10 Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas for Sailors

Here are a few ideas for that boater you know that they will find incredibly useful, and will not break your budget. Just casually link this page to your family members ;).

1. Nice Rum – This goes without explanation.

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2. A good Flashlight – The one we linked here is one we own and we love it.  We were a little put off by the price at first, but it is so amazing. I love how it’s USB rechargeable. Its extremely tough, and provides good light. It’s also water resistant.

3. Automatic Inflatable PFDs – These are PFDs they may actually wear!  The thing about giant orange life jackets is that they will not save any lives down in the locker, and NO ONE wants to wear them. This PFD is just a small belt that will auto inflate when you hit the water. It’s so comfortable you might forget you have it on.

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4. COLREGS reference guide – I know … it’s so fun. Unless you’ve recently taken a captain’s exam, chances are it takes you a minute to remember your COLREGS.  And if you’ve never studied for a test like that, there is a better chance you don’t even know what these are, especially if you’re a power boater. (only joking … sort of)  A handy laminated chart can help!

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5. Collapsible Bucket – great for washing down decks, washing your clothes and bailing water.

6. Anything from my shop – plug plug plug plug.  Unless you want the dogs to be sad …

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7. Turkish Towels and Self Cleaning Travelers Towels –  These are famous in the boat community.  Sv Necesse and Windtraveler have both done blogs about them. Regular towels can take up a lot of space on a boat, and they store a lot of moisture and smell.  They’re also quite bulky to store and large for carrying to the laundromat. Carolyn from The Boat Galley swears by the travelers towels, and I trust her. Anything that reduces smell on a boat is a must. It’s a small space. (This applies to showering as well … Fred).

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8. Collapsible Kitchen Things – Especially 1 bowl, 1 colander, and a set of measuring cups. More than that may be too much, depending on the size of the boat, but you can also find great nesting backpacking pot kits at REI.

9. A red Jacques Cousteau hat – Cuz boat hair.

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10.  If all else fails get them what they really need.  A West Marine gift card.

The 2015 Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

When you buy a boat in Kemah, Texas you can’t help but hear stories of certain things like Redfish Island, Double Bayou, and the Harvest Moon Regatta.

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It seemed like every sailor with even a little bit of salt had done the Harvest Moon at some time or another. It also seemed like a whole lot of them had suspiciously “won it” more than once.

The regatta is a three-day, two-night race from Galveston to Port Aransas. It’s been an event that I’ve wanted to participate in for years now, but it always seemed I was traveling for work or had some other major conflict.

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This year I thought I was going to miss it again because Mary was out of vacation, and I was already taking two weeks off for a boat delivery in November. However, we had friends in need of one more crew person at the last minute, and they didn’t need me to help sail the boat back. That meant I would only miss one day of work, and Mary agreed to drive down to Port Aransas to treat herself to a spa day before meeting us at the marina for the party.

The weather is looking a little bit scary. It’s probably going to be raining sideways the entire time. This will also be my first attempt at sleeping on a boat under sail. We’ll see how that goes.

When we start Thursday you’ll be able to follow our track at http://trackleaders.com/harvest15i.php?name=HIPPOKAMPOS

One thing is certain, we’ll have plenty of wind.

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UPDATE: Looks like I won’t be sailing in the Harvest Moon Regatta this year. We got this message from Lakewood Yacht Club a few minutes ago.

THE 2015 HARVEST MOON REGATTA® RACE SCHEDULED TO BEGIN OCTOBER 22, 2015 HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Due to serious concerns about the safety of participants and their vessels due to hazardous weather conditions predicted by several weather authorities, Lakewood Yacht Club, as Host, and Bay Access, as Organizer, have decided to cancel the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race.

Information regarding the other events scheduled to occur in Port Aransas as part of the regatta, including the Bacardi Rum Party, BBQ, and raffle events will be forthcoming.

The history and goal of the Harvest Moon Regatta® race is to promote offshore sailing in safe conditions such that the participants, whether seasoned sailing veterans or first time offshore sailors, can enjoy the race and trip down the coast with confidence and safety for all concerned. Race safety is paramount. Though it’s possible the weather could moderate during the time the race would have been held, the forecasts indicate the conditions will most likely remain such that race conditions, especially docking and vessel return conditions, will not meet the goals of the race as organized. Therefore, the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race has been cancelled.

SVI Journal: Day 6, Tortuga Bay, Culebrita and Ensenada Honda, Culebra

One of my goals this trip was to catch the perfect tropical sunrise — except I snored right through it Friday morning in Bahia de Almodovar. However, when I finally got up and made some coffee, the view still wasn’t bad.

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My first task of the morning was to shake out my camera bag to see if I had any other spare SD cards on hand. I lucked out and found an old 4GB card in one of the pockets, so I had both cameras back in use for at least a day.

The next task on my list was to pull up the cabin sole in the starboard ama to find the air-conditioner raw water strainer. After a few minutes of searching I located it under the floor of the front cabin and opened it up. I’d never seen a basket that full of seaweed.

I dumped it all overboard and gave the basket a rinse, then put it back together. The HI PS code cleared, and we had air-conditioning on the starboard side again.

We’d been getting low on fresh water and had considered buying some in Esperanza, but it was decided to just conserve until we stopped in Dewey. That meant no more showers, so Mary set the standard for cleanliness with her patented floating noodle hair washing method.

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I noticed while snorkeling that morning that the starfish, which had been scattered all over the sandy bottom of the bay the night before, had disappeared. No idea where they went. I had no idea starfish moved around that much. Someone suggested that maybe they buried themselves in the sand, but I didn’t know they did that either.

Mid-morning we finally fired up the diesels and made the short motor across to Culebrita. Both catamarans had no trouble negotiating the mouth of Tortuga Bay, but the crew on the Jenneau didn’t like the way the cross current was pushing them around, so they turned back and picked up a mooring ball on the west side of the island.

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Tortuga Bay was beautiful. The turquoise water lapped up against a white sand beach while a mix of charter vessels, cruising sailboats, and local motorboats bobbed around on moorings or at anchor beneath the ancient lighthouse up on the hill.

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It was only a matter of minutes before the first green sea turtle was spotted swimming past Caicu, so we all hopped in the water to say, hello.

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We encountered at least four different green sea turtles (it’s kind of hard to tell them apart) while in Tortuga Bay, as well as two different sting rays shuffling about on the sandy bottom.

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I probably snorkeled with the sting rays a bit too long because when I got back to the boat I saw that everyone had already gone to shore to make the hike up to the lighthouse. At first I thought, no big deal, I was planning to swim in anyway. Then I realized that they had also taken my dry bag to get their shoes ashore for the hike. And yes, I offered the use of my dry bag — but my shoes, my camera, my shirt, and my water bottle that I had been planning to take in the dry bag were all still sitting in my cabin.

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I sucked it up and swam to shore doing the sidestroke with my dive camera dangling from my wrist while holding my shoes up out of the water. That was a much longer swim than I had expected, but I did make it to shore with dry shoes. Plus, I got to guilt trip Mary about taking my bag and leaving me stranded for the rest of the trip, so it was worth it.

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Culebrita has several trails and beaches to explore, but you definitely need shoes to hike them. The brush is prickly and there’s no shortage of cacti.

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Small lizards were running everywhere through the brush and we stumbled across a family of goats on our way to the lighthouse. We also saw what looked like deer droppings, but we never saw any actual deer.

The path up to the Culebrita lighthouse presents a couple nice views of the harbors on the north and west sides of the island. We could see where Chateau du Mer finally picked up a mooring ball as well as our own boats back in Tortuga Bay.

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Construction of the lighthouse began in 1882 and it was first lit in 1886. It was one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the US until it was closed in 1975. Currently, the lighthouse is in need of some serious restoration.

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Many of the walls have collapsed, as have the spiral stairs leading up the tower. The area around the lighthouse is also littered with junk. It was definitely worth the hike up the hill to see it, but don’t get your hopes up for some sort of restored historic building that you can tour. However, the view from the ridge is amazing. (My apologies for looking so haggard, shirtless and squinty. Someone took my dry bag without packing my shirt or sunglasses or sunscreen or water!)

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We heard more goats along the trail while we hiked back down to Tortuga Bay, and some members of our group who had lingered back a bit by themselves actually ran across a free goat sex show. Can’t say I was sorry to have missed that because after the hike, stepping back into the cool water felt amazing.

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Mary and I put both our shoes back in the dry bag and left it with crewmates to come back on the dinghy, then we swam back to Caicu.

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After the snorkeling, the swims, and the hike, we were all starving, so Mary cooked up some tacos for lunch, which were immediately devoured.

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Then we did some more snorkeling around the boat with turtles. I also came across a little trunkfish.

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We’d heard one of the best places to find spiny lobster was the reef just around the corner from Tortuga Bay, so several of us loaded up in a dink to head there while another group decided to go hike a few more trails and to check out The Baths.

The reef on the northwest corner of Culebrita was truly fantastic.

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Up to that point it was the best one I’d ever seen. There was also some old ship wreckage mixed in that had become part of the reef.

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I was very curious as to whether or not there was still wine in that bottle.

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As we were oooohhing and awwwing at all the fish, a huge, gray C-130 flew low over Culebrita and circled three times before heading out into the Atlantic. We later learned that the Puerto Rican Air National Guard maintains an entire fleet of C-130s to patrol the area and rescue sinking ships.

After a bit more snorkeling, I finally stumbled across a spiny lobster.

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It doesn’t really translate in the photo, but this lobster was huge. I would estimate the antennae to be three feet long (each, not combined), and it would have taken both of my hands to go around the lobster’s body.

Not a single one of us had ever actually grabbed a lobster before, so there was a lot of floating and staring at it before someone actually gave it a try. Nobody actually managed to grab it, which was probably good since it was as tall or taller than the bucket we had brought to put it in.

Defeated by the monster lobster and still needing to head back to Culebra before sunset, we decided to call it a day.

Meanwhile, Mary and Jayne were soaking in The Baths, which turned out to be pristine tidal pools on the other side of the island.

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We all rendezvoused at the catamarans and headed out to find a mooring in Ensenada Honda, Culebra — billed as the best hurricane hole in the Caribbean.

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As we neared the town of Dewey and civilization, we found the type of boats changed. We actually came across these two flamboyant houseboats in one mooring field.

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We also saw a homebuilt Piver trimaran, a small Gemini cat, and one 25′ sailboat that didn’t even have a mast moored right along all the hard core cruiser sailboats. It seemed living on the water was the cheap alternative in Culebra.

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The mooring fields were full in Ensenada Honda, so motored inward towards the municipal building.

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I’d like to say we were pros at anchoring by now, but as I was lowering the anchor using the remote control, it stuck. It just kept letting out chain. I vigorously tapped the remote with no result and finally pressed the “up” button, which promptly popped the breaker of the windlass.

Now we were stuck with the anchor half out and possibly dragging. I grabbed a winch handle and started trying to psych myself up for the job of having to crank in all that chain by hand while Andy went searching for the breaker box.

Thankfully Andy was able to reset the breaker, I let out some more chain, and we stopped dragging. Andy tried to dive the anchor to make sure it was ok, but the water was so dark we couldn’t see anything.

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Meanwhile Batubara and Chateau du Mer had arrived and dropped anchor as well. The first wave of crew headed to town to buy more booze and to scout the restaurants. The wind had picked up and our crappy dinghy motor made getting out of the shallows and away from the dinghy dock a real fiasco, so there was quite a delay working that situation out and getting the stupid outboard running again before we could go pick up the rest of the crew. (When chartering, never settle for a crappy outboard.)

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Once we were finally all ashore we took a nice walk through the streets of Dewey. While Esperanza had island dogs wandering the streets, Dewey had friendly cats that followed us for a bit before going back to lounging.

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The outstanding night spot seemed to be the Dinghy Dock Restaurant.

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They had tables dockside with lights under the water, illuminating the huge tarpon circling the area, waiting for someone to throw dinner scraps into the water. There was also a fishing bat that would occasionally swoop through and grab things out of the water. The food was great, and it was a really cool atmosphere.

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By the time we finished dinner, I could barely hold my head up. It had been an incredibly fun, but an incredibly long day. We walked back to the dinghy, climbed aboard Caicu, and went straight to bed.

But here’s one more sea turtle picture from our afternoon at Culebrita just because sea turtles are awesome.

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Her perspective: Packing for a 7 day charter

So in about 10 days we are leaving for the SVIs, and I am in full on planning mode.  I am the type of person who likes to have everything planned out in advance.  Thank goodness that our crew seems to be the same way.  Today at home I started to lay everything out and decide what I really needed for seven days.  Trick is that I need to fit it all into one bag.  For my bag I chose a waterproof soft duffel bag.  As a side note, I like this bag a lot, but would never get another one with a roll up top like this.  Every time you remember something and need to put it in the bag, you have to unroll and re roll it.  It’s a pain for a weekend bag.

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So here is the list:

  • Sneakers for walking/hiking
  • flip flops for on the boat
  • water shoes for Sea Urchins and other pokey things
  • 5 bathing suits
  • Light sweater for evenings
  • PJ pants for when its cold, or for being comfy
  • 4 Shorts
  • 4 Light tanktops
  • Sunglasses
  • Foul weather gear (at least the jacket)
  • 4 beach coverups
  • Outfit nice enough for a beach restaurant
  • Supercool hat
  • My make up (yeah, I’m not ready to give it up), and a comb

Also not pictured below, Razor, underwear, and ibuprofen

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Oops I think I forgot something!

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If You guys have any packing suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Going topless at Port St. Joe

Sometimes there’s just no way to avoid renting a car. Our weekend trip to St. Joe, Florida has us flying into Tallahassee, which was almost two hours away. Then, our adorable rental house was within walking distance of downtown St. Joe, but it was a few miles from the beaches.

I first investigated the average cost of rentals. It seemed like we were going to pay about $35 per day for a mid-size sedan while a convertible sports car was $90 a day. An extra $55 per day didn’t seem justifiable, but I had this fantasy in my head about driving down the coast in a convertible that just wouldn’t go away. Plus, Fred always had a convertible back in his bachelor days, and I knew he missed driving one, and I really wanted to surprise him.

I decided to try the Priceline name your own price tool, and I put in $50 per day for a Mustang convertible. Boom, it was accepted by Budget Rental Car. Thanks, Shatner!

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Driving that car around with the top down was close to the funnest thing about the trip. (After hanging out with my sister, of course).  Fred really loved driving it too, and we had no shortage of friends willing to ride with us to the beach.  All in all … I think it might be my new favorite splurge.

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Now, it did tend to make our hair a bit unmanageable, but hey, that’s the price you pay for fun.

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It’s a very pretty drive from Tallahassee to Port. St. Joe, and we got a unique view of the scenery.

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We were still envious of the boaters anchored out along the route, enjoying life on the Florida coast … but not AS envious.

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The 2015 Mustang handled well, and the top was quick to move up and down. We had space in the trunk for multiple folding chairs, coolers and bags during our treks to the beach. And while Mustangs have never had a luxurious backseat, we had no complaints from the two medium-sized adults riding with us. However, the car electronics proved a bit glitchy. The entire first day there was a “hood open” warning on the dash even though the hood was definitely shut and latched. It wasn’t until Fred finally popped it and shut it again that the warning finally went away. Sometimes the back-up camera would stay on for what seemed an extended period of time after shifting back into drive and moving forward for quite a distance, and the entire info-tainment system was laggy. The Eco-Boost engine was zippy, but not what I would call “fast,” and averaged 25.8 mpg during our four days of driving.

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But probably the coolest (and definitely most unnecessary) feature of this car was the fact that when you unlocked the car in the dark, the side view mirrors project the running horse Mustang emblem onto the ground beside the car!

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Despite quite a bit of driving, when we returned the car Sunday afternoon there were no hidden costs or additional fees. The Priceline price was solid, which was more than we can say for the next car we rented straight through Budget Sunday evening — but that’s for another blog.

At the boat show

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It was that time of year again. A time filled with magic and mysterious polishes that will supposedly make old aluminum look like new stainless. A time when “For Sale” signs appear on vessels in local marinas like buds on the trees. A time to re-stock your supply of free key floaters and drink coozies.

It’s time for the Southwest International Boat Show!

South Shore Harbor hosts the annual Southwest Boat Show in Kemah, Texas. I have to admit, having now been on many different types of vessels, the show isn’t as exciting as it was a few years ago. However, there were two big reasons to stop by this year.

The first reason was the Lagoon 450.

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Our upcoming summer charter will be on a Lagoon, but we’d never actually been on a large cat, so we were very excited to get a tour and see what they were really like.

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The 450 would definitely be a comfortable live-aboard with plenty of amenities and space for guests.

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There was no shortage of cabinets, closets, drawers, and other storage throughout the vessel.

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Call me selfish, but I much prefer the “owner’s” version over the “charter” version of these boats with a big cabin and head on one side — not that we’ll ever be able to afford ownership of either version. But maybe someday we’ll at least have a vessel with a stand-alone shower.

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Unlike some of the older, smaller cats we’ve toured like the Prouts and the PDQs, Mary had no trouble seeing over the helm of the Lagoon 450.

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Once we were finished there, we headed over to the next pier to check out the pre-owned Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41.

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The FP was also a cool boat with a very similar layout. Though smaller, it still had plenty of storage and space to entertain.

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Mary’s only complaint was that she did not like the design of the shower stall in the owner’s head. She prefers clear glass walls. I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker.

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However, she had no problem with the kitchen.

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The FP also had an elevated “flybridge” helm.

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Although on both boats, once the sails are set, it’s easy to keep watch and adjust the autopilot from inside at the nav station.

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However, the very visible escape hatches in the FP remind you of the one underlying danger of cat sailing — ending up upside down.

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Once we’d had our fill of touring boats we can’t afford, we walked through the vendor area and spent almost $40 on two burgers, fries and drinks while taking in some live music.

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And while nobody escapes the boat show for free, at least we didn’t end up with a radio-controlled boat.

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Or one of these three-wheeled slingshot cars.

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Or $99 for 20 minutes of being tethered to a jetski on a hydro-rocket.

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But there’s always next year …

Happy New Year!

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It was our second New Year’s Eve at Watergate Marina, but while we watched fireworks and toasted champagne just as we did last year,  many things have changed.

For one thing, we’re now on the opposite side of the marina, and our friends have moved from weekending on a 37′ Maxxum to living aboard a 56′ Carver. It was bittersweet toasting 2015 with them as they prepare to move to Florida this year.

It was a cold evening, so the dogs were all wearing their sweaters at the party. They spent the evening hoping someone would drop a plate of cheese and sausage.

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The west side of the marina actually proved a better vantage point for the fireworks. Of course, the boardwalk, which sponsors the show, doesn’t stay open until midnight, so we got the fireworks show at 10 p.m.

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At midnight we toasted the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Who knows what the new year may bring.

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The first GBCA Icicle Series Regatta is Saturday!