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Cruisers come together for Thanksgiving

Townspeople, liveaboards and snowbirds gather to create an annual potluck in St. Marys, Ga.

Townspeople, liveaboards and snowbirds gather to create an annual potluck in St. Marys, Ga.

Boaters from California to Canada attended the Fourth Annual Boaters Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner last year at the Riverview Hotel in St. Marys, Ga.

Twenty-five townspeople — spearheaded by hotel owners Jerry and Gaila Brandon, and boater-turned-resident Mike Derivan — roasted bushels of oysters on Seagle’s Saloon patio and provided five roasted turkeys.

Cruisers from 38 boats brought covered dishes, fresh-baked bread and decadent desserts — more than enough to fill the tables lining the Riverview’s lobby. Liveaboards Peggy and Dave Scott of Virginia Beach, Va., aboard Destiny, organized the cruisers’ donations, “So we wouldn’t have all desserts,” she says.

Those who had attended previous dinners claimed tables in the bar and the patio by setting out their own china, cutlery, goblets and wine.

Liveaboards Nancy and Burger Zapf, and other boaters, read about the party in the Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin. The Zapfs were aboard their 50-foot Alden sloop, en route from Annapolis to Ecuador where they planned to do volunteer work.

Barbara and Quentin Tedder of Beaufort, S.C., aboard their 32-foot Hatteras (one of the few powerboats), were among those accepting Gaila Brandon’s earlier invitation to “come on down” for Thanksgiving.

Some partiers heard of the dinner from the boaters’ ham net or word of mouth. Among them were Don Wellwood and Dawn MacEwan of Toronto, en route to the Bahamas aboard their 50-foot trimaran, Stampede. Luckily the feast was during MacEwan’s vacation. (She works one month on, one off as commander of a Canadian Coast Guard cutter.) Another was liveaboard Jeff Van Peshi of Massachusetts and his two young sons aboard his 35-foot trimaran.

Still others just happened to be in St. Marys.

The crowd of 100-plus spilled out of the hotel lobby to the bar and patio where participants, tagged with their given and boat names in true yachty fashion, met old friends and exchanged e-mail addresses with new ones.

The event began in 2000 when the Brandons decided to do something for Thanksgiving with the few cruisers in town. “The next year we had seven boats,” she says. “Last year 17 came.”

“When we estimated how many were coming this year, we [townspeople] got organized,” Derivan says. “We had a harbormaster who directed boats to an anchoring spot, and committees for transporting boaters to the supermarket, organizing the meal and setting up/cleaning up.”

“Who knows how many boaters will come [this] year, now that we’re on the SSCA calendar and the ham radio net,” says Gaila. “We’ll manage. Maybe we’ll put up a tent in the park. It’ll be fun.”

For information call The Riverview Hotel, (912) 882-3242.