person – their occupation, their heritage or their philosophy. Take for example: Out to Lunch, Home Office or Field Office, names most likely to be seen on a sports fishing boat. Gaelic Wanderer would be a good name for a sailboat owned by an Irishman. And for the philosophers, Theseus Paradox might be appropriate (translated, that could mean if you change the name of a boat, is it the same boat?).

Mega-yacht owners are a little more ostentatious. When you see Blue Neon you may automatically know it is country music star Alan Jackson’s boat and although a bit more nebulous, Sunday Money was owned by NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt. Some super-yachts have made a great gift as was the case with Tiger Woods giving his 155-foot Privacy to his wife Elin to become their secret hideaway from the media. Recently I read online that Elin has considered changing the name of her yacht to Alimony.

Foreign vessel owners often confuse us
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