St Marys Thanksgiving Legend

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St Marys Thanksgiving Legend

How the Fest Got Started

or The Dispelling of the Myth

by Mike Derivan s/v Sweet Dreams

It began with the first boatload of cruisers who landed in MA in 1620
But more recently...

Most folks my age get annoyed by the things they can't remember; me... I get annoyed by the things I do remember.  The actual truth of the matter is that the roots of the Thanksgiving Fest in St Marys got planted because of a broken Onan generator fuel oil lift pump and a credit card.

I know what you're thinking... He's going to start this fairy tale with "Once upon a time." Nope. I'm a sailor, so "Now this is no shit."

In 1996 Sweet Dreams is southbound for my first year of cruising having started in Port Clinton, OH.   I'm single-handing a Whitby 42, could be a handful for sure, so planning ahead was crucial.   Somewhere just south of Myrtle Beach, my generator quit, a crisis on a totally AC powered boat; no fridge, no stove, no hot water, etc.  Suddenly I found myself tethered to marinas at the end of the day's run for life support until I could get to the bottom of the generator problem.

I traced the problem to a crack in the top piece of the generator lift pump , thus it would suck air under any load but idle.  And of course I had no spare.   Now this was "back in the day" charts were like road atlases, cruising guides were like magazines, no email or cell phones.  If you have been around long enough, you know the drill, but to refresh your memory you get the Onan part number from your Onan manual along with the phone number of the Onan supplier closest to your desired pick-up point.  My cruising guide referenced Beach Marine in Jacksonville Beach, FL for parts pick-up holds.

I think I was in a marina in Isles of Palms, SC by then, so off to find a pay phone to do the deal. (I had one of those AT&T direct bill phone cards for the homeless.) If you were lucky, you could find a phone booth, but usually they were just an outside phone station... right beside a freeway exit... downhill... hundreds of trucks with Jake-brakes and wind blowing your notes all over. (Why do you even wonder? Of course it was raining.)

Several events later I'm in Golden Isles Marina, St Simons Island, looking for my next stop.   If you remember those old cruising guides, every place was a horror story, run aground, swift current, crowded, bad holding... at Fernandina Beach you would go aground at low tide at the marina docks.   Cumberland was out of the question, no shore power.

Luckily I had picked up a copy of one of those free boater mags with an article about St Marys, GA.   It said it was a delightful place, easy approach despite being off the waterway charts, good marina, worth the extra five mile detour.   I went.

Hopefully, RIP to the Urban Legend of how the event got started by Mike Derivan, "Sweet Dreams" Photo by author aboard "Sweet Dreams." All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article, including images, in whole or in part without permission is strictly prohibited. Visit Hampton-Derivan Studio and Mike's Nukeknews

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All locations in the Nearly Forgotten History of the Coast Series are accessible by water.


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