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Mar. 31, 2015
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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.

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.

- Until next time,   
Bob & Carolyn Wilson

More info:

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. The French Canadians tend to be the first to come to mind. The names chosen sound a little strange, and when you couple that with their accent it becomes quite difficult at times to communicate with them. I have made attempts to call out their names using some French words I learned in grade school, and more often that not I have received a few expletives in return having made a mess of things and embarrassed myself in the process.

There are some really great names out there, but there are others that are so over used that we often hear two boats competing for attention in the same harbor, i.e. do you want Angelina or Angelina the Yawl? And there are far too many Margaritavilles’, After Hours’ and My Ways’, and not enough originality, i.e. Blew Too Much, Lazy Bones, or Fantasea.

There must be some truth to the old saying, “It’s all in a name,” or at least that is what the Shire Council Mayor of Bland, Australia thinks. In an effort to increase tourism in his region, Neil Pokoney joined forces with the neighboring community of Boring, and the small village of Dull, in the Scottish Highlands. It provided everyone with some comedic and fun relief and hopefully it will enhance their efforts to attract international visitors.

So when it comes time to name your next boat we hope that you will give some serious thought as to what would be a proper name. It is always a fun exercise when the creative juices are flowing but remember that you will probably end up monogramming hats, shirts, possibly towels and cups with your boat name. So make sure that the name is pronounceable, easily read and that it reflects an image that you will be proud of for years to come.

In Lieu Of was the name on the Catalina 34 sailboat we had on Lake Lanier, and it’s still on the lake. She is a great boat but we remember laughing when we first saw the name: “Yeah, In Lieu Of everything else,” we have a new boat. I loved the name and hope you will christen your new boat with a name that you can love as well.

June 2014 column

Hoarding: It's a nautical pastime

It is warming up around Georgia and that means it is time to get the family back out on the water for some fun and relaxation. For most it has been a dreary winter but before the family can join us at the lake, there are a few preparations and boat projects to be completed.

Mildew can appear most anywhere but bird droppings have historically been found on or near our boat, and getting rid of them is typically one of the first projects to complete. During our days on the lake, the captains would plan a work weekend to get things back in order and discuss or install our latest nautical toys. It was always good to get back together after the winter hiatus.

Prior to the working weekends I would make several trips to West Marine to gather up the supplies I would need. And as I walked the aisles, questions would pop up. Do I need some boat soap? How about some stainless polish or rubbing compound? Not knowing for sure what I had on the boat I would buy a little bit of everything.

I expected the sun would be taking a toll on the dock lines and grabbed several packages of lines with the loops rather than trusting my rope braiding agility. Determining the length to buy was mostly guess work so I bought short ones and longer ones just to be certain that we would have what we needed.

My brother purchased a new depth sounder and wanted some help wiring it up. I thought I had the proper connectors but was unsure if I had the waterproof type or the shrink to cover others that would be exposed to the elements. He was expecting some of his buddies from work to come up the following weekend, so we had to get it right. I bought everything, including marine grade wire, to ensure that he and his friends could enjoy searching for the best fishing holes.

The weather was perfect for our manly weekend and after a short stop at the ice house I managed to find a nearby dock cart and unloaded the trunk filled with the treasures. As I walked the dock several heads popped up to say hi and a couple of them stopped by to help me get everything aboard. It was soon five o’clock and there wasn’t time to store the supplies before a toast started the evening’s traditional happy hour.

It had been a long week and the festivities had lasted well into the night. Most of us had decided to skip dinner and when the last call rang out, we tucked into our berths for a well-deserved rest. Anytime I plan a project weekend like this I dream a lot, and this particular weekend was no different. I go over each project in my head making sure I know how best to complete the task and whether or not I have to tools and supplies needed. I question myself as to where certain tools are located on the boat. Does the drill need charging? Do I still have some rags aboard for cleaning up? I finally fell fast sleep convinced that in the morning, all would be fine.

I may fix a pot of coffee to get the morning started, but that’s about all. I am anxious to get started and as the pot was perking I decided to store the recently purchased supplies. What a surprise that turned out to be!

I discovered a gallon of boat soap in the aft storage compartment and another half a gallon of another brand under a seat on the fly-bridge. When I went to empty the electrical connectors into the electrical storage container I found there wasn’t room – I already had what I had just purchased.

The same could be said for most everything. I had spent the money and it would be time consuming to take it back and as always I will probably need it at some point. Some could call me a nautical hoarder, but like so many of my other friends, we probably have what you need on the boat. The problem is – we just can’t find it!

May 2014 column

Cruising with man's best friend

Everyone that knows Carolyn and I know that we are dyed in the wool dog lovers. Over the years we have had our share, and each one has held a special place in our hearts. Our three most recent dogs were rescues: Maggie, who was discovered on the streets of downtown Atlanta; Coco, who was found along with four siblings in a corn field; and Robert, who was found under a parked car at the Marsh Harbour International airport in the Bahamas. We have many memories of fun times shared aboard Gypsy Common and Sea Island Girl, enjoying each dog’s personality, his or her quirks, likes, dislikes, and tolerances while being on the water. They became to us, the children we never had as a married couple.

Traveling with a boat dog takes some effort although it seems that more of our friends are enjoying the company of a canine crewmember. Some prefer a smaller Havanese or Yorki, while other breeds, such as the Golden Retriever, Border Collie or Labs are just as welcome. We know of a couple who travels with two large Labra-doodles, and both man and dog are as happy as they can be.

There are considerations to be made anytime you bring a dog aboard – size and space being the most obvious. Is it a lap dog, does it require considerable exercise, or how will it manage being away from land? Will the dog’s resting spot be in a crate, or will it be left to its own devices to find a spot that is comfortable and safe when traveling? Do you need mesh netting to keep the dog aboard in rough seas, or is it tethered when on deck or below? Each is an important consideration.

One of the most common and talked about issues when traveling with a dog pertains to bathroom habits. We have chased all three of our rescues around an assortment of marinas trailing behind them with the infamous “green rug.” None of our dogs liked doing their business on board despite our good intentions. To our chagrin our vet says, “A dog will go when and where they want, so don’t worry about it.” Our dogs quickly learned that when the engine shuts down, taking them ashore is our priority.

Before we venture off, each of the dogs have their bi-annual physical. We carry an adequate supply of routine medications, and a few of those that we might need. Our veterinarian provides detailed medical records and, when traveling internationally, the required health certificates.
We have become personal friends with our vet in the Bahamas, as it seems something unexpected always arises. If it’s not flea bites, it’s a stomach upset, but as we experienced this year, it can be much worse.

Despite the attention we give to the dogs getting on and off the boat, our 4-yr. old Coco slipped and was injured while jumping onto a fixed dock. At first she seemed OK and the vet came over to the boat to examine her that evening, recommending a visit to the clinic the following morning for x-rays. Unfortunately Coco had sustained undetectable internal injuries and unexpectedly passed away during the night. The resort where we were staying was extremely helpful and provided a lasting place of rest overlooking her favorite running grounds and the Sea of Abaco. The experience was devastating for us, and two year old Robert.

The event has caused us to rethink our preparations for having dogs aboard. We had thought through so many contingencies but feel that we fell short when it came to this unforeseen incident. We are considerably more attentive with Robert jumping off the boat and are looking into fitting the boat with a ramp for his use.

Considerable thought is required anytime there is a dog aboard. Being able to learn from experienced dogs owners regarding special considerations will go a long way. Any health considerations and the best way to manage the daily needs of your pet should be discussed with a veterinarian, and we encourage everyone considering a pet on board to take the appropriate steps.

If you love dogs as much as we do, you will thoroughly enjoy having them aboard. They easily adjust to the daily routine, they are a joy to be around, so why not enjoy the adventure together.

April 2014 column

Everything must come to an end

For those of you who suffered through the miseries of snow, cold weather and power outages it would seem logical that reading about blue skies, white sand beaches and 80 degree temperatures could become a little frustrating, yet this winter was one of the best cruising seasons we have experienced. But, despite all the rhetoric, we now realize that everything must come to an end.

Being perfectly honest, there were a lot of things back home we missed. Kroger and Publix would probably rank the top of our list, and having a car would be second. Don’t get me wrong, there was a good grocery store, but the prices were substantially higher. The brand name goods were even higher. One can justify some increase in costs because there are no taxes, and everything has to be shipped in with custom duties added. But having few options, we would either pay the price, or do without.

Rental cars were available for twice the usual price, while gasoline was just over $6 a gallon. Taxi rates were high so we tended to walk the three miles to the grocery then hail a taxi for the return trip to preserve the refrigerated items.

Thanks to one or two of our boating friends, we enjoyed a lot of fresh fish. Tuna, Grouper, Wahoo and lobster were plentiful this year and it was always a special treat whenever they shared their catch.

As for Carolyn, she would almost nightly exclaim, “I sure do miss my dishwasher!” That is something that wasn’t available when we bought our trawler, however, some of our friends with much larger boats have standard refrigerator/freezers, dishwashers and washer/dryer combinations. I have explained to her that it only takes a million dollars or so to have all of those conveniences, and that usually ends the conversation.

What else have we missed? Chinese food, Wendy’s and Trader Joe’s, along with our neighborhood WalMart, CVS and Home Depot. I have missed my art classes, and Carolyn has missed her students at Dunwoody Prep. We have missed getting together with our neighbors, and having our friends and family close-by to enjoy a cookout or celebrate a special occasion.

What haven’t we missed you might ask? It would have to be the traffic congestion, the sirens, the violence, the air and noise pollution; or, the rush to go everywhere and the urgency with which everything needed to be done.  

Now that another cruising season has ended, we find ourselves back home trying to catch up on a few projects around the house. Sea Island Girl has been tucked away for the summer and Carolyn is delighted to have a dishwasher once again.

It’s a bit cooler here than in the Bahamas and the flowers will be blooming soon. But there are some things missing. Long gone are the glorious sunrises that we woke up to each morning and the billowing clouds being outlined by an orange, setting sun. We have discovered that the neighborhood pool is no replacement for the miles of sandy beaches that we roamed in search of sea glass or colorful shells. Unfortunately the smell of bougainvillaea or the swaying of palm trees festooned with coconuts has quickly become a fading memory.

The single traffic light on Great Abaco and the two lane roads replete with potholes have been replaced by congested interstates, tractor trailers zipping by too close for comfort and brightly illuminated billboards while George’s Conch Stand, the Saturday steak night at the Jib Room and an assortment of harbor-side restaurant bars are winding down in hopes that a larger crowd arrives for the summer.

But that’s the way it is: time moves on, and things change. We consider ourselves so fortunate to live such an active and interesting lifestyle, and while we will miss the Bahamas we appreciate that everything will have a beginning, and its own beginning and everything must come to an end.

March 2014 column

When time stood still

It was a peaceful night in Man O War back in 2002 when I penned an article for Lakeside entitled “A Special Night with Pirates”  describing the relaxed lifestyle on the small island. In fact, Carolyn and I stayed aboard our sailboat on a mooring in the harbor for two months, and during that time we came to realize that the ever present hustle and bustles of modern day living elsewhere had somehow bypassed Man O War.

There were 200 or so residents then. The men were engaged in boatbuilding, boat repair or fishing, while the women baked, crafted canvas bags or managed a limited number of shops. Back then the Abaco Ferry Service operated a fleet of ferries to the mainland or neighboring cays, Ms. Lola sold her bread to anyone that wandered the narrow streets, and the second homeowner population was beginning to expand at a robust pace.

We recently returned to the area to attend the annual Man O War School flea market. During the fundraising event, the streets were bustling with bargain shoppers. There was a long line at the ice cream shop, and the home baked goods, burgers, ribs, and tasty conch salad provided visitors with a delightful “taste of Abaco” experience. When the ferries departed by mid-afternoon, much of the flea market items had been sold, and calm settled back over the settlement as if nothing had ever happened.

Back in 2002 it was common to see a few golf carts zipping around the Queen’s Highway early in the morning heading to the ferry or delivering the children to school. When the delivery barge arrived at the government dock, the shopkeepers would line the dock to gather arriving goods or ship things back to the mainland. Everyone stayed busy during the day, then, shut down at lunchtime. The day workers not living on the cay boarded a shuttle at 5 p.m. to take them back to the mainland, and the “sons of Man O War” would gather at the grocery store to recount the day’s activities or spin a yarn or two.

Today there are a few more small trucks and the golf carts come equipped with head lights. Some of the carts are decorated with colorful LED strips, and the teenagers are gathering in groups in the evenings  dressed in “hip hop” attire, listening to rap which heretofore would have been highly discouraged. Could it be there has been a subtle revolution taking place?

For years Man O War had been such a quiet place – early to bed, early to rise. Children were obeying their parents, and church services would close everything down on Sundays. But with technology and a 4G Network now available, things are changing. It is not unusual to see a 4-year-old huddled in a corner with an iPhone or electronic tablet, or others so consumed that they tune out everyone and everything around them.

Fiberglass has replaced the handcrafted wooden hulls of yesterday, and with the ease of reaching the mainland for groceries and supplies, life here is a far cry from the days when the Loyalists landed here in hopes of escaping the tyranny of an America in revolt. One wonders if technology has had a positive influence.

As I grow older, I have seen similar changes in so many places. Our grandchildren are similarly immersed in the computer revolution, so much so that I find myself asking a 3-year-old how to post a picture on Facebook or add an app to my iPhone.

I recall my parent’s distrust of the Beatles invasion and the beads and bell bottom pants that were so popular among my generation. From all indications I feel that I have had a pretty good life, so hopefully all the changes that have taken place since our last visit to Man O War will not be so bad after all.

February 2014 column

Time well spent in the Bahamas

It may not mean a lot for some, but when your wife shows you the shells she picked up on the beach and says “I had to bend over to pick up every one of these little shells, and just think of the weight I’m losing,” well you just look over her collection, smile and keep your mouth shut.

Along with her many lady friends in the Bahamas, Carolyn is into the more artistic endeavors rather than yoga or jogging. She uses the shells collected to transform Poinciana tree pods into pleasing works of art, and weaves pine needles with raffia into quite impressive looking baskets. Making a basket is intense and time consuming. It gives her a sense of gratification when showing them and she enjoys giving them as gifts to several of her friends back home.

Other friends are into the more traditional exercise mode of running, yoga and water aerobics, and for a group of senior citizens they do pretty well. It is when they are convinced that they are in their late 20s and play pickle ball that their age catches up with them. It is easy to spot these athletic over achievers; they are the ones with knee braces, arms in slings or casts. We have even had a few on crutches!

Games have become a popular past-time with many of the cruising boaters here in the Bahamas. Bocce Ball happens at 2:30 on Sundays, Mahjong has achieved dominance among the ladies three days a week while others just enjoy relaxing aboard their boats engaged in serious games of bridge. Although trivia has not as yet started, it will soon be returned as one of the more challenging evenings, complete with a “bring your main course and something to share” dinner.

We have been fortunate to have several talented individuals in our group. Ray Vallerie and Bob Williams are always standing by in case anyone needs someone with mechanical skills, and Bob’s wife Judy is the master gardener looking after our own private garden here at the resort. Jim and Kathy Fenn are always willing to share their boat for off-shore fishing adventures, and if it’s a good day, they share their fish with those of us that elect to stay tied to the dock.

A Canadian friend, Linda Weeks, has a special place in my heart. She was an art teacher before she and her husband decided to get away from the cold weather and go cruising. For two years, she has devoted much of her time to unleash the artistic abilities in all of us. Linda has a phenomenal way of bringing out previously unrecognized talents in many of us.

I dropped in on one of Linda’s sessions in 2012 while walking the dog. Having never thought of watercolor painting, it seemed relatively straight forward, so the next day I joined the group with eight paints, a pad of paper and a brush. “Marvelous! Fantastic!” were her words, and I was hooked. Another local artist commented on one of my first paintings by saying, “now, go paint 300 more.” While home in Atlanta I have extended by training under Dylan Pierce, a noted Atlanta-based watercolorist, and now find it difficult to see what Linda ever saw in my early paintings.

Having the time to spend doing what we enjoy is a real God-send, and that is why the lifestyle has been good for us. We are surrounded by wonderful friends, each with something to share, and the Caribbean climate makes it all the better.

If you have ever pondered cutting the lines on the lake, and setting off on a cruising adventure, we certainly would encourage you to establish a plan to do so. It can be an exciting time and a way to separate yourself from the more traditional lifestyle, to enjoy new places and meet new friends who are endeavoring to do the same.

January 2014 column

Returning home for the new year

It’s a new year and Sea Island Girl is resting once again on the Sea of Abaco following her month-long journey from coastal Georgia to Marsh Harbour, a family island among 700 islands and cays of the Bahamas. With the exception of two separate nor’easters which held us up for a couple of weeks, the 480-mile trip was a pleasant journey for the crew and an uneventful challenge for our 42-foot trawler.

We had stayed state-side last season and while we enjoyed being with old friends, and making new ones, the Bahamian families whom had become “our winter family” over the years were noticeably absent and sorely missed. It didn’t take long to decide a return to the islands would be in order this year.

“Hey Island Girl,” and “Welcome, back Mr. Wilson,” spoken in a Bahamian dialect were the first words coming across the VHF radio as we entered the turning basin at Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina at Settlement Point on Grand Bahama Island. It had been 18 months since our last visit but in no time we were made to feel as though we had arrived home.

It had been a long day but Carolyn managed to hit her favorite shelling beach while I took Coco and Robert for a much needed walk around the property. A fresh cracked conch dinner with peas and rice, cole slaw and an ice-cold Kalik beer has traditionally been our arrival dinner, and this year was no exception. As we were returning to the boat, the sunset was spectacular and the warm breeze had a salty air about it, making for a perfect ending to a perfect day.

The weather the following day was ideal for moving on and we took advantage of the conditions and put in a long day heading for Spanish Cay, a private island situated among the northern cays of Abaco. There had been many improvements to the area since our last visit however we were short on daylight and settled-in for dinner and a quiet evening aboard.

The following day was exciting! It was a short-trip south to Marsh Harbour and once we rounded the Whale Passage (known to be treacherous at times), everything was a welcomed sight. The cays and marinas along the Sea of Abaco brought back memories of previous visits and we quickly developed plans to return during our stay in the area.

The highlight of the trip thus far has been our arrival at Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina. It has been our base of operations for over eight years. To say it is a friendly place would not being doing it justice. Upon our arrival we were greeted with “Welcome Back” comments, hug and kisses by our yacht club members a
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