Cruiser’s Thanksgiving

Thursday November 22, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Hideaway)

Let me set the stage for you on how our Thanksgiving morning began.  The sun was out once again and we had let ourselves sleep in until 8:00 where we allowed ourselves to lounge under the warm covers while checking messages on the phone.  Suddenly there was a rap on the hull to take us out of our early morning daydreaming.  Stumbling (literally) out of the v-berth I tried to find pants and jacket to put on while I wondered who on earth could be visiting us this early.  Was it the master of ceremonies for the night trying to get a head count or find out what dish we were bringing to pass?  Just as I was about falling on the floor trying to pull on my skinny jeans from the night before, the only thing accessible to me at the time since we had actually put away all of our laundry right away for once, I just got to the companionway as there was another rap.  Popping my head out there were two cruisers in a powerboat hanging on to our rail.  “How many people you have aboard” one of them asked, confirming the thought in my head that it must be about dinner.  “Two” I replied and as I said that he opened a cooler and pulled out two Dixie cups and set them on our gunnel.  “Two Bloody Mary’s.  Happy Thanksgiving” he nodded and drove off to the next boat.  Alcohol delivered to our boat for us?  Free oysters for dinner one night, and a Thanksgiving turkey the next night?  I could see why this town was so popular for cruisers around the holiday, they really know how to take care of their own.

Here’s a little history of Cruiser’s Thanksgiving and how it came to be, taken from All At Sea.  The tradition began 12 years ago when a small group of cruisers tucked into St. Marys to wait out a nor’easter over Thanksgiving. Local resident and avid sailor Charlie Jacobs knew how difficult it was to prepare even a small turkey breast aboard a boat, and he didn’t want the sailors to miss out on the holiday meal. He asked Riverview Hotel owners Jerry and Gailia Brandon if they would open their lounge for a cruisers’ potluck. With Jacobs cooking a turkey, other townspeople providing food and supplies, and the cruisers bringing the side dishes, a tradition was born. As word spread about the warm hospitality, the event began to grow to numbers no one ever imagined.  We ended up here after hearing about it from Anthyllide although we had originally planned to be much further south at the time.  Since it happened we were not in Florida yet (although St. Mary’s is right on the border and our boat may have been anchored in Florida water) we thought that good friends and a turkey dinner would not be a bad way to spend the day.

With clothes on and Bloody Mary in hand I went to work making my contribution for the day, cornbread muffins.  Not fancy, I know, but we were low on groceries and they go with the season.  In the next few hours I managed to get all my cooking done plus take a nice sink shower and get myself into a dress.  30 minutes before the early afternoon dinner was to begin all of us piled into our dinghies and made our way to shore.  On our way in we saw Hideaway pulling into the anchorage, making it just in time.  As the six of us (Serendipity, Rode Trip, Anthyllide) made our way into the restaurant we could see that most of the tables had been staked out, plastic plates, glasses, and bottles of wine already set out on all but one table in the main part of the restaurant.  Quickly throwing our own plates and glasses at that last table we tried to figure out how we’d sit the six of us at this little round table meant for a max of four people.  When we saw the one next to ours had only two place settings we pulled it together with ours now forcing these strangers to have dinner with us.  Although etiquette among cruisers is usually very relaxed we seemed to be seated near one uppity lady who seemed to be very disgusted by our rearranging of tables.  We didn’t pay any mind though and although I was at the other end of table surrounded by only people I knew, our forced joiners didn’t seem to mind either once they came back and found their new dinner companions.

Once the ok was given the group of 150 cruisers that gathered for dinner made a line around the buffet table.  With this many people trying to grab food at once we thought we’d be smart by waiting for ten minutes before getting in line but even that plan still put us in the line outside and wrapping around the block.  Maybe a dress was a little optimistic for this time of year in Georgia, it was still pretty cold out as I stood there with plate in hand waiting to get back inside.  While waiting though, Hideaway caught up with us and the four of them were able to jump in line right behind us.  Plates full of ham, turkey and a bunch of other delectable sides we went back to our crowded table and somehow managed to squeeze Tasha, Ryan, Grace, and Bill in with us as well.  Plates were on laps and the table was saved for glasses of Black Box wine and the Leinenkugel I had saved in our fridge for a special occasion.  Shutting down the dinner at four o’clock we stayed well past clean-up.  There were too many stories to be told and too much to catch up on that we could have stayed there all night.  When we finally got the hint to leave (Aka, they told us they were going to charge rent for us to stay any longer) we realized we were not ready to end the night and the party must go on.  What does this entail for a group of young cruisers on a major holiday when everything is shut down?  A boat crawl!

Starting out at Rode Trip we piled eight of us (we lost Scott & Kim) into the cabin for the first cocktail of the crawl and a tour for anyone that hadn’t been on it before.  Stories were recounted of good times we had on there and then it was time to move on to Serendipity.  Here a tour didn’t need to be given because the only people that hadn’t been on it yet were Bill and Grace, but with them having a Sabre 36 back in Port Washington there weren’t many differences to show.  What we did show was our defense system against any possible break-ins (we can lock ourselves down in there pretty well) and out came the arm knife where everyone took turns doing their best bad-ass impression of how they would take down a pirate with it.  (Don’t worry mom, it will never need to be used.  It was a gag gift from Matt’s old boss)  Lastly we ended at Hideaway where Kim & Scott joined us once again and I kept forcing the cats on Matt so he could see what great pets they are and how we should get one.  I think I may have talked him into going to a shelter this weekend to look at getting one.  There may have also been a bit of drinking as well but who wants to hear about that, right?

All in all it was an AMAZING Thanksgiving and I’m so glad we made the stop here to enjoy it.  We were surrounded by great friends and in a town that could not have nicer people in it.  We never did the tradition of going around the table to say what we were thankful for, but I think Tasha put it best when she said that because we’re living the lives we do, we’re nothing but thankful everyday and because we all so deeply feel it sometimes it just doesn’t need to be said out loud.

Early morning Bloody Marys.

Ready to feast.

The arm knife is out!

Kitty yearning is going around.

Awwww, Shucks!

Wednesday November 21, 2012

Having made a last minute decision on Monday night,we planned to, instead of waiting for the swing bridge on the ICW to open at 9:00 and take that route down to Port Royal where we’d jump out into the Atlantic, we’d instead leave with the tides at 5 am the next morning and just jump out from Charleston. Our next destination was St. Mary’s, GA which was 145 miles from channel to channel. There we’d be able to enjoy cruisers Thanksgiving and meet back up with Rode Trip. And if anyone was wondering where they are or why we haven’t mentioned them in any of our Charleston posts, they were supposed to meet us in Charleston and as we pulled in just after Anthyllide Friday morning neither of us had any clue what happened to Brian and Stephanie who were supposedly making a straight shot there from Beaufort, NC where they had left just a few hours before Anthyllide. Not hearing a word from them since Wednesday afternoon both of us boats that did make it there were worried that they were not in the anchorage and not responding to any text, e-mails or calls. Finally we heard from them Friday night that they had arrived to Charleston Harbor Thursday night but the fog in the area was so thick they could not tell where they were going and instead of chancing that they’d hit something they kept going on to Georgia and went in at Sapelo Sound. Although I thought it would never happen to me I was like a panicked mother all Friday thinking the worst had happened to them. Once we knew they were safe we had Anthyllide and Hideaway to fill in as buddy boats and still had a great time in town.

 Getting back to the present. Staying on schedule as we always do on travel days, the anchor was out of the water at 5 am and through the dark we rode out the currents and dodged large tankers until we were in the ocean. When the sun had come up behind the clouds and we traveled the necessary five miles out the channel until we were free of the jetty we turned the bow south where I successfully marked the St. Mary’s inlet. Overall the trip was less eventful than the past few ones which was a relief to me. Since batteries were low and we wanted to try our hand at working the water maker (which worked out great) we turned the engines on just after noon and ended up leaving them on the whole time since winds were dying to under ten knots and we were slowing to a crawl. Knowing that we’d make it to the inlet at sunrise if we were going six knots it wasn’t an issue to slow down, we’d still make it in during daylight, but the fact that we skipped laundry in Charleston for one last day of sightseeing put us in a little hurry since we did not want to show up to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday in clothes that had been worn for days on end and smelled like it too.

Keeping in touch with Anthyllide through the VHF because of our close proximity to each other we still ended up in sight of each other when the sun rose and went through the channel just in front of them with their aluminum hull and red sails making it look like we were being chased by something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Dropping anchor as quick as possible I was thrown on the dink with our dirty laundry where all the cruisers that gather here had put together a shuttle to bring people in to town for such necessities as the laundromat or grocery store. Arriving back a few hours later with clothing that was now acceptable to wear around other people I found that Matt had fully cleaned the boat and we even had sheets now set back on the v-berth to sleep on. It had finally become warm enough that the condensation wasn’t as big of an issue and we could go back to sleeping in there instead of the settee like we’ve been doing for the past month. Did I also mention we found the sun in Georgia? Things are really starting to look up.

Not having time to enjoy the newly cleaned boat though I was quickly whisked off to shore again with Anthyllide and Rode Trip in tow. As part of the holiday festivities the hotel/restaurant that is putting on the dinner tomorrow was holding an oyster bar tonight. If you brought a side dish to pass you could participate in the festivities and even though we unfortunately did not have anything to bring we could take advantage of the drink specials at the bar. It was after all the biggest bar night of the year and who could pass up such an occasion with a legendary bartender ‘Cindy Deen The Porno Queen‘ (no, she was never actually in porn, still trying to figure out how she got that name) or now that she’s married, ‘Cindy Chubb, Queen of This Pub‘ serving up your drinks? Pulling together a few tables to seat the six of us we started taking advantage of the ‘buy one drink get a free refill’ special. We caught up with Rode Trip and listened to their stories of storms on the high seas with waves as high as their spreaders and how they managed to catch and clean a tuna along the way.

We hadn’t even been talking an hour when one of the gentleman putting on the event saw that we were sitting at an empty table with no food in front of us. Asking the guys if they’d like to learn how to steam oysters we all followed them out back to the patio where the action was going on. Sitting all the way in the back were bags and bags of raw oysters. Pulling them out they had to be set on a table to be hosed off and cleaned before going into a giant steamer and finally transferred to the oyster bar to be shucked and enjoyed. Matt and Brian got working with the hose while us ladies stood around with beers in hand watching. Having cleaned a full batch they went in the steamer and more oysters were placed on the table to be cleaned. A few more rounds of that and we figured we (they) had worked enough oysters to enjoy a few. Standing at the end of the table we waited for the next batch to be shoveled from the steamer into wire baskets attached to a plywood table. Only having one knife available since it was still a crowded area with oysters being picked up as soon as they were set down, we set Brain to work shucking and when he opened one he’d pass it around for the rest of us to eat.

I was able to eat one from the first batch and had it without and kind of lemon juice or cocktail sauce. It was a little chewy but overall not bad. Waiting for the next batch we were each able to get one more and this time I topped it with cocktail sauce. Waiting ten minutes for each of us to get an oyster though was becoming old so having a stroke of genius, Brian walked over to the table for us to start shucking them raw. Adding cocktail sauce again I thought these were even better and now we were able to enjoy an unending feast. Eating until our stomachs were full (surprisingly didn’t take that many) we started talking to other cruisers about their journeys and even met back up with Groovin who we enjoyed the roast with back on the Erie Canal. Ending the night we used Anthyllide as our tour guides for a late night walk through a cemetery with graves dating back to the past two centuries and then landing at a gazebo in a quaint little park on the riverfront. Talking until the low temperatures for the night started forcing us back to our dinghies it was exactly how the day before Thanksgiving is back home. Spend the day traveling so you can make it to Thanksgiving dinner but not before catching up with some of your best friends out at the bar. Some things never change.

Matt’s earning his dinner.

Giant steamer housing the oysters.

Thanks for letting me enjoy all your hard work Brian!

Shucking away.

(All photos courtesy of Rode Trip.  How could I forget my camera on a night like this?)